Sunday, June 28, 2015

'80s CONCERT FLASHBACKS - Pt. III: KISS (1983)

'80s CONCERT
FLASHBACKS - Pt. III
KISS
(1983)
________________

Throughout this series, I've
shared several of my most
memorable concert exploits.
An excerpt from my book,
C'MON! (2012), this story
recounts one of my earliest
rock and roll misadventures.
________________

To say the least, it was quite an experience — the first time I met the members of KISS. It was late December in Lakeland, Florida, during the band's 1983 Lick it Up tour. I'd just turned 21.

After experiencing some lean years in the early 1980s, KISS was at the time enjoying some renewed popularity after recently dropping its legendary trademark make-up and costumes. Original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley now were out of the picture and both pursuing dubious solo careers. This left co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley free to finally call all of the shots. And in an attempt to compete with the new leading hard rock acts of the day, such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Scorpions, Simmons and Stanley seemingly had surmised that shtick now was out and musicianship was in. The newly revamped KISS line-up also featured guitar wiz, Vinnie Vincent and powerhouse drummer, Eric Carr.

Simply put, the Lick it Up show paled in comparison to the more spectacular-looking Creatures of the Night production that I'd also seen at the Lakeland Civic Center, just ten months earlier. The Lick it Up concert audio mix was thin and brash-sounding. Plus, the band's iconic mystique factor had been compromised. Seeing Paul Stanley wiggling and prancing in flats was less than thrilling. And quite honestly, having been stripped of his legendary kabuki-faced, blood-drooling, demon persona, Gene Simmons now was about as intimidating as Tyne Daly


I was hanging out in the hotel lounge where I was staying with my girlfriend, Trish. In fact, after a four-year, on again-off-again, high school sweetheart-type relationship, we recently had become engaged. We also both were longtime dedicated KISS freaks. I never thought I’d actually meet any members of the band, so when they came walking into the lounge after the concert, it blew my mind. I had idolized these guys for years and I planned to tell them all about it.

Eric Carr was completely unimpressed by my revelations. As he strutted to the bar with a cock-rock swagger, he fluffed his huge head of hair and informed me that I could ask him only one question and then I’d have to “go away.” And I wasn’t to ask him any “KISS stuff” either because as he told me, he was “off duty.” Granted, I probably had gotten a little over excited about meeting the guy, but in rock and roll, when you’re on tour, especially while being cool, hanging out at the hotel bar after the show, you’re never "off duty!"

Vinnie Vincent, on the other hand, was extremely cordial. He spent time happily talking to fans in the hotel lobby, posing for pictures and signing autographs. The only odd thing about Vinnie (at that time) was that he had a tight grasp on a folded pink piece of paper. At one point he accidentally dropped it on the ground. I bent over to pick it up for him and he freaked out. “I got it! I got it!” he exclaimed as he snatched it up off the floor, once again clutching it quickly to his chest. To this day I still wonder what was on that paper.

Me, Vinnie Vincent and that
mysterious pink piece of paper.
Then in walked Gene Simmons. To say he possesses a powerful presence is an understatement. Even without his infamous seven-inch dragon boots he still had to practically duck to get through the doorway as he entered the lounge.

At the time, I was playing drums in a promising up-and-coming pop / rock band called Trixx. However, my people skills were lacking and I had limited experience being around rock stars. As a result, I was taken aback when Simmons completely ignored me and took up immediately with my blond 19-year-old fiancée. He sat Trish on his lap and began running his hand up under her black leather mini skirt while making various sexually explicit comments. Ten minutes earlier I didn’t think that I’d ever be fortunate enough to meet Gene Simmons. Now he literally was seducing my chick in front of the entire bar.

Not willing to accept this humiliation for another second, I thought I’d get my hero’s attention by impressing him with my incredible wit. I worked my way right up next to the cozy couple and delivered what I thought was a delightful and hilarious comment about Simmons’ former girlfriend, Cher. I now realize that it was a stupid thing to say, but I was young and naïve and I had to make my presence known. Apparently I was the only one in the room who found any humor in my comment. Like right out of a classic western movie, the entire bar seemed to go silent as the crowd around us backed up. I think the lounge pianist in the corner even stopped playing. With one hand still under Trish’s skirt, Simmons made a fist with the other and shook it in my face. “I haven’t had to use this in a very long time,” he warned me. “Don’t make me use it now!”

Gene Simmons weighing his options 
bag my chick, kick my ass, or both.
I couldn’t believe it. I finally was face to face with “the Demon,” but instead of being wooed by my endearing charm, he wanted to knock me out! Simmons then looked at Trish, who still was sitting on his lap, and asked, “Are you with this guy?” And just when it seemed the situation couldn’t possibly get more embarrassing, she replied, “No. I’ve never seen him before in my life.” DOH! I finally managed to pry Trish off Simmons’ lap, and with my tail between my legs, I led her back to our room quietly. 

In sum, my first up-close-and-personal KISS experience certainly made for one "crazy, crazy night." 

BTW, Trish and I were married a year and a half later, on Ace Frehley's birthday — April 27, 1985. Our son was born in October 1993. We divorced in 1998.

-Christopher Long
(June 2015)

_______________

Check out my entire
'80s Concert Flashbacks
series...

________________

Find ALL of my
KISS-related features
HERE
________________



Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

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Friday, June 26, 2015

'80s CONCERT FLASHBACKS - Pt. II: Debbie Gibson (1989)

'80s CONCERT
FLASHBACKS - Pt. II
Debbie Gibson
(1989)
____________________

When it comes to live concerts,
the real story rarely plays out
onstage. And throughout this
series, I'll be sharing several
of my most memorable personal
experiences and mishaps. An
excerpt from my 2014 book,
Shout it Out Loud, this story
took place at the tail end of the
glorious decade of decadence.
___________________

Up against the wall! DO IT NOW! 

This wasn’t the first time that I’d found myself, spread eagle, and being patted-down by “the man.” But this wasn’t a DUI interrogation. It wasn’t an airport security checkpoint. And it wasn’t a drug deal gone bad. It was a Debbie Gibson concert.

I'd just turned 27 in December 1989, and reigning pop princess Debbie Gibson was hot as a pistol. In less than three years, the 19-year-old singer / songwriter from Brooklyn, New York had racked up two consecutive platinum-selling Top 10 albums and an impressive string of eight Top 40 singles, including such hits as “Only in My Dreams,” “Shake Your Love” and “Lost in Your Eyes.” Her high-energy music was as fresh and contagious as her youthful “girl-next-door” persona. Simply put, Debbie Gibson’s songs and oft played MTV videos made me happy. The Gibson brand also had the same affect on my (then) 24-year-old brother, Greg. And when we heard that Deb was coming to Orlando on her Electric Youth world tour, we were the first in line for tickets front row, center stage. Psyched, indeed! However, very few others at the concert that night would be quite as enthusiastic about our presence. 

In recent years, I've either sold off or thrown out
much of my rock and roll "collectible" crap. But
I just can't part with my Debbie Gibson memorabilia. 
As we navigated through the sea of 10,000 eight-year-old girls and their soccer moms while en route from the parking garage to the entrance of the Orlando Arena, I quickly noticed that (next to my brother) I was the tallest person at the show a first for me. One by one, everybody was being ushered into the venue, posthaste everyone that is, except yours truly. I found myself being pulled out of the line and “encouraged” to “spread ‘em” just as I was approaching the turnstile. Perhaps it was my Motörhead T-shirt that first raised suspicions. Maybe it was my near waist-length hair, piercings or backwards ball cap that made me stand out from the crowd. Or maybe it was the undeniable fact that I clearly wasn’t a parent, and that I was a good 15-20 years older than the "typical" Debbie Gibson fan. But for whatever reason, I’d been flagged as a “suspicious.” My passion and intentions were as genuine as anyone’s in attendance, yet I was perceived as being “different" even dangerous. Consequently, there I stood, being nearly strip-searched as everybody else was allowed to enter the coliseum without even as much as a second look from the concert security force. Even my brother was waved right in which was particularly disturbing considering that he was the one carrying the gun. It’s a long story. However, I was finally "cleared," and granted admittance into the venue, just moments prior to showtime.

“Hey, c’mere!” the rather intense-looking, beefy brute wearing the tight-fitting “Event Security” T-shirt instructed me and Greg as we made our way back to our seats following the opening act with our super-sized sodas, enormous pretzels and armloads of just-purchased Debbie Gibson merchandise. “You guys are being watched by every member of our team tonight,” he warned. “One wrong move, and you two clowns are outta here! Get it?” Wow, this guy was serious. The fact was, we wouldn’t have dreamed of being disruptive. But we were perceived as “suspicious,” and it was a distinction for which we’d continue to pay dearly. 

This Electric Youth tour book remains the
crown jewel of my Debbie Gibson collection.
“Why are you here?” the less than friendly mom sitting next to me inquired, just before the night’s headliner took the stage. “Because I love Deb,” I replied gleefully. “Oh really?” she sneered. “And why do you ‘love Deb?’” Gee whiz lady lighten up! “Because she’s a musical genius the ‘John Lennon’ of my generation,” I fired back. That one finally shut her down. Houselights drop it’s show time!

Debbie Gibson never once came directly center stage at any time during the concert that night. I’m not suggesting that she’d been tipped off to our presence, however, I will say that the security guards who were positioned behind the barricade across the front of the stage kept their flashlights shined on me and Greg throughout the entire show. Awkward, to say the least. But that mattered little to us, as Debbie Gibson's high-energy performance and state-of-the-art production made for one of the single greatest and most thrilling concert experiences of my life — second only (maybe) to the first time I saw the New York Dolls.

-Christopher Long
(June 2015)
_________________

Check out my entire
'80s Concert Flashbacks
series...
  
__________________



Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

- SUPERSTAR -
(Coming April 7, 2019)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

'80s CONCERT FLASHBACKS - Pt. I: Van Halen (1980)

'80s CONCERT
FLASHBACKS - Pt. I
Van Halen
(1980)
________________

When it comes to live concerts,
the real story rarely plays out
onstage. And throughout this
series, I'll be sharing several of
my most memorable personal
experiences and mishaps. An
excerpt from my 2012 book,
C'MON!, this kick-off story
took place way back in 1980. 
________________

In June 1979, I brokered a backroom-type deal with my mom in order for me to finally attend a KISS concert. I agreed that after seeing KISS, I’d never again ask to go to another rock show. This was an easy sell for my mom, as I would have agreed to hack off my right arm in those days if that’s what it took to see my kabuki-faced heroes live onstage. And I had no regrets regarding our arrangement  until the next summer, when I learned Van Halen's Women and Children First world tour was coming to town.

By 1980, "Junior" wasn't the only
one whose grades were in the toilet!
In the summer of 1980, the ONLY band that could rival KISS in my world was Van Halen  the REAL Van Halen with “Diamond” David Lee Roth leading the charge in all of his shirtless, skin-tight spandex glory! Fortunately, when the Van Halen concert date was announced, enough time had passed since my KISS arrangement that my mom’s memory had become a bit foggy. As a result, she gave into my plea to see Van Halen more easily than I expected.

For reasons that now escape me, the concert originally scheduled for August didn't actually take place until November. I was beside myself with anticipation and nothing was going to deter me from experiencing the (latest) greatest night of my life. Nothing, that is, except for my own teenage stupidity.  

The ORIGINAL Van Halen - LIVE - for... $8.50!
(Ah, the "golden age" of rock and roll.)
Upon entering the famed Lakeland Civic Center that night, I recognized a girl I knew from school, who was sitting near the front of the stage. Jeanie was incredibly attractive and I’d had a crush on her for some time. She was not only beautiful, she was also a cool rocker chick. This rather alluring combination put her completely out of my league, and I knew it. However, that didn’t stop me from at least trying to make a connection. Jeanie seemed to attend every major rock show that came through Central Florida and I hung on her every related recommendation and observation. When Jeanie told me that REO Speedwagon was one of her favorite bands, they instantly had to become one of my favorites as well. When she strongly suggested that I check out The Pat Travers Band, I immediately bought their Heat in the Street album. Suffice it to say, my heart skipped a beat (or two) when I noticed her motioning for me and my buddy Doug to come over and sit with her at the Van Halen concert.

Eager to impress this rock and roll princess with my incredible coolness, I thought nothing of taking several hits off the Rasta-size joint that she passed my way, just minutes prior to the opening act, Talas, taking the stage. “Wow,” she confessed with total surprise, “I had no idea you were so cool!” “Yeah, well there’s a lot you don’t know about me,” I replied cockily  trying desperately to not drool on the end of her marijuana cigarette.

DAVE AND EDDIE
(Circa 1980)
As the house lights went down and the stage lights went up, my mind began to swirl and I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of dizziness. By the time Talas was into their first chorus, I noticed the thunderous sound of the band becoming a jumbled wall of mush in my head and the bright onstage colors began to merge into one huge, crazy kaleidoscope-like image. Quickly, I lost the power of speech. Then I went blind. Then I went deaf. Then I passed out. Fortunately, Doug caught me before I hit the concrete floor and he literally carried me through the hot, steamy sea of people and up two flights of stairs to the safety of the arena’s concession stand area. As the cold blast of air conditioning hit my face and I took a mighty gulp of the icy soda that Doug had procured for me, I immediately snapped out of my drug-induced stupor. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself together in time for Doug and I to make it back to our seats, just as Van Halen was taking the stage.  

Bassist / vocalist Michael Anthony (L) NEVER
"forgot the f-ing words" and he'll always be the
KEY component of the authentic Van Halen sound.
Van Halen proved to be simply spectacular that night — amps and ramps, lights and tights — a massive mega-watt sight and sound assault. For an impressionable teenager who worshiped the rock idols of the day with unbridled passion, the experience of seeing Eddie Van Halen, shredding in the flesh and “Diamond” Dave, dancin' and prancin' in his prime brought me to the point of a near epileptic seizure. Little did I realize at the time, Dave would always, "forget the f-ing words."

I don’t know of anyone who has ever regretted making smart choices. And on this night, I'd certainly not made a smart choice. Had I blown my sacred Van Halen experience, especially due to my moronic drug use, I would have regretted it for years to come. Yet surprisingly, it took several more drug-related concert mishaps before I finally “got” what should have been a crystal clear message the first time. As a very wise man once stated, “Why do you think they call it ‘dope?'”

-Christopher Long
(June 2015)
_______________

Check out my entire
'80s Concert Flashbacks
series...

________________



Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

- SUPERSTAR -
(Coming April 7, 2019)

Friday, June 19, 2015

TOP 10 REASONS AL ROKER IS THE MIGHTIEST MAN ON TELEVISION!

TOP 10 REASONS
AL ROKER IS THE
MIGHTIEST MAN
ON TELEVISION!
_________________________

He's undeniably a charismatic
component of our current pop
culture. But is Al Roker really
the "mightiest man" on TV?
_________________________

I'm not a particularly big television fan. In fact, with exception of maybe a couple of clever sitcoms, I typically only tune in news programs — particularly morning news programs. During a recent edition of The Today Show, I caught a shot of an enthusiastic fan standing outside the show's NYC studio, holding a placard that read — "I just traveled 1,400 miles to see Al Roker." Hmm. This got me thinking. After nearly 20 years on TODAY, Al Roker is more than an experienced meteorologist / TV personality / actor / author he is, for many Americans, a family member. Heck, I've personally woken up with Roker more mornings than I did with my ex-wife — and probably under better circumstances. Then it came crashing to me like a bolt of lightening. Hold the phone! Stop the presses! Call StarKist! Given his unmatched professionalism, his unique ability to connect with viewers, his vast world experiences, his engaging personal perspectives and his heartfelt philanthropy — AL ROKER IS THE MIGHTIEST MAN ON TELEVISION!

Here's why...

10
He's a humanitarian
Among other charities, Roker is a longtime
supporter of Ronald McDonald House.

Al Roker at the Iowa Homeless Youth Center.
_________________________

9
He's brave
Risking his own life for the
sake of his loyal audience,
Roker reported LIVE from
inside Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Roker, risking it all in 2005.
_________________________

8
He's connected
Roker is not only a frequent VIP
at Hollywood's glitziest galas,
he's also friends with the president
AND Kermit. Plus, his cousin is
musician / actor, Lenny Kravitz!

It's not what you know, it's who ya know!
_________________________

7
He's a fashionista
Roker's fabulous fashion sensibility is
second only to (maybe) Adam Lambert.

Go ahead and give yourself TWO
thumbs-up on this one, Al!.
_________________________

6
He's a bona fide superstar
Roker has appeared on episodes of Sesame
Street AND The Simpsons. He also reportedly
holds the record for most appearances

Only the "mightiest" make it on The Simpsons!
_________________________

5
He possesses true
honesty and integrity
I used to work for a famous
rock star who once told me,
"All we have in life is our reputation."
To me, Roker's rep is impeccable.

Al Roker - the most honest man in America?
Probably.
_________________________

4
He's invincible
Like Superman, Al Roker is
seemingly invincible. He's endured
gastric bypass surgery, a knee
replacement and a back operation,
yet nothing can stop him 
except for maybe an expired jar of

AL ROKER:
The modern-day "Man of Steel!"
_________________________

3
He's "man candy!"
Roker is SO hot, he's
almost too steamy for TV.

'Nuff said!
_________________________

2
Chicks dig him
C'mon gals, you all know it's true!

As they say, "two's company."
But for Al Roker, "three's a party!"
_________________________

1
He's a straight shooter
Roker has zero patience or tolerance
for bullies and fools — even when
they're current pop culture darlings.
And he created the single most
compelling moment in American
television history in February 2015,
when he called out rap person
Kanye West for being a disruptive 
punk during Beck's acceptance at
the Grammy Awards ceremony.
Go ahead and "preach it," Al!

"Why take away someone
else's moment? Are you
(Kanye) that egotistical or
that needy that you have
to do something like that?
Respect other people.
Shut up, sit down and stop
it. Just shut up and stop it!"
-Al Roker

Al Roker for President - 2016!
_________________________

In sum, I love me some Al Roker. He IS the mightiest man on television. And in my world, he's an American treasure. Now, here's what's happening in your neck of the woods...

-Christopher Long
(June 2015)



_________________________


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