Bizarre Show Biz Encounter 1975 (No Naming & Shaming)

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

I swear this will be the last thing I say about Robin Williams. My partner and I met a vast number of celebrities on the Robin tour, and in the case of Diana Ross and The Jackson family, they actually chose to hang with us after the show in Chicago because they didn’t want to upstage Robin’s moment. As I sat there between Diana and Michael (and I have previously posted a photo on FB to prove it), I couldn’t help but reflect on how far our calibre of celebrity encounters had come in the four years since our first one, which is the crux of today’s blog.

A little background first. The celebrity I’m going to tell about wasn’t the first one we’d met, but it was the first one that we’d met through their being at our show and whom we actually hung out with afterward and even got stoned with. In 1971, when we were only starting out, we worked at a club in San Francisco owned by a couple members of the 49’ers football team. Occasionally, one of the players would wander in, but our big gig late that year was playing a Sunday night gig for the entire team. The guys weren’t in the best of moods, having gotten their asses kicked earlier by an inferior New Orleans Saints team, so the only solution was to get rip-roaring drunk and silly. We only knew a few of them by name, so it didn’t exactly feel like we were among Hollywood A-listers. It was amusing to see jocks trying to top each other for who could get the drunkest.

In the meantime, my partner and I, on our off nights, often went to concerts by R&B acts we admired. This was a big risk, as most of the concerts were in posh clubs in the heart of the ghettos of Oakland and Berkeley. Being two of only a handful of white people in these venues, it seemed that the performers always gravitated to us after the show, albeit for only brief dialogues. Still it was amazing that an artist like B.B. King would ask US, mere 21-year-olds, if we liked the show after he had just completely torn the room apart. We wound up getting invited to a couple parties at total speakeasies that you would have thought existed in the 1930’s, except there was a greater variety of illegal activity. Apart from that, we really had only fleeting dialogue with the artists, certainly nothing that be called “hanging out,” especially since they were conspicuously absent at those parties.

At all those shows, we were connected to the celebs as fans, nothing more. Our first real internationally known celeb to be at one of our gigs was in 1974, and since he’s deceased, I can say Evel Knievel was the complete asshole you might have expected him to be. We’d been told that because he didn’t like the service at the hotel restaurant across the road from where we were playing, he left the waitress HALF of a hundred-dollar bill. That sounds about right. He did buy the whole room a round of drinks, but it meant we had to endure him coming onstage with us, lamenting how we didn’t play his request of “The Impossible Dream” because in his words “the only dream these guys know is a WET dream!” So a career in comedy was clearly beckoning.

A year later, when we were working in Lake Tahoe at a resort hotel, we would have the meeting with the celebrity whom I can’t mention by name because he’s still alive and working, but maybe there’ll be enough clues that you can guess. It began as my partner was standing near the end of the bar wearing a ridiculous looking silver fake fur, goofy sunglasses, and various monstrosities masquerading as costume jewelry. I was already onstage, singing a couple of tunes before she’d make her outrageous entrance. As she’s waiting, a man comes up to her and starts making conversation, along the lines of “Wow, I like the way you look! No one else dresses like that,” followed by the Lake Tahoe perennial, “Do you ski?”

My partner entered the stage, and this episode was forgotten for a bit as the audience was nice, but midway through the set, a familiar looking man started running toward the stage, clearly well over his limit, and being restrained by the man who’d tried to pick up on my partner. Neither looked threatening, and as I recognized the celebrity, I could tell he just wanted to announce his presence, which would have been embarrassing, as his career wasn’t going well at the time. Both were ejected immediately, and they clearly felt bad about that, as they hung around the venue until we’d finished the night’s work a couple hours later.

It was then that the celeb gave a humble apology, and it turned out the man with him was his older brother, whose apparent function was to keep him out of trouble, and wasn’t doing a very good job. The brother also apologized for his ill attempt at chatting my partner up, as both of them genuinely did enjoy the show. So we did what we probably shouldn’t have done, which was invite them back to our hotel room, along with some of the other people from the club. We’d mentioned having some cannabis, and given the chance to get stoned with a celebrity, even a fading one, we were tickled that he wanted to hang with us.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t done being a twit. Staying with us in our room was a female friend from Sacramento who was visiting for a couple days. She had very large breasts, and our star let it be known that he noticed, immediately reaching for them when a handshake was all that was expected. She recognized him, and was not impressed to say the least. He didn’t confine his flirtations to just her, but it seemed that as he made the rounds of the room, getting continually rejected, he’d gravitate back to his first target. The two stayed for about an hour, the brother taking his once-famous brother’s behavior as routine by this point, but certainly not defending it either. As they prepared to leave, he made one last ditch attempt at wooing our friend. This could be one of the worst pick-up lines ever, but it may well have worked for him once: “I bet you have a pretty pussy.” They didn’t exchange phone numbers.

Much as I’d like to give his name, I have to show a certain amount of respect, as he managed to rebound over the next few decades. I imagine he cleaned up his act, for he couldn’t realistically be alive and functioning if he hadn’t. He was a star in the 1960’s, and has parlayed that success into a voice over career that’s still going strong, even though he’s well into his 80’s. And that’s about as many clues as I’m going to give!

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