Monday, February 2, 2009

The Boss Meets The Queen


"How old do you think he is," queried Jackie. Before I could take a stab at a guess, Judy responded, "I read it in the paper today; he's 60." All I could think was, "Holy crap...is that even possible?" But, thinking back to the day I met him, yeah, that's about right; I was 20 and he looked to be cruisin' close to 30. Glenn said, "I can't imagine moving around like that, hat's off to him!" Jackie, in her usual succinct way of seeing the world followed, "Well, he certainly looks much better and healthier than Keith Richards or any of the Stones."

Yep. Bruce Springsteen rocking out the Super Bowl half-time show. We all sat watching with slight smiles as we considered that another Rock icon is now in his 60's. As are the Stones. Paul McCartney is even older. Still rocking. Still succeeding at the music thing. I suppose it's not as amazing when a crooner is still singing in their twilight years. Hell, look at Tony Bennett still wowing audiences and in his 80's! But, a rocker? You have to give them their props!

As he started wailing Glory Days, it seemed the perfect moment to share my up close and personal glory day with The Boss. It was '76 and I was working on Towson University's tech crew for the Special Services Department. Mike Wicklein was the crew chief. We were a band of wild things who liked crawling on scaffolding. Didn't mind working in the middle of the night to set up a stage or strike one. It was long, hard, dirty, back bending work. And we loved it.

As part of the grand opening of the Rock & Jock as we called it, which was actually this massive sports complex, (well, massive in its day, not so much by today's standards,) the University made the smart marketing move to hold concerts there. The trick was, how to find entertainers who were reasonable for the budget and could attract a crowd.

That's how this guy and his band out of New Jersey, who was attracting a lot of buzz, got booked to be the headliner. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. So, at 0:dark:30 the morning of the concert, our crew gathered with his road crew to discuss how we would collaborate to bring this show together. It was their show, but it was our building.

Back in the day there were few, if any, female techs. As I stood listening to the tall, lanky, biker-looking thing, who was Springsteen's head roadie, I thought, "Wow, this is an interesting life style. Should be cool to see how all this comes together. He turned to me and asked, "So, Honey, what will you be doing for us? Fetching coffee and what not?"

I didn't respond, just leveled a gaze at him, Wicklein said, "No way. She's one of my best. And, I'll put her up against any of your guys, any day." He laughed and shot back, "Okay, tell you what. I'll bet you money on that. My guys are the best in the business and this isn't a job for a chick." I walked away thinking, "Assmunch." And, they shook on it.

The day was long and intense. Worked like Trojans, the lot of us. The two crews got along great together. Late in the day, Springsteen, his band, and the trailing entourage of groupies and other parasitic life forms, showed up. They rocked the house that night, too. It was a great time.

Around 2 AM when we were striking it all, which meant by then it was a 15 hour day, Head Roadie walks up to Wicklein and me and he shakes his hand. There may have been money pressed into palms, I'm not certain, Roadie says to Wicklein, "Damn, you weren't kidding. She's outstanding. Sorry I shot off my mouth!" And, I stood there thinking, "You're still an ass but at least you're honest!"

A little while after, I was standing alone coiling electrical cords. He walks up and offers me a pack of matches with a phone number written on the inside cover, "I could use someone like you on my crew. Here's my number. If you ever want a job, call me." Now, that was rewarding. I have to be honest, I really considered it. Very appealing offer. But, I didn't have the courage to leave school so close to graduation. And, I probably wouldn't be talking to you now. Most likely I'd be dead! But, it's interesting when you think about the paths your life could have taken. That whole roads less traveled, notion...

The band cleared the building. We get radioed that someone left a bag down in the holding area. Wicklein says, "Hol, go down and look for the duffel bag and run it out to the bus." I race downstairs of this- let me remind you, brand spanking new, multi-million dollar building, go in the room and stop dead. Are you friggin' kidding!!! When I say they were pigs, I'm being kind. They wrecked that room. Food smashed on walls; have you any idea what a Twinky looks like squished into a wall? Not pretty. Trash everywhere, furniture over-turned. Absolutely disgusting. We made certain it had been spotless when the day stared and they did this to it?!

I found the bag and took it to the bus. And that's how The Boss met The Queen. There he stood in his glory, two hard ridden chicks hanging one off each arm. Laughing and being all that. I walk up. I remember staring at him and thinking, "This is a rock star. A rock star. Idiot." He looks back a bit of a question on his face, as I say, "Mr. Springsteen? Here's your bag."

He was probably expecting the usual request for his autograph. As I drop the bag on the ground instead of his outstretched hand, I say very quietly, "This is a brand new building. It cost us millions to build. We invited you here. Paid you. What you all did in that room down there? It was unnecessary. You and your gang should be ashamed of yourselves. Shame on you."

I remember, as I turned away to get back to work, seeing a flicker of surprise in his eyes. I know from the look on the girls' faces, mouths hanging open in "o", that it wasn't what they expected. Who talks to The Boss that way? It was gratifying, but not for long; I was too exhausted.

I have no allusions of grandeur. I'm certain that my tiny verbal spanking didn't rock his world. If you asked him, he probably doesn't even remember playing at Towson State University. Even so, I don't regret saying it. Most likely, they've continued to act as they want, thoughtlessly ignoring the mess they leave for others to correct in their rocking wake. And, have been greatly rewarded for it. But, that's not my problem. That night, The Queen had her say.

Yes sir. Queen trumps Boss any day.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Queen of The Universe aka T Moose
N.B. The photo is me from my tech crew days. The end of another long day...taking a break with Mike Wicklein and Larry Durner, (supine).

5 comments:

jkc said...

Two great stories, Holly. I think I will put my blinders on and think that your reprimand made them think about their behavior and change. Perhaps age makes that kind of success a bit less heady...I can only hope so. Regardless, he looked a lot better than any other aging rock star I have seen, and I do appreciate his music and his efforts to help the poor. PS. Glad you did not become a roadie!

MelissaS said...

Oh Holly! That is a great great story!

Linda said...

Hol
That's great! L & I were sitting there Sunday night telling Springsteen stories too. The fact that you were on the crew was high on the list. My 4 big memories were
1) How old and crappy their bus and band gear was. Most of the guys that I had played with, wouldn't have been caught dead with that stuff. It was held together with gaffers tape and wire.Then they played....oh my god
2)being amazed by the lighting...when the Manually controlled lights followed Weinstein around the drums I just about fell over.
3) sitting at the sound mix platform drinking a Heineken during the show and enjoying it more than any beer I've ever had
4) falling asleep and waking up while we very slowly loaded the stage back in the tractor trailer...the driver wanted to take you along

It's still the best rock show I've ever seen or heard

The Towson Center should have a little Boss and Buffet shrine.

A good friend of mine, Kevin, just toured with Bruce programing and operating his LED wall in Europe

You coulda been a roadie QU or a trucker babe.....choices

We're doing a series of shows to Save the Senator Theatre...want to come help? I'll e you the info.

Love ya
E Moose

jkc said...

Linda, loved your four memories! They captured how I imagined it would be if I had ever had the good fortune to see Springsteen in person.

Holly said...

Actually, that was Mike Wicklein who made the comment and used his wife's goggle account! So you got to hear the Wicklein of the story, AKA Electric Moose weigh in on the memory! Thanks Mike!

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