Random Rock Encounters: A Retrospective

Posted: January 29, 2017 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, Music, Rock Music
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I was talking with a friend the other day and he brought up my odd habit of serendipitously running into rock stars over the years. Man, that was a weirdly worded sentence. Anyway, it is sort of interesting so I thought I’d put them all together in one magnificent blog for your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure. Consider it my gift to you, my loyal readers. You’re welcome. Let us begin . . .

Meeting David Crosby

My regular readers will know that I have a habit of running into famous david-crosby-birthday-august-14people, most notably rock stars and their ilk. In fact, sometimes their ilk are more fun than the rock stars, if you know what I’m sayin’. My encounter with Soupy Sales in a Cleveland Airport bathroom is legendary, and I was once nearly beaten to death by one of Eminem’s bodyguards. Good times. Anyway, here’s another of my many rock star run-ins.

It was late summer 1999, and I was in Cleveland with my late, great, good friend Tim to see the Cleveland Browns open their new stadium. We were staying at the Renaissance downtown and I rose early on the day of the game to go down to the lobby and find a drink newspaper. As I was heading down, the elevator doors opened and a guy with shades stepped in and leaned against the wall opposite me. After about 30-seconds of awkward staring from me and nervous avoiding eye-contact from him, the following conversation transpired:

Me: “Man, you look just like David Crosby.”

David Crosby: “Mmrumph.”

Me: “You are David Crosby, aren’t you?”

David Crosby: “Yep.”

Encouraged, I babbled on for a few minutes about his music. At some point I think I wore him down and he realized I actually appreciated and knew his work. I believe that because he proceeded to open up and actually began a nice, intelligent conversation with me regarding the state of rock music, as it was, in 1999.  The fact that I may have mentioned him providing the sperm for Melissa Etheridge’s successful attempt at motherhood didn’t seem to bother him at all. Hell, at one point I didn’t think I was going to get rid of him. He finally walked with me through the lobby, wrote me a nice note and autograph, and actually gave me a bear hug that went on j-u-s-t a smidge too long before he left.

All in all a nice, albeit somewhat weird, encounter that I’ll never forget.

Anyway, David Crosby and I?

Buds.

Running into the Runt

This was a quick encounter but special nonetheless since it involved one of myTodd Rundgren musical heroes, Mr. Todd Rundgren, once known as “Runt.” Read on . . .

I was casually walking through City Center in C-Bus a few years ago (City Center was a cool mall, amirite?) when I ran into a rock and roll legend right there in the record store. My hands flew to my face as I yelled this:

“TODD RUNDGREN!”

Because I’m quick like that, ya know? Immediately his hands flew to his face as he responded:

“YES!”

Bastard was mocking me.

Anyway, after a couple minutes of my blathering on about his music and what it meant to me and him realizing not only that I wasn’t a lunatic but I in fact knew what I was talking about, we had quite the in-depth conversation about the state of music in general. Finally, I moved on to get a corndog and he left for parts unknown.

And that was my brief encounter with Todd Rundgren. Nice life-moment for me, I must admit.

Pimping for the Electric Light Orchestra

I guess it was around 1977, and a friend of mine named Omar was a roadie that lynneworked 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 he included me occasionally.

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 wonderful. 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?

Good God.

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 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.

The Legend of James Taylor’s Jacket

Well, it’s a legend in my circles anyway. And yes, kids, I have circles.

Anyway, as many of you know I have a jean jacket that 1once belonged to James Taylor. For you younger readers there was a pretty good singer known as JT before Timberlake. Here’s how I got the jacket . . .

I went to see JT at Blossum Music Center back in ’78 with friends Tom E and Chris B. After the show we ambled down to the side of the stage, just getting a look at the setup really. The roadies were tearing down the set, wandering around doing this and that. At some point I look up and say, “Hey, look. He left his jacket hanging on the mike stand.” He’d worn it onstage and had taken it off during the show.

Anyway, one of us (probably Tom) gets the bright idea to try to grab it. Nice plan but the place was crawling with security and roadies. I turn to Chris for ideas, turn back around, and Tom had already jumped the railing and was halfway across the stage. He was just casually walking like he belonged there. A couple of guys glanced at him but didn’t say a word, either because he looked like he belonged or because he was 6′-3″, 280 lbs and looked like he could rip your heart out and show it to you before you died (which by the way he could have but that’s another story). He casually grabs the jacket, throws it over his shoulder, and hops off the other side of the stage as Chris and I run frantically around to meet him. We walk away without looking back, expecting at any moment to hear, “Stop them! Thieves! Thay have James Taylor’s jacket! For God’s sake stop the bastards!” Except it doesn’t happen, and we make it to the car.

The Jacket.

The Jacket.

At that point Tom tries it on. Obviously too small. Chris grabs it. Too big. Heh-heh. Fit me perfectly. Apparently, in ’78, James T and I were exactly the same size.

And that’s how I came to own James Taylor’s jacket.

By the way, later I woke up wide-eyed in the middle of the night, realizing I hadn’t checked the pockets. The possibilities were mind-boggling. Carly Simon’s phone number possibly? Alas, nothing. Damn . . .

 

How Peter Cetera Once Ruined a Relationship. Mine.

It was the late 70’s and a bunch of us went down to The Natti to catch a

cetera

Yes. This guy.

Chicago concert. This was back when Chicago was cool, still using horns in their songs, long before they went all schlocky and sappy with the lame ballads. Sure, they did slow stuff like “Color My World” before, but unfortunately Peter Cetera sort of took over with tunes like “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and it all went downhill from there. It would have never happened had guitarist Terry Kath knew that gun was loaded when he put it upside his head, but that’s neither here nor there. Well, maybe to Terry.

But I digress. And maybe there’s another reason I don’t like Peter Cetera.

Back to the concert. This was before those 11-people got crushed to death at The Who concert, so it was still General Admission at the gate. Trust me, when it was General Admission I always ended up right down front, and that’s where this all started.

The show was great, Robert Lamm and Cetera and the boys were rockin’, and my date and I were having a good time. Keep in mind I’d been dating this girl for about 2-years, which will become relevant shortly. Anyway, after a couple of the obligatory encores the lights came up and we’re sort of standing there talking to friends, waiting for the crowd to thin. At that point some guy comes walking up to my girlfriend and asks to speak with her. Hell, I thought something had happened, an emergency or something, and he had been sent to find her. He sort of took her elbow and walked her a few feet away to have a private conversation. She listened intently and nodded her head a couple times, the guy did the same, then she turned and walked back over to me.

The guy stayed where he was. I was getting a bad vibe.

What followed was a conversation that basically ended a relationship.

Me: “What was that about? Is everything OK?”

Her: “Yes, it’s . . . fine.

Me, senses on high alert: “So. . . what’s up?

Her: “W-e-l-l . . . that guy told me that Peter Cetera wanted to ask if I’d like to come out to his bus.

Damn Cetera. Lotta nerve, huh? But my girlfriend was just looking at me.

Me: “Uh, you know what he wants, right?”

Her: “Yes.”

Next came the words that are etched in my mind to this day.

Her: “What should I do?”

Wait. What? What should I do? What should I do?

Me, after about 15-seconds of stunned silence: “What should you do? Well, do what you want, but Mr. Cetera better be ready to give you a ride back to Chillicothe because if you get on that bus I’m not waiting on you.”

At this point she actually thought about it for a minute and discussed it with her friends. Then, she decided she’d stick with me. Boy, did I feel special. Did I mention we’d been dating for 2-years?

Turns out she probably should have gone to the bus. And stayed there.

As you can imagine, we had the “How could you have even considered going off with Peter Cetera like that? How?” conversation about 173 times over the next couple of weeks, and naturally she had no reasonable answer. What was she supposed to say, “Well, I thought it would be nice to boink a rock star?” After that it was all downhill. I couldn’t get past it.

Yes my friends, fame and money are a powerful attractions indeed.

Then again, could I resist if Kate Beckinsale saw me somewhere and sent an assistant over with an invitation to board her bus? No freaking way. Probably not.

Wait. So I would do the same thing I was mad at my girlfriend for considering? Something’s wrong here.

Maybe it’s a double standard?

Maybe I should have just laughed it off?

Maybe I made a mistake?

Maybe I overreacted?

Crap, the more I think about it now the more I think I’m guilty of all of the above and was being a jackass. Or maybe I wasn’t? The mind reels. I’m so confused.

So I come out of this little self-therapy session realizing three things. The first is that I’ll never fully understand the whole dynamic between men and women. The second is that I still hold a grudge against Peter Cetera. The third? I really need to let this go.

Sigh.

Bodyguarding Beck

beck-1

His life was in my hands.

A few years ago I had a rather interesting experience involving Beck. Here’s how it went down:

A buddy of mine used to work for a company in C-Bus that provided concert workers. You know, to take tickets, stuff like that. He asked if I’d be interested in working one of the shows and I said sure, what the hell, might be fun. So, he talks to the folks in charge and they make the approval. Didn’t know me from Adam but that didn’t seem to bother them. A couple of weeks later I get the call – Beck is playing Veteran’s Auditorium and they needed extra workers. Cool. I mean, at the time Beck was one of the biggest rock stars on the planet, a darling of the critics. Anyway, we get there, are given the yellow T-shirts with Security on the back, and then the head guy comes in to assign jobs.

He goes down the line, grabs my buddy and his wife, and tells them they’ll be assigned rows to help people get seated. Awesome. They’d get to stand there and watch the show. He looks me up and down and says, “I’ll need you in the back” then walks away. Damn. My friend looks at me and says, “Sorry dude. Looks like you’re out at the back door or back gate or something. Sorry you won’t get to see the show.”

Oh well. I took a shot, right?

Finally the guy comes back for me and says to follow him. I do and we end up in the “back”, as in “backstage.” He says, “I want you to stand right here. Under no circumstances do you let anybody through this door.” I look up at the door that says “Beck” on it and ask rather wittily, “You want me to guard Beck’s dressing room?”

And he sure enough did.

Just me, who’d never guarded anything in his life, as the only thing between Beck and the hordes of lunatics wanting a piece of him.

I stood there for a couple hours trying to look menacing, the opening act started, and finally some guy walks out the door – Beck’s drummer. He sits on the floor across the hallway from me and we proceed to shoot the breeze. A few minutes later another band member comes out and sits down as well. Long story short, pretty soon the whole band was out there, including the man himself, Beck, and his three backup singers.

I eventually sit down because they asked me to and I figured it was OK. The only time I froze for a sec was when the drummer asked me what I was currently listening to. I really didn’t want to look like an idiot so I said The Eels. I breathed a sigh of relief as that answer was met with approving nods all around. Sweet. At that point I believed, perhaps irrationally, that I’d earned instant credibilty.

Eventually they all went back inside to get ready, and upon their return I was invited to stand at the side of the stage and watch the show. Very cool. To top off my evening, afterwards Beck requested that I escort him safely to the bus, which I did. Dude must have thought I was a trained professional or something.

Maybe the best part was later, when I met up with my friend and he asked how it was in the back. “Well,” I said. “Let me tell you about it . . .”

Steven, Joe and Me: Meeting Aerosmith

My boys. Well, for a minute.

My boys. Well, for a minute.

Back around 1978 Aerosmith was on a bit of a downward spiral. Something about drug addictions and whatnot. Anyway, it was after “Dream On” but before the album “Permanent Vacation” marked their return to prominence. A friend of mine was a regional roadie, one of those guys who doesn’t travel with the bands but works a certain area where he helps set up shows and the like. Well, he had backstage passes to Aerosmith and asked if I wanted one.

Well, yeah.

I watched the show (not so good actually – something about drug addictions and whatnot) then headed backstage for the festivities. I don’t really know how to explain it other than saying it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be. Lots of girls, drugs, alcohol, and things I didn’t recognize and haven’t seen since. Rock and Roll decadence at its highest form. Back in those days I blended right in. My hair was as long as theirs and I looked like a taller Charley Manson, minus the God complex and murderous intentions (well, maybe just the God complex).

I worked my way over to Steven Tyler and struck up a conversation, probably saying something witty and insightful like “nice show” which incidentally would have been a complete lie. He looked at me through glazed-over eyes and offered me a beer (for the record, it was a Stroh’s – dead serious). One thing led to another and I ended up on a couch sitting between Tyler and Joe Perry.

Kids, there once existed a picture of me, between those two, all three of us holding up a beer for the camera with half-crazed smiles on our faces. Later, in one of the dumbest moves of my life, I gave the picture to a girl I was dating, who displayed it proudly on her apartment wall. Sadly, when we had an ugly break-up, she hit me where it hurt most – she burned the picture.

For years I waited for her to show up and say she had really kept the picture, then hand it to me with a smile. That moment never happened, but there’s still hope, right? Right?

Damn it.

When a Beach Boy Tried to Steal My Girl

In the late 70’s I went to see The Beach Boys, again at Riverfront Coliseum in The Natti.

love-beach-boys

Assclown.

It marked the return of Brian Wilson, quite a big deal at the time. Anyway, we were once again right down front. From the get-go Mike Love was paying special attention to my date, at one point getting down on one knee and singing a song right to her face. I don’t remember the song, probably because I was too busy watching the security dude and figuring my odds of getting a shot at Love’s nose. Eventually Love actually sent a guy down to ask if she was interested. She said no and he never came close to us the rest of the show. Bizarre experience. And oddly enough, a few years later almost exactly the same thing happened with Peter Cetera of Chicago.

So there ya go, some of my encounters with rock stars. Some face-to-face and some otherwise, but encounters still. I’ve had some near misses as well, like when a buddy of mine left the roulette table in Vegas and went to his room. On the elevator on the way up, the doors opened and in walked Alice Cooper. Surreal, and I was jealous. After hearing this I spent hours looking for Alice Cooper but alas, nothing.

Have a great day.

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