Meeting Famous People Is Easy and Rediscovering Radiohead
Once upon a time, long before my multi-hundred dollar blog took off, I was a caterer in New York City. Check that; I was a starving “actor/model” who catered/bar-tended to pay an astounding $1800/month rent because apparently, to be an actor, you have to know how to act. Who knew!
Through catering, promotional work, and general exploration of NYC, I had the opportunity to meet a handful of few famous people. Now, I’m normally magnanimous to the ‘star-struck’ phenomenon, and majority of the folks I met were friendly - easy to talk to – but I had a couple incidences where interacting with my ‘hero list’ has met with interesting results, or, cold sweat topped with monosyllabic mutterings. I’ve “met” two of the five, if you call ‘meeting’ turning into a complete idiot while blubbering through conversation.
Hero Short List (aka The Man Crush Files):
Robert De Niro
Daniel Day Lewis
While catering for a private Tribeca Film Festival after-party, I was rushing around a corner with a heavy tray full of champagne glasses, and almost plowed/dumped Champagne into Robert De Niro.
I imagine this is how DeNiro tells the story: “This tall, gangly, Sasquatch looking M-fer runs around the corner, almost spills a tray of champagne on me. He..aha…he looks at me like a deer in headlights, and do you know what he says to me? He says ‘Robert DeNiro’. That’s all he can say is my name. Robert DeNiro! Ahhaha!”
My brain froze, accidentally hitting the speaker button on inner-monologue, and all I could say to one of the greatest actors of all time was his name. Not how I’m such a huge fan, or how ‘Goodfellas’ is one of the greatest movie of all time. No. I recited his freaking name.
But, Bobby D was very cordial and sweet, taking one of the champagne glasses from the tray, which, by this time, was vibrating harder than an epileptic chipmunk on bath salts.
He said “Thank you.”
I smiled and said, “Champagne.”
He walked away quickly.
If the ‘DeNiro Incident’ was a mortifying moment of unpreparedness, the ‘David Byrne Moment’ was a blip of sheer lunacy. My friend, and tremendous actress, Keri Setaro, had graciously bought me a ticket to a Paul Simon retrospective where David Byrne performed a couple of songs. After the show, we were milling about in front of the venue, when Mr. Byrne walked out the front door, and headed right towards us.
As Keri tells it (my memory of this is fuzzy), I pushed her out-of-the-way, almost knocked over a pair of Korean twins, stepped in front of Mr. Byrne, and said, “MyNAMEMikeIdigYOURstyle.” One word. Spoken like a deaf cave man.
I did not know this at the time, but David Byrne has a social disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m sure by now he’s used to fans coming up to him and being, well, fans, but not rabid, sweaty, maniacal looking people who vice-grip his hand with the veracious fervor of his lyrical psycho-killer.
David Byrne kindly said, “Thank you. It’s nice to meet you…too(?)”
To which I responded with a breathy, “HEH!”
That was the end of the meeting – he pointed to where he needed to go, and walked away.
I can’t explain the intent going into the aforementioned situations; something just switches off, or on, or both. Gratitude and admiration mix in some loaded, moonshine cocktail of fanaticism, and inhibitions get shut down like the ghost containment grid in Ghostbusters, culminating in an ‘I’m stroking-out’ moment. I wish I could say this wouldn’t happen again, but I just can’t trust the inner fanboy, lurking in the turbid depths of my psyche, waiting to embarrass the crap out of me.
Radiohead At Blossom
One sacrifice to living in NYC was not being able to bigger bands like Radiohead. For one, I couldn’t afford it. Two, they usually sold out before anyone could say ‘Handling Fees!’ on Ticketmaster. I tried my hand at writing music reviews, thinking if I became a known reviewer, I could get free tickets and not miss out on the bigger shows. So, I started submitting tongue-in-cheek concert/album reviews to the likes of SPIN, Rolling Stone, and The Village Voice. These reviews were for bands like Sugar-Ray, Smash Mouth, and Creed.
Still waiting for a response, from any of them. Any response at all.
Anyway, the last time I saw Radiohead was back in 2001 at a venue about an hour south of Cleveland called Blossom Music Center. Blossom is unique in that it’s an amphitheater (built in 1968) situated within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park – a vast, wooded wilderness – making Blossom an intimate (capacity is ~ 20,000), yet ‘natural’ musical experience.
On Wednesday night, I got a chance to see Radiohead once again, almost 11 years since the last time, to the date. There’s really not much I can add about the band’s repertoire without being too gushy – let’s just say they are a huge influence in pretty much every creative aspect of my life, and in 10-20 years, they will be in the running for greatest band of all time (OK, a little gushy).
That said, I despised their last album. Harsh, and I’m not trying to be cynical here, but I thought King of Limbs was a boring, empty sounding effort from a band that perpetually, and successfully, conflates the boundaries of genre into beautifully haunting albums. It was the first step backwards in their discography, and I was afraid they had plateau-ed as musical innovators. Then, I heard Live from the Basement, essentially King of Limbs Live, with a few extra b-sides thrown in…I loved it. And listened to it non-stop for weeks, almost burning out the mp3 file, which, I don’t think is even possible.
Maybe it was the venue, or familiar atmosphere, but Radiohead at Blossom part II was one of my favorite all-time concerts. They killed it. I realized this might be the last time I see Radiohead play live, and I hope somewhere, in the basement of some nondescript house in the UK, are a group of teenage musical scientists, grooming to become the next Radiohead (or better) – a band that continuously reinvents itself while bending ambition, but can also bring the goods live. Radiohead can’t do it forever; and I actually hope they don’t, for the possibility of a slip-slide into mediocrity. So I say Rock on future Radiohead teen band. Rock on. – Your Future Fanboy