No Biz Like Show Biz

It’s one of those days that I’m not sure what I want to bore you with. There’s still a bit of Holiday Hangover going on, coupled with a hint of excitement about the World Junior Hockey Championship game tonight, Canada vs. Russia. The sun is out, a winter day that doesn’t require running away (though I am accepting offers if you need a valet and are heading south).

No, me, I have it backwards. I’m aiming at Timmins next week. FR040806Not vacationing, but working, I haven’t totally lost it, despite popular opinion. There’s also a chance to visit with some family and renew old acquaintances. In a past life I was a road musician, a pocket rock god playing what we called the Arctic Circle Tour. Only in Canada can that joke fall flat, because there actually IS an Arctic Circle tour and it’s a thousand miles north of anywhere we were. Scale… man, that’s everything sometimes.

This trip has some unique challenges. First of all, I’m subbing for a country band. I haven’t played much country the last couple years so I have a pretty steep learning curve here, getting tunes together. Cheat sheets are a must, because challenge number two is: no rehearsals. Not only that, I won’t even meet the guitarist until we’re a couple hours into the trip. I’ll hit the stage without sharing a note with this configuration of the band.

Challenge #3 will be existing for the other 20 hours a day, as it always is on the road. Scouting report on the bar we’re playing is that the rooms are typical road accommodations, that is, Pretty Scuzzy. A sleeping bag of known origin will be packed. Which brings Challenge #4: Packing.

20467_1333306139444_1434755936_30927322_3215422_nThe usual foibles of a weekend trip are all in place, what to wear, how to pack it, toiletries etc. but with a couple of unique spins. First of all there may or may not be bathing facilities on the floor of rooms we will occupy. If we’re lucky there will be running water in each room. If we’re REALLY lucky, there will be hot water too. Let’s pack a hat in case Bad Hair Days are the norm.

Further complicating things is the detritus that a band needs, in this case a couple amps, a couple guitar cases, whatever drums we can cram and three of us in an ironically named Honda Fit. Suffice to say this is not the roomiest of the Honda line. At least it’s four wheels and not two. Rumour has it the guitarist has a bigger vehicle which we will switch over to on the way.

Of course the lure of the stage is enough to imbue some optimism, at least on the inward trek. On the homeward side that optimism is gone. The task is over. With soap and hot water willing we won’t smell like the elephant trailer of a departing circus. That reminds me of a joke: Avram had been with the circus for 30 years, faithfully spending his days scooping up elephant shit. Time had passed for any sane person to retire, yet still Avram followed the elephants, day in and out. His family implored him, Avram, why do you retire? Rest. You’ve had a good life, you don’t need to work.

Avram said, “What? And quit Show Biz?”

Party Doll

Off today to learn how to make an entrance, work a room and, by the sound of it, just generally be a star. I wonder how much I need to learn in this regard.

Being a fringe member of the Canadian Music Industry for most of my adult life, I have acquired all sorts of fringe behaviour. Way back in the old days, the Juno Awards weren’t quite the glamorous event they are now. In time-honoured Canadian fashion, it was essentially some guys getting together for some beers. The awards ceremony itself was kind of low key and the glamour was to be had at the after parties.

These were sometimes industry events and sometimes private parties. In those days there was always a chance you could throw a Juno Party and your buddy Doug could get Rush or April Wine to show up, because we were kind of deficient in the star trappings department in Canada.

So my little take in this, not having anything at the time in terms of product or skills marketable in the business, was a foray into the world of the after parties, ostensibly to network, but effectively the only agenda that was developed was the one that got me into playing music in the first place – that of meeting girls.

Rock-Star-BuddyWe had it down to a sweet science, me and my Rock Star Buddy. That was our private code. When we stepped out to the after parties we were Rock Star Buddies. We’d get the scoop on the various parties being held then we’d decide on the ones that were about the 75th percentile. The really ritzy ones would have too many big names, but the other end would be too desperate. In those settings we’d be either lost or ratted out as the phonies we were.

Entrances, well, ours would have been different than the ones I’m sure Kathryn will teach. See, we didn’t have invitations exactly. We’d kind of slide in. If we picked the Right Party, being spotted while making a discreet entrance was actually a good thing. People at the Right Party would have a little bit of an expectation that Somebody Famous would show. So in would walk the Rock Star Buddies, fake Ray-Bans in place. I am reasonably certain Corey Hart got the idea for his hit from us, or others like us. But probably us.

Our attire was Rock Star Shabby – decadently torn jeans in an era before everybody’s grandmother was wearing them, paired with an expensive but casual top. In my case I had a favoured sweater, as illustrated.

Now, having been noticed sneaking in, we would procure beverages then seek a well-lit corner somewhat apart from the rest of the crowd. Seems counter-intuitive to networking, doesn’t it? To make it worse, we would bend toward each other in whispered and secret conversation, oblivious to the room. If we were at the Right Party, the room was not oblivious to us. We had the vibe, we had the look. It’s just that no one could place us, quite so because we were, really, nobodies unless you happened to be in a bar in New Liskeard in April. It’s not hard to be a star in a bar in New Liskeard in April.

Soon a Cute Young Thing would wander over:

“Hi! Are you guys famous?”

We planned for this question despite the obvious, if we were famous would you have to ask? Our method of dealing with it was that the Rock Star Buddies would look at each other with surprise, each acquire a slow smirk, and in that moment one of us would tip his head slightly toward the asker. This was our method of calling ChipandDale3dibs, though we did it backwards. The head tipper would be offering dibs to the other, a sort of rock n roll Chip N’ Dale. After you, no, after you. Only on one occasion did we have a double tip, and our charade fell apart.

Once the Dibs Tip was transacted, the Tippee would then turn toward the asker and slowly remove the sunglasses and make eye contact. I liked to add a little bit of left eyebrow at this point also.

(slight chuckle) “No. No, we’re not famous.”

Conducted correctly, the effect was the same as saying, “Of course we’re famous, and aren’t you just so cute and naïve not to know this,” and the evening was off to a fine start. Usually Cute Young Thing would know someone to introduce to the Other Rock Star buddy, or we would enact the scene again during a CYT powder room visit. Only on one occasion did we need to resort to a second party to produce the desired result.

Hmm… perhaps I understand now why my career didn’t take off.

Kathryn, maybe I’m ready for this class now.

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 12:13 am  Comments Off on Party Doll  
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Have a Drink On (top of) Me

By all accounts it was a weekend of celebration. Nothing official. American Thanksgiving isn’t until Thursday. Simply, everyone I know seemed to have a party on the go, or a special event to attend.

Me, I made arrangements to visit some old friends. Not a wild party by any means. They were working around sons’ hockey schedules so a later evening soiree was prudent. No problem. I have been and remain proud of my ability to adapt.

It is my ability to recover that is now in question.

Now, this is no debauched revelry we had planned, but rather a quiet late evening dinner with conversation. As it is in many hockey households there was an early wakeup call for morning, which in itself dictates approach to a night of socializing in one of two ways. Canadian readers, bear with me here. I do have a few American and overseas readers who Don’t Understand. I state the obvious for them.

ice-hockey-7In Canada, hockey is Not Optional. One does not say, “Oh, excuse me. I was imbibing slightly past my tolerance last evening and, as a result I am feeling rather queasy of stomach this morning, therefore, as Your Goaltender, I choose not to play this morning so that I might attend to my headache and nausea. Do continue without me, knowing that I offer my best wishes to the success of today’s match.”

I’m certain people who say and do such are indeed born in Canada. They won’t survive childhood.

Likewise, a parent will balk, bitch, bemoan and whine over the ungodly hours required to provide offspring with the opportunity for ice time. They will not, however, miss the ice time. They will continue to balk, bitch, bemoan and whine with other such parents while clutching the ubiquitous Tim Hortons Cup of Warming Goodness, a talisman against the dual affronts of lack of sleep and lack of heat that such mornings require. The world view is that all Canada lives in igloos. In the case of the Hockey Parent, this is closer to truth.

So, my Gracious Hosts, being Hockey Parents, had two options. That was to go to bed at A Reasonable Hour, or to Skip Sleep Entirely. Both are equally valid approaches. Hockey Parenthood generally prefers the former while adult tournament hockey frequently engages the latter. Wine

There have been instances, on the very floorboards we trod, where once upon a time the adult males in this story were known to throw together a concoction of amaretto and tequila, light the works on fire and slurp them up through straws. Oddly, facial hair survived such an evening, though many straws did not. Last night was not such an evening, being a polite and dignified affair more in line with glasses of red wine.

Being Gracious Hosts, and aware that I was not driving (or for that matter getting up for ice time in the morning), a quiet but insistent attention was paid to my wine glass ensuring that I was not left thirsty at any point. I don’t recall having a say in the matter.

There is something about visits with old friends that aids my ability to swallow alcohol. Perhaps you’ve experienced a similar effect. At home I simply cannot drink things in similar quantity when by myself. It doesn’t taste the same, nor is it of similar effect. The goodness of feeling that comes from being surrounded by dear friends is abetted by wine and the taste of wine is abetted by the presence of friends to such a degree that I am positive that the first person to think of swallowing fermented grape juice likely was with a good buddy at the time. Likely goading them on.

This is how I came to be feeling rather less than optimal this morning. Oh, without regrets. And certain of my friends would mock the miniscule amounts of wine needed to put me in this state. A hallmark of age, perhaps, one’s condition seems to become something like a balancing act, or in the case of this morning, an unbalanced act. “Not enough water,” I think. “I’d be fine had I only drank more water.” “Tylenol,” I think. “I’d be fine if I took a couple Tylenol.” “Potatoes,” I think. “I’d be fine if I peel and dice 10 lbs. of potatoes and make home fries, eaten in one sitting slathered liberally with ketchup and Frank’s Red Hot sauce.”

Yes. Now we’re talking. That will be almost as good as a high stick upside the head.