Life was nagging at Hyun-Joo Park. Too many 14-hour days staring at a computer screen. Not enough time getting her 28-year-old ya-yas out. So she did what any sensible Wall Street banker would do.
Hopped a flight to Las Vegas. Joined a rock 'n' roll band. And for four days screamed herself hoarse while perfecting -- with the help of guitar hero Slash -- a respectable rendition of Guns N' Roses' Paradise City, the climax of which found her leaping off a stack of amplifiers with Axl Rose-like gusto.
"The rock 'n' roll life is the polar opposite of mine," says Park, who morphed from banker to headbanger courtesy of the Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp, which for a decade has granted musical mortals access to their strutting gods. "Rock stars are expected to misbehave, have sex, be crazy. Pretending to be a rock star is an escape from the mundane nature of everyday life."
As fantasies go, "rock star" continues to hog the woulda-coulda-been spotlight. Nickelback's hit Rockstar breaks it down simply: "We all just wanna be big rock stars/ And live in hilltop houses driving 15 cars."
President of the United States? Forget the gig's daily pressure -- most of us couldn't survive the first wave of photos unearthed from our funky-haired pasts.
Wealthiest American? Bill Gates is a shrewd genius and admirable altruist, but no amount of hot tech talk will get 80,000 people to scream your name.
Oscar-lauded actor? Please. Even Johnny Depp would rather be his iconic and death-defying buddy, Keith Richards.
With a new year that promises more bad economic news, continued tragedies in Iraq and a cutthroat election, folks are going to be leaning harder than ever on an escapist dream.
Cultural evidence points to rock as a salve. The Fantasy Camp plans to meet the needs of its expanding market by supplementing its $8,000 four-day sessions with $2,000 one-day camps. And with Hollywood's writers locked in a strike, don't be surprised to see more you-could-be-a-star reality shows such as Fox's just-ended The Next Great American Band.
Then there's the sizzling video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, which has racked up$300 million in sales. Running hot on its heels is Rock Band, projected to hit $200 million in sales.
And if you need to feel the real thing, outfits such as Rock Star Karaoke NYC stand ready to transform white-collar warriors "into screaming, stage-diving singers," says company founder Kelly Cooper. She says the bar-based venture -- which provides live backing musicians for would-be crooners -- has never been hotter than in the past few months. "Something about rock just transforms people."
So just what is it about punching out power chords before adoring crowds that rivets the imagination? Or is that like asking why being lavished with compliments while getting a massage on a bed of cold cash might sound appealing?
"George Thorogood once said to me, 'If anyone born after 1950 tells you they don't dream of being a rock star, they're lying,' " says David Fishof, the unlikely founder of Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp, whose father was a Jewish cantor who frowned on rock. "Deep inside, everyone has this desire in them."
Fishof, calling from a noisy New York coffee shop, hands his cellphone to a friend who knows a thing or two about that exalted life.
"People look at us and say, 'They have fun. They have freedom.' And music is the last great freedom we have left," says The Who's Roger Daltrey, who has taught at the camp.