Life is so strange when you don’t know where you’re going to.
Those are words from one of my favorite songs when I was a teenager from a band that captured our imagination in the ’80s—Missing Persons. In 1989, I had a chance encounter with Dale Bozzio, and she was everything I thought she’d be. The truth is, there are only a handful of bands still together where the mere mention of their name propels us into our own personal time machine and a dimension of sight and sound. Those songs remind us of what was going on in our lives when we first heard them.
For Missing Persons, and their legendary front-woman, it’s been quite the surreal journey. Even in her earliest memory, the singer born Dale Consalvi knew she would be a star one day. Getting there, and staying there, well, those are two different paths altogether. These days, we all know this muse as Dale Bozzio. Ask her, or any musician over 40, they’ll tell you that as an artist, you live two lives. There’s the life you learn with, and the life you live with. Back then, we looked at her as if we were in a daze; it’s like the feeling at the end of the page, when you realize… you don’t know what you just read.
Dale’s story started in Medford, Massachusetts. As a teen, she studied drama at Emerson College and worked as a Bunny at the Playboy Club in Boston. In ‘75, she was named Boston Playboy Club Bunny of the Year. The following year, she packed her bags and headed for the bright lights of Los Angeles in response to an invitation from Hugh Hefner to come to the Beverly Hills Playboy Mansion to interview for a Valentine’s Day hostess gig. The opportunity provided for both a continuing relationship with Playboy and for living arrangements in L.A., and thus a star was born. The end result was Dale graciously declined Hef’s offer; consequently, she was in a pickle as she would have issues finding a new place to live.
However, as luck would have it, it was like a godsend… it was serendipity at work. She had another chance encounter, this time with the legendary Frank Zappa. Dale had met him previously at one of his concerts back in Boston. That encounter led to her working for him, where she met drummer, Terry Bozzio. Sonically, Terry was one of the bright new faces that was a soon-to-be heavyweight. Terry was so accomplished, he was best compared to Stewart Copeland of the Police, or Johnny Vatos of Oingo Boingo; that’s how bad-ass he was. Who knew that chance meeting would have such a profound impact on her life. Terry and Dale hit it off immediately, and as in any Disney-esque fairy-tale, the two married in 1979. Twelve months later, she collaborated with Terry and guitarist, Warren Cuccurullo. Together, they formed Missing Persons. They later added bassist, Patrick O’Hearn, and keyboardist, Chuck Wild, to round out the band.
In the 80’s, spandex, big hair and multi-colored hair was the “in” thing. Before there was the noise of social media, nobody on the planet personified the 80’s better than Dale Bozzio. In 1982, her strong vocals, quirky delivery, outspoken demeanor and revealing outfits made her a favorite on Mtv and VH-1. That was the year the band’s seminal album, Spring Session M made Dale Bozzio a household name. Just like Lord God King Bu-Fu of Valley Girl fame, Bozzio developed a cult-like following almost overnight. It didn’t hurt that “Mental Hopscotch” was a hit being played heavily by Ken Roberts / Rick Carroll (Pre-CBS) L.A.-based soon-to-be-radio-juggernaut, KROQ-FM. In retrospect, another milestone for the band was being part of the US Festival in ‘83. The band shared the festival stage with other icons such as Bowie, Berlin, The Clash, a Flock of Seagulls, Oingo Boingo, The Pretenders, and U2, just to name a few. Not many can say they shared a festival stage with these legends, but that’s a distinction that’s just another part of the story.
Truth be told, her revealing outfits played a role in pushing the envelope and the sexy culture of music videos that you see today. Notwithstanding Bozzio’s outrageous sexploitation, good looks and overall instant-iconic-hype, Missing Persons were one of the great success stories of the 80’s. Where many bands of that era turned out to be one-hit wonders, Missing Persons proved to be anything but that. They were designed to be Zappa’s in-your-face, new-wave alternative of sight and sound. They proved to be more than that; the band delivered on high musical standards and an outlook on life that made us all smile.
There’s a truth about self-discovery: it’s never without cost. For Missing Persons, and specifically the Bozzio’s, tensions got the best of them. In 1986, the tour ended, so did their marriage… and consequently, so did the band. A few years later, things on the personal front became even more devastating with the loss of her friend and mentor, Frank Zappa in ’93. Although the loss seems like another lifetime ago, it still hurts Dale, you can hear it in her voice any time she talks about her friend. The loss of a friend or loved one is something we have all felt at one time, and in the most human way possible, we can all relate to Bozzio.
Over the years, Missing Persons has released 5 full-length albums; the last of which was Missing in Action in 2014. Combined, they have 6 live and compilation albums. With everything else in life, there is no passion without struggle, and over the years, Bozzio has lived the life we experience. In 2011, Bozzio announced that she and Warren were reforming the band for a reunion tour in anticipation of the 30th Anniversary of Spring Session M. In that same announcement, Terry Bozzio’s absence was explained in a very human way, “rock bands are dysfunctional families at best, and sometimes, the show just can’t go on with all on-board.” Ask anyone who has experienced monumental challenges in life, and the theme is persistence opens all doors closed by resistance. That line-up featured Warren, Prescott Niles (bassist from the Knack), and Patrick Bolen (guitar). Warren and Patrick departed in 2011, but in 2015, Bozzio added some new pieces to the puzzle. She added Fred Bensi (keys), Karl D’Amico (lead guitar), who simply shreds on guitar, and there’s Andy Sanesi (drums). Andy is as dynamic and energetic a drummer as you’ll ever see, often referred to by Dale as the Energizer Bunny, because he just keeps going and going and going!
Who says once you hit a certain age you can’t dye your hair blue? Whoever thought that has never met Dale. Today, Missing Persons is alive and well. The band is simply electrifying with Bozzio at the helm. It’s easy to say any person can get over any situation, but until you walk in that person’s shoes, you just never know. That said, no matter what venue Missing Persons plays, and they play some big ones, and some not so big, Dale makes it a point to talk to as many of her fans as she can. It’s amazing just how much this music has meant to so many people. Songs like “Mental Hopscotch”, “Destination Unknown”, “Words”, “I Like Boys”, “Right Now” and “Walking in L.A.” have become a part of the soundtrack of our lives and fabric of Americana. This band is living proof that life can be challenging, full of loss and heartbreak; but, being defeated is optional.
That may be why Bozzio makes it a point to talk to her fans, and listen to their stories. Bozzio can often be seen laughing and crying with some fans, and she’s always giving hugs. To know this icon, means the icon and the fan genuinely share life experiences, and those stories are the lexicon of life. Sharing these moments with fans is something today’s stars may want to look towards to see why some bands have such a devoted fan base, and why some bands are just as popular today as they were in the 80’s.
Some people are lucky to be a universal success once in a lifetime. For Bozzio, the music Gods seem to love her, and they’ve given her a second life. Underneath the tough persona of a front-woman, Dale is a genuinely good and caring person. Life has come full circle, and today, Missing Persons is a throw-back to our past, but also a beacon to a very bright future. In the end, what are words for, when no one listens anymore!
As for me, I’m happy to see Missing Persons enjoying success again. It’s been years since my chance encounter with Ms. Bozzio. I can honestly say she is the same person I met so many years ago and I understand why her fans love her so much. If you want to see history, go see an original alternative trendsetter and living legend, and check your Twitter feed, because Missing Persons plays the House of Blues, Anaheim (the Parrish) this Saturday night (September 23rd). Take it from me, procrastination can wait, do yourself a favor and go see this band!
Missing Persons perform tomorrow at the House of Blues Anaheim (Parish Room). For tickets and full details, click here.