“A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road”. Henry Beecher
Years ago I was mixing sound at a very large festival in Altuna, PA. There was a speaker on the bill in between the different musical acts by the name of Tony Campolo, a well known sociologist, pastor, and former spiritual advisor to president Bill Clinton. Among many of his rather profound comments the thing that stuck with me even to this day, was when he talked about “redeeming the moment”. It was his theory that all through life we redeem certain moments in life that leave an indelible foot print on our brains. It could be something as simple as the first time you looked out over New York City from the Empire state Building to something as intense as losing a loved one.
There is no doubt, I have “redeemed” hundreds of moments both tragic and mundane, including those funny moments that seem to play back when I am in a rather serious situation . Maybe it is some type of comic relief you need at the time, who knows ? Although I do have some profound thoughts that run through my brain once in a while I have a lot of “redeemed moments” that should probably put me on some psychiatrist’s couch.
It was opening night in Sydney, Australia for a world tour we were doing with Debbie Gibson in 1988. The stage was covered with Marley, a rubber substance that the dancers could dance on. Someone had left an open water bottle on stage which made the stage a giant water slide, Debbie came running out for her opening performance and slid off the stage into the orchestra pit. Fortunately, she was not hurt physically, but not so much for her pride.
A few days later, when everything was running smoothly again, one of my crew members rigged a dummy in the lighting truss. When our opening act, “Bros” a popular UK band, came out on stage and were in the middle of one of their hit song “Drop the Boy” my crew dropped the dummy from the truss onto the stage, shocking the audience as well as the band.
Ok, one last thing on the Debbie Gibson tour, we were touring the US in one of the Southern states. As was our normal routine, I and some of the band members would hit a gym in the afternoon before sound check. I invited Debbie’s wardrobe supervisor to come along. He showed up in high heels and full make up, needless to say we were in the South, pretty much had the gym to ourselves after that.
In the early nineties, I was the tour manager for Ritchie Blackmore and his band Rainbow. During a show in Finland at the peak of Ritchie’s guitar solo, the stage was dark and we noticed there was no guitar solo that normally was in that part of the show. Ritchie had backed off the side of the stage into the orchestra pit. We had to stop the show for a bit until he was able to regain his composure.
Later we were back in the US doing a show in Hollywood, CA. If it was one thing that Ritchie was emphatic about, it was that no one touched the safe on our tour bus except him or the accountant. I was busy on stage and asked my wife to go out to the bus and get some cash out of the safe for a couple of taxis who had just dropped off the band members from the hotel. You talk about bad timing, my wife who speaks fluent German asked Ritchie’s wardrobe assistant who also spoke German, if she thought it was ok to get some cash out of the safe keeping it as low profile as possible. Ritchie came out of the state room and demanded to know what was going on, the problem was he asked in impeccable German. After that, the safe rules became a little more structured and everyone returned to the English language again, who knew what other languages Ritchie spoke.
I have to say Ritchie, was probably one of the strangest artists I have ever worked for, I could fill a book with his séance encounters in Europe. Looking at this from the outside, I am not sure the devil ever had the artist’s interests at heart………. There was not a day without some kind of weird drama. But at the end of the day, I would have to say, Ritchie was one of the best guitarists I have ever worked for.
In the mid ninety’s I was the tour manager for Carman, a Gospel artist who filled stadiums all across the USA and South Africa. Typical of the media, looking for a some dirt behind the scenes of a squeaky clean artist, I was interviewed by Entertainment Tonight. When asked about the artist’s integrity I told them that we had to cancel a show because Carman was sick one night from overindulging the night before in too many Mrs. Field’s cookies. After 3 years of being on the road with him that is all the “dirt” I could dig up.
Because I toured with a lot of European acts, I also hired a number of European crew. Their sense of humor usually was a little over the top. My production mgr was Michael Hogstrand from Stockholm, Sweden. He worked with me on a number of US tours. It took a little time to educate him on the limits of American humor. He once put a smoke machine outside another crew members hotel door and yelled fire, the crew member jumped out his window onto a busy sidewalk, fortunately he was on the first floor and no one got hurt, but the problem was it was the middle of the day and the crew member had nothing on except his skivvies. When I remember Michael, I always remember his t-shirt he constantly wore with big letters on it “Jesus is coming back, look busy”
Ok, one more, we were doing a show with Lionel Ritchie back in the eighties and had a new opening act. My security director came up to me and said there was a boy standing back stage and asked me if he wanted him removed for safety reasons. I walked back stage with him and that is where I first met Prince, I soon learned that his size had nothing to do with this guy’s performance……