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Queen of the Oddballs and Other True Stories From a Life Unaccording to Plan

I was so utterly mortified, I was ready to fling myself off a balcony into the deep end of the Beverly Hilton swimming pool. I swore then and there that I would never speak to my father again. The song finally ended. Sawyer called out over the microphone. Hillary Carlip and her father, Bob Carlip, congratulations! Instead of standing in the spotlight of attention, I imagined myself sitting next to my first choice for a partner, Kelly Curtis, casually sipping Shirley Temples, laughing and discussing how embarrassing parents can be.

Flashbulbs popped, bringing me back. And there I was, holding a trophy. My father gripped my other hand and held it high in the air. And I let him. I smiled at Dad, sharing our victory. As Mrs. Henreid and Mrs. Maybe now I would dance with a handsome TA or a dreamy child star. Most kids in my school wear Frye boots, gauchos, ponchos, and puka shells.

I wear peasant blouses, army jackets, Earth Shoes, and a halter top I make out of an American flag, which provokes many strangers on the street to scream at me, calling me unpatriotic.

Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan by Hillary Carlip

At a Grateful Dead concert in San Francisco, more than thirty fans go to the hospital after unknowingly drinking apple juice laced with LSD. Meanwhile, I smoke a joint with a friend that we find out later was laced with PCP, and I end up passed out in an alley, hallucinating the head of my dead grandfather, whom I never met, flying around on wings. One warm April night, the scent of honeysuckle drenching the air, my friend Molly and I hitchhiked to the Troub to hear Cat Stevens. First in line, I caught my reflection in the window of the martial arts studio next door to the club.

Dressed in my favorite thrift store outfit—embroidered peasant blouse, patched bell-bottom jeans, and 33 a long fifties-style blue wool coat that I rarely took off—I actually felt uncharacteristically attractive. Once inside the club Molly and I grabbed one of the front tables, ordered bubbly ginger ales, and sipped them through pink cocktail straws. Nobody, including us, had ever heard of the opening act—a lanky, tall woman who sauntered onto the stage with a guitar, followed by her backup band, three guys with a lot of hair. An announcer spoke over the PA.

I knew immediately that this woman was different from all the other girl singers. Carly captivated me. I knew I had to return for the next five nights. I knew I would meet Carly Simon. I would befriend Carly Simon. Without question Molly followed, playing Ethel to my Lucy.


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I knocked tentatively. The door swung open, and there she stood, towering over me, tall and graceful, wearing a long paisley dress and brown lace-up boots. I nearly fell over backwards. We just wanted to tell you Hillary Carlip how amazingly talented you are. That sounded stupid—like something a fan would say. Carly beamed. You girls want to come in?

We stepped into clouds of cigarette smoke that nearly obscured our view of the three band members crammed into the tiny space.


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The pianist, a skinny man with a ponytail that spilled down his back, moved over to make room for us on a ratty, plaid couch. We squeezed in between him and the drummer, who was dabbing his damp head full of curls with a paper towel.

Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan

Carly looked right at me. Good or bad. Be honest. Someone wanted to know what I really thought. I had better come up with something good. Maybe they need to turn up your vocal mic? So, do you girls go to a lot of concerts?

Reward Yourself

What kinds of music do you like? Most adults asked the same idiotic questions: How old are you? What do you want to be when you grow up? But not my new friend Carly. Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro. We hung out for more than a half hour, chatting with Carly and the band. When the guitarist with the muttonchop sideburns began to organize his gear for the second set, we stood up to leave.

It was a solid good. Like she meant it. Then, at the door, Carly Simon hugged me. We floated out of the club and onto Santa Monica Boulevard, nonchalantly walking past the martial arts studio, then across Doheny. That was surreal! I just know it. I kept replaying the night before, anticipating what would happen this night. How excited Carly would be to see me. Yeah, right.

Who was I kidding? Why would Carly Simon want to be my friend? I would have to win her over. The minute I got home from school, I baked banana bread as an offering for Carly and the band.

Hillary Carlip

That evening we arrived early at the Troub and snagged our front row table. All through the first set I held the still-warm loaf in my lap, as protectively as if it were a newborn. Hillary Carlip At intermission, Molly and I hurried upstairs. We were the girls.

I handed Carly the banana bread. She thanked me and placed it on the coffee table, next to an overflowing ashtray, and the guys immediately dug in. While Cat Stevens performed downstairs, we sat on the couch joining in the conversation as Carly and the band dissected their show. And this time at the door, Carly Simon kissed me good-bye. On closing night, when Cat Stevens ended his set, we knew the time to say good-bye had come.

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My eyes welled up with tears, but I bit my lip and held them back. Be strong. What were friends for? This time as the headliner. On a rainy November opening night, armed with a loaf of threelayer corn bread, Molly and I opted for a table in the back so we could unobtrusively leave our seats during the opening act and visit Carly upstairs. My heart was beating faster and harder than it had the first time I knocked on that door. After all, Carly was a star now. I took a deep breath and knocked. She was, truly, our friend. So again Molly and I spent a week hanging out with Carly and the band.

I had never before felt so happy. So important. Hillary Carlip Months passed. I began to read, when suddenly my heart nearly stopped. Carly was talking about me and Molly. In a magazine! I arrived sweating and gasping heavily. There are these two girls who have really just made my evenings there.

The poodle next door began to yip. They come to all the shows and they bake me bread, and they sing along.