Our first date almost didn’t happen.
We’d gotten to know each other through our band, the Debutantes. Gord and Steve were in a group together before, Culture Shock, but decided that changing the lineup would be a great way to meet girls. They added a new drummer and, inspired after seeing the Go-Go’s perform at the Commodore, three female vocalists, including me. Our repertoire was all dance music and anything else we fancied; when we performed together, it was like fire and ice.
I sang back-ups and Gord played bass. The Debutantes’ maiden performance was at a party out near Lighthouse Park—after that, there was no stopping us. Between November ’82 and April ‘84, we performed everywhere, from orientation week at UBC to headlining the CiTR booze cruise up the Burrard Inlet to now-extinct clubs like The Smilin’ Buddha and The Soft Rock, always playing alongside some other amazing Vancouver act. Everyone loved having a band with a frontline of pretty girls on the bill, and yet despite all that time together, I was never sure how I felt about Gord.
My feelings toward him skittered like a crazy compass. One day, I’d think he was really cute; the next day he’d do something completely goofy and I’d only be able to think of him as a friend—plus, I couldn’t imagine myself kissing someone with full train-track braces.
But his dark hair and big brown eyes made him just my type.
He was the perfect contradiction. On Sundays, he went to church with his family and was an altar boy; on weekdays, he was a cool, slightly dangerous punk/mod, wearing Daytons, a shredded jean vest held together with safety pins, and tight black jeans. Very tight black jeans.
In 1983, I was in my third year at UBC and in full-on exams-and-papers mode. Luckily, I’m on the rowing team, which makes for a nice break from all the studying. We’re on the water at Burnaby Lake for practice every weekday at 5:30 a.m. On Saturdays, we get to “sleep in” since we’re not due on the dock until 9 a.m. and Sunday is our day off. We’re in un-friggin-believable shape.
Tuesday night and I’m slowly making my way through a term paper, feeling edgy. Just then… the phone rings. I accidentally knock the receiver off its cradle as I grab for it. “HELLO?!”
It’s Gord, with his deep, calm voice. “Hey. What are you doing?”
“Working on this horrible term paper for Economics. It’s driving me nuts!” I use the opportunity to vent: “I’m trying to prove a hypothesis that urban school districts achieve higher provincial test scores than rural, but my F tests aren’t working out and I can’t get the heteroskedasticity out of my regression model.”
“Yeah, ‘Hmmm.’ My big conclusion—so far—is that I’m not a data person; I’m intuitive. What’s the point of proving something when the whole thing’s obvious anyway? It goes completely against my nature.”
“So I guess you’re pretty busy then?”
“Yes, extremely. Are you calling about band practice?”
“Actually no,” Gord hesitates. “I’m calling because the Stranglers are playing the Commodore and I was wondering if you wanted to go with me.”
“The Stranglers? Don’t they do that ‘LaBrea Tar Pit’ song? I hate that song. And anyway, I’m waaay too busy with this paper and my exams are coming up too. But thanks anyway.”
As soon as I hang up, I realize what just happened: Gord asked me on a date and I said no.
My rowing teammate Cindy and I are driving down the highway, basking in the relaxed afterglow of a good, hard practice. Her driving gloves grip the steering wheel as the conversation inevitably leads to how I turned down Gord after he asked me out.
“You said ‘No’? Are you crazy?!”
“I know, I know. I’m an idiot. He asked me to the Stranglers next Saturday and I was in such a bad mood that I said no.” Gord and the Debutantes are all I ever talk about. And he’s so shy. What if he never asks me out again?
“He’s really nice Erica, and the whole team thinks he’s cute. Wendy says he’s a doll; Julia said she thought he was handsome; even Alison says she’d go out with him but she only dates guys named Peter.”
“That’s kinda weird, eh? Of the three guys she’s gone out with, every one of them was named Peter.”
“Forget Alison and her Peters. What about you and Gord?”
It’s after lunch and I’m back home again, listening to a dialtone on the phone.
I think Gord may have seen himself as my sort of Prince Charming, ready to protect me from dragons and speeding beer bottles at concerts. We once played a house party and some guy thought it would be a great idea to pour an entire High-Test over me and my microphone while we were in the middle of performing. Like lightning, Gord stepped from his spot behind the row of singers and practically decapitated the guy with his bass.
My reverie ends as Gord’s mum answers the phone. I ask if he’s home and I hear her call out for him to come to the phone.
“Hey, it’s Erica. Do you still have that extra ticket for the Stranglers next Saturday?
Check out the May issue for Part Two of Discorder Revisited: What the Stranglers mean to me.