Pages of my life…

Archive for June 2010

At times life may surprise us…and take our breath away.  Someone we meet will touch us…in an unexpected way.  Suddenly we view life…in a light unseen before.  The chance meeting of a lifetime …is now knocking on our door.  Around the corner they both came…one single moment in time…the warmest of smiles… inquisitive eyes…his mirror reflection… simply perfection…an image indelibly fine.  The vision in her mind of this tender loving soul…inspired the very best in her…shedding shyness and self control.  Suddenly she found herself…flying high above the clouds… feeling free and unencumbered…doing things her heart had dreamed about.  Friendships…there are many…whose roots can now be traced…to a charming handsome man…and the sorrow he erased.  As time went on their friendship…took another turn…feelings deep within her soul… began to make her yearn.  In another place in time …her body would softly stir…with images dancing in the dark…touching every part of her.  Their bodies bare and wanting… appeared before her eyes…a hunger reached from deep within…the sound of audible sighs.  The hardness of his body…how sweet his lips might taste…fingers tracing every inch…the look upon his face… breathless passionate images…her mind could not erase.  Half a world away…smoldering thoughts of him… invisible touch…remain as such…buried deep inside her skin. 

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A long time ago…I walked into a store to do a bit of shopping and walked out as a reluctant new employee.  The name on the building might as well have been written in letters that stretched to the sky…as even whispering the name Bill Graham within the confines of the bay area…instantly resulted in idol worship.  Bill’s grip on the entertainment industry in northern California was a equivalent to a fortress…big and strong.  Working for such an amazing gentleman was a dream of many… young and old.  He ruled his businesses with the tenacity of an alley cat …hungry for food …and the word "no" simply was not in his vocabulary.  The motley crew he gathered around him were a very talented bunch…with inspired roots from which many a mogul have grown.  The handful in attendance at our mandatory Winterland meetings felt as though we had torn a page from time.  When Bill spoke…it seriously stood still.  I was naive and young enough not to know how to be intimidated by the enormity of presence he commanded.  My hand and arm were raised with suggestions and reports on progress shared as though he were an old friend and not the ruling head of an empire.  Del and Dave Furano were an integral part of the management team…superior players whose level of expertise and business acumen would become the good fortune of the folks at Sony.  Last I knew…Del was the CEO of the Sony Signature line…and his brother Dave was in the upper eschalon of mega entertainment contracts as well.  Not long ago I encountered a brochure or legal agreement of sorts with names from the past.  To fully comprehend …you would require a massive amount of information about my past…which would explain my trepidation to partake again in any part of the rock and roll industry…and all that entails.  Bill had a store at 333 Columbus in San Francisco.  It was down the road from a great Tower record location and in a good spot for selling t-shirts …posters and displaying memorabilia.  The store was also a Bass ticket outlet…an ideal spot for the masses to gather in anticipation of any major concert announcement.  At some point in time it was decided that an additional outlet would be a good vantage from which to fill the Oakland Coliseum and venues across the east bay.  And so…a few days before I walked in to shop…a store was born.  Ray Ward was the general manager of the Oakland Coliseum at that time…a good family man with diversified investments of his own.  Ray and his family were a joy to know and work with over the years.  The store and all it meant to the area…should have been a serious win-win scenario.  Within a few days of my becoming employed…some personnel changes ensued… and in a blink of an eye…I found myself unofficially doing everything.  I created displays…sold merchandise…did the books… and the banking and put together the coolest Christmas window display I have ever seen… with a tree made out of rock logo t-shirts and a giant oil painting of Paul McCartney.  When the dust cleared…I became part of the infamous management team.  I owned several other businesses at the same time…one only a block away…so it was convenient…and I knew plenty about every aspect of life around the entertainment world.  When Paul McCartney and Wings tickets went on sale…I bought a thousand (ditto for the Rolling Stones)…to assist with radio station contests and help with promotional events.  I bought a block of forty tickets to see Elvis Presley and was given second row seats to the show at the Cow Palace…which I promptly gave away to a young fan with a new camera.  I had never been interested in seeing Elvis…knew he was incredibly talented…but was perhaps turned off by the masses of women acting like idiots everywhere he went.  As it turned out…I literally melted into my seat at his concert the next evening…mesmerized by a talent both rich and velvety smooth.  He died a few short months later…leaving me saddened by my own shortsightedness.   When you are part of a rock and roll giant’s organization…chances to enjoy incredible shows are many…and there is a certain expectation to make an appearance more often than not.  Keeping in mind that most people would have laid at Bill’s feet for a chance to work for him…I tried to balance appreciation for the opportunities and duties that called me elsewhere.  I enjoyed my brief friendship with Susan from the Winterland office before she left to join Journey on tour…if I remember correctly.  It is with fond memories of the bay area…that I look back on faces…like a young Phil Collins (one of the sweetest people you could have ever had the pleasure to meet)  Boz Scaggs (a Stanford concert during the "bump" craze…landing me in someone’s lap)…Elvin Bishop (a Keystone Berkeley show where my car got parked in by dozens of bikes…and the Hell’s Angels were kind enough to block off the street and move the bikes so I could leave)…Tom Hanks (think of a little cottage style home with a view on top of a rounded hill…an idyllic and dreamy life before Hollywood)…and countless other memories of now superstars…remembering when they first started out.   The Day on the Green concerts were wonderful…with many backstage amenities …Frampton’s drink fountain…and with every venue…more special requests to fulfill.  I never worked any of the concerts…with the exception of one.  A few of us were hand picked to help with our Thanksgiving dinner …which was turned into a black tie affair.  If the image of formal wear…tuxes… opera gloves and elegance with every turn of the head is not enough…one need only consider the entertainment roster that read like a who’s who in the industry.  The creamy full length gloves I adored were a perfect compliment to the jeweled gold brocade dress whose presence in my closet for many years was a reminder of this tasteful and decadent evening.  A movie set was brought in and the concert with subsequent dancing was captured on film and made into a movie.  It was billed as The Last Waltz…but in reality it was a waltz to remember for all times.  My young daughter fell asleep after midnight…not wanting to join the rock star kids in the incredible back stage setting that had been provided for them.  She suddenly rose from her chair…sound asleep until Bob Dylan took the stage…when she began clapping and swaying to the music.  Everyone around us laughed.   You never quite knew what to expect next with such a fun and loving bunch of people to work with and enjoy.  The sight of Bill’s Rolls Royce sent people scrambling…but he had a sad and funny side too.  He was orphaned in the worst possible European scenario at a place in time that had to have been sheer terror.  He was eventually was rescued by a relief agency and ended up washing dishes in New York City.  His is one of many personal stories I have heard firsthand…documenting the often unknown struggle from poverty to privilege.  Our Christmas party was held at Bimbo’s 66 that year.  For every table of six people…a waiter stood by to anticipate your every desire… filling the wine and keeping the spirits flowing.  Dinner was beyond any measure of my imagination…and for those wishing to indulge a bit of  spirit…Santa Claus was at the door with a basket of tiny envelopes containing freshly rolled holiday cheer.   Bill was adamantly opposed to any form of drug use…and provided ample medical resources at each concert.  But Santa…well…he obviously was in a mischievous mood that year.  Santana and Tower of Power played for our little Christmas party…perhaps as much as twenty feet from our tables.  I got dragged into going to Winterland with a co-worker to see a Heart concert.  True to her daredevil personality…she insisted we climb to the sky and beyond on tiny metal ladders whose ascent could have readily meant a fall to our death.  Once we reached the little box in the lighting area in which to seat…I envisioned myself staying there until the fire department came to rescue me.  That was the first of many days when I realized that at the ripe old age of twenty six…I was a youngster no more.   I could share countless stories of artists whose meager beginnings involved selling a few tickets here and there…or asking if we could hand out their bumper stickers for free (hey Tom Petty…I think that worked out pretty well).  I could share pictures of memorabilia that would make a toughened adult drool… but I will save those for another place in time.  Bill died in a helicopter crash some years ago…and my Mom was kind enough to save the newspaper coverage of the event for me…as I was out of the country at the time.  His courage shown in the tiresome climb… rising from poverty and obscurity to the top link of the rock and roll chain…served as an inspiration to us all.   


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