It’s just a thing I do with her. I’m sure she hates it but she puts up with it, as do all other poor bastards I reflexively rename something more psychically or physically descriptive than their actual actual birth name. But because it’s such a pain in the ass (or, more specifically, my hands) to type the name TESH! with punctuation in all caps—thanks, Apple—we’re going with Lesley here. I first met TESH!, aka née Lesley Tesh now Lesley Tesh-Pedersen at a rock show.
But hasn’t everybody?
If you’ve been to any concert in the Southwest, you’ve probably seen Lesley Tesh. If you’ve been to a concert featuring that particular genre of music that is in the rock god pantheon vicinity, or any group as famous for their hair as much as their music, then you’ve definitely seen her. Ninety-nine percent chance you’ve seen her with her concert-going cohort, also named, oddly enough, Leslie. In a rare showing of restraint, the coincidence gods had the decency to at least have their names spelled differently. Lesley & Leslie are relatively famous on the rock show circuit for being two of the hottest non-groupie groupies to ever—and always—receive the sought-after invite backstage. It’s not simply because they’re gorgeous, though they are that. It’s not that they, pardon the phrase, put out, because they don’t. It’s their energy. There is a definite vibration that emanates from their core that causes them to transcend beyond the frequency of Hot Rock Chick. These girls understand the music like musicians do. That’s what sets them apart.
Leslie (who I call Sequel because she’s the second Lesley/Leslie I met) is the raven-haired one of the duo. She possesses a cerebral sexual animus, having the aura of a Zen-tranquil, superhumanly capable tour manager, or a librarian from one of those 80’s hot-for-teacher videos. She may eschew the eyewear but her aloof air is so professorial she doesn’t need them. The librarian has to take off her glasses to reveal her sexual side. With Sequel, it’s with the flip of some internal switch, no discarding of Prada wire frames needed. For both those reasons she easily passes the Lost test—of all these schlubs in coach, who do you most want to survive this plane crash because they’re going to be the one who’s most likely to save you from any polar bear, smoke monster, or stupid beeping Dharma doomsday alarm clock on this fucked up island? If Sequel is on the cursed hell flight, you want her to survive at all costs. Even Sawyer may be sacrificed. (But not Kate. Never Kate.)
Opposite Leslie is Lesley, the fairer of the two, blonde. She is the Rose Red to Sequel’s Snow White. With enormous liquid eyes and voluminous lips, Lesley is more lava lamp sultry, a seductress in smoke. She floats, she blurs, she glides, she envelopes.
Individually, they’re relatively normal women. Together, they become this clarion call that turns the ear of every rock guitar player, drummer, and lead singer in the tri-state area. Thankfully, this stops them all from playing that unforgettable and obnoxious dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-da-dun, dun-dun-dun-da-dun-dun guitar riff. You know the one, the notes that open “Smoke on The Water”, the stoner-musician equivalent of “Chopsticks”. If there’s anything you can count on in rock-n-roll, it’s that every stoner knows “Smoke”. That and the fact some drunken idiot will shout a request to play “Freebird” during a lull in the setlist. If “Freebird” were ever to be shot out of Lucy’s sky, “Smoke” would reign supreme over every long-hair with a Rolling Stone cover wet dream. I even think “Stairway To Heaven” would be kicked to the curb. Or, in the present parlance, down the staircase to heaven, Robert Plant’s curls fanning out on the floor at the bottom, suffering a miscarriage like a soap actress.
A long time ago, Lesley married one of these rock dudes. A Stone Temple Pilot or a Winger or I don’t know who, I don’t care. I love earbleed rock as much as the next guy. I would even punish myself gleefully and willfully at a brain-melting My Bloody Valentine reunion, but count me out when there’s comps to The Cult or any other band who had Tawny Kataen as a hood ornament. Or any band who simply had Tawny Kataen for that matter. I worship the ground Lesley walks on but when she ultimately turns down that well-worn path toward Head Bangers Ball, I turn atheist, preferring to hang out at Cinderella’s–and I mean the Disney chick not the band–ball. We have an unspoken detente about this. She knows I am allowed to pass on the Ratt/Whitesnake double bill and her presence is mandatory at every Garbage concert or St. Vincent appearance. The show where we met was a much more humble affair, just a friend’s band playing at a local club, though Lesley’s entrance made it was rockworthy.
The friend I’m referring to was Christopher Bourque, rechristened “Lash” because he was the first of a series of engineers who I realized had eyelashes that looked like they were designed by a stylist for a Maybelline ad. Seriously, every engineer I worked with had lashes that practically scraped their forehead. This trait was so consistent for a while there I was certain those lashes had something to do with their superior audio abilities, as if each lash was some kind of antennae, sound wave vibrations somehow absorbing and processing sound better than average humans. How else to explain the six times they’re trying to tell me there’s something wrong with the take and I can’t use it? My eyes may 20/-10 due to eyelids so fat and heavy you can’t even see my eyelashes but there’s no old man ear hair clogging up my auditory canal. A little blurry, yes. Deaf, no. So very soon I ditched the eyelash superiority theory and realized they were just full of shit because every time I wanted a take to be deadly quiet, they’d get their Pro-Tool panties in a wad saying the recording was so low now one could hear it when, naturally, I heard everything just fine. Then it’s a back and forth with yet another useless lesson on wave forms and peaking and I don’t care I love the take, make it work, we’re moving on to the next line.
He was also whiplash fast, one of the fastest I’d worked with in all my years in a recording studio, so the nickname pulled double duty. Lash was the first serious long-term relationship I had with a recording engineer. Not sexual, of course. The producer/engineer partnership is not sexual. It is, however, very much like a marriage. Whether you’re producing music or producing/directing an ADR session (Automate—some say Additional—Dialogue Replacement, aka “dubbing”), the recording engineer is forever with you, tethered to your side by an invisible umbilical cord about 24 inches. If you work together long enough, that cord can connect you on an almost psychic level. You begin acting like silver anniversary sweethearts, completing each other’s sentences, eventually where you never even have to speak a sentence, one knows what the other wants intuitively. Despite my impatience with their seemingly flip-flop opinion of what constitutes acceptable sound, I fully acknowledge the men who do this work are sonic geniuses. In no way does it belittle their role or their craft by saying that all that sound smart would be wasted if it was simply behind the rig, fiddling with levels, taking out hisses, clicks, and pops, all the things normal people find charming about All Things Considered, the very organic agitations that drive these men and women crazy. This job pays the bills but rarely is it where their passion lies, which is why most recording engineers are either soundscapers or musicians.
Lash was a little bit of both. In later years, the passions would reverse in priority, but at this time Lash was more musician than sound designer. He was part of a trio, a thrashy rock band with the most vile name that could still be said over the radio, which was their goal the night the three men brainstormed to come up with the moniker. Thus, House of Moist was secreted into being. Apparently, “moist” is one of the most despised words in the English language, for its definition as well as its less-than-pleasant phonetics, its disgusting onomatopoeia, if you will. Personally, I would have thought “yeasty” would have taken that top slot, but that shows you what I know. Or, rather, what I don’t.
Now my title at the studio was producer, writer, and director. Though I was also chief marketer, awards show creator, interior designer, presentation trainer, salesman, and about twenty other roles I never got paid for but that’s what happens when you work for a startup that borders on sweatshop and when you’ve got a really fucked up Christian work ethic. In my off hours, I parlayed the film director position into the role of social director as well, either because I cared deeply for the people I worked with or because I am a megalomaniacal control freak of the highest order.
I hosted brunches at my house when an actor who had moved away came into town for a visit. When one of them was in a play, I organized a gang to go to the theatre and support them. If someone was in the hospital, I would wrangle everyone to meet at one of the 20 or so hospitals in the world-renowned medical center that is Houston so we could visit our fallen comrade. I would send the invites, purchase the flowers, everything I could to make it easier on them because no one likes to visit hospitals. I don’t care how much you love the person, going to a hospital is life’s second biggest drag, the first one being the actual person in the hospital. And while we’re on the subject, let me just say that after visiting your loved one who’s wasting away from some horrible, incurable disease, when you’re drained from the wrenching hell of the futile goal of lifting their spirits, it should be illegal to then charge $20 for parking. Now, yes, I think it’s disgusting to charge some poor parent $20 to park at a Taylor Swift concert after shelling out at least $1000 for tickets and merch, but that’s a choice. For hospitals to stab you with a sharp needle that sucks $20 out of your pocket after you’ve just seen a loved one with a dozen devices sticking into every orifice and collapsed vein possible, is just fucking evil. Which is why my Toyota Solara convertible aka my “Barbie car” as it was quickly christened (payback for my assigning of nicknames possibly?) rolled into the med center looking like The Grapes of Wrath with people roped in a pile instead of luggage and requisite rocking chair.
So when Lash’s band was playing at a local club, I had everyone rally round the fag and go support their friend who had a band with the most revolting name on earth.
This all happened at the beginning of the first big expansion at the studio. Anime was a hot, hot, hot commodity. Pokémon Picachu'd their little teeth into the worldwide market, followed by Dragon Ball Z fist busting in with a 20-year old Speed Racer vengeance. Cartoon Network’s Toonami block of Japanese anime programming was a staple of the network, one of their prime advertising slots, soon to be joined by the late night Adult Swim. The company was selling anime DVDs just as fast as we could dub them into English. Virtually overnight, we grew from one recording suite to five, hired teams to staff them all, and I was beating the bushes trying to find enough actors to fill all the roles. The studio was blowing up, detonated by the insatiable fuse of sudden consumer demand. And there was a price point on it to give the studio incentive to keep cranking them out. An anime DVD with four, maybe five episodes would sell retail for around $40—what you’d pay for a whole season of a hit American television show. Of course, no one wants to think about the end when times are this good. 9/11 had yet to happen. The financial crisis was still years away from being set off. The Great Recession wasn’t even a blip on the cash-colored radar.
For now, these were the golden years. And this night was typical of those times. A grand and garrulous group of actors and techies, writers and musicians, hip hangers-on and total strangers all gathering in a scummy-cool concert bar, everyone with that perfect happy two-beers-in-you buzz. It was just about then that I became slightly more intoxicated than everyone else.
The band was tuning up and I’m moving from this trio to that, playing Julie the cruise director, when I see this vision walk into the club and I’m gobsmacked. I remember the conversation I was having because the conversation revolved around this stranger, but I couldn’t tell you who I was talking with. My brain could have cared less who was giving the information. The information was all that mattered.
“WHO is that?” I asked them.
Suddenly he was drowned out by the music supervisor in my head who had cued up “Dream Weaver” as this gamine walked through the club. She was moving in slow motion like an MTV video shot by Russell Mulcahy. Like Phoebe Cates getting out of the pool.
“blah blah blah...heard she’s a friend of Lonnie’s,” my informant told me.
I didn’t know Lonnie but I knew what he looked like and I knew he was in Lash’s band. My head started darting around, neck complaining of the whiplash, brain saying, Shut the fuck up, Neck, we need to find Lonnie.
The band started.
I’m capable of causing a good amount of commotion but not even I could get away with interrupting the opening number to ask the bassist, “Hey, who’s this chick that I’m absolutely mesmerized by. Put that stupid stringed thing down and let’s put me and her together.”
But I couldn’t take the chance if she decided after ten minutes she hated the band and decided to bail. I know I was hating them simply because they were drowning out my screams of “Hey! Hey you!” So I became a one-man crowd surfer, plowing through the most sluggish mosh pit on the plane. Naturally, this cool demeanor was maintained when I was upon the poor woman.
If I was straight, I would be given an eye roll and a wave-off. Or slapped. But women forgive this shit from a gay guy. They know immediately the agenda is different. There’s no angle. We’re legit. Plus, we find everything before the straights, so if we’re talking to you before anyone else is, we’re your barometer of things to come. You’re in, baby. Just ask Madonna. Lady Gaga. Crystal meth. How “fabulous” became cool and “groovy” was never seen or heard from again.
“Oh…..kay,” she told me, allowing me to hear her voice for the first time. She smiled and rockets exploded. Was my friend’s band playing? Fuck if I know.