Notes: Back in the early 70s, The Partridge Family was a big deal. It may seem completely hokey now, but then it was quite radical. A single mother (gasp!) raising five kids. Not only that, but five kids who played rock n' roll music with her! (Double-gasp!) Traveling around the country with their semi-hippie-ish hairdos in their definitely-hippie bus, their frilly get-ups and bell bottoms, their rainbow-lighted stages, and their easygoing, hip attitudes, the show truly did break some stale social mores that needed to be broken.
David Cassidy, who played Keith Partridge, took center stage after his mega-hit "I Think I Love You" was released the year the series began--1970. I remember that my older sisters had huge posters of him on their bedroom walls; and I remember the nastiness directed towards him and the show in general from conservatives, who declared that he and the series were clear indicators of Western Civilization in decline, even though the show itself features very tame stories for the most part, though it did occasionally delve into such issues as women's rights, peace, teen issues, and war. The stories glance those topics, and glance only, just enough to give the impression of being edgy, which, to be fair, and for the time, they were. You've got to remember: the show aired half a century ago. America was mired in Vietnam; it had a criminal president in Richard Nixon (don't his crimes seem totally quaint compared to those committed daily by Trump?), race, anti-war, and student riots were erupting all over the country; we'd just landed on the moon; and the Beatles had just broken up. In many ways, it was night and day compared to now. In many ways, we're still there.
Cassidy was front and center, and the reason the show did so well, admittedly; but it was Laurie, played by Susan Dey, who captured my attention. She was, in all seriousness, my very first crush, even though I was eight in 1970 and had no idea why every time she was on screen I couldn't focus on anything else.
Laurie was portrayed as an All-American girl, but you could sense something just beneath, something simmering, something potent, even sometimes quite dark. As I became more and more versed with fan fiction, an age-old dream pushed me to begin my own story about her. What follows is it.
She isn't named Partridge here, but Meadowlark; and her family consists of herself, her mom, and her brother Terry. It's a much edgier story, much grittier, with many details of her life not too dissimilar from my own. It's the modern day, not 1970; and she lives like a modern-day teenager. She's seventeen and trying to figure out what to do with her life in a world absolutely devoted not to peace and love, but to violence, fascism, me-firstism, consumption, and destruction.
Despite this being a fan fiction, it's a very important project to me, one I anticipate working on for many years to come.
As a young girl, Laurie Meadowlark taught herself how to play the drums, keyboards, and guitar. She's good at all three; when she plays gigs with her mom and Terry, her brother, she's on keyboards. Two others are in Meadowlark: Aaron, the bassist, and Knox, the drummer.
But trouble is simmering in the group; and Laurie, just seventeen and the youngest, is feeling increasingly unwanted by some of the others. On the verge of adulthood, she is wondering: Can she play the game of life too? Read on!
The Club Owner
Dan Schnelling’s waiting room was a large spacious square, the olive-green plastic chairs against two of the taupe walls uncomfortable. All of them. Everything smelled of stale cigar smoke; and the cold white lights shone sterile and lifeless, and always gave her a headache the three previous times she’d come here. The floor-to-ceiling windows on the opposite wall were covered in blinds. Taupe.
“Let’s sit,” her mother said.
She sighed, glaring down at the tan (darker taupe) carpeting. “He said two o’ clock. It’s five past.”
The secretary nodded sympathetically from her desk ten feet away. “He’ll be right back. Please ... sit.”
Laurie sighed again, went to the nearest chair, and dropped angrily down on it, crossing her arms. Her mother sat next to her. As the secretary, who was twenty feet away, got back to work, Mom said, “Look. This is just how it goes. He owns half the clubs in this town, and probably a quarter of those in L.A. and San Francisco. We can’t meet him all huffy.”
Laurie glanced at her. “Doesn’t it piss you off that he feels no problem whatsoever making us wait on him? When we show up to his clubs, they always sell out! The fire marshal came last time and gave him a ticket, remember? That jerk tried to make us pay it!”
“Oh, I remember,” murmured Mom. “And we did pay for it. I just didn’t tell you.”
Laurie’s face twisted into outrage. “What—the—hell?”
“I didn’t tell you because of this reaction, right here. I shouldn’t have told you now that we’re going to meet him. That was stupid.”
“He’s always messing around with us! He’s a bully and a pig! I say, let’s cut an album and go touring in regular venues and drop his fat ass before he drops us! I think we could hit it big if we tried! Why don’t we just try?”
“We don’t try because, for one, we don’t have a contract with a label; for another, we don’t have anything close to a suitable means of travel; for a third, we don’t get any airplay—which, admittedly, may not matter in this day and age; and for a fourth, traveling and touring costs tons of money! You know all this! We’ve all got day jobs! Why do we need to go round and round on it over and over again?”
Laurie didn’t respond. She shook her head and slumped more in her chair. Mom, watching, sighed.
“There’s another problem,” she said gently, “one I’m sure you already know about.”
“So why bring it up?” she grumbled.
“We’ve got it really, really good here,” Mom offered. “Better than we could ever expect anywhere else. Believe me. We live in a state where it’s possible for you to play in over-21 establishments. We venture out of state, and we’re S.O.L. I think California is the only state that even makes it a possibility that you can join us onstage.”
“Like it matters,” grunted Laurie. “They all go to see Terry anyway.”
Mom snorted. “Yeah. Right. What, are you trying to score dumb points or something so I’ll feel bad for you? You show up onstage with that cute schoolgirl skirt, and that cute dimply smile, and your long light brown locks waving under the lights ... How many men are there just to ogle you? How many have we had to get really aggressive with keeping away from you? I mean, seriously—the sheriff a year ago—”
“All right, all right!” she exclaimed just over a whisper. “I got it! Stupid, ugly, old men. Perverts!”
Mom held silent for a moment. “Look. Okay. Yeah. Terry is a pretty boy. He’s got the goods; and because of him a year ago we had what I guess in this day and age could be considered a hit. He caught that riff and we rode it to stardom.”
It was Laurie’s turn to snort.
“Okay ... minor stardom. But it was enough to get us noticed, at least in this area. And hey—we just hit a hundred thousand subscribers on YouTube! It’s nowhere near enough to pay all the bills, mind you; but it’s something, don’t you think? Our Patreon is doing all right, all told. Not great ... but all right. We do have a growing Web influence ... we sell t-shirts ...” She chuckled. “We’re really big in Belgium ... and Germany.”
Laurie, still angry, kept her stare on her knees.
Mom slapped her knee. “Oh, come on. What I’m trying to say is—and don’t get me wrong, I love Terry, too, he’s my son—but you’ve got more talent in that pinkie finger of yours than he does in his entire body.”
“And yet he’s the one who wrote the hit song.”
“Everybody can get lucky.”
“Even total jerks.”
Mom sighed. “He’s your brother.”
“Correction: he’s my jerk brother.”
“You two used to get along! Buddy-buddy! Remember that? What happened?”
“I started to grow up, and he went backward!”
Mom held up. “Don’t say it.”
Laurie shook her head. “When he joined the band ... You know it and I know it.”
“He” was Aaron Keating, the band’s bassist. Another pretty boy like Terry, he was exceptionally gifted. He was twenty-three, three years older than Terry, and someone he had glommed onto almost instantly. Once fairly straight-laced, suddenly Terry was coming home high, and playing high ... And then getting arrested last September and charged with driving while under the influence.
“We’ve had this conversation,” said Mom with a hint of warning in her voice. “Aaron says he’s cleaned up. I haven’t suspected him of being high or drunk on stage, or when we rehearse. I think he’s trying.”
“He’s trying all right,” said Laurie. “He’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes! And he’s succeeding!”
Mom regarded her sadly. “Don’t you believe in giving someone a second chance?”
“Oh, I believe in it. But I think we’re on chance ninety or a hundred and ninety! Seriously, Mom! One of these days he’s going to endanger all of us!”
Dan Schnelling walked in the moment before Mom went to respond.
“Cherylynn, Laurie ...” he impatiently muttered. Without waiting for a reply, he went to the secretary, where he handed her a phone. “Get this transcribed right away. I want the contract available before I leave tonight.”
“Yes, Mister Schnelling,” the woman replied. Laurie thought she was very meek, like a beaten puppy. The secretary set the phone down and then went back to looking at her computer screen while Schnelling marched into his office and closed the door behind him.
“I think he thinks he’s a doctor or something,” Laurie grumbled. “Too high and mighty for good manners!”
“He’s an extremely wealthy man,” replied Mom, “in an age when nothing is regarded more highly, and nothing else matters.”
Laurie chuckled bitterly. “Prosperity gospel one-oh-one.”
“I was just thinking of it,” said Mom with a smile. “The chorus has become something of an earworm.” She patted her knee. “Yet another example of what I was just saying: that you have a lot of talent, dear daughter.”
“Too bad you’re the only one who’s ever going to hear it,” murmured Laurie.
“I really think we should record it before the month is out. Seriously, I do!”
Laurie chuckled. “Yeah, that’ll go over like a lead balloon with Terry! I already tried mentioning it to him, as you’ll recall.”
“I think I need to talk to him first. His ego is getting in the way of really great art.”
“Mister Schnelling is available now,” called the secretary. “Please go on in.”
“Well now! That must be some sort of record!” said Laurie, standing. “Only twenty minutes this time! We really must be getting famous!”
“Should you stay out here?” demanded Mom, giving her the evil eye. “You really need to hold it in, or stay out here. Choose.”
Laurie stalked to Schnelling’s closed door and opened it, grandly waving her through. “I’ll be a good girl. Promise. Besides, he specifically called me here too.”
Mom, scowling, walked past her into the office. Laurie slammed the door behind her, rattling the nearest framed photos of Schnelling posing with Kanye West and in the other, Justin Timberlake.
Schnelling, his face darkening, didn’t bother to stand. Laurie strode up to the available seat and dropped down as Mom said, “Dan. It’s good to see you again. What can we do for you today?”
“You know, Laurie,” he said without preamble, “I really don’t appreciate your attitude.” He came forward and dropped his elbows on the desk and pointed at her. “You really are too young to realize just how good you’ve got it. Most musicians couldn’t draw a dozen people at a park with their cases open at their feet. I’m selling Meadowlark out in practically every venue during an age when live music is becoming a rarity on the club scene!”
Before she could retort, he turned his attention to Mom. “I’ve actually called you in to demand, Cherylynn, that you find a new keyboardist.”
Laurie, outraged, went to stand.
“Stay in your seat,” said Mom with quiet, cool evenness, “And please let me respond.”
She focused on Schnelling. “And why is that, Dan? Laurie is incredibly talented. She has a great voice. She’s beautiful. She’s a draw.”
“She’s also a right pain in the ass,” grunted Schnelling, glowering at her.
“Fuck you!” yelled Laurie, standing, before she could stop it from blasting out of her.
But Mom didn’t chide her or get on her. Instead, she directed her gaze, darkening steadily, back to Schnelling. “I think we got this meeting on the wrong foot. Shall we try—”
“Bottom line,” interrupted Schnelling, “I am sick and tired of pushing paperwork through government offices getting her a hall pass so she can wave her teenaged butt onstage in one of my clubs. Are you aware that I have to do that every time you play, and that I—I—eat the administrative costs? It costs twenty-five dollars for every single pass. Every one. I’m sick of it. I’ve paid over six hundred fifty dollars for her. And this is the gratitude I get. No more.”
“That’s simply not true, Dan. You take that from our cut,” said Mom, making an obvious attempt to hold on to her temper. “Please don’t lie to me. We are the ones paying for her ‘administrative costs.’ ”
She gazed up at her. “Please sit down.”
“What’s the point?” demanded Laurie. “He wants me gone!”
“That’s right!” yelled Schnelling, also standing. “Minors in clubs should be outlawed! And in fact, if the legislature gets its way next year, you will be gone from every club in the state!”
“Could we...?” Mom glanced at her, then at Dan “... could we put a lid on the tempers here for a moment? Please? I would like to have a civil conversation. Laurie, sit down. Sit—down. Thank you. Dan? Please? Thank you. I don’t understand—legislature?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Schnelling said at the same time Laurie did.
An awkward silence passed. Ten seconds.
“Laurie is part of our group,” said Mom quietly. “She’s family. She’s not going anywhere. She helps to sell out your clubs.”
“For what I pay Meadowlark to play, I barely scrape enough cash to buy myself a club soda at last call. I’d make more money with a DJ—even a crappy one. Bottom line: find yourself a new keyboardist, or find new clubs to play in. I’m being more than generous here. Now if you’ll excuse me, the mayor is coming in. Please excuse yourselves before he gets here.”