Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All Access...For Some (Songs 'n' The Hoods Part 9)


I once knew a guy, a Kiss fanatic and a big time autograph hound. We were friends for a short time.

Did you ever see "King Of Comedy?" You know the very first scene before the opening credits, where a bunch of people gather at the stage door entrance, waiting for the Jerry Lewis character to appear? He was the guy with the giant autograph book, offering to trade "his Barbra" (Streisand's scribble) for a spot closer to the door.

He had gone to so many Kiss shows, Paul & Gene must have felt obligated to make him a superior officer in the Kiss Army, and for years after that first run of concerts, was given carte blanche to Kiss shows all over the world. They even gave him their original costumes from their 70's television special "Kiss Meets The Phantom of The Park," among many other collectibles.

Wherever the band headlined, he would be given "All Access" passes, and then right before showtime, after a backstage schmooz-fest with the band, showing them his autograph take for the day---David Soul, Brett Sommers, Peter Tork, it kinda didn't matter---he'd sit alone in the dressing room, on a drum case, and listen to the music in the distance.  Sometimes, he'd leave as Kiss was about to take the stage. It really wasn't about the music.

Back to  "King Of Comedy."

This guy was given that bit part because he had somehow "charmed" Robert DeNiro by stalking him for weeks and getting him to sign his "Taxi Driver" poster.

From that moment on, my friend considered Robert DeNiro his friend, and he wasn't wrong. Go figure. He would make a point of finding out DeNiro's shooting schedule, if Bobby D didn't tell him first, and if it was in the New York area, he'd show up.  Once he explained to security who he was, he would get the DeNiro nod, and then be escorted to...wherever he wanted to be. DeNiro would see him, give him a huge hug and that squinty look, and before you knew it, the entire cast of whatever was being shot, would be entertained on location, with his scrapbook of recent signatures; Jose Carreras, Conan O'Brien, Ernie Banks, Elle McPherson. It kinda didn't matter.

(After "Good Fellas" was released, my friend asked DeNiro if he could not only sign his poster, but  get Paul Sorvino, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta to sign it as well. Done and done...and done.)

One afternoon, his phone rang. It was Robert DeNiro.

"Hi. I'm in town. Me and Joey (Pesci) and Harvey (Keitel) wanted to say hi to your mom. You around this weekend?"

"Maaa! Pick up the phone."

DeNiro invited himself and Joey and Harvey over to my friend's house for dinner. His mom was thrilled. Cooked a spread right out of the Corleone wedding scene. 7:PM, this particular Saturday night, the boys show up. Kisses, hugs...

"Where's your son?"

"Aahh, I don't know. Up in his room."

He descends from his second floor lair, offers the big time trio a greeting fit for a hamster, and proceeds out the front door.

"Kiss is rehearsing at Electric Lady Studios. I'm going into the city to see them."

And just like that, DeNiro, Keitel, and Pesci are left to sit with his parents, in a house on Long Island, with a table full of food, while he drove into Manhattan to watch Kiss rehearse. The "fellas" just laughed and enjoyed their lasagna.

It's been almost 20 years and I'm still not sure what bothers me more. Abandoning these three celebrity friends who made the special trip, or wanting to see a band who have been rehearsing the same 25 songs for 25 years and still haven't gotten any better? As I said earlier, it really wasn't about the music.

I was once invited by a friend who worked with Chris Isaak, to meet Isaak after a show at NYC's Beacon Theatre. This is just not my thing, so I politely replied, "Thank you, but I prefer just enjoying the concert and heading home. He's gonna be swarmed at the end of the night, anyway. He's not going to care if he meets me. This is not the time." That honest statement got me a mini-speech about attitude. (At this point, I'm a bit confused. Was it what I said or how I said it? Either way, it didn't feel like "attitude." Though I did make a mental note to buy a scrapbook and stalk Patti Lupone and Matthew Perry, just in case.)
I apologized to my gracious friend and I waited.  And waited. And waited, killing some time in the lobby by talking to Kenny Dale Johnson, Chris Isaak's drummer and a really hilarious guy. He referred to me as "Big Time," because I didn't want to spend $30 on a tour t-shirt. "C'mon, Big Time, buy a shirt so I can get a sandwich."

Finally, after 90 minutes had gone by, along with about 16 cabs, Chris Isaak appeared.

"Hey Chris," my friend howled at the side stage door, "this is my friend Sal. Has a great record store up the block, NYCD."

"Hey. How ya doin'?"

Isaak got into his Lincoln, and I'm sure, got home before me.

I wasn't suprised by this. On the contrary, this was exactly what I was trying to avoid. Yet somehow, my straightforwardness was a turn-off and my friend never let me forget what a "party-pooper" I was.

There was a running joke for years at my CD shop, which started because my staff and some customers witnessed the following:

ME (to regular customer) : "Hi. How ya doin'?"
REGULAR CUSTOMER: "What's with the attitude?"

The customer, who had been coming in once a week for years, made his way about halfway into the store, before making an about face and leaving annoyed. All I said was, "Hi. How ya doin'?" Honest.

Everyone had a good laugh, and for years, "What's with the attitude" became the stock reply for anything I may have asked.

"You guys want pizza?"

"What's with the attitude?"

(You get it.)

As one employee once boldly explained, "You just have that face."

He was let go a few weeks later. He thought it was because my partner and I had found out he was smoking cigars while being "entertained" by a female employee behind the counter after store hours. It was really because he said, "You just have the face."

I recently sold about 40 CDs and DVDs on Amazon to make some cash. One of them didn't make it to the customer. It was the $140 John Lennon box that was released last month, as opposed to one of the other 39 that ranged in price from $3-$10. (See where I'm going?)  I checked all my USPS tracking slips. I had 39 of them. (Of course!) Without any documentation to confirm delivery, I had no choice but to refund the guy.  This was mail order. He couldn't have seen "that face."

I have an unhealthy obsession with the "free pass" and how some have it and some don't. I think we all have someone in our lives, friend or rival or business partner, who gets away with everything, while we get picked out of the proverbial line-up for just about every innocuous move. Occasionally, like the mail order incident, it isn't a person that challenges us, but an event.

My friend, his quirks, and his loneliness was something Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Robert DeNiro embraced. I still don't believe he was a happy guy, even with all that attention.  Maybe that is why he gets that "free pass." I'm quite happy not having ever met any of these people, and I rarely if ever, asked for an autograph.  I do know, I am about ready for a "free pass." Even one with an expiration date will do.


soundsource said...

great one and i'll leave all my obvious somewhat snarky and sarcastic comments by the wayside. Thanks for the early Hanukah present. Can I have your autograph ? (sorry I couldn't resist)

Gene Oberto said...

The lasagna chatter:

Tommy DeVito: We hit the deer and his paw... What do you call it? The paw.
Jimmy Conway: [Speaking through a mouth full of pasta] The hoof.
Tommy DeVito: It got caught in the grill. I got to hack it off.
The Wolf: I was led to believe that if she comes home and finds us here, she'd wouldn't appreciate it none too much?

jeff kisseloff said...

Hey, I've seen Yogi Berra naked. I agree. Celebrity isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Noam Sane said...

Once all of these recollections are combined into a book, you'll be a millionaire. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Dude, no disrespect, but that one stunk...relative, specifically,to earlier entries in the Songs/Hoods series...What's the point? Is there a point? A bit of a dry spell in comparison, I suppose...I'm sure the better stuff'll come...be secure in the knowledge I'm the dissenting opinion here...at least some good news.

Sal Nunziato said...

Can't win'em all, Anon.

And you are?

steve simels said...

Well, I liked it, Sal.

As for the free pass, there's a great line in the old Spoonful song Only Pretty, What a Pity --

"Everyone -- except a baby -- answers for the face they wear."

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Steve. I like that Spoonful line.

Chris Swartout said...

What a wonderful reminiscence. Keep writing Sal. I won't make that face.

Fielding said...

i also agree these posts could make a great memoir book about music one day, they have richness and humor - my only comment, if i may, would be to maybe leave out the "shipping" type commentary out of these cool "songs from the hood" because they are less "universal", know what i mean...? it is less big picture stuff. does that make sense?
keep em' up...

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Fielding. Point taken, but keep in mind, if any of this was to be compiled for a "memoir," it wouldn't be a cut and paste job. I certainly wouldn't be addding music links, as I did in Part One, or personal photos, as I've done in a few parts, either.

Very good point, and thank you.