A cool thing about modern music celebrity culture is that you can run into music celebrities doing everyday things like buying a newspaper, or getting bags at the airport, or eating at Nando's. But because we are plebes, we don't always respond to meeting our idols in the way that we hoped or imagined. Meeting Your Idols is Easy is our monthly roundup from guests who share all the times they awkwardly encountered someone they look up to. This month we have friend of the blog, Michael Hogan.
It’s been a hard start to 2016, losing The Thin White Duke, Professor Snape, and Glen Frey. As if we lost a color from the spectrum or suddenly realized that cheese didn’t exist. There is one thing I’ve noticed, a common thread as it were, that weaves through the obligatory and well-deserved memories put forth by contemporaries of these artists, though, that has made me stand up and take notice: namely that they were exceedingly kind and generous to everyone they met. It’s with that in mind that I am looking back at my history of meeting musicians and other artists out in the wild, away from the stage. They say that you should never meet your idols. That’s probably true. But not always.
Xzibit – Baggage Claim (LAX): First things first – you’ll notice that a lot of these meetings take place in airports. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Anyways, I met Xzibit during the heyday of Pimp My Ride. His music career was by this time fading, but if you wanted a Jacuzzi, a 2000 watt sub, a PlayStation, a hotplate, 12 flat screens, and your dad’s disapproval all crammed into a newly painted neon yellow Pontiac Fiero, then Xzibit was your man. He was standing against the wall at baggage claim in LAX all by himself with headphones on and he was practically dancing. Man, whatever he was listening to must have been fierce as hell because he was into it. I approached him, told him that PMR was the best, and I asked for a picture. “YA DAWG!” was the response. It was right about that time that his bodyguard, who happened to be a guy weighing in it at approximately 400 lbs., rushed over and shooed me away. I don’t know what I expected, but “YA DAWG” is probably as good as it was going to get.
Jeff Tweedy – the Admirals Club in Chicago O’Hare: At the time I was flying a lot, to the point that I was gifted a membership to this amenity by the airline. It was a nice perk mainly for the use of the bathrooms. It was with this goal in mind that I ducked in to the club to use the men’s room on my way to catch a flight. As I was going in I practically ran over the Wilco front man. After apologizing, I literally said “Oh crap, man. Thanks for your art.” This is an unbelievably stupid way of showing appreciation that I genuinely have a great amount of admiration and respect for, but he was kind nonetheless and expressed some heartfelt thanks. Then we looked at each other for 2 seconds awkwardly because he was still drying his hands on his pants leg. A friendship was never in the cards.
Boyd Tinsley – Some Amphitheater in Cincinnati: Did you guys know that the fiddle player in Dave Mathews Band is 8 ft. tall and jacked up like a marble statue in the lobby of the Gold’s Gym headquarters? It’s a long story, but I ended up getting an invite to his meet and greet after a show in Ohio some years ago. (NOTE – I said his meet and greet. Not the rest of the band’s. Is there something to be read into this? You be the judge!) Anyways, he was perfectly nice, but did not allow pictures/gifts/or people to approach him. You sat at a table, and he came to you. Again, he was perfectly friendly and nice. But call me crazy, what does a guy who is 13 ft. tall and can lift a bus have to fear from us common, pudgy folk at his personal meet and greet? Oh, and he also might have been high.
Merle Haggard – Over the phone, through a proxy: So I didn’t technically meet him, but it’s a story worth sharing. In a different lifetime I played in a band, and one night we found ourselves being accompanied to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville by Marty Stuar. (Look him up). This was already weird, because we weren’t a country band. Or anything close to it. But when opportunity presents itself you had better take it. So Marty met us backstage at the theater, and the first thing he says upon getting out of the largest black Cadillac I have ever seen is, “well, I just got off the phone with Merle. He asked me what I was up to and I said I was meeting you boys here at the Opry. He told me to tell you ‘I don’t know who the hell they are, but tell ‘em I said Hi.” That counts, man! That totally counts!
Tone Loc– Baggage claim (LAX): This was not too long ago. We were standing next to one another at baggage claim. In my head his bag would be some swag Louie V number filled to the brim with funky cold medina and tokens of his conquests throughout the 80s. In reality it was a non-descript black duffle that probably was filled with his cologne and dirty clothes and memories of the old days and possibly some regret. But Ace Ventura was a thing that happened, and we can never take that away from him. I let this one pass, and didn’t bother him. This was the appropriate move.
Foo Fighters/Jimmy Eat World- backstage at the American Airlines Center, Dallas: I’m not going to touch this one. Whatever is in your imagination, its likely wrong.
Don Henley– On a flight to Nashville: Why the hell would I want to talk to Don Henley? Anyways, he was sitting in first class and wearing New Balance tennis shoes and a freaking ankle-length trench coat. That should tell you everything you need to know.
Chuck D– House of Blues, Chicago: On a day off in Chicago I was walking around downtown with some of my buddies and we decided to stop in to the HOB to see who was playing that night (this was before iPhones). Public Enemy was on the bill that night. The problem was that it was a late show, and we didn’t know if we could see it and still make the last train back out to the burbs in time. We stepped away from the window to talk it over and all of a sudden MOTHER SCRATCHING CHUCK D HIMSELF WALKS THROUGH THE LOBBY AND COMES RIGHT UP TO US. He was all, “what’s up fellas,” and I said “man, we are just trying to figure out if we can make it to the show tonight.” As soon as I said it, his entire demeanor changed from awesome to something else entirely. He looks me right in the eye and says “Man, I gave away all my comp tickets,” and turned around and walked away. My best guess here is that he misunderstood me telling the truth (that we didn’t know if we could attend the concert) with me asking for a handout (getting free tickets.) Would we have accepted free tickets? Absolutely. Were we asking for them? Not even. Why on God’s green earth would I ask a hip hop legend for something free 2 seconds after meeting him? Truth be told, that very same thing has no doubt happened to him a lot through his career, and he is jaded against it. I get that. But yeah, I insulted Chuck D. (postscript: We did in fact go to the show. It was awesome. And we even made our train! But Flava wasn’t there. Chuck said from stage that he was in jail.)
Martin Short– The men’s room of Trader Vics, Beverly Hills, CA: Ok. Martin Short is a stretch, but he has an album on Spotify, so I’m going to include it because the story is completely batshit insane. Trader Vic’s is a restaurant inside Beverly Hilton Hotel. If you go there now, it’s this sleek modern number with poolside seating and it is very well-lit and appropriately glamourous given its location. But what you see now is a remodel, and a drastic departure from what it used to be, which was a dim and secluded tiki bar and restaurant where the Mai Thai was allegedly invented.
On the night in question my companions and I were tucked away in one of those hidden booths, bravely forging our way through a dense number of Samoan Fogcutters (pro tip, the mai thai is good, but the Fogcutter is the drink of the truly adventurous). Normally the bar was really quiet; the perfect place for backroom Hollywood deals and shady characters, but on this night there was an unseen group of people who were making a very loud, very joyous ruckus. By the sound of it, they had been at it for some time. We wondered amongst ourselves a few times what was happening over there, but weren’t bothered by it at all. After having been there for a while I had to heed the call nature and I made my way to the men’s room along with another dude from our party.
We walked in and took our place in line for the single urinal, which was at present occupied by a small-statured gentleman. When this guy was done he turned around and gave us both the most giant grin you can imagine and says “HEY.” There he is. Martin Short in the flesh. My buddy takes his place at the Urinal after a quick double take, and I continue to hold up the wall. And I simply cannot stop watching Martin Short as he adjusts his pants and steps over to the sink. It’s here that things get weird. He quickly washes his hands, but then proceeds to carefully and methodically empty every pocket from every article of clothing he is wearing and place it in an organized way on the countertop. Wallet, cell phone, notepad, handkerchief, spare change, all of it. And while he’s doing it, he keeps turning his head back to me and grinning and sort of nodding in this really affirmative way as if to say “I’m doing this and its important and interesting and you have no idea why I’m doing it but you’re absolutely transfixed and loving this aren’t you!” And the thing is, that’s absolutely right. I was enchanted by it. At some point I guess he satisfied whatever urge he had, and he just started putting everything back into his pockets. Did he find something? Was this some bizarre OCD habit? I DON’T KNOW. He finished the ritual, actually said “see ya!” and walked out. I felt like I had been slapped.
When we made our way back to our table we were in the middle of attempting to articulate what had just happened in the bathroom, when we heard the boisterous group coming around the corner on their way to the exit. And here comes Martin again, laughing and joking with his dinner companions. Those companions were Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Tom Hanks, and Rita Wilson. And they were having the time of their life.
My guess is that Martin got back from the restroom and told them how he had just screwed with the heads of these two goobers, and they were laughing at us all the way out the door because they fundamentally existed on a plane that was, if not above, unlike anything us mere mortals would ever actually understand.
Mike Hogan is a former touring musician, a current activist, and just one evening-edition newspaper away from being a 1950's cliche dad.