We've all been in fucked up situations where, for one reason or another, you can't say or do shit about it! You just have to live through it. Watch it unfold, so to speak. This is a fairly fresh memory of one of those situations that happened to me about 3-4 years ago. (believe me, if i could wipe my memory slate clean of this one, that woulda happened the moment i walked out that door....some shit is just unbearably unforgettable).
I have been a loyal fan of my favorite magazine, Rolling Stone, since it's infancy and it's co-founder, Jann Wenner. We kinda grew up together. Imagined myself on the "cover" as all teeny bopper rock n' rollers used to and probably still do to this day. Them not me. Still have a subscription and have most of my teenage and adult life. I have watched them grow and change with the times. One of my big regrets is dumping a huge (I mean HUGE!) box full of old RS Mags in a fit of anger while my first marriage was dissolving. OK. Point taken. Huge fan of RS and it's co-founder/editor, Jann Wenner.
So, I used to work for this very fine organization which provides high end musical talent for high end clients. Some of their clients have included major CEO's weddings, their daughter and son's weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, anniversaries and such. Anywhere from a 10 piece to an 18 piece band, nothing but some of the best players and singers in NYC. For over 8 years I was honored to be working with such an amazing group of talented folks, And the coin didn't suck. And when you're tryin' to make a living in NYC, I suppose it's a damn sight better to learn 10 songs-you'll-never-get-to-sing-but-you-have-to-learn-them-anyway-just-in-case-because-they're-on-the-list (ugh!) rather then, "would you like whip cream with that sir?" or playing for change in the subway. Which i did. Just once. Just to see what it was like, i swear!!
Anyway, the last couple of those years got a little rough with some of us having to make video audition tapes to get gigs, which, of course, led to the live audition. More and more. Yup!! Gather everyone available, learn a list of songs some spoiled brat wants to hear while dancing with his/her first divorce and if your lucky enough, you get the gig! For less money. Some of those gigs were the most nightmarish of all!! Big surprise. Imagine a wedding planner (THE most neurotic people i have ever had the displeasure of interacting with) or a random drunk coming up constantly, asking for the same goddamn song OVER AND OVER!! Or being told to turn down 100 times (I remember one particularly distasteful experience, playing Fred Weller's wedding, Peter Weller of Robocop fame's brother....the stepfather of the bride had the brilliant idea of stickin a bunch of old ladies in the front.....kept tellin us to "turn the fuck down!", as he put it.....at one point, after the 4th time, I'm literally at the mixing board trying, yet again, to "turn the fuck down" and he comes up and yells at me! "turn it down! I'm not fuckin' around here".....at that point the salad was already making more noise then we were! (to this day, if I see that guy on the street, he better pray he’s on the other side and has a running start!) BUT! I digress......and as i've said before....this. is. my. blog.
How to describe a total, living nightmare? Well, to start, I was sent, via email, a list of songs to learn and was told we were auditioning for Jann Wenner and his family. I called the bandleader right away and asked "do you mean THE Jann Wenner? Of Rolling Stone fame?" he said yes and at the time i remember thinking "not the best of circumstances in which to meet an icon, but I'll take it". Besides, the list of songs was cool and eclectic. From Dylan to Black Sabbath back to Johnny Cash. Now again, this is an audition, so you don't get paid. But you still have to do the work to land the gig.
OK, a week later at some soundstage on the Westside, I arrive early and low and behold most of the Wenner family is there as well, with Mr. Wenner walking in just a few minutes later. I actually got the courage to strike up a conversation with Jann Wenner. I told him how much I loved RS, how long I’ve been a fan and lately how much I’ve been enjoying Matt Taibbi’s hysterically insightful reporting. We were getting on rather well, if i do say so myself. This is while others in the band are showing up and I’m doin’ my best to introduce them while they’re on their way to the platform stage to set up and in walks Morrie, one of the co-owners of the company I’m there to represent (Morrie, will call him that.....some names will be changed to protect the guilty) So Morrie right away starts acting like, and honestly, this is the only way i can describe it, a Poodle who pees on the rug when company comes over. Some of you know that type of excitement. He starts barraging both Jann and his wife and the son about God knows what because i get called over to the bandstand by the band leader (a great freakin’ guitar player and still consider a friend to this day, let’s just say, he gets it!) Well, the bandleader says there has been a line up change and the girl who was gonna sing the Aretha stuff can’t make it. She’s got a real gig. I happened to really dig this gal, we really got on and she could wail, but then i got told who was replacing her at the last minute.....well....let’s just say i was less then ecstatic......
To describe this woman brings the word “diva” to mind but I’d rather not besmirch the word “diva”. She came rollin on in, bigass sunglasses (it was night time) with a huge racooney lookin coat on and was as loud as any woman I have ever heard......ever.....
Now, the one thing i do remember being told (ingrained into the head, rather) was what they DIDN’T want...no holla back (when i say boo, you say baa), no “playing to them” and if you are gonna do any Aretha Franklin, for God’s sake, just do it like Aretha....no breakdowns, nothin. It’s Jann Freakin Wenner, for Christ’s sake!! He knows the Queen of Soul personal like!!!
So all my shit goes pretty much as planned (Dylan, Cash and Van Morrison), Then comes The Duchess Of Dope’s turn....and what does she do? (face in my hands, head turning slowly, no, my God no!) She proceeds to ignore the memo and stand on the woofer in front of the stage and starts engaging the whole family in a call and response “when I say ‘re’, you say ‘spect!” Jann Wenner walks right out of the room (uh.....nice meetin' ya’, Mr. Wenner?) It retrogressed wonderfully from there.
We stumbled through whatever the rest of whatever The Carnival Queen was suppose to sing, butchered the Black Sabbath number (by that time everyone on “the audition” was so fuckin’ dumbfouned, we were lucky get through the rest of the set) The rest of the Wenner clan were very polite, apologized and explained that Jann “had a meeting to go to” hence rushing out the door the way he did.
We didn’t get the gig.
Sometimes i think (and here’s a Lanningism for ya’):
"If the world is my oyster, why is it stuck in the shell?"
( http://lanningisms.spreadshirt.com/ )
Things very rarely work out the way you think, “but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”.....(thanks Mick and Keith)
“All You Need Is Love” (thanks Beatle guys) M. Lanning 4/24/11