The following stories are all true (I have witnesses). None of them involve Kandi, but I love them and hope you find them interesting. This is simply the best things (outside of family events) that I have ever and could ever do.
This recounting of my experience as a Talent Escort at the 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is mostly based in truth, or at least my best recollection. Without the ability (and quite frankly the time) to take any pictures, I hope my memory of these events is accurate and I hope to never forget them. I spent 15 consecutive hours on my feet, and I had the shortest amount of time to be on duty as an escort. A long and memorable day!
I escorted Tommy James, writer of songs like Crystal Blue Persuasion, Hanky Panky, Mony Mony and Crimson & Clover. What a great guy! He travelled with his manager, Carol Ross (a sweet older little Jewish woman), Martin Fitzpatrick, the author of Tommy’s autobiography (which I correctly pointed out that if written by Martin, it was simply a biography) and Nicky, his guitar tech. Tommy immediately engaged me in conversation and treated me like one of his crew. I assured him his rehearsal performance was well done after his insecurity about it. I asked him when he wanted to head to the stage for his show performance, to which he replied that as the “only grown up” in the group, it was up to me. I told him that he didn’t know me that well, I may not have been the grown up! More on them later.
These are some of the people I either interacted with, was within an arms-length of or was in the same relatively small space with (in no particular order): Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Chris Shifflett (collectively, along with Nate Mendel who I did not see, the great Foo Fighters), Alice Cooper, Peter Wolf, Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Joan Jett, the despicable Miley Cyrus (she is as skanky as she appears), Beck, Paul Shaffer, my new pal Tommy James, the fabulous Bill Withers, Gary Clark, Jr., Joe Walsh, John Legend, Yoko One, Little Steven Van Zant, John Mayer, Steve Cropper, the amazing Stevie Wonder, Tom Morello, Zac Brown, most of the Blackhearts and Elvin Bishop.
Oh, the power of the headset. No one had greater access to anywhere in the building, with the exception of the talent, than the escorts. With that headset, we were virtually untouchable. VIPs, who spent thousands of dollars for tickets, were moved when not in the right areas. I was only moved for talent, and then allowed to return to my prime viewing spot. Some of the things I heard on the headset were classic. They lost Joe Walsh. He got up just before Ringo’s speech and walked out past me. I hear “What’s the 20 on Joe Walsh”. “He’s in his seat.” To which I inform them, “No he’s not, he left a few minutes ago.” I then enjoy the chatter when they realize, they lost him (he eventually showed up). “What’s the 20 on Gary Clark?” “I have no idea.” I reported him actually standing near me and chuckled as his escort quickly chased him down.
I got to see portions of the rehearsal of the fabulous tribute to the great Bill Withers by Stevie Wonder and John Legend. Need I say more?
I sat in what was to be Sir Paul’s seat on Friday afternoon and watched Green Day perform their terrific three song performance 3 times. No one was between me and Billy Joe Armstrong, the lead singer, as he performed. I would classify myself as a moderate Green Day fan, but their performance was excellent. Surprisingly good family people too.
While my seat wasn’t as good, I had the pleasure of watching the rehearsal of Ringo’s performance, which featured among others, Paul Shaffer and his band, Joe Walsh and Sir Paul.
Finally, I enjoyed the entire rehearsal performance of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, featuring Dave Grohl, Tommy James and the despicable Miley Cyrus. Joan Jett was tight, really commanded the stage and interacted well with Grohl and Tommy. Tommy was a little insecure about his performance so Carol and I pumped him up afterward. I think Tommy’s guitar was the original guitar he used when performing with the Shondells, it looked pretty worn.
I escorted Carol and Nicky to the preshow dinner (Tommy doesn’t like to eat right before he goes on and he was in the show open, thankfully for me). Carol wanted me to join them in the dinner (which I had to politely decline), so she offered to bring me some food back (had to pass again).
Martin hung out in the Hot Holding Room (the dressing room for those who did not have their own room). I was in that room with, at various times, Zac Brown, Tom Morello, Gary Clark and Taylor Hawkins. My contribution to the show was to tell Taylor where the men’s room was. Oh yeah, and some legend named Stevie Wonder was in there (“Martin, that’s Stevie F’n Wonder!”). That was my seminal “OMG” moment.
After the show, I walked Tommy and Carol back to Hot Holding to get Martin and Tommy’s things and in the stairwell we run into Paul Shaffer. Shaffer and Tommy exchange pleasantries when Shaffer says to Tommy, “Do you know my friend here, Beck?” Paul Shaffer, Beck, Tommy James and me in the stairwell, what’s wrong with this picture?
So I am standing there enjoying Bill Withers’ very witty and enjoyable acceptance speech. A glance to my left and there is Stevie, who inducted him. I look back over my shoulder and there is Sir Paul. I stood next to Paul McCartney, arguably one of the 5 most recognizable people on the planet, for the entire Withers tribute. During “Lean on Me” and the wonderful “Use Me”, I realize me and Sir Paul are both singing in full voice, swaying along with the music. So now I can go to my grave saying I performed a “duet” with Sir Paul. I knew the guy escorting McCartney and he told me that Sir Paul could not have been a friendlier and a more normal guy (except for the fact that his picture is taken literally every three seconds and he is, of course, Sir freakin’ Paul).
I watched the first song of the finale with my elbows on the stage (my back was killing me). Carol and Tommy had moved to another table to sit with Little Steven and his wife. So I moved over with them (eyes always on the talent!) and stood directly behind Little Steven (and that bandana of his) for the balance of the finale. Nice work if you can get it!
I took the photo on the left that night. Note, no one between me and the performers. The photo on the right was taken a few weeks ago of me in front of a photos taken by Rolling Stone of the same finale.
The End of the Night
After meeting Beck in the stairwell, I took Tommy and his crew back to the hotel and Jann Wenner’s after-party. Groupies and autograph hounds were asking for pictures and autographs. I acted as Tommy’s bodyguard (although not at all looking like one), giving people my “approval” to take a picture with Tommy. For the second time that night, I got Carol to promise that if Tommy ever got into the Hall, she would request me as their escort. She promised she would and ended what was a surreal and unbelievable experience with a kiss on my cheek. Wow! If I am ever lucky enough to do that again, this cannot be topped. McCartney, Ringo, Wonder, Walsh and Grohl in one night. Pinch me.
I sent a thank you email to Tommy James. In it I pointed out the historic event that occurred. Never again can we expect to see me, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder all within a few feet of each other. I told Tommy that, while I was up for it, I didn’t think the other two would be. Go figure!
I was asked back again in 2018, this time with the escort for The Roots! In various formations, they performed the tributes to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and to Nina Simone. We had 5 Roots, along with their leader, Questlove, who was handled by someone else. I was able to watch the rehearsals for these tributes, which were unbelievable and fascinating, featuring a who’s who of female R&B singers. I saw things that no one else but those in the room could see. For some reason Paul Shaffer’s trombone player kept thanking us for being there. Damn, I had so much fun.
Questlove was a big teddy bear of a guy, could not have been nicer. I bought him lunch on rehearsal day and took a picture with him as my payment, so to speak. The photo is framed and hanging in my office. This year’s ceremonies were not nearly as star studded as the last one and there was not much ancillary talent. The Roots spent a majority of their time in the dressing rooms in preparation of their performance, so I saw most of the show on the TV hook up in the dressing room area. I was much more involved this year with production, getting the guys from one place to the next, and seeing much more of the backstage activities.
I was able to spend quite a bit of time at the VIP preshow dinner, even calling in a medical emergency. I felt much more a part of the show this year as I had before and felt more comfortable knowing what to expect. There were no specific highlights for me, just two very long and very interesting days, the ability to talk freely with musicians and a great conversation with Questlove regarding the nominating process (he is on the committee). I did get to see Ann Wilson, The Killers, Jon Bon Jovi, Howard Stern, Ric Ocasek, Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft, among others. Sadly, there was no big finale, with the Moody Blues closing out the show.
All in all, a very memorable evening!
These were the most recent two ceremonies in Cleveland. The pandemic, what else, canceled the 2020 ceremonies, but they are back on October 30, 2021. I wait anxiously every time until I get the glorious email inviting me back again as a Talent Escort. Let’s hope I get another shot!
My sincere apologies to Lisa as I inadvertently left off a photo and the final few lines of her post yesterday. Please go back and take another look. Mea cupla!