Living in Los Angeles, we see celebrities. We have People Magazine “stars are just like us” moments from time to time. It’s just part of the LaLa landscape and unless they are dressed outrageously or have the paparazzi following or a crowd of fans ogling, they often blend in and go about their business as usual.
Of course, the more recognizable names and faces will be noticed no matter how inconspicuous they attempt to be, especially when in a very public setting, like say, a concert venue. My personal experience has been that most are very gracious and pleasant, particularly when adoring fans just want an autograph or a photo to show their friends.
But every once in a while, you have an unfortunate encounter that leaves you feeling disappointed at best. The problem? Those impressions stay with you. If it’s an actor, you’ll never watch one of their movies with the same suspension of disbelief and if it’s a musician, you’ll never listen to their music with quite the same joy, if at all.
The first and only time I remember such a time happening to me (before last week) was when I was six or seven years old at the pool of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. (I know, what was I doing in Vegas at that age?!) I had seen David Copperfield‘s magic show the night before so when I saw him sauntering around the pool in his purple velvet robe, I asked my dad if I could go meet him. My six-year-old brain thought the guy was a real magician who did real magic and made things appear out of nowhere – I was in awe.
My dad said, “of course, go ahead and introduce yourself and tell him you saw his show and want his autograph.” That’s exactly what I did. And he refused! He basically ignored me and continued his stroll around the pool in the sweltering heat covered by his absurd robe, clearly looking for attention, just not from a kid. I never forgot it, and I’ve been relatively shy in such situations ever since.
If I put myself in their shoes, it’s got to be a strange phenomenon when you go from obscurity to a household name, when your freedom is taken away because you can’t just GO somewhere anonymously. Eyes are always on you and people always want something from you, even if it’s just a moment of your time. And to that, I sympathize. It can’t be easy. But some do it gracefully, like Taylor Swift for example, who has reportedly spent more than 12 hours signing autographs and taking photos until every last fan who wants one gets one. That’s dedication, but it’s also one of the reasons her record sales are on par with oh, the BEATLES and Michael Jackson. Without fans, you can’t sell a record, you can’t get ratings and you can’t get a blockbuster hit.
So when you come across or hear stories of a celebrity who doesn’t take the 30 seconds to speak to a fan, it’s disappointing because our natural inclination is to judge and feel slighted. This unfortunately happened to me during this past week – the first time since that day in Vegas with that magician. Yes, I’m still bitter. It was rude. And I was six.
But before I get to that…
A couple of weeks ago, the theme was music. Everyone who knows me well knows that seeing live music is one of my favorite pastimes. The genre doesn’t matter much – I love it all, so long as it’s great talent and a phenomenal performance that gets me off my feet to dance, belting out a tune as I’d only do in the shower or the car, or moves me to tears and tingles with a powerful ballad.
Friday night kicked it off with Maroon 5 at The Orpheum. The show was the best I’ve seen them, even better than last fall’s rocking Hollywood Bowl concert when Stevie Nicks made a guest appearance to sing with Adam Levine – the highlight moment of that concert for me. But on Friday, the so-called “moment” was a Reggae-Sting-like intro to “One More Night”:
The next night, it was a country thang at the Hollywood Bowl. The night opened with American Idol‘s Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, who was nothing if not humble and appreciative of the rocket ship to stardom he’s experienced in the last year since his winning the reality show title and his first recording contract.
“Thank you!” McCreery said halfway through his 30-minute set, remembering his fondness for the town that he “spent some time in” during his Idol days. “Thanks to you, I get to come out here and live my dream every night!” One thing he said he misses about LA? In-N-Out Burger. The Garner, South Carolina native released a Christmas album on October 16th.
Next up was The Band Perry, the sibling trio who got the Bowl on their feet with the powerful vocals of lead singer Kimberly Perry. Their mega hit ballad “If I Die Young” (which went quadruple platinum), was the song of the set and the one for which everyone was waiting, with seemingly all the fans in the Bowl signing along. My personal favorite of their set though was this one:
The man of the night was Brad Paisley who closed his 2012 North American tour at the Bowl. It’s a shame more country shows don’t come to Los Angeles — they typically go to Anaheim or Irvine or places that take some serious freeway time to get to. In fact, it was a DECADE ago the last time I saw a major country act in LA — Tim McGraw at Staples Center. What can I say, my heart melts for a cowboy in fitted jeans and boots and a big hat.
Paisley makes my heart melt for more than his Southern pride however. Always media-savvy and introducing contemporary twists, humor, and pop culture satire to his country lyrics, he said to the crowd — “Soon, there’ll be whole binders full of men,” making light of Mitt Romney’s now-infamous comment in the second presidential debate. “I’m Brad Paisley, and I approved this message.”
And then three quarters of the way through he did something I’d never seen an artist at the Bowl (or anywhere) do before. He went up into the nosebleeds, beyond the superseats not just as a breeze through the crowd, but to stand up there on a small stage, guitar in hand to sing “Letter to Me.”
There, he told fans in “the drinking section,” as he called it, that growing up going to concerts in West Virginia he’d never gotten any closer than they were. Melt. I’m quite certain there’s not a person there that night who didn’t feel Paisley’s heartfelt gratitude when he thanked the audience even way up to the top of the Bowl for purchasing a ticket in tough economic times for so many.
Then the moment came that we’ve come to expect of the Hollywood Bowl – the surprise guest appearance. Carrie Underwood slithered onto the stage behind Paisley to sing their popular duet “Remind Me.” The crowd went nuts. And as cameras clicked and videos filmed, mine was included. I posted a video clip of it the next day on YouTube (see below). And then a comment came in.
“It was a hologram,” a YouTube User said. As I was in my car driving to a dinner, I thought, “what a jerk!” But then…could it be true? I googled. Sitting at a red light on La Cienega, I literally shrieked out loud as one after another google result talked about how Paisley had been using a HOLOGRAM of Carrie Underwood all season long.
YouTube confirmed it – in Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, same Carrie… Joke was on us! I had no idea. It looked real, but I do remember thinking, “where’s the fan? Her hair is blowing a lot for a non-windy night.” Later I updated the YouTube description and am certain there are many at the Bowl that night who will forever believe they saw Carrie Underwood performing live with Brad Paisley. Here’s the video:
The week of music across the genres concluded with with a bluesy soulful night at The Wiltern. Joss Stone was as she always is – sexy, sultry, and sublime; a more mellow Joss than I’ve seen previously, but she can’t do wrong in my eyes. Love her. A clip:
While I love Joss and all her barefoot brilliance, I have to be honest. The opening act (who I hadn’t heard of previously) stole the show. Vintage Trouble took LA to church! It was like being transported to a gospel church in the South. During the set, lead singer Ty Taylor said, “You grow up walking by places like this and think ‘one day’… that day is TODAY!” Such phenomenal talent.
And now we get to Adam Lambert, the new Copperfield. There my friend and I were, in between sets at the Wiltern and she says, “That’s Adam Lambert,” pointing to a guy sitting two rows in front of us. “In the black hat?” I said. “Yes, wait til he turns around. You’ll see…” He did, and oh yes. Hard to miss. Jet black eye-liner looking fabulous.
I texted my friend Shannon, arguably one of Adam Lambert’s biggest fans to tell her that HER American Idol was five feet away from me. After the OMFG texts came back, I thought, “I hate HATE going up to celebs of any kind for a photo even when it’s an assignment and I’m covering a story, but for Shannon, I’ve gotta do it. She’ll freak.”
Let me back up for a moment. I like Adam Lambert’s music. I liked him on Idol. And I completely supported him after his male-on-male kiss during a performance at the American Music Awards caused media and public outrage. It was shameful that Britney and Madonna could do it and be praised and he couldn’t. He’s also one of the few successful openly gay male musical talents (Elton John and George Michael aside) and I respect him for that.
So my friend and I walked to the lobby of the theatre to get a drink. As if perfectly timed, Lambert was walking our way. “Adam,” I say, and he stopped. “I have to tell you that my dear friend Shannon is a huge fan of yours. So huge that she WAS you for Halloween last year – she was ‘SHAdam Lambert’,” I said.
“Is she a she-male?” he asked. “Haha, no, just a huge fan,” I said. “Tell her I said ‘shank you,’” he said, and then I did what I am typically too shy to do and asked if we could take a photo that I could send to her. “She’d be so excited,” I said. And then the dun, dun, dun… “I need to get these back to my seat, sorry. Come find me later.” Come find you later? Are you serious? No shank you.
Okay, so he was holding two beers. It’s not like he was being mobbed. He was alone walking through the lobby. If it was really such a big deal that he was carrying two beers, he could’ve asked me to hold one, or he could’ve asked my friend to hold one. He could’ve said, “wait here while I take these to my seats and I’ll come right back.” He could have said, “follow me to my seat so I can put these down.” Anything! Or just taken the two seconds to take a photo. So instead of me texting my friend a photo that she would have loved and treasured and make every time she hears a song of his that much more fun, she instead will remember my text — “Sorry, I tried. Here’s a shot of the back of his head.”
Might seem like a small offense to some. But it really bothered me. He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know who I know. He doesn’t know what I do. What if I was a big-time producer who wanted to do a show with him or put him into one of my films? What if I was an agent who represented a huge talent who wanted to collaborate on a record with him? What if I was the ad sales or marketing guru for Pepsi or Gucci and wanted to do an endorsement deal with him? You just never know… And in this town, that’s even more true.
“With every artist or band I worked with, I constantly reminded them that each fan is the single most important ingredient in the recipe for success. Without them, consider yourself alone in a room with an audience of none,” said a close friend of mine who happens to be a former artist/talent manager for CAA.
“Even on those days they didn’t feel like it, I told my clients to suck it up and take that photo or listen to that story of adoration or about how a song changed that fan’s life. It’s about staying in the present, being grateful and checking that ego at the door. Isn’t this American Idol 101? Success can easily come and go. And besides, you never know just who that fan may be and what they could do for you.”
Oh and by the way — after the show, who stayed to meet and greet and take photos and chat with every single fan who stopped by? Vintage Trouble. Such nice guys and such huge talent. They’re about to explode. Don’t miss an opportunity to see them live!
So the lesson here is simple. If you have any kind of notoriety and a fan (or friend of a fan) approaches you, take a moment and take the photo. Be nice. Be humble. Be appreciative. Take a cue from the likes of Scotty McCreery and Brad Paisley — without fan support, you can’t do what you do. That’s what I call Celebrity 101.
Perhaps it’s best said by Brad Paisley’s anthem for Hollywood. I’ll let the lyrics do the talking…
…while I’m still basking in a week of incredible live music in LA…