Superspreader: Spring Break

•  Cramming thousands of kids together on a Florida beach used to be a good idea        

•  “Where the Boys Are” in 1989

•  Rick Nielsen is blasé about half-naked ragers

In a post-Covid world, one imagines, an annual ritual such as spring break on America’s beaches will be revived safely . . . if a week of binge-drinking, balcony-diving and toxic promiscuity can be considered safe.

And, hell, it was considered good, clean fun from the moment Connie Francis and George Hamilton partied hardy in “Where the Boys Are.” That 1960 movie, which put spring break on the map, featured four college girls who were ready to lose their virginity amid sun and sand in Fort Lauderdale. Sometimes overlooked is the motel date-rape that U-turned the fun into a morality tale, sending the chastened girls back to their Midwestern college sadder but wiser.

In 1986, spring break got another media boost from MTV, which started broadcasting live rock concerts from Daytona Beach. And by 1989, I got sent there by ABC Radio News to report on the scene. This little wraparound sounds like I could have been making it for the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce:

How’s that lineup for a snapshot of pop culture 1989?

By that time I was 41 years old and any hope of melding into the milieu and posing as a partier was futile. I think I retired to a hotel room far from the beach (secured by ABC’s travel department, which likely couldn’t have found a motel vacancy if I’d wanted one) and enjoyed a room service cheeseburger. Party on.

Speaking of Cheap Trick, at an HBO concert for Vietnam veterans outside Washington in 1987, I chatted at length with Rick Nielsen, who brought up the fact that no one had, at that point, written a definitive book about Cheap Trick and its rise from Rockford, Illinois. He was aware of my stint at WMET-FM in nearby Chicago. He asked if I’d be interested in collaborating on a book about the band. I would have asked him how much of a tell-all he had in mind. I wouldn’t want to write a white-washed version; it would have to have ALL the sex, drugs and rock & roll, unexpurgated. But I didn’t ask him. I didn’t get that far. I was fully engaged as the reporter on the road and couldn’t see cranking up my work load to write a book, while at the same time learning how to write a book. I passed, politely. But now I think I probably should have done it.

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