Private: Barry Delgado
Backstage, Great American Nightmare 2022.
Look, it’s a wrestling show. By business necessity, most of the folks milling around the backstage area are forces of physical charisma–elsewise they wouldn’t be backstage, would they? But when Barry Delgado and Trent Sadikaj emerge from the ring area, it’s like the gates of heaven open up and holy light bathes them. They strut, full of vigor from a win, right to their bandmates, who all raise celebratory drinks and cheer as Boogie Barry steps up, beating himself in his expansive chest.
Boogie: That’s how you do it, baby!!
Iron Sam: Fuck yeah, dude!
Trent struts around the crowd, full Mick Jagger rooster strut, more cock than doodle-doo, building up his screams of triumph so that they blast from his chest with a saxophone scream.
Boots: Oooooooooooh, mercy mercy mama!! Play the lotto baby you don’t play Solid Gold! Let out a howl and lick on my hip, if you aint with us?
Unison: You ain’t worth shit!
This is the celebratory air, but it has an extra bit of fuel. Trust, playing it up backstage all triumphant ain’t exactly new for these folks. But that’s after 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours with encores. That type of rocking and peacocking can drain a person. But this? This is triumph on pure uncut, geeked to the gills and driving down I-15 in the dead of night with shades on. This is a new era of partying–and just from their body language, you can tell that they’re about to find new shades of red to paint the town.
But what goes up must come down. And what gets ripped must also take time for repair.
Who knows who’s hotel suite this is. Hell, it might not belong to anyone in the general Solid Gold stratosphere, but they sure as shit have taken it over. The clock reads 1:30 in the afternoon, so they’ve been but for about 90 minutes. Every member of the band is in shades. Most of them opt for coffees–Rich Savage is having some hair of the dog. Huw Ollie is on Bloody Mary number whichever, but that’s how he operates when he isn’t hung over. He calls them “veggie juice”, even if they’re likely inching towards 60 percent booze. Boogie cuts a yawn and points to their multi-instrumentalist virtuoso, currently reclining on a chaise lounge.
Boogie: Riff! Whaddaya got?
Riff Tannen: What d’you mean?
Boogie: Well I mean, last time you had a bunch of great intel and strategy for us, so what do you have?
Riff Tannen: Oh! Nothing.
Trent looks up from his phone, confusion crossing the beautiful plane of his face–only Electric Boots could make being worn down by too many party favors look as chic as he does.
Boots: Nothin’, baby?
Riff Tannen: Don’t know anything about Dangerous Mix, sorry.
Savage: Issat what you’re bankin’ on then?
Boots: Rich Savage don’t tickle me like I’m the ivories, say what you mean.
Savage: You come offa winnin’ big out there, right? And then you just what, expect us to ‘ave done all the scouting like?
Trent sets down his coffee order and pulls off his sunglasses.
Boots: …Wasn’t that the point of all I said?
Boogie: Solid Gold unified behind a single purpose, alla that?
Rich snorts, fires up a smoke, and polishes off his mimosa down to dregs before topping it back off with nothing but champagne. He inches forward in his seat, shaking his head.
Savage: …listen, sweethearts, I want to help you, I do. But without somethin’ like a plan, where youse at least tell us who is s’posed to be doin’ research, all you’re really doin’ is…well, the same shit you was, just with more people, innit?
This gives them pause.
Boogie: …he’s not wrong, Trent.
Boots: I know he ain’t.
There’s a long pause. A gravelike, awkward silence comes over the room like the plague. Everyone fiddles with what they fiddle with, not making eye contact. Finally, Huw Ollie of all people speaks up.
Huw Ollie: I know I’m gonna regret this, because I hate the idea of encouraging you guys, but…how about we set up the TV and watch some matches?
The silence returns, but the mood is different. All eyes are on the gruff, all-business manager as he absently drags from a cigarillo. He finally notices everyone staring at him, and his spine stiffens.
Huw Ollie: What? What did I say?
Electric Boots breaks into a grin and strides over–a three step float, before grabbing Huw by his stubbled cheeks.
Boots: You said exactly what we needed to hear, Huw Ollie I could kiss that angry mug of yours, baby!
Ladies and gentlemen, as a result of a double countout, this match is a NO CONTEST!
Riff raises the remote and hits pause. They’ve all gathered on and around the couch in a frankly Simpsons/Opening credits of Friends/Rock and roll band photoshoot level of squeezed together, and they all nod as the match concludes. Barry is first to stand, and he paces for a few steps, chewing his lip.
Iron Sam: Full stop.
Riff Tannen: Frightening strength.
Long Don: That reach, you feel me?
There’s a scoff and a toss of a raven mane, and Trent Sadikaj unfolds himself from the couch and steps towards the TV, idly gripping the armadillo in his trousers.
Boots: Man, he can mouth on my “reach”, catch the alleyoop?
Riff Tannen: You aren’t in the least concerned?
Boots: Why should I be?
Rich Savage: Experience, drive, championship pedigree, that one of ‘em bein’ stronger than you…
Boots: Ugly words, Rich. Ugly.
Rich Savage: I’m wrong, then?
Boogie: You ain’t wrong, just…c’mon. This isn’t us talking about how badly we’re gonna get beat. I wouldn’t tell you that your keys weren’t up to snuff before a big show, Rich.
Rich Savage: That’s cause that’d be a fuckin’ lie, hah!
Boogie: I mean, that’s fair. He tickles. But back to the matter. We got on one side more experience and on the other strength and size. Mercifully, that other half don’t mean the Devil’s dick to me, cause I’m stronger than anyone.
There’s a ripple of chuckles in the room, led by their drummer.
Iron Sam: He really believes it, too.
Riff Tannen: Samira, I believe it. He slammed Bobby Dean.
Riff drops the laughs. They all remember. They all saw it. There’s a moment of quiet reflection here before Iron Sam stands up, hands on her hips, and looks at her rhythmic compatriot.
Iron Sam: …Y’know what, Barry? C’mere.
She meets him and grabs him by his Everest shoulders. She’s taller than him, lankier–not that that’s difficult, mind you–and in possession of lean, Sarah Conner-tier musculature. But her face is contrite.
Iron Sam: I’m sorry. I doubted you could do it. And you went out there and did it. Y’know my dad wanted me to be an educator, right? It about broke his heart that all I wanted to do was hit skins and party. But that was my dream. And I had the balls to pursue my dream and achieve–and it ain’t right of me to cast doubt on someone else’s. Then I’m just as bad as my old man.
They embrace, a hug of pure love. They’ve been road warriors together. Now they’re warriors together, too, in a fashion.
Iron Sam: Plus, you are strong as fuck, you musclehead hick.
She tousles his golden mullet–he flips her the bird.
Riff Tannen: The issue is still at hand.
Boots: Sing on it.
Before he can dive in, the voice of experience, the worn leather and cognac rumble of their manager speaks up.
Huw Ollie: Honestly, you all are getting hung up on the wrong half of the team.
They all look at him, everyone’s head turning to what is frankly the least likely voice of advice and strategy in the room. He fires up one of his skinny cigars and continues.
Huw Ollie: Think about it. Yeah, Mushigihara is big and strong, but you already covered that. You guys can handle strong, and you certainly handled big–that’s what the Bandits were. But experience? Having won championships? Bein’ a cagey veteran, doing whatever it takes, takin’ whatever shortcuts you need to hurt someone else faster than they hurt you? You guys are young. Well, all of you except Rich. But you gotta watch out for that Dave Fox cat. Cause he’s going to ring your fuckin’ bells if you arent careful. Neutralize him first, deal with the big guy later.
Boogie and Boots, stunned smiles on their faces, stride over to Huw and start peppering him.
Boots: Huw Ollie are you…are you watching our matches?
Boogie: Huw Ollie are you actually getting into this?
Boots: Huw Ollie don’t lie to us! Are you all-in on the Solid Gold team?!
There’s a long, long, pause. The boys are acting like energetic kids, and it’s infectious. He finally breaks a smile across the crags of his face and shakes his head.
Huw Ollie: So long as you win a big shiny belt, I guess I am.
They throw their arms–one lanky, one meaty–around his shoulders and begin to shake the man in excitement, back and forth. Trent raises up his free hand, fist held high, and screams out.
Boots: Then let’s go get that shiny belt and bring her home, baby! First stop, Dangerous Mix! Next stop, the whole damn world!!
The band all get to their feet and cheer, the band in full swing. Huw is yelling for relief, but he can’t escape it. He might be curmudgeonly and miserly, but he’s their curmudgeon and miser, and Solid Gold Rock and Roll are now more than ever a team. A family. A unit. All the rowers on the team are pulling in the same direction and they’re skimming across the water–and may God have mercy on the next pair who stand in their way.