I post monthly on a group blog, The Lipstick Chronicles, written by a gang of writers who are funny, irreverent, political, poignant, and who tell it like it is day after day. Last month, I wrote the following post for TLC and I’ve had a few requests to repost it here. Hope you enjoy it!
Last night I had dinner with my oldest friend, as in the friend I’ve known the longest. Barb and I had fun reminiscing, although we had to keep it to a minimum so as not to bore other family members. One memory everyone found intriguing, though, was the time Barb and I saw The Beatles. (Here’s my actual ticket stub. Check out the price! I believe those seats were somewhere in Pennsylvania. And I was all of a year old. Ha).
My family had a summer house at the Jersey Shore at the time and several of my friends spent a few days pre- and post-concert there with me, giggling and sharing secrets and wearing our black leather John Lennon caps even though it was insanely hot and humid. We came up with the idea of inviting the Beatles to the summer house. There was plenty of room if they wanted to stay over or they could just pop in for a glass of lemonade. My mother, who was so much cooler than I ever gave her credit for, wrote a nice letter to the Fab Four so that the invitation would come from a grown-up instead of five pubescent girls. Barb and I remember the actual handing off of the letter differently. I think we gave it to an usher to take backstage at the convention hall. She thinks my sister drove us to the hotel to give to a bellman. Either way, we went back to the house high from the concert and full of hopeful anticipation as we waited for a call from the boys as to when they’d be arriving, which of course they never did. Yet the imagining and yearning were so much fun. That was the start of my obsessive groupie days.
I became a concert junkie and had plenty of friends who fed my addiction with me. Most notably, I saw the Stones seven times before I was eighteen and even talked to Charlie Watts’ (the drummer, for the uninitiated) wife on the phone once. Charlie was my least favorite Stone, because I found him old (I believe he was 24 or so) and unattractive. Now I find him hot in his golden years. Seriously, the man has aged the best of any of them. Check out this picture to see what I mean. That’s Charlie on the left. No contest. But anyway, when my friends and I knew the Stones were in town (as in New York), we’d call every hotel to try to track them down. We gave up looking for a “Mr Jagger” because the hotels were on to us and always denied he was there, but we did find “Mr Watts” that one time, and when I got Shirley Watts on the phone I white-lied and told her he was my favorite. She was so gracious. I had the feeling not too many giggly young girls were after Charlie back then. Maybe I even made her day?
Then I got serious about my groupiness, and this is where it gets sort of shameful. No, I never slept with anyone famous, but I wheedled my way into getting as close as possible to my prey. Before I go any further, let me apologize publicly to anyone I ever met through nefarious means. It was the hormones and I’m sorry.
The prey in question were The Rascals.
I had a friend who was as passionate about them as I was. Marilyn wanted Dino the drummer and I wanted Felix the organist and lead singer. Marilyn and I had otherwise normal social lives with normal (well, hers was normal) boyfriends, but we had this one shared maniacal obsession. We nurtured it by going to concerts every chance we could and by hanging out in New York trying to catch a glimpse of the guys.
Here is the worst, most dishonest thing I did. Through the network of RGs (Rascal Groupies), I was told to “show up at Carnegie Hall on Saturday night.” I was with some friends who were always remarkably good-natured about humoring me, and they went with me to Carnegie Hall where the featured event turned out to be a lecture by a Yogi, Swami Satchidananda. We sat in one of those wonderful little balcony boxes and tried to figure out what we were doing there. Then we began to have Rascal sightings. We spotted Eddie Brigati taking his seat in the orchestra. Then in another area, Dino Danelli appeared. And finally–omigod–in the balcony below ours and to the left, Felix himself.
“Bye,” I told my friends.
I went down to the box where Felix was sitting and stepped right in. The box was quite full of people both sitting and standing, so I didn’t look all that out of place. I could see my friends up in the balcony and they were jumping up and down and pointing at me and marveling at my chutzpa. I kept sidling closer to Felix. Finally, I was right next to him. I leaned over to ask him something about what the Swami had just said and he responded, then offered me his seat because the man was nice and I felt like a deceitful little twit. I didn’t take his seat. I just stood there and enjoyed breathing in the same air he was breathing, all the while becoming a fan of Swami Satchidananda. The only thing I actually remember the Swami saying that night was “Constipation is caused by a lack of concentration,” but I bought his book on Integral Yoga and started standing on my head in my dorm room regularly (check out the glasses) and going into the City to hear him speak as often as I could get there from New Jersey. Of course, I was always hoping Felix would show up on the same night, which he never did. Ironically, I gained an appreciation of chanting and meditation as part of a spiritual practice that has lasted through to this day. (Check out Krishna Das for a natural high).
A couple of months after the Swami Satchidananda event, my friends and I went to a Rascals concert, which found us once again at Carnegie Hall. We worked our way to the stage from our seats at the back of the hall as soon as the concert began, which was great . . . for a while. But I have an odd phobia about large places–I can’t stand them. I’ve beaten a bunch of phobias over the years, but this one remains. (I may have been the only kid in history who had a note from her shrink to excuse her from P.E. because she couldn’t tolerate the gym ceiling. But that’s for another post.) I was right in front of the stage when I began to have the “high ceiling panic attack.” I had to get out of there. I burst through the double doors at the side of the theater and into the hallway to calm myself down. When I felt better, I headed back inside, but an usher asked to see my ticket and of course my seat was nowhere near the front, so he told me I had to go all way to the rear of the theater. I couldn’t bear to be way in the back again, so I stood in the hallway quietly, pathetically, weeping as I tried to figure out what to do.
A man approached me. He was really old (maybe even 50!) and he asked me what was wrong. His exact words: “What’s the matter, little girl?”
I began blubbering. “I was right in front of the stage,” I said, “but I couldn’t stand how high the ceiling was and I came out here and now they won’t let me in again and–“
“Hush,” he said and took my hand, opening the doors to the sacred backstage sanctum. Only then did I realize who he was: Sid Bernstein, the Rascals’ manager and the guy who’d brought the Beatles and Stones and the entire British invasion to the States. We climbed the inside steps to the stage, where Mr. Bernstein deposited me next to a couple of roadies, just a few yards from you-know-who on the organ. My friends, still in front of the stage, caught sight of me and stared in shock.
When the concert was over, I slipped unnoticed upstairs to the dressing room and finally–finally–had Felix to myself, if you didn’t count the two dozen other people hanging around him. I took this picture of him,
then gave him my camera so he could take a picture of me. I was incredibly grateful for the time I’d spent with my Swami Satchidananda book because it gave us something to chat about. I asked him for reading recommendations about Yoga and he asked me for my address so he could send me his recommendations in a letter. Be still my heart!
Afterward, I stood in front of Carnegie Hall with my friends as the limo carrying the Rascals went by. The window was down and Felix called out, “I’ll write to you!” I leaned cooly against the building, while my fellow groupies stared at me in drooling wonder.
Did he write? Actually, yes. In fuscia ink, he suggested I read the Bagavad Gita (I dutifully did so). He also asked me to send him a copy of the picture he took of me. That, of course, was the end of that, as both he–and I–could clearly see that in spite of my bravado, I was little more than a really nervous eighteen-year-old almost-virginal girl from a state college in South Jersey.
It all seems so ridiculous to me now. I look at girls screaming over rock groups today and while I remember being that obsessed, I can’t quite recapture the feeling of being that obsessed–a good thing, I think. If only I’d put that much passion into my education, I would be, well, better educated. But I’d probably have less to blog about.
So what was your obsession when you were a teenager? I know you had one. ‘Fess up!