Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Willie Nelson – Country Pie

The Scene: Early 1980’s Willie Nelson and Family at Poplar Creek Music Theatre.

Willie was very big back then, selling 15,000+ tickets for each of his annual stops at Poplar. Willie and his team were fine, laid back folks – the crowd was another thing. Willie’s crowd consisted of 40-something country bumpkins that LOVED to drink. They arrived drunk so they could party in the parking lots and drink so when they got into the theatre they could really start drinking. Mind you, most of the theatre staff were young college and high school aged kids. Drunk 40-something’s do not listen to kids. In fact, they go out of their way to be rude shits.

The staff learned very early that a crowd stoned on “the evil pot” was easy because they wanted to listen to the music, look at the lights, and see beauty in their date’s eyes. Alcohol-fueled drunks want to party, fuck, puke and repeat with their boots on. YaaaHooo!

Thank God pot is illegal and alcohol is sold at counters conveniently spread throughout the theatre for quick and easy access.

During the show, I’m standing in the plaza area behind the stage near one set of bathrooms. A couple (man & wife) are in the plaza walking/stumbling slowly towards the bathrooms. They are VERY drunk and arguing – screaming at each other. I can’t tell what they’re fighting about but they’re both wearing very large cowboy hats. “Kind of funny watching these two make asses out of themselves, and the wife is sort of hot in a HeeHaw kind of way,” I reflect. Wife disappears into the bathroom leaving husband alone trying in vain to light a cigarette (he’s too drunk).

Wife emerges from the bathroom. Black jeans and underwear at her ankles – naked below the waist – sketching along in mini-steps, pointing and screaming at husband. This is no Britney Spears accident – this is country pie cooling on the windowsill for all to savor. I quietly consider, “life really is great!” Husband drops his unlit cigarette, engages in return screaming and moves towards screaming country-pie.

They meet and he CLOBBERS her. I mean, he just reared back and POW – a direct facial bull’s eye. Wife drops backwards – hard. She is laying flat on her back, arms above her head, legs bunched together at the ankles; knee’s spread wide open - unconscious.

I call for back-up and medical on my radio and run down to the happy couple. Wife is absolutely out cold – she’s even twitching a bit, some blood on her nose. Husband is pacing around screaming like a banshee. I cover her legs with my windbreaker, make sure she’s breathing, and wait for the Calvary to arrive. Husband starts yelling at me to “leave the bitch alone.”

“Did you see what she did?” he asks.
“Leave her alone or I’ll have to take you out,” husband threatens me.
“Better leave her alone or I’ll……………………”

Calvary arrives. Security, medical, undercover cops, the works. Husband figures out he’s screwed. I yell at the guy, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Husband answers, “It’s alright……..she’s my wife, I can hit her if I want.”

At that moment, every person there wanted to kick his ass - badly. Husband was arrested. Wife woke up but was taken away in an ambulance. Unfortunately, Husband accidentally hit his head on the roof of the cop car as he was put into the rear seat with his cuffs on. Also, apparently Husband resisted arrest, forcing the Police to use force as they prepared him for transfer.

I guess husband was a little bit rock & roll and wife was a little bit country.

God bless Willie Nelson.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Boy George - Culture in Rolling Meadows

Sunday, late summer - early 1980's. The Culture Club with Boy George is just breaking in the United States. The first show of their tour is at Poplar Creek Music Theatre. They are playing one show at Poplar and then on to Los Angeles for number two. At that time, I was a security supervisor at night and sold group sales tickets by day. The Culture Club contract called for rides and escorts 24/7 while in Chicagoland. Accordingly, we rented two vans- one for the band and one for luggage. I drove the band van and served as a sort-of quasi laison with the band.

We picked them up at O'Hare the afternoon of the show. George is in full make-up and outfit - right out of People magazine. They flew commercial, walking through the airport turning heads - I'm sure as planned. The band, manager and their security guy pile into my van for the drive to the Rolling Meadows Holiday Inn on Algonquin road. They where all quit pleasant, excited and talkative. George noticed the rose-painted water tower near I-90 and asked me if I knew the significance.

"Well, this is the town of Rosemont"

"I dont understand"

"The town is called Rosemont, so they painted the tower like a rose"

"I'm not following."

Then the manager spoke up, "Jesus Christ George, the town is Rosemont and it's their tower!"


The Manager and I walk into the Holiday Inn lobby to check in, leaving the rest to wait in the van. The lobby is unexpectantly full of well-dressed people. Many with large cowboy hats and boots - odd for Rolling Meadows. Turns out there was a wedding a few minutes prior with half the attendees from Texas. Good thing the band is waiting in the van, I thought. Just then I hear a "ruckus" and there's George and band walking into the lobby. Silence. Gasps. I heard a few "Oh my god's."

"What in the hell is that" a large man in a ten-gallon exclaimed.

It was like the parting of the red sea as George walked through the crowd, winking at curious females and others. We checked in and got out.

It was raining and cold and ticket sales for the show were not good. I knew this.

"How's ticket sales," Georged asked me in the van on the way to the show.

"Pretty Good......I think"

Show goes off - nothing spectacular happened. Admittedly, I didnt pay much attention. Afterwords, about midnight or so we are on our way back to the hotel. The band has not changed out of their feminine-inclinded stage clothing and make-up.

"I'm hungry, " George announces.

"Why didn't you say something earlier," Manager says.

"I'm hungry; I need to eat."

Sunday night Holiday Inn room service does not exist. Most restaurants are closed. Manager understands this and asks me for suggestions.

"There's a Denny's not too far from the hotel that is always open."

"How about a hamburger George?" barks Manager.

Denny's it is. I pull into Denny's and in walks Boy George, the Culture Club, Manager, Security and me. It's about 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning - there's a couple of early risers, late partiers, burnouts, and a waitress. The place stopped dead. Not a word. Not a sound. All mouth's hung open and froze. Boy George, Denny's, Rolling Meadows, Sunday night - a classic.

"Is that......Boy what's his name" the waitress asks me.


"Thought so. What does he want?"

"Best ask him. Probably some type of food"

The entourage feasts on burgers and Grand Slam's. Back to the hotel around 2:00 a.m. Manager got me a room -I ended the night watching "On Golden Pond" on Pay-per-view with Manager and Security. So much for sex, drugs & rock-n-roll.

It was an early morning as they had a flight to Los Angeles. We're all sitting in the van waiting for George. He's late and their pissed.

"Where's the bitch," Manager says.

"Always late, doesn't care, doing his hair," barked a club member.

George finally arrived. I had 25 minutes to make it to O'Hare at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning.

"We're not going to make it," I told Manager.

He pulled out $100 bill. "This is for trying, another $100 if we make it."

We made it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neil Young - The Phone is Broken

It's 1987. I'm living in California where I managed a cellular phone store in San Jose. One day, the phone rings and it's a guy asking for the manager;

"You gotta help me."

"What's up?"

"My bosses cellphone is busted and you've got to fix it - today. He (the boss) is really pissed."

"OK- I take it your boss is a customer of ours?"

"Yes. His name is Neil Young."

"OK. Can we see the vehicle today?"

"Ya - I can bring it too you. I'll be there in an hour or so."

"OK- we'll see what we can do."

I'm no fool. I know exactly who Neil Young is as I've been a fan for decades and I was aware he was a customer. So this is cool.

An hour later Neil's tour bus pulls in. I've seen this bus before when I worked at Poplar Creek Music Theatre and at the first Farm Aid Show in Illinois. It was an odd thing with the tops of two cars welded on top, surfboards and "Buffalo Springfield" printed on the back. Not to be forgotten. So, the day is getting brighter.

As my tech and I walk out, the door swings open and we are greated by a cloud of smoke and the stereo playing The Grateful Dead's "US Blues." A longer-haired guy comes out, "Are you Lowell.....you gotta help me." Nice guy.

We climb aboard. I remember lots of woodgrain, a built-in piano, and the rest cool but not too fancy. Except for the cellphone hanging by a wire on the side near the front. It had obviously been ripped off the wall. These where the dark ages of cellular when most phones had to be mounted.

I asked, "What happened?"

I was told, "Bob Dylan has been touring with the Grateful Dead."

"Yes, I know, I saw the show in Oakland earlier this year."

"Well, Bob leased the bus from Neil for the tour. They returned the bus yesterday and the phone was ripped out - just like you see it. We think Bob did it - Neil is pissed."

My head was spinning. This was off the bizarre charts for sure. I had to step back and ask, "You mean to tell me I'm standing on Neil Young's bus, staring at a cellphone that was ripped off the wall by Bob Dylan?"

"Yep, Neil's pissed. You gotta fix it"

We did fix the phone but not after we had to go through some crap to find a similar model. The re-install was kind of tough as well, but it worked.

"Thanks man"

"No problem"

"Are you a fan of Neil's?" Little did this guy know that I've seen Neil 25+ times.


"Neils playing a gig at a small club tomorrow night in San Jose under the name "The Blue Notes" ... would you like to come?"

Magic words. The next night, we pulled into a strip mall that included a small club. The parking lot was jammed with about 1000 people and THE BUS. We walked to the door, my name was on the list and we got in. The club sat about 150 or so. Out came the Blue Notes with Neil. They played the entire Blue Notes album, took a break, and played it again................

You never know what can happen!

A year later. Neil's guy called me again. "You gotta help me......" This time, he brought in a nice BMW that was full of grass and mud. The cell phone was busted. "We where 4-wheelin' on the ranch and the phone broke." Of course, everybody 4-wheels with a 700 series BMW.

We fixed it................

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Welcome to Rock Stories!

I'm just getting started with this blog, so stay tuned for some most excellent stories about my life running security at one of the nations top outdoor rock venues.