For some reason he wanted to wear a dress.
We all met at the drummer’s apartment for a short rehearsal and to go over our set. When we were done the drummer announced he had a surprise. He went into the bathroom with his girlfriend and came out wearing a dress. A brown summer dress with white flowers. No make-up, just a dress. And he was going to wear it tonight.
Inside I was freaking out. Why did he choose the biggest gig of my life to decide to wear a dress? I have no problem with anyone wearing a dress, but this was totally out of left field. The bass player was mystified too. But we went along with it. What else could we do? We loaded our equipment into the drummer’s girlfriend’s car and brought our stuff to the Fillmore. The crew at the side gate were very friendly. They stacked our equipment onto hand trucks and took it up the elevator into the theater. The royal treatment! I’d never gotten that before.
As we walked through the darkened hall we could feel history oozing from the walls. The stage hands led us with our equipment to the front lobby and then carried it upstairs to the lounge. I’d heard Bill Graham always kept a big bucket of apples in the front lobby. I grabbed one and went upstairs.
In our excitement we got there two hours early but didn’t know it. The lounge was set up with a catered dinner to feed the main stage bands and crew. No one noticed as we set up our instruments. It was too early for the sound guy to hook up the PA so we jammed around and got comfortable. The sound guy came in and we did a quick sound check. Then we tore into our set like it was the last show we’d ever do.
This was it! I suddenly felt like a fish that had lifted its head out of a pond and was looking into a whole new world. Time stood still. We played for about an hour until the band and crew left to get ready for the show. Adam Ant flashed us the peace sign. We were suddenly by ourselves in the empty room wondering what to do. I sat down and ate my apple.
Pretty soon the guy who booked us showed up. “You’re early.”
“Sorry,” I said, “We didn’t know.”
“Why is he wearing a dress?”
“He wanted to.”
“Okay. Well, you’ll go on at 7 and play until the first act starts on the main stage. They’re on for 25 minutes and then you play until the main act starts. We’ll give you a signal when to stop.”
The booking guy left and I exhaled. That was awkward.
I remembered my last band. It took a while to get a full band together so we created a cabaret variety act and performed in a few cafes. The surprise at the first show was the lead singer’s theater friend who lip synced a Cher song in full drag. He became part of our ensemble and eventually wanted to give the band a ‘presence’ by having us wear costumes. We ended up looking like an 80s rock version of the Village People. I left a few months later.
We started playing at 7. The lounge filled up and people seemed to like us. No one told us when to stop so we accidentally kept going during the opening act. A stage hand ran in waving his arms frantically. For the second set we ended on our own as the room emptied out. Then we all stayed and watched Adam Ant do his thing. The line ‘You don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?’ rolled around in my head for days.
We had to stay until the end of the show to get paid. I went into the office and sat near the door. After a very long wait I was called into the back room where the theater manager was counting the tickets and dividing up the money. He made some light chit chat. Did I like the show? After another long wait he finally handed me a few bills. I had booked the gig without even knowing how much we were getting paid! It turns out it was fifty bucks. It seemed like a lot for about a minute. Then he shook my hand and I was back in the lobby where my band mates were waiting. How do you divide fifty bucks three ways?
To Be Continued…