Saturday, May 31, 2008

Billy Squier

Although I cannot remember whether it was 1984 or '85, I do remember it was in Peoria, IL at the Civic Center for one of Billy Squier's concerts. My program director at the college radio station I worked at (which shall remain nameless) decided that the record rep (seen in picture with mustache) was too "sleazy" to meet, so he sent a female DJ and me in his place, much to the chagrin of the record rep..

The concert tickets included backstage passes (see orange sticker on my long green coat...yes that is me back then--much thinner than today), which we saw others stick on various parts of their clothing. The female and I met up with DJ's from a local rock station, who took this picture with a Polaroid camera, and were there because some little old lady won their contest drawing, the prize being an electric guitar to be presented personally to her by the rock star himself. When the presentation was made backstage it was not only surreal but rather comical, as you could imagine, as Billy tried to show her how to play it.

Also in attendance were two scantily clad, and rather hot-looking, female groupies, one blonde and one brunette, who began to "come on" to Billy with questionable petting before the program director of the local radio station asked Billy for a few pictures. After several photo shoots with other DJ's, the female and I were offered by the program director to pose with Billy who was getting impatient to leave with the groupies. So, in our picture he decided to pose with one arm self-pinned behind his back with a facial expression that suggested he was too important for these stupid kids. Gee, thanks Billy for that wonderful memory.

I actually tried to rip up the picture several years ago, but gave up after two tries. Those Polaroids are darned tough. So goes another celebrity encounter with an arrogant jerk.

Friday, September 28, 2007

John F. Kennedy Jr.

Back in the early 1990's I was living on Chicago's North Side in the historic Buena Park district, also known as northeast Lakeview. This would put me about five short blocks north and two blocks east of Wrigley Field.

For some odd reason that I cannot remember, there was one early Saturday morning in September of 19-ninety-something in which I took my camera down to Oak Street Beach to photograph a sunrise over Lake Michigan. This would be just north of the Drake Hotel and east of Lake Shore Drive. After finding the beach too nasty with broken beer bottles and tunnel with too much graffiti and urine, I made my way to Oak Street to look for something called The Original Pancake House. I didn't find it.

But what I did find was someone walking toward the lake on the other side of the street staring at me. He was wearing a backward black beret, long sleeve button down shirt with sleeves rolled up, baggy black shorts, and a very Hollywood smile with perfect white teeth. He looked like he'd been pampered all his life like so many I'd seen living on the Gold Coast.

Anyway first he was staring, then he slowed down as if recognizing me,...then grinned widely and said "ahaaa...yeeaaaaahhh..." and then motioned toward me as if he was ready to fight me. This seemed like very strange behavior to me and I sat my camera down and got ready for anything. It had been in its case, carried at my side when he saw me. Then just as quickly he said somewhat apologetically, "okay...okay, it's okay" as his face changed expressions from one of confrontation to relief, as I'm sure did mine. But I've no doubt I still looked at him like he was nuts. I forget just what he said then as he walked away, but was something to the effect of "have a good day..." or something.

Later on that day I saw his face on a tabloid's front page and realized I'd almost got into it with John F. Kennedy Jr. I had not noticed his face on anything since the picture of him at Aristotle Onassis's funeral when he had fish-lips and long hair, and so I had not recognized him. And although I had heard stories of him dating actress Daryl Hannah (a Lake Shore Drive resident whom he was likely visiting that day), I never paid him much attention. And there were even times over the next several years I doubted it was him I ran into. Doubted until after his death when stories of his many fights with strangers he encountered bubbled to the surface.

It's somewhat understandable he would react the way he apparently often did, since he constantly lived in a fishbowl with photographers snapping pictures every time he changed position, most likely in hopes of catching him picking his nose or stubbing his toe or something--the kind of pictures that pay hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks

Back in 1979, being a Chicago Cubs fan had very few perks. They had been finishing in the second division for most of a decade, leaving us longing for the stars of yesteryear: Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and of course, Mr. Cub---Ernie Banks.

The Cub organization very wisely hired Ernie to do occasional PR work here and there, being that he was the only real bright spot about the team at that time, though I never expected to run into him face to face.

But 1979 was a time when Wrigley Field would open early (10:30 am for a 1:15 pm game), and you could actually watch players take batting practice, and if very lucky, coax one of them over to the waist-high brick wall separating fans in the stands from players on the field. Such a thing is unheard of today with the ballpark opening less than a half hour before game time, and then kicking fans out shortly after the last pitch is thrown. Selfish millionaires!

On a July day in '79 the Cubs were playing...somebody...and my friend and his Dad returned a favor and took me into Chicago to Wrigley and see a game. We got there early (thank you, Mr. B! My Dad always got us there late!) at around 10:45am and found so-so seats back-a-ways, but in line with the Cubs dugout. And near the dugout we noticed number 14, Ernie Banks talking to two kids...and no one else was around! My friend, Eric, and I seized the opportunity and grabbed his Dad's pen and our score cards and raced down to the wall to grab an autograph from the recently inducted Hall-Of-Famer, Mr. Banks.

We arrived to what appeared to be the last desperate throws of a conversation between Ernie and some kids who had run out of things to say:

KID: Well,....guess I'm gonna go get me some water....

ERNIE: Yep, that great tasting good for you....

KID: Yep...gonna get some....water....uh.....okay....see yah.

ERNIE: Take care, now! Enjoy the game.

KID: ...Okay...I'll do tha....(faded away inaudibly).

Ernie seemed rather glad to see us at that point.

ERNIE: (to us) Hey!!! How are you guys doing?

BOTH OF US: Fine!....(quickly handing him our programs and pen, for fear the earth would end before we actually scored an autograph...)

ERNIE: (looking at my Dave Kingman and Bruce Sutter buttons) Hey, do you know those guys?

ME: (trying to figure out why he would be asking such a question)

ERNIE: Do you know any Cubs?

ME: (not being thrown by the seeming absurdity of the question) Well, not really...but I met one once...Stan Hack, at his restaurant on Route 2.

ERNIE: (face lighting up with famous smile) Stan Hack?!? I know him. He was my first manager!

ME: No way!

ERIC: Yes he was!

ME: Oh.

ERNIE: (suddenly taking an interest) So where are you going to college?

ME: College? I'm only 15! (I was rather tall for my age and looked older).

ERNIE: (not missing a beat) Well, you won't be 15 forever! In three years you'll be going to college...four years after that you'll graduate....2 years after that, you'll be married!

ME: (not missing a beat, either) (sarcastic but good natured) And two years after that I'll get divorced!

Lots of laughter erupted from both Ernie and the crowd that mysteriously assembled, which began to elbow past us for autographs. As we were pushed out of the way we said our good-byes.

If you are reading this, Ernie, thank you for one of the very few positive celebrity encounters I've had.

Jeff Garlin and Larry David

Some years ago, in California, when my job took me out that way with a couple of days to spare, I decided to rent a car from Ontario, CA and drive to the coast---to Santa Monica!

On the way I drove down Vine St., Rodeo Dr., past the Beverly Hills Hotel to Malibu and sat on the beach for an hour. Then to Venice Beach, where I saw some very eccentric and interesting people,...then to Santa Monica where I parked near the Ocean Front Walk, a winding sidewalk between Santa Monica downtown and the ocean. Actually from the ocean there's beach, then a row of small shacks, then a cliff, then up the cliff to a flat grassy area where the walk is.

I was walking southeast and two guys were walking toward me going northwest, and I thought I might have recognized one of them. He was a rather tall, very heavy set fellow with dark brown curly hair walking next to a shorter, skinny fellow with large glasses grey sideburns and almost a Larry Fine (Three Stooges) type hair, bald on top. The rest of his hair was ash-brown.

When they got close I must've looked like I was trying to figure out who he was (the large guy), so he suddenly got very animated and angry, flapping his arms, and moving toward me like he was going to knock me down, shouting "WHAT...WHAAAAT...WHAAAAAAT!?!?"

Catching me off guard I stammered a bit and told him he looked like the comedian from Chicago who did a stand-up act called I Just Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. This just seemed to get him more angry, for some reason. He then leaned into me and shouted "Jeeeeesusss!" and continued walking. The other fellow turned toward me after they passed and said only somewhat sincerely, "We're sorry!"

This last part got me quite angry....very angry by that point. So I turned toward the fat guy and snapped "FAT F&%K!!!" This got his attention,...he stopped but didn't turn toward me. Then I heard the skinny guy say to him, "you like that???" And I saw the fat guy's profile (he was laughing) as he turned toward his friend, and he answered "I like the way it sounded." And that was that as they kept walking.

I realized at the time that I had run into Jeff Garlin, but I had not then recognized Larry David (but after seeing Curb Your Enthusiasm, was 95% certain it was him). I wonder if Mr. Garlin is any nicer to his fans these days.....

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Michael Jackson

Years ago when I lived and worked in Chicago (around there you don't usually work and live in the same place) I would stop somewhere on Michigan Avenue on my way up to my apartment on the North Side. Occasionally I would stop at Water Tower Shopping Plaza and peek inside Lord & Taylor to see if they had new watches I might like.

One Friday night I worked late and took the El Train to Chicago Ave. and jumped off and walked up to Mich. Ave. to L&T. When I made my way to men's jewelry I noticed there were three tall and rather large, well dressed black men milling about with no one else around. No one stopped me so I continued to shop at my leisure.

Suddenly I saw something very strange indeed. A figure shorter than myself, standing around 5ft 6in, covered in a black veiled body-length shroud, and wearing a crown or tiara of some kind, was also browsing amongst the ties and wallets. I then figured the large men were protecting some royal Arabian princess from the house of I-was-born-into-this-luxury-and-you-weren't. So I boldly walked up to the mysterious figure and stood there until she turned around and saw me. This got the attention of the body-guards, but no action was taken. The shrouded figure turned toward me and softly gasped in surprise,...and then let out a simple high pitched "harrumph" which got me to do the same in return. Then all of them, including her, moved like a wave to another section of the store.

About 6 years later I read somewhere that weirdo celebrity Michael Jackson would reserve parts of stores to do his own shopping dressed in a black shroud and tiara to avoid being mobbed by fans. Who else indeed?

True story.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hello World! And Welcome To My Blog

This blog will contain stories that, although very true, will not be believed by anyone, because no one ever meets celebrities at all. Right?