As I sit at a computer at the Waldorf Astoria in beautiful Key West, anticipating ringing in the new year with my family, I can’t believe how it was exactly ten years ago today that my silver Ford Focus rolled into Vegas, almost three thousand miles away on the opposite side of the country. Fresh from Philly, I was ready to conquer Sin City. I was relocating for many reasons, the strongest and most colorful of which was Fuel founder and guitar player Carl Bell had made his home there. My bestie and partner in crime Lisa (you all know her as Arty Party) was bitten by the Carl bug and wanted to meet him, I was submerged in all things Brett Scallions (Fuel lead singer) and wanted to meet him. The best way to meet him would be to work in music. From articles AP and I had learned Brett and Carl hung out at The House of Blues Foundation Room. I thought my best chance of meeting Brett would be if I worked there. So that’s what I did.
I’ve many times told the story of how I came to work at HOB, meeting Brett and other key people in my life. I’ve written short stories based on my time spent there and subsequent departure. It was a crazy four and a half years, filled with many ups and downs. I came away with much experience, knowledge and wisdom. The difference between those last two, according to Damien Echols, is pain. Knowledge can be acquired in a variety of ways; wisdom comes only through pain. I agree. Even Helen Reddy knows this (oh yes, I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain). I have many stories from my HOB days, some I’ve shared, some I’ve kept between small circles, and then there are those stories known only to those involved. It’s a bit of that last group I’d like to share now. I consider this blog entry as a thank you, an homage to those HOB moments and people who have meant so much to me, helped me get through the lonely times of being an east coast chick stranded in the desert.
My first concert at HOB LV (as it is affectionately known among the inner circle) was The One Tree Hill Tour. Oddly enough, it was also on the same night as my first HOB job interview in March 2005. The girl who interviewed me (we’re all girls and boys at HOB) would eventually become my mentor and a great friend. She asked if I was coming to see Gavin DeGraw, who was headlining the triple bill. I reluctantly admitted no, I watched the show and was there to see opener Tyler Hilton, who played Chris Keller on the show. She said if I was still there interviewing during the sound check she’d take me in a sky box to watch. It never happened, but I was bitten by the energy of HOB and wanted a job there so bad. I had a feeling it would save my life.
* Because I worked in accounting and forged positive working relationships, I rarely ever paid for a concert. Sometimes the higher-ups would comp me sky boxes if they hadn’t sold. One of the best times was when Lisa Marie Presley came and I was comped a box and got to bring my family. I got to see Fiona Apple, the Killers, My Chemical Romance, Dolly Parton, Fuel, Pat Benatar and many more. Britney Spears played (didn’t get to see her; the staff was told if anyone spoke to her or even got eye contact or watched a sound check we’d be fired immediately. Yep, Brit’s a bitch) and so did Justin Timberlake (a sweetheart, he and then-girlfriend Cameron Diaz bought and shared pizzas for the production crew after the show. Topped with pineapple from Tropicana Pizza was Cameron’s favorite). Male stripper troupe American Storm were the special guests for our charity event, the Firemen Auction. I remember them doing push-ups backstage before going on to dance. Some were sweet, some were full of themselves. Rick DeJesus was an American Storm dancer who went on to front Adelita’s Way. He was sweet and as he is also from Bristol, PA, I got to speak with him while he was having lunch in the restaurant. Nice guy. The first sound check I got to witness was John Mayer. I made up and excuse to go to the music hall while he was tuning his guitars and walked by the stage. He looked up at me, we briefly made eye contact and I thought I might die. He was truly one of the most beautiful men I’d ever seen. And super tall. I remember bright eyes, a mop of gorgeous hair and super tall. Wow. Panic at the Disco played a double bill with Fallout Boy before they were famous. I watched their sound check and two things stand out: Brendon Urie’s voice cracking and his unbelievably tight pants. What a bunch of cute little boys! Brendon would get lost in the administrative hallways that night, and it would be my pleasure to bring him back downstairs to the green room. Chris Brown walked through the hallways with his entourage like he owned the place. Considering this was 2005, before he also became superfamous, it was a sign of things to come. I caught some of his sound check, too. He was a great dancer, but later complained about employees watching him. My Chemical Romance played a private party, as well as Lady Gaga, who performed at the White Party. What a blast that was! I worked that night and Gaga was a relative unknown, but the gays sure digged her. I caught one of her songs and when I gazed down into the music hall from one of the sky boxes I saw loads of men on stage dancing with her, rubbing and licking each other, clad in tighty-whities. The MCR sound check was one of my favorites. Gerard had his short blonde hair and sounded so crisp and strong. What a cutie. Rihanna was set to play HOB LV in early 2006, but was canceled for lack of ticket sales. Bruno Mars played there before anyone–including me–knew how absolutely fabulous he is live. HOB had its finger on the pulse. Then Live Nation came in and shot it all to hell. I was so blessed to be a part of its final concert heydays.
One of my favorite rock star encounters has to be with Jesse Hughes, front man of Eagles of Death Metal. It’s a side project of Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, whom Lisa and I were both seriously crushing on at the time. We wanted to meet him BAD and Lisa had made some artwork to gift to him. EDM played there twice, both times with someone filling in for Homme on the drums, so we never did get to meet him. But Lisa had made the art, and someone gave her the go ahead to meet Jesse to give it to him and before we know it, there we are on their tour bus, drinking soda and talking like old friends. It was hilarious, a meeting cut short when a groupie came on board and they disappeared into the back compartment. “Stay,” Jesse told us, introducing us to various other band members and road crew. It was a little awkward, considering I had cut their paycheck earlier that day, so we finished our sodas and hightailed it out of there. But we’d finally made it onto a tour bus. We high-fived each other: we were at last hot rock chick sluts.
MY HOB FAMILY
Some of the greatest, most colorful, most loving and caring and talented and strange people I have ever had the privilege to know and call friend have come to me by way of HOB. I salute them all, and share a few stories:
I have to start with Jeff, aka, El Jefe. Jeff was a boss of sorts, but he was also a friend, a big brother. I could love him one minute and want to stab him the next. He could read me so well it was scary. He always knew when I liked someone, which really pissed me off, because I always tried to keep that side of myself private. We had private jokes, we were in the trenches together. I spent more time with Jeff than I did with anyone else at HOB. I have so many gut-busting, tears streaming down my face with laughter memories of him, it’s hard to pick a hundred, let alone one. But one shift we had together sticks out in particular, and it’s when I was training him in the cashroom during Christmastime, the dreaded 4am shift. Afterwards he would vow never to work cashroom again, and he never did. The cashroom is a tiny space, isolated except for when people come in and speak to you through this drive-through window type thing. We were squashed in there, but we laughed our asses off, and he got to learn who people were, put names with faces. One in particular was Doug. Doug was–and still is–so very cute. Nice and funny and always smiling. So handsome. He’s an actor who has since moved to LA, and if you watch sports, you may have caught him in the Coors Light commercial. Doug was a server and when he came to the window for change, we had our usual friendly exchange. Jeff got him his money and when Doug left, Jeff said to me, “So that’s Doug.” He went on to say he heard his name thrown around a lot by female employees about how hot he was. “He’s really handsome,” Jeff gushed like a schoolgirl. “I mean, I think I have a man-crush. I mean, I think I might be gay now.” A few cocktail waitresses came in during the course of our shift, putting Jeff’s heterosexuality firmly back in place. We had a good time that night, rating the employees on a hot scale of one to ten, being totally inappropriate, loving our job. Thanks, Jeff. We came to dance.
Music Hall Manager Dameian. What a cutie. Old school deejay and rockabilly hepcat with the sixties soul. He was sweet to me, he was sweet to my friends and family. When someone (a nasty lady some of us in my admin clique referred to as Punani Cake) informed me she wouldn’t allow AP to attend the Fireman’s auction taking place in the music hall that I was working (obviously there were perks working at HOB; those extended to friends on occasion), my supervisor at the time told me to ask D if he would allow her to go. I had never asked him for a favor before, and felt funny about it. She shrugged it off like it was no big deal. So I thought, “Why not?” and called the box office and asked. He first told me to ask Punani Cake (he didn’t call her that and didn’t know we all did) because it was her function. I said I did. He said, “And what did she say?” I felt like a kid asking Dad for permission after Mom said no. “She said no,” I admitted, expecting him to say the same. He was quiet for a moment, then said, “Have your friend come to the box office and ask for me.” I did, and when the function started, D escorted her himself into the music hall. Very nice of him. It wasn’t until after D left HOB for another job that I was able to enjoy him as something other than an officer of the company. A co-worker got married in the Foundation Room and D deejay’d the shindig. I caught up with him afterwards in the restaurant’s main bar. He was at a table with two others, continuing the celebration, and I was there giving change to a bartender. We saw each other, so I went over to say hi. There must have been some awesome champagne at the wedding because D was in an especially lovey mood, putting his arm around me. We kept hugging and exchanging cheek kisses, telling each other how fabulous we both were. I was the sober one, mind you, and shamelessly sucked up the attention. The girl at the table, a co-worker, didn’t seem amused. The guy, also a co-worker, thought it quite funny. After exchanging a few more squeezes and kisses and “I really like you,” “Oh, how nice, I really like you, too” I broke away and went back to my office. Can I tell you how distracted I was after that? So thank you, Dameian, for making work enjoyable and for providing Jeff with hours of teasing enjoyment.
Me and Doug, me and Dameian. Lucky girl!
Bartender Billy. Elvis is what his nametag said, because he had done a stint as an Elvis impersonator. He’s from Philly, a freelance director who wanted to break into movies and television and we got along like Forrest Gump’s peas and carrots. Billy knew me like Jeff did, and remains one of the best male friends I had at HOB. We wrote a script together and went to Los Angeles to shop it. When I got the chance to go to the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand, I took Billy (okay, my first choice was Victor, but he was bent over a toilet all day after a night of hard partying, so Billy took his place. We had a blast). My mom and sister love him, he talked sports with my stepfather. He was funny as hell. He was roommates in Florida with the lead singer of a band I followed in Philly. He called me Tiger Beat because of all the guys I had a crush on in December in 2006. There was one incident in that LA hotel and about town where he had to be in on a little too much information regarding my female cycle, but he took it like a champ and I was not embarrassed at all, even when I asked to borrow his jacket as a seat cushion. He offered the best male perspective, hilarious but practical. When I asked him to pay attention to one guy in particular around the restaurant, report back to me if he was seeing anyone, sleeping with anyone, if he mentioned me at all, if Billy thought he liked me, Billy and I had this exchange:
. “Have you gone out with him?”
. “Yes,” I said. “Twice.”
. “Did he try to have sex with you?”
. “He’s gay.”
. “Stop that, he is not. He’s just respectful. Maybe he doesn’t know how I feel.”
. “Put the moves on him. If he refuses you, he’s gay.”
. My inner saboteur piped up. “What if he just doesn’t want me? What if I’m too fat? Not pretty enough?”
. “You’re not fat. And you’re beautiful. Even if you were fat and ugly, if he refuses sex he’s gay.”
. Thanks, Billy.
To my pretty, bubbly, pug-loving girl Carly. Thanks for the pep talks, the shares, the girly girl stuff, the Bucks runs at three pm. You were there during the rough times, I love you for that. I’d like to think I was there for you, too. Boy, didn’t God put us together during the shit?! I love seeing your smiling face on Twitter and Facebook. My favorite mug is still the one you brought me back from Pittsburgh when I babysat Nixon. I drink my coffee out of it practically every day. My favorite moment: when that guy we called Sasquatch sat at our table to further his ignoble cause with Lisa and you said, “Ew, ew, ew,” really loud. I don’t think he knew you meant him, but he did get up awfully fast! Love to you.
Rob. Rob is a hugger, a joker, a friend, a mad genius and totally off his rocker and I love him. He put together my outdoor patio furniture for two sandwiches. He gave me advice. He would throw my favorite cookies from the vending machine over the wall of my cubicle with notes attached, “Love you Rachel!” Rob was horrified when he found out I was involved with Victor. Clearly he knew some things I didn’t. Oh, and Rob is also the spitting image of my late brother Drew. So it’s fabulous to watch him thrive and see pictures of his beautiful sons. He is another HOB big brother, and I love him.
Gerlando, a kindred artistic spirit. I used to love talking to him. He was so funny and dry, had no idea how hilarious he was. He would always come to my desk, asking for lotion for his hands, and he didn’t mind the flowery stuff (although when I squeezed a little cucumber melon in his palm, he rubbed it in and said, “Oh, my favorite”). He frequented Superpawn and one Christmas came in with a sack of gifts for everyone in the restaurant. He’s a natural weird-o, and I say that with the utmost admiration and respect. Sometimes we would have marathon conversations where we would be talking so fast, the thoughts and blurbs coming rapid-fire, that I wasn’t sure who was saying what; our minds were the same, as I am quite the weird-o myself. I’m just better at hiding it than he is. He’s also quite the talented artist and made a painting for me I now have hanging in my office. Love to you, G.
There’s not enough space and time to offer up stories about everyone who played a key part in my HOB tenure, but I will mention Mille, Fides, Nichole, Matt, Wendy, Debbie, Steven (who always came into the cashroom and told me how good I smelled and could guess which Victoria’s Secret lotion I was wearing. Steven’s so cute and another nice guy I adored. Maybe one day I’ll make it to Buffalo and we can go to a hockey game :), Andy who brought me Santa’s White Christmas coffee, Angel, Thomas (a fellow screenwriter and all-around nice guy. I owe him much gratitude and he knows why), BT, Colin, PG and all my cashroom homies, Marvi (Marvelicious, you are the best. Thank you for my truth journal, it’s proving to be quite cathartic and inspiring), and a special shout-out to the family of John Watson, who passed away in November. John was a sweet, special teddy bear, gone too soon, so handsome and one of the kindest people I had the privilege of knowing. He always made me feel safe during those night shifts, brought me sodas and asked if there was anything he could do for me to make my job easier. He smelled so good and had the most luminous smile. The world is worse for losing him.
Well, that about does it for the tribute to the gal I enjoyed being while working HOB LV and the irreplaceable peeps who rode along with me. I live in an entirely different world now, feel like an entirely different person, but that girl is still in me, and I celebrate her and bring her into the next year. Love and Happy New Year to you all. You won’t be far from my thoughts when the conch drops at midnight.