That One Time is a recurring series of essays highlighting oddball, first-person experiences from around the world. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of Complex City Guide. Libelous or obscene comments will be removed, and some names have been changed to respect individual's privacy. To submit your story, email email@example.com.
“How old are you?"
It was a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday and I was living in Eastern Europe. The question had never really fazed me before, but with this inquisitive security guard standing between me and my favorite band Marilyn Manson, it felt like a blow.
“Seventeen,” I said.
“Almost eighteen!” my friend Nora chimed in from behind me. Nora was a huge Marilyn Manson fan. I don’t know how or when she became a fan, but I had become one because of her, and here we were trying to get backstage during one of their concerts.
And then right before he left, he uncapped a black Sharpie and scrawled 'NOT 18' right above my chest.
“Sorry girls, this area is full. You can’t come back,” the guard said.
“But we’re already here!” Nora protested.
I don’t remember saying anything, but I do remember the band’s guitarist, John 5, suddenly noticing me.
“Are you guys American?” John said, sauntering over. He was tall, skinny and covered in tattoos.
“Yes!” Nora shrieked, even though we weren’t.
“So what’s the problem here?” John asked the security guard.
“They’re not eighteen,” he said.
“It’s fine,” John replied, and with that we were in. He was incredibly friendly and kept interrupting us to tell me how cute I was before eventually inviting us back to the band’s hotel.
“Yes, yes, definitely!” we both said. Nora sent a text to her parents who, thankfully, were low-key bohemian types that didn’t see a problem with us going to Marilyn Manson’s hotel at 12 a.m. on a school night. We were given a 2 a.m. curfew, but an hour was all we needed.
“Great!” John said. “Meet us there.” And then right before he left, he uncapped a black Sharpie and scrawled “NOT 18” right above my chest. I felt like the coolest fake seventeen-year-old ever.
Back at their hotel we hung out with a few of the band members in the lobby bar. Manson was wearing a black cowboy hat and eating peanuts with the stunning Dita Von Teese, his girlfriend at the time.
Given that John didn’t actually drink or take drugs, there was little reason for us to stay at the bar late, so we went up to his room. He took out an acoustic guitar, sat on the bed and started strumming a few songs.
“Why don’t you sit next to me?” he asked. I glanced at Nora’s face, which said, "Why are you even thinking about this?." John stroked my hair, my back, my leg, and I just sat there, kind of frozen. When we announced that we had to get going, he asked us if we were free the next day.
“Well we have to go to school in the morning, but we can leave around lunchtime,” Nora said. I could already see the wheels turning in her head.
I went to school the next day proudly touting the “NOT 18” scribbled on my chest. We told everyone who would listen about our night and our plans for that afternoon. I’m sure we told a few of our liberal teachers, too, who either didn’t see anything wrong with it or thought we were making the whole thing up. At 2 p.m., we returned to the hotel and met John in the lobby.
Turns out the rest of the band had gone to visit a church made entirely out of bones, but John wanted to spend the day looking at antiques and finding a souvenir for his mom. We stopped at a few shops, a few fans stopped him, and we got dinner. At some point in the day, he had also started holding my hand, and after dinner he asked me if I wanted to go back to his hotel.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure, but when would I ever have this kind of experience again? I accepted the invite and before long John was giving me a back rub. Other things happened, but contrary to what a lot of people probably think, that was it. My body language must’ve indicated that I wasn’t planning on going all the way, or maybe I didn’t really look as 17-ish as I thought I did, but he was a total gentleman about it.
Turns out the rest of the band had gone to visit a church made entirely out of bones, but John wanted to spend the day looking at antiques and finding a souvenir for his mom.
For the next year, Nora and I lived and breathed Marilyn Manson. We bought concert videos and covered our rooms in posters. We also spent all of our after-school time logged into a message board on the band’s official site. Every now and then different girls would recount meeting John backstage at a show and my stomach would twist into a knot. I checked their tour schedule every morning, hoping there would be another tour date near me soon.
I didn’t see John again until the summer during a trip to Florida. My mom refused to make the two-hour drive to see them play Ozzfest, but I connected with a 24 year-old girl on the band’s chat room who was looking for someone to go with.
Somehow this sketchy set-up was approved by mom and felt totally natural. The girl, Jenny, was not much of a stunner, but totally sweet. We stayed up the night before the concert making signs on fluorescent pink paper to hold up when Manson took the stage.
After their performance, we made our way to the stage where there were already several girls hanging out. Many of them were scantily dressed and seemed to be professional groupies. One told me she was a stripper that had slept with several actors in The Fast and Furious franchise. I felt like an amateur, so I was ecstatic when I heard someone from behind the barricade say, “Hey, you with the pink sign, come over here!”
It was one of the band's roadies I recognized from Europe. He remembered me, or at least did a good job pretending to, and ran backstage to tell John who I was. He came and told me to wait a few minutes before coming backstage. There was one issue though: My friend couldn’t come.
Had I had a little more backstage experience, I could’ve prepared for this. But all I could do, with Jenny standing beside me on the verge of tears, was basically give up and watch another girl slip behind the barricade to take my place. But after all the girls cleared out, the roadie came back and told me, “John does want to see you.” And with that, armed with his All-Access pass, he led us to a private parking lot by the tour buses.
Suddenly I saw the tall, spindly silhouette of John 5. “How are you?” he said, giving me a big hug. He sat down next to me and we chatted like old friends. He nuzzled my neck and purred in his oddly sexy effeminate way, asking me to come back to the bus with him. At that moment, there was nothing I wanted more, but the facts were that I needed a ride and wasn’t reckless enough to abandon all my mom’s trust.
“Well give me your number. Let’s stay in touch,” he said. Before leaving, he grabbed my poster. “How old are you again?” he asked.
“Seventeen,” I stuttered. He smiled and scribbled "STILL not 18" on my poster.
A few days later at home our phone rang. “Sophie, it’s for you!” My mom announced.
“Who is it?” I asked as she handed off the receiver.
“John?” she said.
It was him. I felt like Kate Hudson in that last scene of Almost Famous. He was asking if I could join the band on a few more of their tour stops. My parents were pretty lenient, but not that lenient. I told him I didn’t think it could happen, but he told me to think about it and if something changes to let him know. I never had the confidence to call him back, even though I ended up seeing the band play another five or six times. Looking back, I’m glad I left it on that note.
Throughout the rest of high school my friends and I slithered our way backstage with a ton of other prominent rock bands. Some of the men I met were total dicks, some were boring, and others were totally cool, but as weird as it sounds—especially now that I am in my late twenties—no one will ever replace my original rock star.