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They're Loyal Fans and They Bake
By Hillary Carlip

Music helped drown out the dissonance of my adolescence. I'd climb out to the roof from my second-story bedroom window and blast Cat Stevens' "Wild World" so I wouldn't have to hear my older brother, a hyperactive, pot-addicted, self-proclaimed high school revolutionary, constantly arguing with my parents. I'd listen to Laura Nyro's "Lonely Women" so I'd stop thinking about the boys who didn't like me and Carole King's "It's Too Late" to forget the 22 pounds I lost the previous year and had rapidly gained back, plus 10.

After awhile, the records weren't enough. That's when I began frequenting the Troubadour, the hottest nightclub in 1970s L.A.

The "Troub," as we regulars called it, was an intimate joint where the great singer/songwriters performed two shows a night, six nights a week. I saw Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, Laura Nyro and even Elton John, whose sweat dripped onto my arm as I watched him from a table right under the stage. It didn't matter that I was only 14 years old, no one at the Troub ever checked IDs.

One warm April night, the scent of honeysuckle drenching the air, my friend Molly and I hitchhiked to the Troub to hear Cat Stevens. First in line, I caught my reflection in the window of the Martial Arts studio next to the club. Dressed in my favorite thrift store outfit -- embroidered peasant blouse, patched bell-bottom jeans and a long '50s style blue wool coat that I rarely took off -- I actually felt sort of attractive that night. Well, until I spotted Molly's reflection next to me -- blonder, a foot taller and much shapelier in a halter-top than I.

Once inside the club Molly and I grabbed one of the front tables, ordered bubbly ginger ales and sipped them through pink cocktail straws. Nobody, including us, had ever heard of the opening act, a lanky, tall woman who sauntered onto the stage with a guitar, followed by her backup band, three guys with a lot of facial hair.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to new Elektra recording artist, Miss Carly Simon."

Her voice was rich, deep and intoxicating; her smile so broad it lit up like an angelic Jack O'Lantern. I knew immediately that this woman was different from all the other girl singers. Her lyrics were defiant: "You say we'll soar like two birds through the clouds, but soon you'll cage me on your shelf. I'll never learn to be just me first, by myself." I had goose bumps. Carly captivated me. I knew I would return the next five nights. I knew I would meet Carly Simon. No, I wouldn't just meet her...

I would befriend Carly Simon.

When the show was over and we were filing out of the club, the only teenagers in a sea of adults, I suddenly grabbed Molly's arm. "Come on," I whispered, dragging her up a set of narrow, carpeted stairs. Without question Molly followed, playing Ethel to my Lucy.

At the top of the stairs, I found what I was looking for: Taped to one of two paint-splattered doors was a yellow scrap of paper with Carly's name scrawled on it in ballpoint pen.

I tentatively knocked.

The door swung open and there she stood, towering over me, tall and graceful, wearing a long paisley dress and brown lace-up boots. "Yes?" she asked in that lush, resonant voice.

I nearly fell over backwards. "Uh, hi. We just wanted to tell you how amazingly talented you are." Shit. That sounded stupid—like something a fan would say.

I quickly added, "And you're a true artist."

Much better. Weightier.

Carly beamed. "Well, thank you. You girls want to come in?"

"Sure," I stuttered, surprised by the invitation -- especially after my lame opening.

We stepped into clouds of cigarette smoke that nearly obscured our view of the three band members crammed into the tiny space. The guitarist, a skinny man with a blond ponytail that spilled down his back, moved over to make room for us on a ratty, plaid couch. We squeezed in between him and the drummer who was dabbing his damp beard with a paper towel. "So, did you guys like the show?" he asked.

"Are you kidding?" It was fantastic." I yipped, then toned it down once again. "You're all very talented."

"Yeah," Molly added.

Carly looked right at me. "I want to know what you really think. Good or bad. Be honest."

Oh my God. Carly Simon wanted to know what I really thought. I had better come up with something good. "Well…" I began hesitantly, "your songs are moving, your voice gorgeous and the band's fantastic. My only criticism is that it's hard to hear your voice on some of the more upbeat songs. Maybe they need to turn up your vocal mike."

Carly smiled, those full lips spreading across her face. "Excellent point. So, do you girls go to concerts a lot? What kinds of music do you like?"

I was blown away. Most adults asked the same idiotic questions: How old are you? What's your favorite subject in school? What do you want to be when you grow up? But not my new friend Carly.

"I like female singer/songwriters. Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro."

"Janis Joplin," Molly added.

"You guys have great taste," Carly said, smiling that smile again.

We hung out for over a half hour chatting with Carly and the band. When the guitarist began to organize his gear for the second set, we stood up to leave.

"We gonna see you again this week?" the bass player with the mutton chop sideburns asked.

"Sure, definitely." I said.

"Definitely," Molly echoed.

"Good," Carly said.

It was a solid good. Like she meant it. Then, as she saw us to the door-Carly Simon hugged me.

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