Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Duran Duran meets Jenny GeorgeSometimes just the right thing happens to just the right person, and everyone who witnesses can revel in the fact that, sometimes, the universe is benevolent and just. Last Friday night, I didn't just see a Duran Duran show. I saw a wish come true.

The wish was Jenny George’s, and she had waited 25 years for it to happen. Many readers know Jenny personally and many more will recognize her by name. She’s a ray of (extremely fashionable) light in the Seattle music community. Her outward beauty is eclipsed only by her kindness, generosity, and humility. Everyone who knows her knows she's had a big dream: that one day, she'd get to meet Duran Duran. To understand why, let’s step back to August 1986:

We have Duran Duran enjoying unparalleled success, arguably the quintessential band of their time. Perhaps they were hitting a rough patch (amid their Arcadia/Power Station/losing of several Taylors phase), but the "Fab Five" were still at their peak, the reigning New Wave Kings of the World.

At the same time, 12 year old Jenny was diagnosed with leukemia and told she had 30 days to live. She outlived that prognosis, and instead, endured daily chemotherapy for three long years, with an ongoing soundtrack of her favorite band, Duran Duran, providing musical solace to her ongoing struggle.

Jenny survived, and has thrived. She was told she'd never live to see 30. When she did, she decided to throw a massive benefit show to raise money for charity, and Dancing on the Valentine was born. The show's name is a nod to Duran Duran, as well as shout-out to Jenny's birthday (yes, it's Valentine's Day). Each year, a dozen or so bands vie to play covers of one of Jenny's favorite bands (for the first few years it was Duran Duran, and Factory Records, David Bowie, and Depeche Mode have each had a go), and Jenny then hand-delivers the proceeds to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Skip ahead to August 2011, a month before the band's scheduled tour date near Seattle. One of Jenny's friends, Susan Burgess, had an idea: Why not launch a social media campaign, to try to introduce Duran Duran to Jenny George?

Per Susan, "I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt this way about Jenny and her story. It couldn’t be just one person writing a letter – I knew this had to be a community effort and that it would take the support of friends and friends of friends if it was going to go anywhere."

I’m one of those friends. Susan launched the Facebook page Duran Duran, meet Jenny George in August, and we set out to spread the word. And spread it did, to the point where we no longer even know how many people contacted the band on Jenny's behalf. What we do know is that through a crazy myriad of connections — including my college roommate in Alabama (THANK YOU, Kristina Scott!) — enough people from all around the world asked on Jenny’s behalf, and the Monday before the show we finally got the answer we were all working for: "Yes, Jenny can meet the band. Just tell everyone to please please stop with the requests." We told all 400 of our new best friends on Facebook to stand down, and then spent the rest of the week rejoicing (and figuring who was driving, and what the hell we were going to wear).

So, Friday night, we are all in Everett, and Jenny is awaiting the seven o'clock deadline when she will get the note from the band that tells her what to do next, as if it's 1986 all over again and we're trying to find some rave. There are six of us total, we're in some tiny Thai restaurant across the street from the events center, and we're trying to keep Jenny calm. Before our drinks even arrive, Susan and I head over with Jenny to the box office. I am carrying a box of Top Pot Doughnuts, because we've been told there will only be a +1, but surely, no one could turn down another friend who has Top Pot on hand, am I right?

No one can say no to Top Pot

We reach the box office and the envelope is THERE, sure enough, with a note that Jenny reads, her hands shaking.

It's official: in mere moments, Jenny will be meeting Duran Duran.

Also official: there are only two wrist bands. Susan and I look at each other — we’d each had a huge hand in this — and Susan had already told me earlier I could have the pass if I want it. Many of the industry contacts came via Three Imaginary Girls, or my personal connections. But I never had the courage to actually try to pull this altogether; she did. As much as I want to meet the band — and more importantly, to see Jenny meeting the band — this moment is hers. I affix their wristbands, we take photos, and I'm forced to hand off the dozen doughnuts to the nice fella checking tickets at the door because, "no food in the stadium."  Sigh.


Jenny at this point is elated, terrified. "What if they're mean?" she frets. I'm concerned too. Will the band acknowledge how much this moment means to Jenny? Or will they barely look up from their pens to ask her name before scrawling a meaningless signature on an even more meaningless piece of paper? We give final hugs and assurances, walk down the stairs, and Jenny and Susan are let into the inner sanctum.

Fortunately, I had good company while I waited, in imaginary Liz and Scott, the door guy. We chatted him up, as proper groupies always chat up backstage door guys. Scott only likes "oldies moldies" music, he saw the Beach Boys back in 1978, and he says no good music has come out since 1981. So, we have to assume, he's not a Duran Duran fan. But if I'm not mistaken, he's a big imaginary Liz fan.

Liz and her superfan

After 15-20 minutes, Jenny and Susan emerged, beaming, elated. The first thing I did was take this video, so I'll let Jenny tell you a bit herself:

In short: the band was wonderful. This was no “sign-your-record, step aside” sort of meet-and-greet. Simon Le Bon came bounding out of his dressing room, proclaiming, “Where’s the survivor?” They gave hugs, they took photos, and they even signed the original Dancing on the Valentine poster: "To Jenny, the Survivor."

Jenny with Duran Duran!

John in particular loved the poster. He read every band on the list, asking, "Did all of these bands play our songs?" before turning to their manager and asking if they could play the next one (!!). {Aside to the band: YES PLEASE!}

And aside to Rick of Seattle Show Posters — STRONG WORK!

John Taylor loves this poster

Simon Le Bon signs the poster

For Jenny the Survivor

Then they thanked her, and called her an inspiration. Yes, Duran Duran — who gave Jenny the will to live as a child, and the impetus to give so much back as an adult — thanked her for being an inspiration to them.  Their (totally sweet) manager Wendy wrote to Jenny shortly after the show and reiterated the message: "We were all truly inspired by your courage and determination – which shows that anything is possible in this world if you just believe."

* * * * *

Phew. After this whirlwind of elation and after all this, there was a show! And really, the meet and great experience was a tough act to follow (especially for me, the writer). So let's see: this was the first date of the band's latest tour, in support of their new record, All You Need is Now.

They played a lot of new songs, and I say this with the caveat that I consider nearly everything after Seven & the Ragged Tiger "a new song." The crowd was buoyant, responsive both to the tracks off the new record and the classics (though admittedly singing along with the classics more). Personal  highlights and notes from me:

As if it weren't obvious above: John Taylor is still a mega-babe. The whole band is, really, and we were all marveling that they all still have such great hair.

John Taylor, Duran Duran
Photo by Sunny Hong

All these years later, "Planet Earth" still sounds absolutely killer.

The band can cover a mean Frankie Goes to Hollywood, though I'm still a bit dumbfounded why they did.

Those big molded heads over the stage were kinda scary and kinda cool all at the same time—especially during the opening notes of "The Reflex."

Quote of the night: Simon Le Bon proclaiming: "You might have 700 lbs of ice underneath you, but up here you're hotter than hell!"

I lied. The real quote of the night was in the epic introducing-the-band-during-Girls-on-Film, when Simon proclaimed that, "We. Are. Duran. Duran! A band designed, to give you, AN ORGASM!"

I'm not lying. He really did say both those things. He is the consummate frontman. The crowd went wild.

Duran Duran will give you an orgasm. Ahem.
Photo by Sunny Hong

Want the setlist? I don't have the setlist, but these guys do.

Speaking of the setlist—I spied lots of gaps in the back catalog. No "Rio" or "Save a Prayer," fellas? You're breaking our imaginary hearts over here. (Though for the record, we would be happy to give you a chance to make it up to us by playing either of the songs at the next Dancing on the Valentine, likely to be held on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at the luckiest rock venue in Seattle.)

* * * * *

How often in life do you have the chance to witness one of your dearest friends have her dream come true—and to know you played a part in making it happen?

Not often enough. And it's not just me. Jenny's joy burst out of Facebook and has followed her for days, everywhere she's gone — indeed, our whole community in Seattle.

As our imaginary pal Matt Brown posted to Facebook within minutes of the photo of Jenny and the band going live:

"Jenny George has FINALLY met Duran Duran! There is still a spark of justice and goodness in the world when something this perfect happens for the right person, and I am ecstatic for her tonight."

"Walking around yesterday with Jenny, we didn’t cover half a block without running into someone Jenny knows. Every one of them broke into a huge smile, and yelled “Congratulations!," while quickly moving in for a hug and to hear the whole story," said Susan. "It feels as though the whole city is basking in 'post-Duran Duran bliss.'"

She's right—we are. Those of us who know Jenny are still reveling that we all somehow made this dream come true for her. The world could use more moments like these. They elevate us all.

Success! Duran Duran
Success! Photo by Sunny Hong