This month marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Guns N’ Roses’ classic Appetite for Destruction. Thirty years – Christ. When I think of how many lifetimes I’ve lived in those past three decades, it makes me dizzy. And yet, it seems in a very real sense that no time has passed at all. Some say there’s no such thing as past, present and future…that it’s all happening at the same time. It feels that way, in the quiet moments – to me at least.
I was just a 21 year old kid, fresh out of art school when I first heard about G N’R. I had moved to Los Angeles after I graduated and was living with my cousin in a pad the size of a postage stamp. It was a struggle, for a while, finding ways to pay the rent. I worked retail at the infamous Wacko on Melrose, then I ran deliveries for a store that sold party favors out in the valley and then finally I hit pay dirt when I landed a gig at Tower Sunset – the flagship store in West Hollywood. I just walked straight in and asked if they had any openings in the art department. I was broke but confident and too young to really care one way or the other. They hired me on the spot – as a clerk. I started the next day. That’s when I met him, Saul Hudson – better known to his fans as Slash.
I arrived bright and early, and the manager, Kevin, introduced me around to the gang. Everyone was super friendly, if a bit arrogant in that typical way music snobs usually are. After the meet and greet was done, he led me down a hall to the boss man’s office. “I’ll just introduce you to Billy, he owns the place…then you can get started,” he said, turning the knob with a touch of apprehension.
I took a few tentative steps inside to see a young dude with an epic mop of long curly hair spilling into his face. He was sitting behind an enormous desk, ancient and ornately carved, that practically came up to his chest. It was so huge, I wondered how they were able to get it through the door.
“Jesus, Saul, what the hell? You know you can’t hang out in here!”
Kevin was pissed, I was confused and ‘Saul’ didn’t even acknowledge our presence.
“Saul?” Kevin repeated with impatience.
Was he asleep? Passed out? I could hear some vague rustling from under the desk.
“Get the fuck up, dude” Kevin said, his voice pitching higher.
“Come on man, give me a minute.”
It speaks, I thought to myself with a slight chuckle. I was finding the whole scene pretty amusing.
“I’ve told you a million times you can’t keep doing this, you’re gonna get your fucking ass fired.”
I heard some more rustling followed by a squeak. Did Tower have a mice?
“Just another second,” Saul said, a touch breathless.
“Now! I’m not screwing around.”
With a slight shrug of his shoulders, he pushed himself back from the desk. I could finally see his torso, he looked tall. A second later, a pretty young thing popped up from between his legs. She was dressed in a black leather mini skirt and a bikini top. Christ, this mofo was getting a goddamned blow job.
Without a hint of embarrassment, she got to her feet, lipstick smeared across her crooked smile. Giving Saul a quick peck on the top of his head, she turned around and walked out of the office with a proud look on her face.
I was gobsmacked, Kevin was pissed, and Saul looked wiped out.
“Get the fuck out of the chair, dude,” Kevin barked, snapping his fingers.
Saul groaned, his belt buckle clanged against the desk as he struggled upright.
“Take it easy, Kev. I’m outta here soon anyway. We’re signing with Geffen, Bill’s quitting too.”
Bill, I’d find out later, was none other than Axl Rose.
Zipping up, he walked around the desk and extended his hand in my direction.
“And you are?” he asked, eyes hidden by his glorious curls.
“CrystaI,” I croaked.
“Come see us tonight at The Rainbow,” he said.
Digging into his right front pocket, he pulled out a couple of crumpled tickets and handed them to me – they were damp with his sweat.
“It’s free, bring some friends,” he said.
I thanked him and stuck them in my bra. It was an interesting start to my first day on the job, to be sure.
I did wind up going — there was no way I was going to miss it. They put on one hell of a show…and it was loud as fuck. Even back then, they knew how to command an audience. They had them eating out of the palm of their hands. And there was Saul, cute as a bug’s ear under his top hat. He still had that mop in his face with a giant, toothy grin peeking out from under it all. He was loving life.
So was I.
I worked with Saul and Bill for a month or so before they did ultimately quit. A year later everyone would know who they were when Appetite dropped on the world like an atom bomb. And you know, the rest as they say…is history. I still think about how we met every now and then, me and Saul. Not often, just in my quieter moments — when past and present converge. Sometimes, I even wonder what happened to that girl underneath the desk…and her crooked smile.