Heart of Glass by Cate Meighan
Monday morning. It’s like a curse if you work as an entertainment reporter. Deadlines never feel more pressing and the close of another weekend inevitably opens up to a day full of catching up on who is fighting, dating, divorcing and dropping new music while trying to curtail a potential scandal. From my perspective, life for celebs would be a whole lot easier if they took a page from the life playbook of an average Joe and kept their clothes on, paid their bills, and remembered that the Cloud makes everything accessible. Monday morning and here I sit buried beneath work and unsure of where to start. While I figure it out I decide to go back in time and listen to a few old tracks that will prepare me for an interview with an old school musician later today.
“Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out, had a heart of glass.”
A few lines in and I’m standing in my parents very first apartment where my love of music all began. It’s a few days before Halloween and my parents were throwing a party for all of their friends. The night before was my kiddie party in our basement. I wore a Wonder Woman costume that was so NOT a Wonder Woman costume because it had a skirt and no lasso. I remember a punch bowl and bobbing for apples and little else. But my parents’ party, well that was the real deal. There was neat lighting, a table full of sweets that I was never allowed to have, and all of our doorways had beads hanging from them that you were supposed to walk through.
I was 7 years old and beginning to develop my own taste and, thanks to my dad’s music obsession, disco was a big part of it. When I was about five Dad started to train as a DJ at a local radio station, and his little record collection on a tiny cart with wheels suddenly took over a whole wall of our living room. Even in that small apartment Dad’s stereo was front and center. His love of music turned into an educated love of stereo equipment. He spent two hours without fail every night cranking out tunes, everything from Pink Floyd to Blue Oyster Cult to ABBA, and all the while he was fiddling with levers on all sorts of boxes that were supposed to somehow enhance the sound. I didn’t know if the “woofers and tweeters” did any good, but the day that he played Chic’s “Le Freak” my life immediately changed.
The last song of every evening was picked out by me, and by the time 1978 rolled around I was choosing things like “Ring My Bell,” “The Hustle,” and “Disco Inferno”. I also waited anxiously for Saturday afternoons to roll around because, thanks to cable television and WPIX in NYC, I had discovered The Soap Factory, a weekly dance show. A few weeks before my parents’ party we were all watching as Blondie performed a song called “Heart of Glass.” I was mesmerized by the lead singer’s blonde hair, bright lip stick and her turquoise pants suit. My dad always watched The Soap Factory with me, but this time even my mom stopped to check out Debbie Harry. I mean, how could you not?
My mom spent the next week or so in party planning mode. She would fill the bathroom sink with water and bubbles and I’d spend an hour in there playing with all of my Fisher Price Little People. I loved having them swim and ride in their boats every night after dinner and I can remember my mom on the phone in the next room, on the phone night-after-night making plans for this bash. My dad was always the laid back one and seemed to have little involvement. She hung sparkly decorations, made food and spiked the punch all while Dad was engrossed in his albums. Neither of us realized what he was actually up to and, as it turned out, Dad’s involvement was actually monumental because he was preparing to put all of those newfound DJ skills to good use.
My mom had a surprise or two up her sleeve as well. The creativity was always flowing in that little apartment and so for the week leading up to the party when Dad and his music were taking over the living room, Mom was in her studio. It was a small room with her easel and mountain of art supplies on one side and her Singer sewing machine on the other. Beneath a window was a big cushion with built in pillows to nap on. That was my spot to read or draw when Mom was busy drawing advertisements for our local newspaper. Dad had thought that Mom was working on extra assignments for art school when in fact she had been busy at her sewing machine making a turquoise satin pants suit, just like Debbie Harry’s. She had decided to put her blonde wavy hair and 100 pound frame to good use and transform into his new favorite singer, gold cuff bracelet and all, for their Halloween party.
This one night in particular reminds me that at one point in time my parents really, truly were on the same page. They really did “get” each other. As Mom shocked Dad with her costume he was just getting the party started. Dad was the man, but his music collection was the true star of the evening. His friends were all on the floor in front of his racks of records, flipping through everything in amazement and helping him to decide what to play next. Dad’s dedications were also a hit because the songs that he played weren’t just for particular people, but he also had hilarious reasons for his selections.
An hour or so into the party Dad pulled out a surprise record that he was really excited about. It was Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” an extended dance mix that wasn’t available in the States yet. When he ordered music for the station he would also add a few import records from the UK for his own collection, and Blondie had just become available. It was a song that no one else knew until he played it that night, but everyone loved it. Even the guys that had been downing their Michelob beer on the floor in front of the stereo all night were finally dancing. One spin of that record led to about 20 more before the night was over.
At first, I might have been the only one not in costume, and that was because there was no way that I was going to put that fake Wonder Woman thing on again. My aunt (Mom’s younger sister) decided in the middle of what looked like a Soul Train line dance that I needed some makeup at least. She grabbed me and her purse and hauled us both into the bathroom. There Aunt Elaine pulled out her black eyeliner and within a few minutes had transformed me into “Cleopatra.” I wasn’t sure exactly who that was, but my eyes looked like I belonged on The Soap Factory so that kinda sorta made me Debbie Harry for the night too, right?
Everyone left after midnight. I remember my dad explaining the concept of time to me, and how the digital clock turning to 2:01 am meant that it was Sunday morning, even though it still felt like Saturday night. Truth be told it was far later than that and somehow I was still awake. My mom tried to make me go to bed, but when I begged for one more spin of “Heart of Glass,” my dad put the record on before she could even bother to protest. My room needed to be cleaned up anyway because my bed was where everyone left their belongings upon arrival. They and their coats might have been gone but my toys were all over the place and my precious Little People were scattered all over the room.
I swore that I would help clean up if they let me stay up but instead I climbed into the green recliner that had been temporarily moved into my room during the party. The French doors to my room were open and I curled up there, watching as my parents dragged garbage bags around to clean up the wreckage. My mom told me that I had 5 minutes until she was putting me to bed and so I closed my eyes as Debbie Harry sang.
Who knew that nights like this one actually existed? If beaded doorways, little packs of M&M’s and unexpected dance battles were what it meant to be an adult then I really couldn’t wait to grow up. I closed my eyes tighter as I heard Mom approaching ,and when she whispered to Dad that I was asleep I stayed extra still until she went back to cleaning up. Eventually I really did drift off to sleep in that chair, and woke as Dad was carrying me across the room to my bed. As Mom tucked me in and kissed me goodnight she did the only thing that could have made this night any better—she took off her shiny cuff bracelet and put it on my arm.
About the Author:
Cate Meighan is an entertainment writer by day, a radio DJ at night. Vinyl, coffee & cat obsessed. Her first book, “Diary of an 80’s Girl,” is coming in Spring 2018.