Unnoticed in Clever Worlds

The clearest description I have managed so far about my blog is that it is not about cats. In general, I find predators pretty predictable while prey on the other-hand, because they live in universes of anxiety, develop more textured personalities. I also have as a writer a deft hand when it comes to making matters worse, so of course , the already panicky are ready made for me. I will try to grow this blog into an assortment of laughs, because that is what my life has mostly taught me to do. I will use the famous people I have known to get your attention and then tell you small but many times wonderful things about them. I will never name the ones I say ugly things about but I hope you will guess who they are.

Month: September, 2015

Genesis # 7 Rock’s Most embarrassing Moment

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I was the tour manager for Genesis during the years that Peter Gabriel was with them. I was also largely responsible for what was arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.

This was how the show’s climax had been planned and rehearsed so long ago.

Peter Gabriel, would be dressed in his “Gods of Magog” outfit, consisting of a long velvet black cape and a giant triangular headpiece. Through this helmet, only his green iridescent eyes pierced through because of the black light that ran along the lip of the stage.

The show would routinely finish with him throwing off his hat and cape revealing himself in a silver jumpsuit. He was made invisible to the audience during this transition by controlled explosions coming from metal pods on the front of the stage.

The flash and concussion would temporarily blind and daze the audience.

These canisters were filled with a martini of flash and gunpowder. They would be criminally outlawed today, whereas back then they were simply banned. We never told anyone we were going to do it. One of our roadies, Goeff Banks, filled them a couple of hours before the show and would set them off electrically at the right moment.

This incident took place somewhere between 1973 and 1975 either in Cleveland, Ohio or in Berlin, Germany. Believe me, in my world, this is terrific accuracy. Someone prophetically had the inspiration to “fly” Peter into the air while the audience was blinded, (This was most likely Peter himself).

He was to be “shot,” (hoisted) fifteen feet into the air by nearly invisible thin metal wires, “ called flying” in those days. He would finish the song, floating in a silver jumpsuit, as the front curtain closed, end of the show. Nice.

Gabriel was to be further concealed by smoke machines (they looked like leaf blowers) and an intense fog that bubbled up by dumping huge blocks of dry ice, by hand (gloved), into immense buckets of water by the crew from behind the speaker stage bins. They would explode with vapor, filling, if the prevailing winds permitted, the entire stage.

Here’s how the “flying” was to work. I had brought in an “expert” who had flown Elton John and his piano into the air a few months earlier. This guy was harnessed to the wires which were connected over the truss to Gabriel. The guy climbed to the top of a tall ladder on stage left, out of sight and waited. On my cue, he would leap off the ladder and because he was the counterbalance, up our artist would go. I did the cueing only because I had no other real job, having finished my very important job of literally running around hallways closing doors so no breeze would alter the course of our stage fog.

I sweated the cue because if I got it wrong, Peter would be mid-song and everything else would fall to shit.

Well, I thought I nailed the fucker, but I was maybe a second too soon and all hell broke loose. Peter went up fast and sadly, crookedly. His left shoulder was at least a foot and a half higher than his right. In his surprise, he dropped his live microphone launching it forward, onto the stage where it rolled into the explosions from the gunpowder pods, sending the blast sound  into the giant audience speakers permanently deafening Lord knows how many of the punters who had the misfortune to have been standing near them.

Meanwhile, some asshole had clearly opened an outside door so all my smoke was blowing backward towards the dressing rooms leaving the mayhem clearly visible.

The flash pods, ( we were later to learn from the fire dept.) had been way overloaded thereby becoming perhaps the first incident of actual cannon fire ever, during a show, in the history of rock.

Peter’s mic sound, as my luck would have it, also went through the band’s stage speakers. Tony Banks, the keyboardist, I saw out of the corner of my now tearing eyes, was in the center of the stage hitting Geoff, the explosion roadie, over the head with a tambourine, screaming “I am deaf, you made me deaf”. All this was happening within a nightmare zone of about ten seconds.

So let me recap, seeing as we both have come this far. I have Gabriel nearly horizontal, fifteen feet in the air, with no microphone and a black cape dangling from his foot. I have the keyboardist pounding a roadie as the poor fucker is desperately trying to extinguish the residue flames still pouring from his canisters. I have an audience in a state of deaf mass trauma and I have smoke filling up the dressing rooms. So what was the absolute last thing this God could think of to do with me? The front curtain would not close.

In my mind’s eye, even today, this was not a tidy episode. To their credit and my forever resentment, most of the audience hung around to watch us try to get Peter down. It took such a long time.
Regis Boff (from his blog early 2013) – used with permission.

(Steve Hackett confirmed it was 19.2.75, The Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway!)

In the 1991 Documentary Genesis A History where Tony, Mike and Phil remembered it differently with Phil Collins saying “I turned around to the tour manager and said YOUR FIRED! “

Genesis #5 Ian Knight

downloadIan Knight died not so long ago and I miss him. He was a British rock stage designer who I first met when he showed up to design for Genesis around the same time that Peter Gabriel began cutting the rectangular section out of the front of his hairline.

For almost six years we were together for every show the band did in the US and Europe and Canada.  Ian, who wasn’t a very big man, combed his hair upwards from the sides near his ears to the center of his head then shot that forward to a point just above the bridge of his nose. He only wore black and covered himself with a body length, red velvet lined black cape. He was never without the cape. Peter Gabriel, to his credit, never got jealous.

No band at the time had more innovative stage designs than Genesis and Ian helped much in this. He would spend hours putting the set together every afternoon before the show. Once in Belgium be thought it would be clever to build it in the hallway, where it was quieter only to find it would not go back through the doors.

After Genesis, he went on to Led Zeppelin and Rod Stewart.  I went  to The Who and The Rolling Stones. He adored Rod Stewart. Stewart is clearly a sweet man.

Between 1966 and 1971, he staged concerts at the Roundhouse for Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones and Elton John.

Ian was also involved with the first installation of theater productions on cruise ships. In 1981, he worked on Ronald Reagan’s inaugural ball as US president, at which Ian surreptitiously introduced a troupe of transvestite trapeze artists.

A decade later I hired him to do my country shows and a few in Rhythm and Blues. Ian could be honest with artists. This doesn’t get you very far,as a rule, but he was more often than not was successful in getting through to them. He got into an argument with the manager of the Pointer Sisters over camera distances for our overhead audience screens. Ian wanted the girls shot mostly at wide angle with few close-ups. The manager demanded to know why? Ian, in a well-filled room, turned to the guy and said, “Because the Pointers Sisters are ugly”.

He and I traveled to Thailand together and had our lives altered somewhat by this amazing country and it’s gentle people. Ian wanted to go North towards the Cambodian border and I was afraid to come. People told me it was safer for the Brits than for Americans.

He made many trips there afterward, eventually marrying a Thai woman named Ngeon Khprjunklang and having a son Alistair. Actually he had married two Thai women but the first one did not work out. They had a mushroom farm together. but mother proved to be too annoying.

He and I carved a mutual past together. I miss him. That deserves saying again.

Pets by the Window

Do memories, cast loose by a lifetime’s end, wait bewildered  for us to come home?

Like pets, uneasy at windows?

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The First Time

I love to think about the first time things ever happened. I have seen I think very few. I saw the first time mankind landed on the moon. Someone must have been around the first time words were put to music too. I wasn’t available for that.

I was certainly present at my first kiss. I may have been there to see the first kiss for some girls. But men can’t really be sure.

I have witnessed the first death of loved ones. But that is sort of an odd category, I think.

I have been there for two births. And one first step.

Laws

Laws never inconvenience the people who think of them.

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The Rebroken Leg

If you break a leg and it sets improperly, it must be rebroken to set it right again. John Boehner’s retirement offers this opportunity. It might shut down the government. The Democrats believe this act will elect them and the Republicans are so angry they won’t care.
Our citizens need to be rebroken. We need to reset our loyalties.
The Republicans have become a dreadful alloy of people who always pay their bills on time but insist, like swine, that women are less precious than every man’s sperm.
The Democrats live in a soap opera universe where jealousy and retaliation are the only indispensable currencies. They insist that their Hitlerian social Eugenics will eventually tame the hideous human spirit. All they ever need is more time and more money for their goodness, decency only they possess.
Trump is proof that we all can live without our media and our political parties. Hillary is evidence that her sour odor is the only thing genuine about her. Sanders is confirmation that there are poor people and that we should listen to them.
Biden, well, he is a nice guy, and like his President will bide his time in office luxuriating in the wonder of his dreams finally coming true.

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Glacial Speed to a Child

I am closer to the last Ice Age than most of you. It scared the shit out of me as a kid. Even while I slept, it was coming after me relentlessly. I knew it would eventually crush our family’s 1956 Chevy and mash our dimwit of a family dog. Glacial speed is fast to a child. I knew where my fur hooded coat and my galoshes ( bet you haven’t heard that word for a while) were, even in the summertime.
I am encouraged to fear the warm now. But I can’t. I am of an age that sleeps better when my bones aren’t being crushed by ice.

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Rock’s Greatest Venues #1

There is no gentler manner to make money in the music business than by managing a performer who needs only a chair, a guitar and her voice.
I am Irish. I believe that there exists an impaired ethnic brotherhood of the prideful in the world. I think the Japanese fall into this category. These fuckers will stab themselves in the stomach if they get too disgraced. Arabs seem to belong here too. They are perpetually over -heated about some slight or other. We all know how atomic Italians can be.
Working for Melanie as an entry level gopher tested my self-image. It was not her doing. She could not have been nicer. I was just young and mistakenly thought everybody should give a shit about my dignity. They did not.
One of my jobs was particularly galling. She played venues of around one to six thousand seats. These are the loveliest auditoriums everywhere in the world. They are old theaters or small symphony halls and are typically intensely ornate and always have a certain fragrance. They smell of art.

She played a venue in Pittsburgh, my hometown, called The Syria Mosque in 1972. This building was originally a “mystical” shrine for the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (the Shriners). Most likely every band that ever toured played it at least once. Frederico Caruso played it in 1920, John Phillips Sousa in ’24, Buddy Holly, four times between ’57 and ’58, Bob Dylan in ’66. The Who in 1969 ( before me), Genesis 74, 75 and 76 ( with me).
To come back home working for someone performing at The Syria Mosque was a very big deal for my family and me.  I think my mother expected me to sing.

The side of the stage that faces the audience is called the “fourth wall.” The phrase “breaking the fourth wall” refers to when a performer addresses the audience directly as part of the dramatic production, (Kevin Spacey in House of Cards). The expression can also refer to when a member of the cast or crew walks onto the stage or into the house when there is an audience inside.
Many rock performers break this wall by leaping into the audience from the stage, trusting that their audience will, in their delight, catch him and pass him around. I have seen this not turn out well.
Melanie encouraged her audience to break this fourth wall by coming up onto the stage with her towards the end of her set. They would sit cross-legged in front of her and sing along, which was genuinely sweet.
When the audience came on stage, my job was to sit quietly a little behind her, sort of as protection.
Her audience was deep in young girls, and the boys were all totally in love.
Everyone believes they lived in a violent, threatening world growing up. No one in my neighborhood reported bullies because no one would have cared. You would be a coward if you did tell. Occasionally a father would shoot a bully if the beatings to his son became too severe, and for this he was forgiven as long as the gun gauge was not too much overkill.
This preamble brings me clumsily here. I am big, so it is rare for me to be afraid of anybody, but everybody has somebody.
My somebody was sitting at Melanie’s knees that night singing along for all he was worth.

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Syria Mosque - Auditorium Pittsburgh

Syria Mosque – Auditorium Pittsburgh

The Who # 6 Bribing and Tipping

PM0122-Traffic-Police-1024x794A tip can become a bribe if you get caught.
Christians have a technique called “The Laying on of Hands.” I have seen this work. It is both elegant and wonderful. In our church, it is offered every Sunday. Certain people within the congregation perform it. They are empathic by nature. They can sip the hurt of others. Sometimes they can lift a small measure of pain out of the hearts of the wounded. It is not forever, but any relief for some is enough.
I was authorized to give away The Who’s money where I saw fit. I was always a little proud of this aspect of my job. There is no other way to read it but that they trusted me.
Under their banner, many people received more than they expected. The band knew what I did. I lot of small people got more than they ever expected to receive. It made me feel good.
To be sure I was not the only one who did this. One night Bill and Jackie Curbishley, ( the managers of the band) and I wanted to play Scrabble in the hotel but couldn’t find a game and board. Bill called the front desk, and they sent out a young kid to buy one for us. Sure enough, this kid found one and came to the door with it, all pimples and pride. Bill handed him a thousand dollars. I still remember him leaping down the hallway. The English never could beat me at Scrabble. By the way.
I had never really bribed or been forced to hide tips before the Who.
Passing money in a handshake would seem simple. I practiced the motion with the head of our security Jim Callaghan.
The band flew by private jet. If we were leaving immediately after the show, the limos parked very close to the stage, five or six in a row, aimed down the ramp leading out of the building. We were out of the venue just after the house lights went on. We had to beat the audience out, or we would have to stay in the dressing room until the roads were clear.
When the cars exited the building, they would be picked up by five or six motorcycle police troopers who would escort us to the airport tarmac where the plane waited.
No one will ever convince me these cops did not love doing this. They got to see the show, and you could tell the butchness of racing around stopping traffic appealed to them enormously.
They worked like geese forming V’s to head South. Two would speed ahead to stop the traffic at the upcoming intersection then when we passed through, two others would rush ahead towards the next intersection.
In my defense, it was a cold winter’s night. The wind the blowing hard and it was my first tour. While everyone boarded the plane and seated themselves, I hung back having already lodged a ball of hundreds in my hand to tip the head cop.
The police separated themselves, leaving the ranking one seated on his motorcycle on my path to the plane. We had already paid for this escort service, or rather a promoter did for us. He was waiting for me. Police are not allowed to accept tips.
He had taken off his helmet but not yet his thick gloves. I walked over to him thanking him and offered my bulged hand. He took my hand but did not feel the money because of his glove.
When our hands parted, all the cash escaped into the windy air. The six cops and I chased the money for a long time. I vaguely recollect although it might only have been my incinerating invention that two of the cops had started their bikes to chase down the fugitive hundreds.
As I went up the stairs now a wasted emotional shell, I glanced down the side of the plane to see the entire entourage with their faces pushed against the windows laughing.

Reminder

Our good days and our bad days are forgotten equally.

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