January 7, 1983. Throngs of black-clad pseudo-punkers, who eschew being labeled "New Wave," mill around amid the red velvet trappings of Tampa Theatre. I, as one of them, await the band Missing Persons. August 6, 2000. Throngs of denim-clad, slightly graying members of the 30-plus set, who eschew being labeled "yuppies," take their seats inside the industrial-gray trappings of Ruth Eckerd Hall. They've assembled for the Club 80's Flashback tour. I, as one of them, await the top-billed band Missing Persons.
August 6, 2003. Throngs of cell-phone carrying members of the I-can't-possibly-be-40 crowd, who eschew being labeled "middle-agers," discuss with their friends how they'll cram their cellulite-laden thighs into spandex pants for the next night's show inside the so-very-black trappings of The Masquerade. I, as one of them, wonder what to wear to see the band Missing Persons.
Three nights, three venues and three very different outfits — all with one thing in common: Missing Persons were truly missing persons. The band didn't appear at ANY of the three shows.
In January 1983, sales manager and friend of mine Janine Crouch lived in Tallahassee, with a different job and last name. She gamely spent nine hours (round-trip) battling geriatric drivers on U.S. 19, for one reason.
"The concert was the only purpose of my trip," she recalls. Dressed in outfits somewhere between MTV-style New Wave and black-and-spiky punk, we watched the local opening band, Triple XXX Girls. Then the curtain went back down.
"I remember standing around looking at everybody else," says Janine, "and thinking it was taking a really long time."
Eventually, someone came onstage and announced that Missing Persons would not be playing. The official reason: a band member was sick. At the time, I figured the band never made it to Tampa that night. But today I know better.
Will Myrex played bass for Triple XXX Girls. He doesn't remember the official reason the show was cancelled. But he was backstage that afternoon, and most of Missing Persons showed up for a soundcheck. Will says bassist Patrick O'Hearn and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo were warming up when vocalist Dale Bozzio and drummer/ husband Terry came onstage, arguing.
When things calmed down a bit, the band started to play, but within a couple of bars, Dale walked away from the mic, repeatedly whining that she couldn't hear herself in the monitors. The band stopped and started a couple more times before she finally just walked offstage.
Myrex doesn't recall whether keyboard player Chuck Wild was at the soundcheck. Maybe he was ill; maybe not. Myrex didn't see any members of Missing Persons until several days later, when both bands played a gig at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach.
Fast-forward 17 years, to Aug. 6, 2000. Janine and I were both living in Tampa, and we bought tickets to the Club 80's Flashback tour at Ruth Eckerd Hall. We both wanted to see A Flock of Seagulls; I was psyched for Gene Loves Jezebel; and we were slightly less enthused about Wang Chung. But the real reason we went to the concert, as Janine says, was "because we never got to see Missing Persons." By this time, the 1983 incident had become a running joke with us.
At the start of the show, someone came onstage and began an apology. Janine and I looked at each other in disbelief. Before the person even finished the sentence, we knew Missing Persons were once again missing.
"I think we just died laughing," remembers Janine.
Never the quitter, in July 2003, I spied a concert listing saying that Missing Persons were going to play at Ybor City's Masquerade on Aug. 7. I called Janine, full of disclaimers.
She didn't even bother to get out her pen.
This time I wasn't taking chances by actually buying tickets in advance. A few days before the show, I surfed the Web and found a couple of postings indicating that Missing Persons had cancelled performances that week. On Aug. 6, I called and confirmed cancellation Number Three. At least I didn't have to wonder what the appropriate costume would be for a 40-plus woman to wear to an Ybor club usually packed with gyrators young enough to be her children.
So why me? Why Tampa? Why three cancellations? I tracked down the one person who could explain it best, Dale Bozzio. I was ready to rant. I was ready to rave. I was ready to demand an explanation, gosh darn it.
But I have to admit I was almost instantly disarmed. There's only one word I can use to describe the former pouty-punker's demeanor during our conversation — gracious.
She didn't remember the reason for the 1983 cancellation, but she clearly remembered why Missing Persons didn't headline the August 2000 Club '80s Flashback show in Clearwater.
"[The tour] started not paying me," said Bozzio, "and on the fourth night, I said 'I can't do it.'"
Bozzio claimed the handlers made excuses, telling her she'd get the money soon, but she explained that the support crew and the other people on the road had to be paid. She just got off the bus and headed home.
"It took all my money just to get home," Bozzio remembered.
Ron Poster, Missing Persons' current keyboard player, says the show was cancelled "because Dale had a fight with the promoter and quit the tour."
Bozzio had an even more vivid memory of why the show at Masquerade was cancelled last August.
"A window fell on my arm just before I was supposed to leave for the tour," she said.
It sliced an artery, an injury she described as "horrendous." She explained that it took six months after the surgery until she could move her arm, and she wasn't up to the tour. She added that she was very lucky to have recovered full use of the arm.
I meekly agreed.
Poster offers a different explanation:
"I remember Dale hurting her arm, but I don't recall that having anything to do, really, with her blowing off the shows."
The accident was a key topic on a Missing Persons Yahoo! chat group in fall 2003. However, the person who posted the story said the accident happened around Aug. 25, about three weeks after the Tampa concert date.
"The most recent show at Masquerade was cancelled because of personal family problems Dale was having," says Poster.
Whatever the reason, Bozzio was apologetic about canceling the tour last summer and fall.
"I like to think if you make a date, you're going to be there. Usually you do, but things are bound to go wrong," she reasoned, describing the three Tampa cancellations as "ironic."
She also said her new agent is working on some shows; Poster says the agent is trying to book another gig in Tampa. When asked if she'll dare to buy a ticket, Janine is enthusiastic:
"Oh sure," she says. "Why not live dangerously?"
Karen Lee's pitch to find Missing Persons won Music Critic Scott Harrell's "Be A Rock Critic for A Week" contest.