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Twisted Mister?

By Suzann Col'on, taken from Star Hits magazine, June 1986.

           Aaah, there’s nothing like a drive in beautiful Beverly Hills on a warm sunny day. They don’t call it ‘Hills’ for nothing; our sturdy 60’s jalopy groans her way up the slopes to a lux-looking pink and gray house hugged by green palm trees. Let’s go inside, shall we?


Meet Richard Page. He’s a pretty tall guy with a firm handshake (ouch!) and he’s in this hi-tech chateau to have his picture taken. For these photos, he’s casually outfitted in a very un-rock star look: leather jacket (black), jeans (blue), shirt and sneakers (white and Reebok).


Thanks to the outta nowhere success of the vanilla pudding ballad ‘Broken Wings’, Richard and his band Mr. Mister are probably gracing many a teenage wall (i.e. they’re famous). Quel Twilight Zone! Just a few months ago the only contact with Fame was by watching it on TV.


But whoa, Nellie, let’s start on Page one (har!). Richard was born somewhere up the ladder of 30 years ago in Keokuk, Iowa into no shortage of musical talent. Mom and Dad, both musicians, passed their gift genes onto Richard, his three brothers and one sister. “My sister is a music teacher in Princeton,” Richard beams proudly. “She’s a big authority on elementary music education. She’s very famous within her circle.”


While Richard started playing piano at the wrinkly age of six, he was still doing some pretty normal kidlike things, like ditching dodgy food. Tiny green lima beans were at the height of little Richard’s hate-food list. “Any food we didn’t like we’d put on a fork, put under the table and say ‘I’ve gotta go to the bathroom,’ and then dump it. We got real good at it,” he grins mischievously.


Then there’s Richard’s very first memory, the dreaded Childhood Incident. “When I was about four years old, my mom told me that my grandfather was coming to visit us from Iowa. I got so excited that I ran and jumped on the couch.”


The terror detail in this little vignette is that, unknown to the happy tot, there was a pencil sticking out from between the couch seats. “It went right into my knee…aaaaaaah!… And there it was. I pulled it out but the lead’s still in there. I could show it to you…” Um, nah, that’s okay.


Luckily, leaded legs don’t significantly impede musical genius. While the Page family moved to Montgomery, Alabama and Phoenix, Arizona, Richard was busy mastering guitar as well as keyboards. While going to highschool in Phoenix, he found himself in one of those gritty, true-life learning situations.


“I used to go down to the pool hall and there’d be an older guy in his 30’s—I was about 17 at the time. He was always there—I guess he was a pool hustler. He used to always ask me to play and I never beat him. I mean, he’d do the whole table and I’d be standing there with the stick!” Rubbing Richard’s nose in the dirt further, he had to pay for the table. Ugh, the filth.


Maybe Richard realized that a career as a pool shark was in his next life. Whatever, music was sloshing around inside him and destiny decreed that he purge. Discovering he could wrangle a bass pretty well, Richard embarked upon a career what would include some achievements that, looking back now, are positively dastardly.


“I don’t even want to talk about this,” Richard chuckles nervously. Sorry, Rich. He’s worked as a session musician on a veritable myriad of 70’s ‘projects’ including one with Neil Sadaka’s daughter (The Elton John of the 60’s—Sedaka, not the daughter!—Horrified Ed.). But then there was his pre-Mr. Band, Pages (geddit?).


Richard and Mr. Keyboards Steve George knew each other in Phoenix and had been playing around in a few local bands. They decided to move to Los Angeles and “get serious” in 1975. Pages was the result. “It started in about 1978 and had three albums,” Richard recalls reluctantly. “They were—marginal, to say the least.”


What kind of—ah, marginal stuff was it? “There was a song called ‘Sensatia’ on one of the Pages albums. It was about a girl that couldn’t be satiated, and the narrative was a guy that was convinced he could change her and…it was really stupid, really lame.”


Steve and Richard killed Pages, which was reincarnated as Mr. Mister with new drummer Pat Mastelotto and guitarist Steve Farris (not a drop of INXS blood in him). Were the new kids subjected to any secret initiation ceremonies? “Yeah,” chuckles Richard, “we shaved their heads and made them spin on a table and…” And sacrificed a chicken over them? Whoopsie, got a little carried away there, judging from the look on Richard’s puss.


There’s also a secret ingredient in the Mr. Mister minestrone: Richard’s cousin, John Lang. “He’s been writing songs with us for years and years. He lives in Paris now. He’s a struggling novelist, but he did write the lyrics to ‘Broken Wings’. He’s kind of the consciousness of the band, a visionary in his own right.”


But how did ‘Broken Wings’ get to be so huge? It wasn’t just popped in the oven for 15 minutes, was it? “It really just came out. Luckily I had the tape recorder going while I was playing and John was jotting down words and everything just fell into place. I think it has a certain ‘special’ quality to it.”


Richard’s not the only one who feels this way. ‘Broken Wings’ has wormed its way into the teary hearts of millions, and Richard’s got the soggy letters to prove it. “People say that this song means something to them and it’s their little song that they carry around with them for their whole life.”


Do these letters say any other interesting things? “We don’t get strange sexual propositions!” exclaims Rich. Poor guys.


Well, do they at least get stuff thrown at them onstage? “Um, no…I actually got a teddy bear once.” Did Richard keep it? “Yeah.” Well, there’s a heartwarmer. “See, you learn to answer these things right,” Richard winks slyly. Look, Mister, this isn’t a test. But you get a major demerit for that!


But let’s not be too harsh. It seems Richard has been the victim of an apparently unscrupulous journalist who sort of misinterpreted what he said (“He made me look like a complete asshole.”).


Richard’s wife Linda has just come up to say hi to hubby, their 16-month-old baby Alisha in tow. “Whenever the video comes on, she lunges for it,” Dad chuckles proudly. “And when the song comes on the radio she puts her hands up, just holds her hands up the whole time. And when it’s over she puts ‘em down.”


Linda is hardly one of those modelly rock wives. In fact, Mrs. Mister looks a lot more like an Ivory gal. How did Richard snag her? “I told her she had nice teeth! I couldn’t believe it came out of my mouth…I thought ‘God, what an asshole!’ But I meant it. She has great teeth and that’s what I said and she looked at me like ‘Oh brother, what a jerk!’ But it worked!” (Boys: take note!)


He may have a way with words (NOT), but Richard Page is happy. He's got a wife and kids, a little house in the suburbs, two dogs and at last count, two hit singles. But what makes Richard really happy about all this success? "I like the power. People listen to me more!" Well, we were here, weren't we?