As author David Sedaris continues to demonstrate, nostalgia's a dependable cash cow if you've got the self-deprecating narrative skills to transform yesteryear's humiliations into tomorrow's fat checks. Fortunately, for his creditors and readers, Los Angeles-based screenwriter Craig A. Williams is in possession of an MFA in professional writing and mighty writerly gifts, contemplating his adolescence through a Wonder Years kaleidoscope in Mom, Have You Seen My Leather Pants?.
Williams spent his formative years playing guitar as a member of Onyxxx, whose Loni Anderson-impersonating manager insists will be the New Kids on the Block of Hollywood Glam Rock! The seeds of Onyxxx (additional X's tacked on to fend off lawsuits from hip-hop moshers Onyx) were sown in the late 1980s, when junior high-aged Williams wrote a song on his Casio keyboard. The rest of the band congealed around his admittedly derivative songwriting, and survived various name changes, crimes against fashion and outright rip-offs to become one of hundreds of hopeful outfits making the scene on the Sunset Strip in the pre-grunge wake of Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe and Great White. The story tells how charismatic yet dickish frontman Tyler, outcast bassist Sonny, stuttering, rhythm-challenged drummer Kyle and Williams build their sub-fame brick-by-brick, paying to play their way up from dive bars to legendary clubs, hosting post-show blowouts in hotel rooms and cultivating a fan base that includes classmates, family members and, eventually, strippers.
"I wore leather pants and suede cowboy boots — to high school — had hair down to my ass, knew grown men with names like Trashy and Freak, sold out nights at Hollywood's storied venues, such as the Roxy, Gazzarri's, and the Troubadour," Williams brags. "I wrote songs that made dozens of people sing."
Sarcasm and bite-size history lessons about California, hair metal and what the author describes as the rock 'n' roll fantasy — a logic-averse affliction that leads young men to believe very little stands between their standing and, say, David Lee Roth's — help leaven Pants' darkness. You know: the groupies; the groupies accidentally impregnated; the descents into hardcore substance and hairspray abuse; vomit; intra-band rivalries and tensions; the fact that these wannabes' buxom manager was doing more than managing two of them. All of these Behind the Music factors would play into the inevitable breakup senior year, before they could ascend to record-contract Valhalla — an accomplishment that would have likely ruined the lives of all involved and denied us this paperback gem.