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My Private, Difficult Conversation with Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. It's so important she move on.

As many of you already know, the other night I enjoyed (partially due, perhaps, to Martians afraid they were being watched) backstage access during a concert featuring REO Speedwagon, Stray Cats, The Pretenders, and ZZ Top.

Along with some friends my wife Cat and I were hanging around in a comfortable, furnished room backstage after The Pretenders' set when Chrissie Hynde came in from her dressing room, wet-haired and freshened up after a typically dynamic performance. As soon as she stepped into the room the eight or nine of us already there spontaneously applauded for her.

The others did, anyway. I tried to quietly slip out the door. But it was too late. Chrissie had seen me.

I was near a bank of blossoming, fragrant honeysuckle vines when I felt Chrissie's hand upon my arm. I turned and there she was, looking up at me through her frowzy bangs. Her trademark heavy mascara hardly hid the longing in her eyes.

"I was hoping you'd come," she said in her slightly raspy, post-performance voice.

"Chrissie, please," I said. "Don't."

"Did you like the set?" she said hopefully.

"Yes," I said. "Of course I did. As always, you owned the stage."

"I saw you, you know."

Of course I knew. We'd been sitting in the very front row, smack in the middle, best seats in the house. I had tried to avoid taking those seats, for I knew what would happen if I sat so near the stage. It did.

Chrissie sang her entire set looking straight at me.

"Does she know you?!" my wife screamed at me while Chrissie was just above us, passionately singing about all the things of hers that she was going to use to get my attention.

I pretended that the deafening sound prevented my understanding what she'd said. But I knew she was asking the same question most everyone else in the packed amphitheatre was asking: Was Chrissie Hynde performing a private, personal concert for only one person, or what?

"I know you saw me," I said. "And perhaps you saw my wife beside me?"

Chrissie made a dismissive, disparaging sound, and turned to pluck off a honeysuckle blossom. She smelled it for a moment, and then tossed it to the ground.

"You're married," she fairly spat. She tried, and failed, to hide the need beneath her anger. "How long have you been married?" she said. "It can't be long at all. What is it? One year? Maybe two?"



"Twenty-six. I've been married 26 years."

"No you haven't."

"Yes I have."

"No you haven't."

"Yes, Chrissie, I have. Cat and I had our 26th wedding anniversary just this week.  On August 16."

"Really?" said Chrissie unbelievingly. She seemed to slowly drift off to somewhere inside her head. "Wow," she murmured. Then she came out of it. "Oh, I don't care," she cried. She plucked and immediately discarded another blossom. "I don't care how long it's been. All I know is it's been too long for me." She took a hold of my forearm, hard. "It's been too long," she said in a near sob. She pulled my arm towards her. "Too long," she whispered desperately. "John, can't you see? I'm special. So special."

"Chrissie," I said. "Stop."

I heard my wife's voice say, "Let go of my husband's arm, Chrissie Hynde." I turned and saw Cat walking rapidly toward us. "And I mean, right now. Or so help me God, you'll wish you were back on the chain gang."

That Cat. She's small, but ... adequately scary in a pinch. She came and insinuated herself Chrissie and me. She turned to me.

"John," she said. "John. John. John."

I opened my eyes.

"What?" I said.

Oh. Right. I was off in a secluded area outside the backstage dressing rooms, lying on an amazingly comfortable, ultra-padded lounge chair. Cat was now sitting at my side.

"Were you dreaming about Chrissie Hynde?" she said.

"No," I said, sitting up a bit. "How in the world do you know stuff like that?"

"Well, let's see. Maybe because I heard you say ‘Chrissie, stop.' I figured that might be a clue."

"Well, it's not," I said. "I was dreaming about ... something else."

"Not only were you dreaming about Chrissie Hynde," she said, "But you were dreaming you had to stop Chrissie Hynde from doing I don't even want to know what."

"Well," I said, sensing the gig was up, "as it happens, she was being rather aggressive. Luckily, though, you arrived just in the nick of time."

"Oh, right. I'm sure I did."

"You did!" I told her about the last part of my dream. When I had finished, Cat said, " ‘Or you'll wish you were back on the chain gang.'? That's what you had me say to Chrissie Hynde? You couldn't think of anything cheesier for me to say."

"That's not cheesy. It's great." I leaned forward, and put my arms around her neck. "It did the job. You scared her."

"I better have." Cat waved her fist around a bit. "Gonna use my fist."


Man, Cat's funny.

I leaned back in my chair, and took hold of Cat's hand. We really had just celebrated our 26th.  "Great show tonight, huh?" I said.

"The Pretenders, you mean? They were fantastic. Your girlfriend has got such a great voice."

"The Pretenders, REO, Stray Cats, ZZ. Each of them was just so extraordinary."

"They really were," said Cat. She gazed lovingly at me, and gently squeezed my hand.

"It's all about the long haul, isn't it?" I said softly.

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