By Samantha McKenzie
When I was young my fear of God topped the list, but since my mother was such a formidable force, she came in a close second place. Other than that, I was bold and daring, and innocent enough to push plenty of envelopes. I wouldn’t describe myself as spoiled. I didn’t have any of the latest toys, no name brand clothing nor did I get an allowance like so many others. I did, however, have an inkling, a strong conviction of my natural ability to warm a heart and I carried with me a small measure of confidence that took up the unused space in my childish mind.
As many fans watched “The New Edition Story” this week, it reminded me of the time I met Bobby Brown, one of the original boy band members who had recently left the group. As a die-hard fan, I must say, we all saw it coming. Towards the months leading up to his departure, he started missing performances and always seemed disengaged when they appeared on nightly shows. Having already earned the reputation as the “bad” boy in the group, his solo career announcement came as no surprise to super fans.
When my girlfriends and I found out that Bobby was in New York City, we jokingly decided to find out the hotel he was staying at. It was the weekend and we were 15 years old. The mission began with us flipping through the yellow pages, desperately trying to figure out which hotel to call first. The Waldorf, we thought, was too high class for this guy, so it was scratched off our list. I think we dwindled our search down to five hotels and the phone calls kicked off.
I can’t recall who made which phone call or the number of hotel receptionists who told us there was no one with that name registered at the hotel. Finally, when it was my turn, the call went like this:
“Can you put me through to Bobby Brown’s room please?”
“Can you hold please?”
“Hold on. I’m connecting you now…”
I almost choked. I was being put through to Bobby Brown’s room and I had no idea what I was going to say. Everything that happened after this was surreal. When the person on the other end answered the phone, I introduced myself.
“Hi Samantha. How are you? How’s your aunt,” the stranger said.
“Hiiiiiiiii. She’s doing just fine. My friends and I wanted to come to hotel to meet Bobby Brown,” I quickly responded. First of all, I knew I was not speaking to Bobby. I also knew that this man thought I was someone else and I was certain that he did not know any of my aunts.
He gave me instructions to call him when we arrived in the lobby and he would meet us. I quickly agreed and hung up the phone. Like typical teenage groupies, we somehow figured out how to get out of my best friend’s house and made our way to the train station. We were in Brooklyn and estimated that if we hurried, we could get there and back before my mother started looking for my whereabouts. Why I thought this would work, I don’t know.
When we arrived in the lobby and the bodyguard met us in the lobby, I could tell he realized he had been tricked.
“You’re not the Samantha I thought I was talking to.”
“I know, but, please. We’re already here and we just…”
One after the other, we all chimed in, rambling, pleading, begging, until we convincingly won him over. The red flags that were going off in my head would have to settle down. I was about to meet Bobby Brown and nothing else mattered at the time.
The room we entered was filled with two teenage girls (dressed to impress), two other guys (one who would later become a short-lived rapper) and the identical twin brother of the bodyguard who we had just met. Bobby was nowhere to be found.
We watched the clock: 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock came and went. As we sat on the edges of the double beds, basking in the light chatter of our new-found friends, I saw something that looked like drugs on the dresser. Red flags were waving furiously in my head at this point. Finally, Bobby entered the room. In bad boy fashion, he zipped passed all of us as if we were invisible, made his way to the ringing telephone and commenced to calling the person on the other line a bitch. Red flags still just flapping away.
Finally, as the clock approached midnight, we were introduced to Mr. Brown. He asked us our names and then re-asked us how to spell our names. S-a-m-a…(this guy cannot spell). When it was over, we thanked him, said our goodbyes and walked out the room with our autographs. (I think we tossed those papers shortly after). We headed home, less confidently than we came.
After my long explanation and pleading, my mother simply turned to me and said, “I’m so disappointed in you.” It felt like a knife. I wanted her to yell at me, beat my behind for pulling off a stupid stunt like that or put me on punishment for a month, you know, my usual forms of discipline. I think that night she was so mad, that all she could do is stare at me with that lingering look of disappointment. It was the first time I believe I really understood her point and reflected on how unsafe it was to do what I had done.
I was young and dumb, brave and foolish, all in the same night. I ended up logging that day under “big lessons” learned.
It was dangerous on so many levels, and the sad truth is, none of us really liked Bobby Brown anyway. Yet it was daring and adventurous and it taught me to take risks at an early age. It was also foolish and it took me years to admit that it wasn’t really worth it. But I still cannot deny how rewarding it felt to hallmark the phrase “you only live once.”
This story ended well. We survived another shenanigan and my mother came to her senses and did end up punishing me. Someone once said, “youth is wasted on the youth.” I am thankful for the experience, the growth, and the ability to see what I was made of and…to see another day.
Today I am thankful for the statement I used to hear the elders say, God protects babies and fools.