Wednesday, March 31, 2010


It’s so hard to eat right at work.

I try… I really try, but I have this one giant weakness.  I even have it on a button.  It’s described in a quote from Oscar Wilde that says, “I can resist anything, but temptation.”

That’s me.

I used to be good about turning down goodies but my willpower has faded in inverse proportion to my age.  In my office, there are always goodies and treats being brought in.  Cookies in the breakroom… Ice cream social fundraiser for March of Dimes…  Bake sales…

On Monday, our department had a massive potluck lunch, for upwards of 50 people.  Geez, there was all kinds of food.  I did OK with that part, eating mostly a couple varieties of chili with rice, and ham slices. 

But then there were the desserts.  They had so much delicious stuff.  My favorite, if you can believe it, was the Rice Krispie Treats.  Our cafeteria sells them but they’re just atrocious… always stale.  I know I should quit buying them, but every so often, they just look so good.  Then I bite one and it’s “blech… stale and bland.” 

These ones at the potluck were divine.  I had 2.  Now if I would have been able to leave it at that, I’d have been OK.

Buuuuuuut no.

They also had a variety of cheesecake slices.  I had a slice with chocolate drizzle and nuts.  Then some of the ladies in my department started talking about how good the coconut cake was…

Oh, it’s so light!  And the frosting is the whipped cream kind, not the wedding cake sugary kind.”

OK,” I said.  If you’re going to get a piece, I’ll take a little sliver.”  I only wanted a forkful.

She brought me back a full-sized slice; the last one.  I think she was trying to kill me.  And I couldn’t not eat it, not after she’d gone to the trouble.

(It was really good, too.)

My contribution to the affair was bringing in shrimp cocktail.  So when the lunch was over, there were about 10 shrimps left.  What the heck am I going to do with 10 little shrimps?  Would they even keep long enough to bring home? 

Best not to risk chancing it.  I ate them at my desk.

By this time, I feel like Jabba the Hutt. 

I’m jammed and am wishing I could stumble upon a conference room filled with hammocks. 

Maybe I’ll build a little George Costanza Napping Drawer under my desk.

I never even had dinner that night and I was still full the next morning, too.  I’ve been trying to go lighter the rest of this week, but it’s just not working out.

Like today, I went to Burger King for lunch.  I wanted to try one of those new Steakburger XT’s and I had a coupon for buy one, get a small fries and drink free.  I’m thinking, “Small Fry is good.  No sense pigging out on the large fries… I know how bad for me they are and the burger is going to be big.

So then they gave me my tray, they put 2 orders of fries on there.  I immediately piped up and said I’d only ordered 1 fry.  The manager wavered for a sec, starting to remove one of the orders, but then said, “Ehh, keep’em.”

Great.  Even when I TRY to be good, the universe conspires against me. 

Oh, like I’m going to throw them out?  Are you kidding me?  They were straight from the fryer; all hot and crispy.  I had no choice but to eat them.  The idea of not wasting food is imprinted on my DNA.  I just can’t do it.

But it wasn’t all bad news… When I placed my order, I chose the “A1 (Sauce) Steakburger.  But when I opened the wrapper, there was no A1 on the burger.  So the lack of sauce cancels out the extra fries, right?


OK, I guess I better skip dinner again tonight.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Do You Believe in Miracles? Um, No.

It’s not been a very good couple of weeks for the Catholics, has it?

Seems that every day another layer is peeled off this foul liturgical onion.  I know bad news always gets the big press, but are there any honorable priests left? 

All of these testaments to the side effects of forced celibacy are getting moved around by the churches highest officials, like the world’s most elaborate shell game.
My dad used to be an altar boy so I asked him if anything untoward ever happed to him.

Dad said there was one certain very old priest with whom all the altar boys had a problem.  Seems that when they would help him up out of his genuflect, he was known to pass some gas on them.  When you saw those robes billow, you knew you were in trouble.  Anyway, the altar boys policed this themselves by assigning the altar boy with the least seniority to this honor.

But wait… there’s good news on the horizon…

The wheels are turning to designate Pope John Paul II as a saint.  All they have to do is document one lousy miracle, and say hello to St. JP. 

Funny thing, those miracles.  They’re really twisting things around to come up with one, in this modern, skeptical age.  Right now, the front running miracle is that of a young French nun who prayed to the Pope to cure her of Parkinson’s Disease, then she recovered.

Not exactly parting the Red Sea, is it? 

Back in the day, the seas part, water turns to wine, the dead rise… I’m sure there was consensus that miracles were afoot.  I mean, there were witnesses all over the place.

So now, a mysterious curing?

Hasn't anyone ever heard of people getting better on their own?  History is rife with stories of cancers receding, blood becoming whole again and tumors shrinking, all on their own.  Were they all miracles too?

This story reeks of the classic logical fallacy: “If A is followed by B, that proves that A caused B.”  Sequence does not equal causality.  I know Fox News uses this ploy all the time with their news “analysis”, but this “logic” were true, you could argue that most anything could be a “miracle.” 

Like this:

John Paul was named Pope in 1978.  In the next Olympics, the US Hockey Team upset the vaunted Russian team.  See?  Miracle!  They even call it the Miracle on Ice.  David and Goliath for the 20th century.

Yeah, I know… it’s all about faith.  I’ll tell you what… I have zero faith in anything this corrupt organization has to say.

If you ask me, a real miracle would have been if they actually put the needs of their youngest, most vulnerable parishioners ahead of their need to maintain their grasp on money, status and power.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Odd Bits - March Madness Edition

I had so much fun posting last week about the hypothetical sitcom I want to create about my friend Kelly.  That post also had a link to an earlier situation that came from our sitcom-idea document, that talked about her longstanding wish to kidnap Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and keep him in the Silence of the Lambs pit she wants to dig in her basement. 
This is a shot I took of Letang (or “Le Unicorn” as he’s sometimes called by the ladies) in 2008, as the Anthem was finishing up.  So you can see why “Kelly” thinks he’s “pit-worthy.”

Then I found an old email thread in which we came up with another episode idea.  I thought I’d get another cheap post out of it share it with you today.

The email started with us discussing an online video of the Penguins doing a charity bowling event, followed by the house warming party she was planning for the weekend, which was being threatened by yet another massive snowstorm.  She’d already cancelled one a couple of weeks earlier, for the same reason.

Bluz: I totally want one of those bowling shirts.  It they’re smart, they’ll be marketing them on

Kelly: I'll be sure to grab you one out of the closet of whomever I spend the night with...

Bluz: L. O. F’n. L.
 You just made me have to clamp my hands over my mouth.  I think I burst an eardrum.
Do you purposely schedule your parties for bad weather?

Kelly: It’s a test of my friends’ true friendship… 

Nothing’s going to happen.  It’s too soon to know for sure.  If I have to sit by myself and eat a whole pan of baked ziti and drink a whole case of wine…  gosh darnit, I will!!  I’m having this party, even if it’s only me.  Screw the weather and the weatherman!!!

Bluz: You know, that sounds like an episode.

I know, it’s too far out for them to have the forecast pinned down… But that’s not stopping them from the Traditional Pre-Storm Hype:


Bluz (again): Just added this to the sitcom document:

    “You Gotta Fight (For Your Right to Party)” – Kelly keeps trying to throw a housewarming party and it always ends up on the same night as some kind of weather-related disaster.  She finally commits to having one no matter what and of course there’s a blizzard.  Must include scene with Kelly sitting on the floor alone, surrounded by empty wine bottles with pasta in her hair, spooning ziti directly from the pan.  Her cats are sitting around her, wearing tiny little party hats.  Party music is playing.  Wii Bowling is set up on the TV… you can see her name as a player, with 3 other names on the scoreboard reading Someone, No one, and Kris Letang.
Or maybe Letang is still in The Pit, shown yelling, “Can I have some ziti?”

(Every episode has a title taken from a 1980’s or 90’s song.)

Kelly: I love the part with Kris Letang in The Pit yelling “can I have some ziti?”  Cracks me up!!

Bluz: OK, I’ll add that… I only thought of it when I wrote the email.
Question though… if he’s in The Pit, would she still have his name on the Wii?

Eh, probably…
It would make it funnier if, even though she had the guy in the basement, she’s still “daydreaming” about him…

Kelly: When it was his turn to bowl – “Kelly” will yell down to The Pit – “It’s your turn.  I’ll bowl for you.  You got a strike.” And I’ll do an air high-5 in the direction of The Pit.

Bluz: Beautiful… I know just how to frame it…

You see “Kelly” saying “It’s your turn… I’ll bowl for you.”
Then you see the look on his face, down in The Pit, and hear “Kelly” say, “You got a strike.”
Back to her for the high five.

I see a graphic during the end credits, “No hockey players were actually kidnapped during the production of this show.  Yet.”

Kelly: This brilliance needs to be shared with the world!!

OK, this is probably all the exposure it’s ever going to get.  Isn’t the creative process fascinating?

March Madness
The NCAA tournament is in full swing.  Me… I’m not really into college basketball.  I may get mildly interested around the Final Four.  But for the most part, this is my kind of March Madness:

This was always one of my favorite videos.  It looks like it was shot for about $75, but still kills.  I use this tune as an eraser, too.

You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head and can’t get it out?  I hate that, especially if it’s a song I don’t like, or worse, a commercial jingle.  When that happens, I use an “eraser”.  That’s what I call a song I forcibly jam in there and concentrate on, to remove the previous earworm.
Granted, that song is then stuck in my head, but at least it’s an upgrade. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

To Your Health!

Just when you thought the Health Care Hulabaloo was on the wane, we’re finding out it’s still going strong.  When my friend Red Pen Mama published a post on why she supported the health care reform bill, she was astounded when it drew over 1500 hits.  Immediately wanting to cash in on some of that action support the cause of health care reform, I thought I’d put down a few thoughts.

The first thing I learned was that Red Pen Mama’s raised traffic was due to her blog being featured on WordPress’s homepage, so my attempt to raid some of that attention is for naught.  But that’s no slam on RPM… she did an amazing job responding to more than a hundred comments, wielding her red pen (and “delete” button) to keep the discourse civil.  She was, in fact, far more civil than I am prone to be.

There were a lot of arguments put forth in those comments and I’d like to address some of them now.

“The Health Care Reform bill (HCR) is too expensive.”
I completely disregard this argument, like I do with all the cost arguments put forth during the last year.  Where was all this concern for the budget when President Shrub and his cohorts were turning our surplus into a deficit due to tax cuts, a couple of wars and a massive prescription drug giveaway?  They’re only complaining now because it’s not their guy. 

W’s spending got us thousands of people killed, padded the bank accounts of the nation’s richest 2% and filled the coffers of the pharmaceutical industry.  All we’re getting with HCR is affordable coverage for everyone in the country and a brake on the insurance industry’s screwing us as aggressively as they have been accustomed..

“Health care will be rationed by bureaucrats.”
Health care is rationed by bureaucrats right now.  The difference is that the job of the current bureaucrats is to do everything in their power to find ways not to cover their customers.  Regardless of how effective it ends up being, the government will at least be advocating for us, and not the insurance industry profits.

“The bill went through too fast.”
Horseshit.  The issue was a campaign promise.  It’s been in front of Congress for the last year.  That is NOT too slow.  The mantra was “slow down” because that way, progress is easier to tie up with endless debate and superfluous amendments designed to torpedo the shebang.

By the way, how fast did the Republicans ram through that Terri Schiavo law?  I’ve waited on line at Burger King longer than it took for them to pass that law diving into a private family’s painful personal business.  But the Republicans are all about less government, right?

“Hey, there are sweetheart deals attached.”
Again, the hypocrisy is showing.  Every bill needs some horse-trading in order to get passed, including ones that went through the Republican-led Congress.  It’s unfortunate, but that’s what it takes to get anything done nowadays.  To bitch about that fact is to assume the American Public is too stupid to realize it.  The Republicans realize that if they’re the ones pointing the loudest fingers, no one notices the ones pointing back.

Oh, and crying about using the reconciliation process?  The Republicans did that too.  It’s the same old argument… when they use reconciliation; it’s a Constitutional right.  When their opponents do it, it a scandal foisted on the unsuspecting public.  Cry me a fuckin’ river.

“Republicans were shut out of the process.”
Um, no they weren’t.  They were in as much as they wanted to be, up until the point became obvious that no matter what was put in the bill, they were voting against it.  The Democrats made a number of concessions and incorporated some items favorable to Republicans, but it never got a single vote at any stage of passage.  That’s not a group that wants to participate in anything but sabotage.  There comes a time when one side has to wave their private parts at the other side, flip the bird and retreat to go it alone.

“It’s an affront to “Liberty” to force people to buy health insurance.”
Is it an affront to “Liberty” to force people to buy car insurance?  Of course not.  It’s a simple matter.  Without car insurance, if a driver gets in an accident, somebody else has to pay for it.  Without health insurance, if someone goes to the emergency room, someone else has to pay for it.  It’s the same thing… people take responsibility for themselves so others in society aren’t forced to pick up the tab.

Under the HCR, efforts are made to make that insurance affordable.  And don’t give me that argument about it being different because car insurance is a state requirement, not federal.  Yeah, like everyone is all inflamed about this bill because it’s the requirement is from the Fed and not the State. 

Bullshit.  Just another excuse pulled out because it sounds plausible.

Let me ask you something… How much “Liberty” was given away with the excesses of the Patriot act?  No court orders?  Unlimited wiretapping, electronic information gathering, surveillance of freakin’ library books

There are hundreds of examples of Patriot Act statutes being used for non-terrorist matters, including a convent full of nuns getting their assets frozen.   Nuns.  And people want to bitch about loss of liberty from buying their own goddamned health insurance?

That “Liberty” argument is as cracked as their bell.

The Wounded Right is just throwing shit at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.  Personally, I’m fluent in translating the Right Wing bullshit.  But as a public service, I’d like to provide this handy video guide to speaking “Republican.”

Coming soon to "Rosetta Stone"...

Note: sorry about the sizing.  I couldn't make it small enough to fit.  You can always double-click the video and watch it on You Tube.  But be sure to leave a comment first!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where the Wild Ideas Are

It started with an email…

My friend Kelly sent me an email with these pictures of a supposedly very dangerous route to a mountaintop restaurant in China.

The kicker is that if you make it all the way up, your food is free.  Right off, it sounded to me like one of those ridiculous email things that goes around, completely mis-captioned.  But still, the shots looked real enough to me.  Thus began the following email exchange…

But first, some back-story:

I used to work with Kelly and we had lunch together most every day.  Lunchtime talk usually centered on her dating and love life, which was far more interesting and bizarre than my own.  We eventually decided that her life was the basis for a great sit-com.  All we had to do was (barely) tweak the stuff that actually happened to her, or just expand on some of our lunchtime conversations.

At the moment, we have a document that’s over 6 pages, full of story ideas, running jokes, gags and what not.  Whenever something happens, we’re like, “That’s an episode!

I’ve already used one here once before… Last September I included a bit about how I had a friend that wanted Penguins season tickets, just so when the Pens players personally delivered the ticket package (as they do with some packages every year) she could lure Kris Letang into the Silence of the Lambs pit she intended to dig in her basement.  (The very last line of the post was her line and it makes me laugh every single time I think about it.)

Obviously, we’re never going to actually do anything with this “series”, although she thinks we should get it done with animation.  I think it only works with real actors, because so much of it is nothing but spoofing the television medium itself. 

One of the downsides is that from time to time, we find our jokes being used on other TV shows.  Kelly saw a show a week or two ago that featured a debate on having a specific side of the bed.  It featured a character having her alarm go off with her on the unfamiliar side and consequently clubbing her bedmate about the head trying to turn it off.

I totally thought of that 2 years ago, as part of a montage of things that could go wrong if one was stuck on their “off side” of the bed.  The last of which was the alarm going off, “Kelly” clubbing her bedmate repeatedly as the alarm continued to blare, followed by a quick cut to the bedmate sitting in the kitchen with rolled up tissue stuffed up each nostril, saying, “OK, you can have that side of the bed.”

OK, with all this in mind, Kelly having sent me this email about the mountaintop Chinese restaurant, and understanding that real Kelly as well as character “Kelly” are staunch vegetarians, we had the following email exchange:

Bluz: One quibble though… if everyone that reaches the restaurant gets free food, then who is it that gets charged?  I wanna check Snopes to see if that’s as dangerous as it looks.

(I did check… I couldn't find it on the site.)

Kelly: I’m guessing there is a way to get there that is less dangerous.  If you go that route, you pay for your meal, which they probably charge enough to cover free meals.

Bluz: Helicopter and a rope ladder?  Hang gliders?  Parachutes?

Hey, episode idea… “Kelly” hears that they serve the world’s best (insert something non-meaty) so she makes the trip.  Along the way, she keeps bumping people off that are coming the other way… We’d have to come up with some bizarre scenarios… maybe it’s just like eating potato chips…

Then when she gets to the top, they’re all out of (whatever) so they’re serving bacon-wrapped kittens or something… (omg, I’m laughing out loud at that)

Oh God… when she comes up to the place, they have a whole pen full of kittens outside, she says “Oh, isn’t that cute… they have “Welcoming Kittens”

Kelly: That’s not funny…

Bluz: Are you kidding me?  I’m on the floor here… OK, so it’s a little “dark”…

Kelly: Eating kittens IS NOT a laughing matter…

Bluz: Of course it is… everyone knows it’s dogs they eat… Eating kittens is ridiculous, which is why it works.  Maybe substitute hamsters or ferrets or something else…

Kelly: No!!  No animals… 

Bluz: It wouldn’t be funny with tofu.

Kelly: We can use cardboard or tree branches or chalk …  just no animals!!
It’s China – we can use bamboo.

Bluz: OK, what is it that you would be horrified to eat, upon getting to the top of the mountain?  I mean; that’s the point… it has to be something you’d never eat in a million years.

Kelly: Hmmm…. I’ll have to think…  Babies would be better than kittens…

Bluz: Remember, you’ve been nudging people off the cliff all day…

Kelly: I don’t like this episode…  Is this how writing teams break up?

Bluz: OK, how bout this… once “Kelly” gets to the top, sees the kittens, learns they’re about to be wrapped in bacon, she sets them all free.

Then on the way down, she sees them all jumping off the edge of the cliff, like lemmings.

Kelly: Kinda funny…

Bluz: See?  There you go! 

It would be all feel-goody… setting all the kittens free… then the very last shot, you see this curtain of CGI kittens (or even obviously stuffed animal toy kittens) raining off the cliff.  Because nothing ever goes as planned for our “Kelly”, as you know…

Kelly: I’ll have to think about it…

Bluz: Well, we could always just talk about it in the episode… kelly sees this email and wonders what they serve… the rest of the plot points come up as a conversation being had…

It’s just that the mental image of bacon-wrapped kittens is so wrong it just cracks me up.
Hey, Bacon Wrapped Kittens would be a good punk-band name…

And so it ended.  For the record, I haven’t added this idea to our “Episode Document.”  After all, I’m not completely insensitive…

Note:  No actual kittens were hurt during the creation of this bit, and that’s actually chicken under all that bacon.  Because we all know we only worry about killing the cute animals.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Brushes - Epilogue

These are some final thoughts on my series, “Brushes With the Great and Near Great,” that I’ve been posting since the beginning of March.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and please keep in mind that haven’t been putting all this down to show how great I am or to seek any kind of status.  I’ve been unbelievably lucky in getting to meet all these people, kinda like a Midwestern Forrest Gump..  My only goal is to lend a peek at some big name folk that not everyone has gotten a chance to see before.  Today, we wind it up.


I’m out of the business now and if I’m going to hang with any more celebrities, I will just have to do it like everyone else…by chance.   Or maybe fate…

I think it was a mix of the two that landed Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks at a book signing, about 3 miles from my apartment.  They were there to sign their 2000 Year Old Man book.  Well, if Mel Brooks is coming to my back yard, then I have to be there.

So there I was, the only gentile in a line that snaked from the back of this enormous store, straight out the door.  I think every Jew in Pikesville (the predominantly Jewish neighborhood I in which I live) was there to greet their heroes.  I had an outstanding time in line, just schmoozing with the folks. 
Mel smiles big for his people.

So when it was my turn to approach, I told Mel that way back when, my folks had taken the whole family to see Blazing Saddles, which made us the coolest kids on the block.  Our folks had taken us to see an R rated movie, on purpose.   Oooooooh! 

He seemed pleased. 
Signing my album.

I love how they felt they needed the arrows so I'd know which was which.

But it was strange being on the other side of the velvet ropes, being the one guided through the process, instead of being on the inside.  Coming full circle, I guess.  I figure, I’ve had my turn, anything else from here out is just gravy.  A new generation of fan is meeting their heroes now.  If their experiences turn out anything like mine, then they should have fond memories to last a lifetime. 

I just hope that they always keep in mind the cardinal rule, which is to never pass up the free meal.  And by all means, when the band invites you, get your ass in the van!

Now, here are some leftover pictures I wasn't able to stuff into the other posts…
 Roy Buchanan at Barney Googles, Cleveland.

Albert Collins, out in the crowd, also at Barney Googles.

Jeff Healey Band, Peabody's Down Under, Cleveland.  Jeff is best known from being the blind blues guitarist that played a blind blues guitarist in the Patrick Swayze film, "Roadhouse."

Who knew they let him get up and wander around?

Alannah Myles at Peabody's Down Under.  She had that big hit "Black Velvet" back in 1989.  All I can tell you is that she was totally smokin' hot.  Too bad she never had another hit.

They did a number sitting right down on their monitors, at the front lip of the stage.

Not sure what she was doing here... maybe adjusting her spurs?

Celine Dion, playing our District Manager's Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY.  She was a star then, but not yet the superstar she is now.

Candid shot of Joan Jett, working the listening party for "Up Your Alley".

My trophy from her show in Akron.

The Blackhearts' guitars, backstage at Saratoga Winners.

Joan playing a post-Orioles game at Camden Yards.  For the record, I hated the blond hairdo.

This was my Joan shrine at my 2nd Cleveland apartment.  The posters and the framed 8x10s weren't signed, everything else was.  The little white square in the middle was that first check-stub I had signed.  And I used to love love love the smoldering hotness of that poster on the left.

The Joan shrine, alongside my ZZ Top shrine and Meat Loaf shrine. (I was very big into putting up separate shrines in those days.)

My Springsteen and AC/DC shrines.

The "Ladies Corner" in my spare bedroom.

I used to collect picture-discs too.  Here, they surround a 6x6 painting of a 38 Special album cover.  These album boards used to decorate the old Peaches stores.  When they were going bankrupt, management began selling them off.  My dad gave them $50 bucks for this one in 1984 and we kept it in The Barn until we moved.  Then I schlepped it around with me before finally selling it last year.  We used to joke that there was a little smudge spot right in the "upper middle" that was an accumulation of nose-prints from my dad.

This was all the music crap I had in my first apartment in Cleveland.  The whale was a promotion for the video release of Star Trek IV... which featured humpbacks, not orcas.  (No one really gives a shit about those kinds of details, in the music industry.)  Oh, and that's my brother in the chair, who had come out to visit.  From the looks of the glass in the lower right corner, we were enjoying some gin and tonics.

This was my the store I started out in, in Toledo OH.  Like I said, it was huge.

View from the back corner, forward.  

OK, so much for the old music biz reminiscing.  I've wanted to revisit these stories since I started this site, so thank you for coming along with me.  Now, starting with the next post, I'm going to have to start actually writing from scratch again.  

You've been a great crowd... Thank you... GOODNIGHT!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brushes - Part 10

This is another installment from the musical memoir I wrote in 1998 (and have been tweaking ever since), called “Brushes with the Great and Near Great,” chronicling some of the famous folk I got to meet during my 13-year career in music retail.  Today’s story covers meeting up (repeatedly) with one of my all time idols.  And as it turns out, there’s a movie about her coming out today (in limited release, nationally on 4/9/10), one that is long overdue, if you ask me.

I only have one more story, but it spans many years.  It could have really been included any one of these chapters, because it crosses through them all.  Call it my rock and roll love story.  Call it the story of a Boy and his Queen.  Since 1981, I’ve been a tireless supporter and devoted fan of Joan Jett.  Our paths have crossed many times, each one leaving me more jazzed than the last.

I learned about Joan when I was in college radio.  I was doing my show one afternoon, when the program director came in and slapped this album down in front of me and said, “Check this out, you’ll like it.”

I looked to see this tough leather-chick on the cover.  “Hmmm.”

I flipped a turntable into ‘cue’ mode, (meaning only I would hear it) and dropped the needle onto a track that I thought sounded interesting, one called “Do Ya Want To Touch Me.”  I was greeted by a fat rush of power chords and thought, I think we’ve got something here.”

Thus began what would become many years of playing and promoting Joan Jett.  I played her on my show each week, played her in the car, at parties, for friends, etc.  It was kind of cool when she broke out later with the big hit “I Love Rock and Roll,” because I could say, “Hey, I was hip to her before.”  But in another way, it seemed like a bummer that “my personal find” was now a star for the masses.

A couple of years later, I took a trip out to Baltimore to see friends and family.  As part of the festivities, we got the use of my Dad’s company seats for an Orioles game.  I rode out with my friend Billy, one of our old Barn crowd.  Along the way, he’d asked me if I was still sweet on Joan Jett.  I, of course, was, and asked if he was still sweet on his old fave, Stevie Nicks.

When we got to our seats, about 3 rows behind the O’s dugout, Billy says, “Hey, there’s Joan Jett!

I’m thinking, “Yeah, right Bill, we talk about Joan in the car and now there she is.” 

There she was.  She was right down in front of the dugout, talking with someone on camera for Home Team Sports Network.  Then she began signing autographs for the kids down on the rail.  I went down too, but didn’t press forward.  I was content just to be within 5 feet of her. 

Later, during the 3rd inning break, they began playing Joan’s “Crimson and Clover” over the PA.  I noticed that they were showing her on the Diamond-Vision scoreboard, sitting in her seats.  Then I noticed the camera with the red light on it, pointing up at us.  I looked down our row, and there was Joan, sitting about 10 seats down.  Holy shit!

At the next inning break, I went around and asked for her autograph, on an old check stub that I had in my wallet.  (I knew enough not to bother her during the game.)  I told her how I’d been a fan for a long time and that I certainly never expected to meet her at an O’s game.  She told me that she’s always been an O’s fan and went to a lot of games.  I went back to my seat a thoroughly happy individual.  I noticed that a lot more people started coming down for autographs.  Eventually, the ushers began keeping people away, during the game.  But at every break, she signed for all comers.  This was when I began to suspect that she was quite a lady.

I was living in Cleveland and managing the Coconuts in Maple Heights, when this was confirmed.

I was sitting in my office, one day, talking on the phone to Kenny the Viking and opening mail.  As I opened an embossed envelope from CBS Records, what I saw so completely shocked me that I dropped the phone.  It was an invitation to a listening party for Joan Jett’s new album, Up Your Alley, featuring an appearance by Joan herself.  I’m pretty sure Kenny thought I’d gone berserk and I guess he’d have been right.

This was a big deal for me.  This was my first listening party where the artist was showing up, and it was not just some unknown, but a big name on a major label.  I guess CBS was looking for something big.   Joan’s follow-up to I Love Rock and Roll was called Album, cut for MCA.  It was only a moderate success, but spawned several videos for the emerging MTV.  The next was Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth, which completely disappeared from the map.  This next one for CBS was supposed to be the big comeback.

I went to the party loaded for bear.  I brought my camera, three of her albums, and a Spin Magazine, on which she was pictured on the cover.  I was taking no more chances with piddly little check stubs this time. 
I don't know who the other girl is, but they look like a pair of mismatched bookends.

Joan came in looking smoking hot in her leather coat and pants.  I waited for the initial push of schmoozers to subside, before jumping in.  They were playing the album now, and it sounded hot, with some real crunch.  When I got my chance for face-time, I told her that I couldn’t wait to get this album in the car and turn it up.  She signed my magazine, and her Bad Reputation album, and I had a picture taken with her.  I was in heaven.
A Boy and his Queen.

A little while later, I noticed that she wasn’t too busy so I went up and got another album signed.  Even later, I saw her up at the bar by herself, getting a drink, not a soul around.  I approached again, apologizing for being a pest and asked her to sign one more.

She fixed me with those enormous brown eyes and said, “It’s no trouble at all.  Without fans, who am I, you know?” 
We talked a little bit longer and then that was it.  I’d concluded the audience with my queen and found that my admiration had been well placed.  She was an honest, gracious, genuine human being that just happened to get on a stage and pump out simple, glorious, three-chord rock. 

I felt that I could now die happy, I’d just met, chatted up, and posed with the Queen of Rock and Roll.  Little did I know that I was just getting started.

In the course of managing my store, I had occasions to deal with marketing companies.  These were places that promoted and tracked sales activity for their clients.  They would call managers like myself, ask how their albums were selling, how I was reporting them, and then fill us in on touring schedules. They would then set us up with promos, posters, and tickets.  I had a terrific relationship with one company in particular.  Dori, from Image Marketing, called about once a week and we grew to become good phone friends. 

One thing you always do with these marketing companies is that if they represent someone you particularly like, you make damn sure that they know all about it.  Much to my delight, Image had been representing Joan for quite some time, so we had discussed my affinity for Joan at great length.

One afternoon, Dori called and right out of the blue, asked if I’d like to talk to Joan. 

No, but maybe if you had Yassar Arafat there you could put him on.”  Of course I wanted to talk to Joan!  Whaddya crazy?

Apparently, Joan was in the office, making phone calls to preferred accounts and Dori had me in mind immediately.  She would call back in about a half hour.  This gave me time to run around the store and leave orders to absolutely not be disturbed once that phone rings.  If the building catches fire, call the fire department, slip a note under my door, and get out.  I also had time to come up with a list of stuff to talk about.  If I was going to have her undivided attention, I wanted to have something worthwhile to talk about.

So finally, I got my call, “Dori on line one.”  Damn, what I really wanted to hear over the intercom was, “Bluz, you have Joan Jett on line one.”  Oh well, you take what you get.  Dori asked if I was ready.  I was, and then there was Joan.

We talked mostly about record biz things…when’s the next album, when will the old stuff come out on CD, that kind of thing.  We talked a little about songwriting, and how so many of her songs seem just right for what I may be feeling.  She mentioned how she always makes songs neutral, as in “you,” rather that “he” or “she,” so that anybody can relate to them.

In the end, I told her how nice it was to talk to someone you admire and find them to be a regular person and have them treat you with decency and respect.  She told me how nice it was to be talked to like a regular person.  She said she’d be in town soon and she’d look forward to seeing me backstage.  Dori would be sure to hook me up.  And that was it.  Our talk lasted about 20 minutes.  Dori was shocked.  She told me Joan didn’t talk to anyone else for anywhere near that long.  I was thrilled.

Joan’s next trip to town was in October, opening for Robert Plant at Richfield Coliseum. It so happened that it was the same night as our district Halloween party.  Choices had to be made.  Not that mine wasn’t obvious, but I opted to do both.  I started out at the party, then changed into regular clothes and went (by myself) to the show.  I met Joan in the locker room before her set and had her sign the Up Your Alley album.  We also posed for what has become my favorite shot of the two of us.  We took one, but she decided that she wasn’t looking right, so she wondered if we could take another?

 “What, and stay here with my arm around you?  I don’t think I can stand for that.”  

We took another.  I gave her a birthday card too, belatedly I knew, but I was hoping the thought would count.  I don’t think she knew what to do with it. 
"Hell, I'll stand here like this all night!"

I talked briefly with Ricky Byrd, her guitarist, and had him sign the album.  I told him how much I was into “I Hate Myself For Loving You.”  He told me that the next single was going to be “Little Liar” and it would be huge.  Well, it wasn’t huge, but not because of any shortcoming in the song.  After this conversation, I gave it some more attention, and couldn’t get over how Joanie totally kicks its ass at the end.  She’s got this wail of rage and disgust when she cries, “I believed in you!” before turning it into one of hurt and disbelief, repeating “I believed in you!”  It always gives me shivers.

Anyway, I watched their 45-minute opening act bit, then I left to return to the party.  How could some nobody like Robert Plant come close to what I’d just experienced? 

Joan’s next trip through the area brought her to the Palace Theatre in Akron.  Dori was able to hook me up with backstage passes, but I had to buy my own tickets, as the label had already done the freebie thing when she opened for Plant.  But this time, she was headlining, so it would be money well spent.  I decided to take my friend Kelly (with whom I’d seen Boston), so we hit the road together.

We waited with about 20 other people in a very small backstage area, for the band to come down before their set.  When they did, Joan saw me right away and came directly over to me. 

I know you,” she said, “I don’t remember your name, but you look familiar.”

I was thrilled.  (She knows me!)  I re-introduced myself, telling her where she remembered me from and then introduced her to Kelly.  It was cool being able to personally introduce Joan Jett to a friend of mine.  I got some more stuff signed, but never got around to getting some more pictures taken, much to my chagrin.  It just didn’t seem like the right atmosphere, with so many people in too small of an area. 

The show was killer, and gave her much more of a chance to stretch out.  She really puts on a show, expending a lot of energy.  At one point, I heard a familiar drum beat, but not from any Joan Jett song.  I leaned over to Kelly and said, “I think that’s Dirty Deeds!”

Indeed it was and was quite an unexpected pleasure.  It all made sense later that year, when Joan released The Hit List, an album of classic covers, including AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

I was in Albany the next time I saw her.  I had just started at the home office when she came to play Saratoga Winners.  I came to learn that my mentor, Vinnie, had a long and colorful past with Joan and at one point, had supposedly threatened to have her manager’s legs broken.  But in the long schmoozing tradition, all was forgotten when new business beckoned.  They were on the phone several times, prior to their arrival in town.  That Vinnie would get us in to see Joan was a given.

I took my friend Tina, another former assistant manager that I’d spun off into her own store.  We saw ourselves a great show, and then we waited around for the house to empty.  Shortly, Joan’s manager, Kenny Laguna, appeared saying that Joan wasn’t going to do a meet and greet.  Her voice was gone and she wasn’t supposed to talk.  Vinnie told us not to worry and to stay put, then he disappeared into the dark corridor.  He emerged in a few minutes, saying all was well. 

There was only Tina and myself, and a couple of other girls when Joan came out.  She was wearing a black leather jacket and ball cap, with a towel around her neck.  The poor dear could barely speak above a whisper.  As this was at least two years from when I’d last met her, and in a city hundreds of miles away, I didn’t expect that she’d remember me.  Actually, I didn’t even mention our past meetings, not seeing any positives that could come out of it.  I didn’t say much, as I didn’t want her to hurt her voice.  That she was out there at all in her condition spoke volumes.
Joan with my friend Tina.

My turn.

I never got the chance to introduce the Ex to her, though we saw two of her shows.

The first was when she played an outdoor FLY 92 Summer Jam, headlining with Debbie Harry.  I was no longer with the Company, and I was hoping to spot Vinnie lurking somewhere in the wings, but I never saw him. 

Later that winter, Joan came to Saratoga Winners again and Vinnie told me he’d be there. But during the show, I got accosted for taking pictures by a couple of no-neck bouncers.  They made me tear the film out of my camera, and almost threw me out.  Bastards! 

By the time the show was over, I was in no mood to schmooze, I just wanted out, vowing never to set foot in that dump again.  We left without even looking for Vinnie, or trying to see Joan. 

These last two failures were a disappointment, but I really can’t complain.  I’ve had a remarkable chance to get to know someone who will, when all is said and done, go down as a pioneer in women’s rock.  Joan was 16 and on the road with The Runaways, at least 5 years before female bands like the Go-Go’s had even met.  In the mid 70’s, there just weren’t girls with guitars, aside from Nancy Wilson of Heart.  The fact that she’s not yet in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a crying shame.  Many past and current female rock groups point to Joan as an inspiration and an example of how one could be a woman and play rock and roll.  

All I can tell you is that treats her fans like gold.  That, and she never, ever, stops rocking.

Note:  On Friday, 3/19/10, a movie about her first group, The Runaways, will be released.  Kristen Stewart will portray Joan and Dakota Fanning will portray band mate Cherie Curry.