Monday, June 23, 2008

Brush with Fame: The Day My Music Died

Back in the 1980's, David Letterman did a bit called "Brush with Fame" where he would poll the audience members for interesting stories about their encounters with famous people. As a youngster, I was always fascinated by the studio audience's tales of mingling with celebrity and could only pray for the day when I would run into Sissy Spacek at a 7-11 or find myself seated next to Ricky Schroeder on a flight to Albuquerque.

I live in Southern California, where it is quite common to have a celebrity sighting now and then. A few weeks ago, I found myself at a hotel bar where within a span of ten minutes, Shaq, Morgan Freeman and a cast member from 'Lost' all sauntered by my table. But as a youngster growing up in Tucson, Arizona, celebrity sightings were rare.

As a college student I worked at several hotels where I had the opportunity to come in contact with a quite few celebs. Nicolas Cage? Not impressed. Jerry Lewis? Annoying and a total attention whore. Donald Trump? As egotistical as you could imagine (although his wife at the time, Marla Maples was quite sweet). I once waited on the table of Academy Award winning director Taylor Hackford ("Officer and a Gentleman") who looked at me and said, "If you move to  New York, I'll put you in a film."  I blushed, acting modest and embarrassed, but secretly I thought I was some hot shit for the next few weeks. 

As a Reservations Manager for a 5-star hotel, I had the honor of reserving President Clinton's room for him under the alias name of "Joe Rock," and when Tom Cruise was making Jerry Maguire, I had to make sure his room was stocked with "Tom's Natural Toothpaste" and lactose free frozen yogurt (both not an easy find in Arizona back in 1996). I booked David Bowie into one of the nicest suites in the hotel and then managed to walk by his room at least 3,000 times over the next two days in order to get a glimpse of him (I never did). I also brushed by a very debonair John Kennedy Jr. once in the lobby and sat next to Led Zepplin members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at the pool bar (they looked like rotting corpses drinking margaritas). I have stayed in a Presidential Suite above Sean Penn and his wife, and once stayed in a suite directly below Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards. Despite my hopes and dreams I did not overhear any verbal abuse or fist fights from either of their rooms. 

While embarrassing, I have to admit that I am always excited when I see someone famous. Content just to catch a glimpse, I have never (nor probably would ever) asked anyone for an autograph. And, despite all the times I've had a chance to see or mingle  with the famous, (see: Spago Story) I will always regret the day I missed the opportunity to meet my favorite band of the 80's.

It was a summer day circa 1987. Parker and I had attended the INXS concert the night before (our third INXS concert in as many years).  Having consumed one too many Bartles & James wine coolers the night before I found myself in a funk in my pajamas watching One Life to Live when she called me early that day (10 a.m. was early for me as a teen). Parker and one of her other Nu Wave friends were going to head down to the Doubletree and linger by the Tour Bus in hopes to get a glimpse of the band, and most importantly the sexy lead singer Michael Hutchence. "Did I want to come along?", Parker asked. I seriously debated it but after burping up some orange alcohol I decided I'd stay home in front of the soaps to see if Tad was the father of  Tina's baby. A decision I would live to regret. 

Four hours later I got a call from Parker. Not only had she met and conversed with the band, but Micheal Hutchence had given her the "once over" with his steamy Australian eyes.   From that moment I cursed the day I chose "One Life to Live" over meeting my favorite band. I pretended to be nonchalant, but jealousy raged inside of me as Parker re-enacted her conversation with Kirk Pengilly, the creepy saxophonist player. As I listened to her describe her amazing encounter with the band, a sad Howard Jones' song was playing on the radio in the background. I began to  envision my best friend Parker, marrying the lead singer and leaving me for the shores of Australia where she would become a Rock Star Wife/Fashion Designer while I dredged away my senior year in High School. Her and Rachel Hunter (wife of Rod Stewart) would surely become best friends and I would be long forgotten. Alas, Michael Hutchence and Parker did not marry - good thing considering he died 10 years later with a belt around his neck while masterbating (not a quality you want in a devoted husband). 

In 2007, 20 years after the INXS incident, I got a similar phone call from Parker when she had the opportunity to meet and mingle with Duran Duran. I was less jealous this time - but still felt a twinge of the green monster and put on a Howard Jones song for old times sake.


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