Monday, March 22, 2021

Why I Should Never Be Allowed To Meet My Heroes, Sigh: Carole King & Russell Mael Edition!



CAROLE KING

In 2002, I was attending some Grammy-week music industry shindig with an open bar (why else do you think anyone was there?).  where  they hand you a goofy name-tag at the sign-in desk that you reluctantly stick to yourself once they tell you that you can't get any free drinks without it. 

After a couple complimentary Harvey Wallbangers, I turned to my left and, BOOM, there was Carole King smiling at me. My heart rate went from a resting, booze-filled 75 bpm to well over a thousand and then the dream got even weirder when she said, "I loved your version of 'I'm Into Something Good'!"

But how did she know who I was? Oh, right, the name tag.

In my head, I was screaming "I can die now!" just before the imaginary, but oh-so-believable voice of my dad interjected, "Tell her who did most of the work."

And so I did.

"You know, I've gotta give all the credit to Rob Newhouse on that one," I replied to the living legend standing before me. "He played all the instruments AND sang all of the amazing backing vocals."

"OK..." Ms. King replied..."'Thank you' would have worked, too."

And, yes, the whole room winced just like you did just now.



RUSSELL MAEL (SPARKS)

So there I was doing my usual late, late, LATE night grocery shopping at the Studio City, CA "Ralphs" supermarket when I kept noticing this attractive redhead in an ornate mini dress woman with an oddly alluring tiki-wood purse walking around with a noticeably older dude in a vertical striped shirt the type new wave musicians wear.

We crossed paths numerous times as we made our way through the aisles and I never once paid any attention to the dude.

As luck would have it, my girlfriend and I wound up in the checkout line behind this couple, at which point I could overhear them talking about music industry bullshit. That's what was so unusual about the whole thing; you could be in line with one of the top Disney brass and never know it because they never talked shop in line at a grocery store.

Suddenly, like a fucking shot, it dawns on me that I was in the 10 Items Or Less lane with fookin' Russell Mael from Sparks, easily my second-favorite vocalist of all-time. Can you say "adrenaline spike"?

What happened next was, well...typical.

Imagine, if you will, a grocery checkout lane at 3AM...disinterested checkout lady scanning items without even looking at them, THE SINGER FROM SPARKS and his girlfriend are talking quietly about who-knows-what when I catch a snippet of them talking about some new UK buzz band or something, which makes me take my first real look at the dude.

"HOLY SHIT! ARE YOU RUSSELL MAEL FROM SPARKS?!" 

Oh no, I quickly realize, I am now saying exactly what I am thinking without any delay or buffer whatsoever.

"Why, yes I am," replies Mael, extending his hand, at which point, I squeeze past my girlfriend to shake his hand and I tell him what a huge fan of his music I have been. Then I just clam up. Total silence. 

It isn't that I can't think of anything else to say, but, rather, I have said all I ever needed to, yet the silence is unbearable as Russell and his lady finish their transaction and then just stand there, expectantly, before Russell asks, honest to God..."Is that it?"

My reply: "Yep."

It is a scene I have replayed in my mind a million times. We weren't at a gig surrounded by other adoring fans, but at a completely empty grocery store, neither couple in any hurry to get anywhere. Plus, I also had a stash of Sparks CD's in my glove box. I could have peppered him with all those nagging questions I had been accumulating since 1979. but, like a fucking idiot...

"Yep."


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