I guess it was around 1977, and a friend of mine named Omar was a roadie that worked shows around the midwest. He never traveled with a band, but rather was hired out as part of a group of guys to help set up shows and whatnot. Anyway, he got to know a lot of bands, had access to backstage passes and included me occasionally. I told you before about my encounter with Aerosmith in the acclaimed blog Stroh’s with Steven and Joe, a Beach Boy Tries to Steal My Girl, Plastered Kansas and Getting Out Alive, and that happened because of Omar.
One night I get a call asking if I wanted backstage passes to the Electric Light Orchestra Show at St. John Arena in C-Bus. Well, hell yes. I was a big fan and still am to this day. It’s well known how I feel about Jeff Lynne and his absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With his work with ELO, The Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison and others it’s a damn shame he’s not in there, an absolute travesty.
But as I’m prone to do, I digress.
I eagerly snatched up the backstage pass and looked forward to the show. To say I was amped for this one was an understatement of the highest variety. I couldn’t wait for the show, but more importantly getting backstage and meeting the boys themselves, in particularly Jeff Lynne. The day finally arrived and I headed over to the arena. By the way, I was living at 178 West 8th Avenue, Apt. C, just south of campus, which is not relevant but is nevertherless burned into my brain forevermore. Alas, when I got there I found that I never had a ticket to the show, just a backstage pass, and it wouldn’t get me in at any of the regular gates. What the hell? I was flummoxed. Just when I was at my lowest, in despair and ready to head to High Street and drink away my pain, I heard a voice . . .
“Shoe! Hey! SHOE! Over here!”
I look around, and there walking towards a side door was my boy Omar. They had those portable iron fence things blocking people, and it formed a path the band took from their bus to the arena. I ran over and told Omar of my plight, and at that point he just told me to hop the fence and follow him in with his group. A guard started to object but a long-haired guy waved him off with the classic, “He’s with us.”
Only then did I realize the long-haired cat was none other than Bev Bevan, ELO’s drummer. Seems Omar had been sent to get the band from the tour bus and I happened along at the right time. I recognized a couple other guys, but my hero Lynne was nowhere to be seen.
I made my way in and ended up at the side of the stage and was never told to move, evidently due to the pass I had hanging from my neck. The show was great and the view was interesting to say the least. Let’s just say some of those girls in the front will do, well, almost anything to get the attention of the band.
However, it was after the show when the real fun began.
I really had nothing to do immediately following, and Omar was busy doing what roadies do, so I just wandered around looking for the party.
Lucky for me I found it.
It was basically a curtained-off area with some tables and chairs scattered about, along with a boatload of various types of boozes and appetizers. I also remember candles and a lot of incense. There were also a couple of tables with some other stuff on them that I really don’t feel comfortable mentioning here. I’m sure you could guess pretty easily. Hey, it was the late 70’s after all. I grabbed a beer and took a seat on a comfy little loveseat type of thing that was positioned in a good spot and prepared to watch the festivities.
After a half hour or so the man himself walked in, Mr. Jeff Lynne. He was shaking hands and people were generally fawning over him, so I decided to hold back and play it cool for a bit. A couple of times I could have sworn he actually looked over at me, but I figured it had to be my imagination.
A little later my buddy Omar came walking in, looked over, did a double-take, and did the old olympic speed walk over to me.
Omar: “What the hell are you doing? Jesus.”
Me, offering him a beer: “Thanks, but you can call me Shoe. What’s wrong with you?”
Omar: “You’re in Jeff Lynne’s chair, dude. Get the hell up.”
Me: “Really? Nobody’s said anything.”
Omar: “Get. Up. NOW.”
Me: “But it’s a really comfy chair.”
Omar: “Good God, man, you’re going to get me fired. Get up. Why do you think this chair is at the front of the room and on a raised platform?”
Me, glancing around: “Wow, it is in a good spot. And I never noticed the raise platform thing. Damn. Are you sure I can’t stay here? Nobody’s said a word.”
Omar: “I’m saying a word! Oh God, here he comes.”
At that point I was done messing with my friend and thought the best course of action might be to actually get up. Lynne came over and stopped right in front of us, I’ve no idea why. For a second I thought I was going to get yelled at for sitting in his chair but as it turns out he had a question, and for whatever reason he thought I might have the answer . . .
Jeff Lynne: “Mate, do you know where we might find some tarts?”
Me: “Pop Tarts? I’m sure somebody could run and pick some up for you.”
Jeff Lynne nods approvingly. He was looking at a man of action, a go-getter, a quick decision-maker of the highest order. I was impressing Jeff Lynne! How awesome I was!
But he was still staring at me.
Me: “Oh, you want me to go get them?”
Jeff Lynne: “That would be fine. How long will it take?”
Me: “Well, there’s a 7-11 nearby. It should only take a few minutes.”
Jeff Lynne, my hero, again nods approvingly. I only learned later that he had no idea what a 7-11 was.
At that point, as I’m walking out, another roadie dude comes running up to me with a weird look on his face.
Roadie: “Dude, do you understand what he wants?”
Me: “Sure, he wants some Pop Tarts. Do you guys have a toaster in here?”
Roadie: “No, no, no. Dude, tarts are hookers. He wants some hookers.”
Wait. What? Pop Tarts I was good for. Ladies of the Night? Hey, I was good but not that good. Who did he think I was, a pimp?
At that point, as you could imagine I was in a bit of a pickle, because, well, I’d just promised I’d supply the leader of the Electric Light Orchestra with some hookers. Not exactly my specialty.
In retrospect I probably could have run over to High Street, gone into a bar, told some girls ELO wanted to meet them, taken them over and hightailed it out of there before the the confusion ensued. As it happened though, I only did one of those things.
I hightailed it out of there.
What can I say? I had no idea what to do, I was pretty sure I’d never meet Jeff Lynne again, so I vamoosed. Cut and ran. I scrammed.
I never heard exactly what happened after I left. Omar had gone on to load some trucks or something so he had no idea. Maybe somebody else took care of the band. Maybe something else grabbed Jeff Lynne’s attention.
Or maybe, just maybe, he sat there for hours in his special chair, watching the door, waiting for the tarts that never came.