Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Y2K, You're 2K

I’m not a big crowd guy, so don’t look for me in the mob waiting for anything to drop on New Year’s Eve. It has nothing to do with safety concerns and I have no problem with anyone else going, of course, but it simply holds no appeal for me whatsoever.

After all, if I wanted to get drunk and wait around all night for one climactic minute of excitement, I’d start dating again!

We’ll be home Friday night, waiting for the armageddon that’s sure to come with the advent of Y2K. Between now and then, we’re doing our final checks on Y2K preparedness around the house. As I write this, we’re fairly sure the staircase, toaster, and driveway will still function correctly come January 1.

Please, don’t write to me insisting that this isn’t the end of the millennium and the start of the next. Believe it or not, we all know that already, and we don’t care! As comedian Wayne Cotter says, it’s the simple excitement of seeing anything roll over to triple zeroes. Who doesn’t love catching that moment when your odometer evens up?

Why not look at it as an easy two-for-one -- celebrate it this time around, and then do it all again next year? But if you absolutely insist on being a purist, then go by the Jewish calendar, which hit Y2K more than 3,700 years ago!

I love hearing about these guys who will be sitting in their houses on Friday night with a shotgun pointed at the front door in anticipation of the horrors of the Y2K bug. Now, let’s look at this hypothetical with a modicum of logic. Let’s say that the Y2K bug does knock out the electricity, the water, and all the rest. What does that have to do with the lock on your door? Is your key not Y2K compliant? Will deadbolts suddenly unlatch? Somehow I don’t think so.

Instead of loading up on ammo, we have loaded up with Chips Ahoy. No, it has nothing to do with the Millennium Bug. It’s because our five-and-a-half-year-old daughter is going to try to stay up until midnight to see the New Year arrive. That’s going to be quite a stretch for her, so we’ll have the sugar ready to pump her up if necessary.

Don’t laugh. They’re doing the same thing for Peter Jennings during his marathon millennium coverage.

To be honest, the cookies are for me. Like a couple hundred million other Americans, I’m going to make my annual “drop a few pounds” resolution for the new year. Unlike most of them, I’m not fooling myself into believing that I’ll replace Ms. Lewinsky as the new Jenny Craig spokesperson.

So why the Chips Ahoy? The fine Nabisco product will serve two purposes. One, it’ll be my Last Cookie Opportunity for awhile. Secondly, it’ll help me bulk up just a little bit more, so when I get on the scale Saturday morning to start the year, I will have artificially inflated that number on the scale. Then, a few days later when the cookies have worn off -- boom! -- I will have dropped a couple of pounds without even trying. Nice confidence builder, right? Unfortunately, I know that I’ll slip very quickly back into my usual slovenly diet backed up with exactly zero exercise, and the resolution will be lucky to last to the second page on the calendar. Then it’s pizza and ice cream time again!

Yeah, I’m the only one who lives this yearly fraud.

See you in the New Year. If I can get the door unlocked, that is. For now, I have to go make sure our shower curtain is Y2K compliant.

Sunday, December 12, 1999

Cleavage Girls Backstage With Billy Joel

I went to see Billy Joel on Friday night, the first concert I’ve attended in a long time. In all the years I’ve been going to live musical events, this was the first time I have sat close enough to notice an interesting phenomenon: The Backstage Pass Beggars. Or, more appropriately, The Cleavage Girls.

This was a group of young women with floor seats who would regularly walk up to one of the crew members near the side of the stage and ask, in their sexiest and breathiest voices, for backstage passes. Many of these women were -- how shall I put this? -- pneumatically enhanced, wearing blouses that were either very tight-fitting or very low-cut. They knew full well what they were doing.

The crew guy (they’re all male) would eye the women up and down, and then say, “Let me see what I can do.” Then he’d go off to chat with another crew member for a couple of minutes, in much the same manner as a car salesman has to “check with the manager.” Invariably, he’d come back and hand over a couple of passes for the lasses. The guys knew full well what they were doing, too.

After seeing a couple of dozen passes handed out, it occurred to me that this was another great example of The Difference Between Men And Women.

Guys in the audience would never act this way. I don’t mean that no men are Billy Joel fans -- I’ve been going to see him for almost a quarter-century -- it’s just that we have a completely different way of handling ourselves in these situations than women do.

Picture this: a male fan walks up to the stage crew at a Shania Twain concert with that same look of sexual desire that these women had and asks if he can please go backstage. He’d be busted as a stalker right then and there, right? But the guy knows that, so he never acts that way.

No, a guy is more likely to sit in the audience watching every move Shania makes while inventing his own fantasies without ever acting on them. He’s not screaming his lungs out, no matter how young he is. It’s just not in a guy’s genes to act that way.

Do you know any guy who has swooned publicly over The Go-Gos? The Bangles? The Supremes? The Spice Girls? Women and girls on the other hand, have been screaming at music idols for a couple of generations, from Sinatra to The Beatles to The Bay City Rollers to Ricky Martin. Even pre-teen girls are doing it now for The Backstreet Boys!

There’s a simple explanation: Women are much more open about vocalizing their lust in public.

Ever talk to a woman who has gone to one of those Chippendales shows? She went with friends and they all lost their voices and they know the dancers’ names and what they wore and what songs they danced to and they were loud and proud and ohmigod!!!

Now talk to a guy who has been to a strip...excuse me...gentleman’s club. The story never includes any mention of whooping and shouting. He didn’t get a sore throat (sore other parts, yes, but not throat). Maybe one drunk idiot got noisy, but all the other guys in the club hated him for it. You probably won’t even hear about that, though, since a man is reticent to share any details at all because he has them locked away in his brain for future personal fantasy memory time.

I’ve been lucky enough to go backstage at a concert on occasion because I’ve emceed so many shows and interviewed so many musicians over the years that they’ve been nice enough to invite me. Let me tell you the one word that sums up The Backstage Experience: boring!!

Here’s what happens. After the show is over, you are led to a holding room somewhere in the bowels of the arena, usually next to the visiting team’s locker room. There, you stand around with a bunch of other people who also have a huge “I’m so special” grin on their face. Meanwhile, the performers hit the showers, change clothes, have something to eat, etc., all in their dressing rooms.

After about 45 minutes have passed, the star and a couple of band members are brought into the room, usually by some record company representative who doesn’t know you well enough to introduce you by name, so you boldly do it yourself. This is it, your chance to have that in-depth conversation with a big name!

Your Big Moment goes something like this...

You: “Hey, great concert, I really enjoyed it!”
Star: “Thanks.”

This completes Your Big Moment.

The star has moved on to someone else, who is also complimenting them on the concert, plus throwing in an obscure reference that the star politely laughs at for 0.8 seconds before moving on again.

After the star and band make it around the room once, they’re out of there, leaving you and the other special people to look at each other and remark yet again on how great the concert was. Of course, the star and the band are in such a rush to finish meeting the folks in that hospitality room because they have to get back to the party room next door. That’s where the real action is going on.

You help yourself to a pretzel, two celery sticks, and a piece of sweaty cheese, wash them down with a warm beverage, and you’ve come to the end of The Backstage Experience! Please keep the pass that’s stuck to your jeans as a memento of this wonderful occasion, with the star’s compliments. Now get out.

As you exit past the Zamboni, you hear lustful screams muffled through the cinder block walls. Mission accomplished for The Cleavage Girls!

Friday, December 10, 1999

Billy Joel

In an exclusive interview, I talked with Billy Joel about why he first started playing music, what he think of music videos and movie scores, what happens when the piano man walks into a piano bar, and about musical plagiarism and songs that come to him in his sleep.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!