Chapter 18 1980 - (Just Like) Starting Over

Rod’s trial had begun, and it appeared to be an open and shut case. Since he had made a full confession, it basically became a matter of formally proving the charges, and then awaiting whatever sentence was to be carried out.

Through the elevating war of words between Marie and Marilynn, Jordan Spencer remained relatively obscure. While he was still with Marilynn, her continued behavior and public demeanor had put a real strain on their relationship. And, just under the surface, he realized that he still had feelings for Marie as well, and was torn by the situation between the former friends. When he visited Marie, the old feelings came to the surface, and he admitted them to her.

“I hate to see what’s become of you and Marilynn. What should have been a solid friendship between the three of us got out of hand and it feels like we can never return to a normal state of things as they were.”

Marie agreed, “Now that Rod Manger’s trial is under way, I hope that the publicity and anger can be redirected. I really am sorry for what has happened, I miss my friendship with Marilynn, and regret what this has caused. Golden Fingers name as a band and as a collection of individuals has been sullied, fans have lost faith in the band, and True Gold and Golden Tales have both just degenerated into gossip magazines, with very little truth to either. Subscriptions have fallen off to less than ten percent of what they used to be, and financially, there’s little chance they will continue beyond another issue, if even that.”

Marie hesitated and collected her thoughts. “I haven’t been exactly straight with Marilynn or you, or anyone else for that matter. The teenage fan that Rod was involved with was me. I wasn’t in control, I’d been drinking, and we ended up together in Omaha. I got pregnant, and kept it hidden from everyone until I revealed it to Rod. Together, we made the decision to end it, and he helped out financially. I’ve always regretted it, and don’t know what I would have done if I had decided to keep the baby. The abortion was anonymous, and as far as I know, only Rod was ever aware of it.”

Jordan whitened with shock, then reddened with rage. He did this to you? He raped you, and left you on your own?”

“No, it wasn’t like that. Yes, I wasn’t in full control, but I remember everything, and don’t regret the affair. It was a mistake, and perhaps we should have taken better precautions. It really was just a one night stand. There was never any desire to continue.”

“But he was an adult, and you were just an innocent teenager! He must pay for what he did!”

“He is paying; he’s on trial. Justice will be served.”

“But there’s no amount of justice that will erase the hurt you’ve suffered. The pain you’ve endured.”

“No one knows my pain but myself. I’ve accepted my part of the blame, and Rod has apparently accepted his. There’s nothing further to be done.”

“It’s unacceptable, I tell you! Sure, he’ll get his fair trial, and maybe a slap on the wrist. If any time is served, it will be short, and then he’ll be back on the street to take advantage of yet another young girl. It’s always the same with those types, there’s never any rehabilitation.”

“Rod is a good guy, don’t paint him as a criminal. He’s remorseful, and has publicly stated so. He’s protected my identity, and I appreciate that.”

Jordan’s rage was only fueled higher by Marie’s seeming submission. “I will see to it that it never happens again,” he stated defiantly as he stormed away.

As the sentencing phase of Rod’s trial was proceeding, Jordan was in the gallery, waiting for the inevitable moment of a lenient sentence. When the judge pronounced “Five years, with time served.” Jordan knew that he would be out in less than two. Rarely did they keep a prisoner for the full term. He stood and shouted “No!” and pulled the gun that he had secretly brought into the courtroom, and fired a single shot, piercing Rod’s head and striking a bailiff as well. Another officer of the court advanced on Jordan, but he turned the gun on himself as fell dead before he could be restrained. The trial was over, but the headlines were only beginning.

“Murder/Suicide in Teenage Rape Case” the headlines read, and detailed the full story. Local news began looking into the background of the gunman, and it inevitably led back to Marilynn and Marie. Marilynn was inconsolable and could think of no reason why Jordan would perform such a rash action. Marie was also questioned, and under the stress of the situation, admitted her own involvement in the weird triangle that had developed. There was no sense in hiding the truth, knowing that the truth would reveal itself eventually. While the headlines grabbed the day, it did serve to ease the tension as Marie and Marilynn decided to talk things through, and began to patch up their relationship. They joined together to create one final, apologetic issue of True Gold, and mailed it to the full, former subscription base. In it, they exonerated all of Golden Fingers, and apologized for the division that their very public quarrel had engendered.

Angela and I were deeply affected by Rod’s death, but also secretly relieved that the whole sordid affair was coming to an end. “We need to get out of the spotlight, and try to rebuild the quiet life that we had before this all came to pass,” Angela advised.

“I was thinking the same thing,” indicated I. “But how do public figures such as we’ve become ever escape? Witness Protection Program?”

“I don’t think it works that way” offered Angela. “The Government is not going to help us disappear.”

“But we can disappear, if we want to. We can just go incognito and relocate for a while. Let’s put this place on the market, and see what we can do.”

They contacted an agent, and before long, their home for the past few years was on the market.

“I think we can just let the market take its course, and we can find ourselves elsewhere. I’ve always wanted to spend some time in Australia. I think we can disappear there for a while. It will be just like starting over.”

Simon Elderjohn, a British expatriate, had been the European publicity manager for Golden Fingers and now lived in Sydney. When I contacted him and explained the current situation, Simon indicated that he, like many others, had been following it in the press, and wasn’t surprised that they wanted to keep a lower profile. He suggested a temporary name change, purchase of a small property and arranged for private transportation in relocating. The Malls decided that the smaller suburb of Rockdale was not only appropriate, but close enough the the larger city to be convenient. They chose the pseudonyms of Arthur and Hilda Potsworth, and registered for official documents under that name. They acquired a flat as a temporary space while they sought out property to build a new home.

Angela had never been out of the United States, so a Southern Hemisphere adventure was an overwhelming delight. While their new home was being built, they traveled to many exotic locales within the island continent. While the climate was similar to their native California, the opposite seasons and odd juxtaposition of traditional American holidays was a common source of confusion.

The initial shock of the Winter season beginning when summer was expected took its toll on the couple. As snow covered the ground in some areas from the middle of May and extending into September, they longed for time spent at the seaside. They were beside themselves on how to behave. Traditional cold-weather activities, typically tied into the November-December holiday season, had no place in the May-June calendar. They missed the traditional Memorial Day barbecues and though they knew to expect it, when the 4th of July came and went without any hint of celebration or fireworks, the idea began to sink in that things were going to be very different here. Of course, as a holidays unique to America, they had no place in Australian culture. Still, they missed the traditional summer celebrations. Although Labour Day was celebrated in October, none of the familiar trappings of family barbecues and swim parties to close out the summer season were present. It was nice, at least for them, to see that the Spring season was coming in, and the weather improving.

The next confusing event occurred for Halloween. The celebration of Halloween in Australia was not particularly widespread, both because it was considered an American tradition, and the traditional Autumn trappings were non-existent. Nowhere to be found were jack o’ lanterns, scarecrows and other devices that reflected the ancient Celtic origins of the celebration. Not exactly knowing what to expect, the bought candy for Trick or Treaters, but as the evening wore on, none were to be found. I, who had always enjoyed Halloween as a child, and was beginning to appreciate it as an adult was particularly disappointed.

Dressed in his now-traditional Hobo costume, he complained “These Australians do not know how to have fun. Were we back in California, we would have been invited to no fewer than twenty celebrations. Of course, we would have turned them all down, but it was always nice to be considered. Here, zilch!”

Angela offered, “It looks like there is something coming up in Adelaide in a couple of weeks, a Christmas Pageant. We can fly there in a few hours, or maybe drive there in about three days. Could be interesting.”

“Road trip!” I enthused.

Angela and I packed up their rented Datsun 280ZX. I had always wanted a sports car, and admired the Datsun’s sporty accoutrements, and despite the limited passenger space, it was plenty for just the two of them. Time wasn’t an issue for them, but the pageant was scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 8, so little time could be wasted. Setting out on the road on Tuesday the 4th, their first day’s destination was Canberra, slightly off the direct route, but only a three hour drive. I couldn’t help but break out in song, “Lord I was born a Ramblin’ Man. Rolling down Highway 31.”

“Isn’t it supposed to be “Highway 41?” Angela asked.

“Look at the sign,” as the passed the highway sign indicating Federal Highway 31. “When in Australia, as they say.”

“They never say that, I don’t think,” was Angela’s only reply.

They were passing Lake George, and I seemed deep in thought. He pondered the days on the road. “We never came through this way when we were on tour, but I’ll bet this would have been a great place for an outdoor show. The season is great and it would have been close enough for some pretty good crowds to gather. I’ll bet Dylan even gave it some thought. He once again began to sing: ‘I think it can be very easily done. We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun. And have it on Highway 31.’” He chuckled and indicated, “I can probably joke about this all day.”

Angela only replied, “I wish you wouldn’t. Besides, we left Highway 31 behind some time ago.”

They arrived in Canberra in mid-afternoon and sought out a hotel to stay for the night. They found an older building that seemed to offer some elegant splendor and checked in for the night. “Arthur and Hilda Potsworth,” I indicated, offering their credentials. “Just one night. We’re taking a leisurely drive to Adelaide for the Pageant.”

The desk clerk eyed I with a hint of suspicion. “Arthur Potsworth, hmm?”

“Yes, that’s right,” indicating his ID papers, “and Hilda,” indicating Angela.

“OK, sir, if you wish. Your room is on the 14th floor, number 1459. The bellhop will assist you with your bags.”

“There’s no need, we only have the one. Thank you.”

As they left for the elevator, I could hear the desk clerk humming “Music Will Be My Life.”

After settling in, they decided to seek out dinner, and descended the elevator to the lobby. When the door opened, they noticed that a large crowd had gathered.

“There he is!” “Golden Fingers are heavy, man!” “Sing a song!” where only a few of the shouts coming from the throng of fans that had gathered.

I looked over to the hotel desk and gave the clerk the evil eye, but conceded to the crowd and spent the next two hours signing autographs and having his picture taken.

“Ok, folks, thanks, but we’ve really got to get going. We’re very hungry, and it’s getting late.” The sun was beginning to set, and even in the capital city, some places were shut down early during the mid-week. Hotel security assisted in getting them outside without a lot of interruption, though a few fans tried to break through the minimal security constraints, the Malls were more or less able to enjoy some private moments.

“Looks like we will have to start over once again. I guess there just isn’t much anywhere that we can hide, at least not if people are going to recognize us,” I observed.

“Maybe we can change our appearance,” Angela mentioned. “Shorter hair, different color. Maybe you can grow a beard. What about glasses?”

“I can barely grow a beard in a month, and am certainly not going to get one in a day. I can get my hair cut, though.” I still wore the long hairstyle that he supported during Golden Fingers and his solo career.

Grabbing a quick sandwich, the only fare that seemed to be available at this late hour, they made their way back to the hotel and slipped into bed for the night.

Arising early, they sought out the bell captain and indicated the need for a haircut and Angela’s hair to be colored. The hotel had a salon, and they were ushered in though the private entrance.

Minutes later, I was a transformed man, barely recognizable as the rock star he had been. Angela’s transformation took longer, but her new look was also a stunning change from before.

Donning a more conservative suit and tie, he tested the recognition factor by taking a quick stroll in the surrounding the hotel grounds. Few even looked up to him, as he tended to blend into the crowds along with others in the Government District, looking like another businessman or government official.

“This could work,” he told Angela as he returned to the salon. “No one even gave me a second look. It will be just like starting over”

They hit the road again, this time heading south, taking the scenic route to Melbourne. Before long, the city gave way to open road, kilometers (they had to go native, since the signs were all in metric) without even seeing another vehicle. It reminded them of the rural areas in their native California. By the time they reached Lind National Park, nearly fours hours had passed, but it seemed like little time at all, as they enjoyed the simple but beautiful splendor that the Australian countryside had to offer.

After taking a quick tour on the Euchre Valley Nature Drive, they continued another half hour west of the park to the small town of Orbost and stayed in the Commonwealth Hotel. Despite their attempts to be incognito, and unknown to them, they were recognized. However, unlike the situation in Canberra, their attempts at privacy were honored, and the only evidence remaining of their stay was a sign that still may be there reading “I Mall slept here.”

Thursday morning had them on the road again towards Melbourne, and the trip was just 4 hours. Looking ahead, they realized they still had nearly a full days drive to get the Adelaide, if they wanted to see the Pageant, the main purpose of their trip. Bypassing the big city, they chose to continue on, and settled into The Ansonia in Ballarat.

After their stay in Ballarat, they hit the final day of the road trip West and arrived in Adelaide late Friday afternoon. Preparations for the next day’s event were well under way, and it was difficult finding lodging. They ended up in the basement apartment of a small hotel, not quite the accommodations they had experienced in Canberra, and lacking the quaint charm of the hotels in Orbost and Ballarat, but choices were limited. A light rain was falling and the local news expressed concerned how it might affect the Pageant.

Saturday morning the rains cleared up, and the crowds gathered to see the Christmas Pageant, with Angela and I, as the “Potsworths”, successfully remaining unrecognized. They had succeeded in starting over.