Our destination was The Newport Syndicate in Newport, Kentucky for a concert by my beloved David Cassidy. I'm known for a slight obsession with the 1970s and David Cassidy in particular and I've redone my family room into a hideously beautiful retro heaven. (Or, as Uncle Chester puts it, "You had a gorgeous family room and you turned it into this.")The crown jewel in my family room is my autographed photo of David Cassidy, which sits prominently on top of my entertainment center next to two photos of my children and a fortune telling smiley face (think Magic 8 Ball with only positive predictions).
When I jumped on the computer months ago to order the tickets (the day -- and minute -- they went on sale) I was actually ambivalent. I knew from searching the website that this place was set up like the Golden Globes -- stage up front and numerous round tables scattered about the room. I'm antisocial and introverted and mildly misanthropic by nature, so the thought of having to sit with six aggravating strangers for dinner before the concert made me question buying tickets at all. I had been to two other Cassidy concerts, both at Indiana casinos, and was both astonished and repulsed by the behavior of his more rabid fans. Stuff you might expect from a 12 year old at a Justin Bieber concert is just embarrassing when done by a 54 year old plus size woman. (It's a strange phenomenon that a good 85% of his fans are plus sized and make Uncle Chester and me look almost petite by comparison. Chester has labeled their mad rush to the stage "The Porcine Parade.") I finally made a deal with myself that autumn morning when ticket sales began. If I could get a seat at one of the tables right in front of the stage I'd go; if I couldn't, I'd skip the concert altogether. To my amazement, I got tickets just left of center, right in front of the stage.
After spending $60 a ticket I spent most of the week leading up to the Friday concert biting my nails after six inches of snow hit the Tri-State area and left behind Arctic cold and icy roads. With school canceled on both Thursday and Friday I wondered if we'd get there at all. Luckily the god of Former Teen Idols was raining blessings on us and the roads were just good enough to get us there by 6:00. I would like to know who the *%*( is in charge of the bridge going over into Kentucky, which was ice covered and particularly slippery on the curving exit. A pox upon you!
The Newport Syndicate itself is pretty inside and we were shown to our seats which turned out to be the two right smack in front of stage left. When I turned my chair for the show I could literally put my foot on the stage without stretching. One woman was already seated and quickly asked how many times we'd been to his concerts. When I said twice she chuckled and called us "virgins" and told us she had been 2000 times starting in 1971. She was from Indiana, near Terre Haute, and when we asked about her traveling here in the snow she said she drove right through it at 30 miles an hour. Shortly thereafter she pulled out a portfolio filled with every photo she'd ever had taken with David Cassidy, every photo she had ever taken of him, and a silk scarf a friend in Germany had made her with his photos screen printed along its length. When she turned her attention to the others at our table Chester snarled at me, "Who the hell brings all that sh*t to a concert?"
Her behavior was mild, though, compared to another fan whom we quickly named "Crazy," for obvious reasons. When we first reached our table and were draping our coats over the chairs, a woman I guessed to be in her late 40s with long graying hair, glasses, huge gaps in her teeth, and a long Beatles t-shirt tried to get by my sister to the stage by shoving her...twice. Chester, not known for her easy-going disposition, snapped her head around with a glare and the woman quickly said, "Excuse me, honey." Immediately the head of security appeared and shooed her away from the stage, probably having seen the shove she gave to my sibling. It's not like there was anything to see. The show hadn't started, none of Cassidy's personal belongings were sitting there ripe for pilfering, and there were only about a dozen people in the entire room, so why the hell did she feel the need to push her way there? Unfortunately the antics of Crazy would be a recurring theme throughout the evening.
After a buffet dinner and a drink, we settled in for a 45 minute wait until the concert started. Chester, who has had recurring problems with kidney stones for the last couple years, decided to spend this week in agony as one made its way through her body and sat planning her escape route in case the thing decided to pass right in the middle of "Come On, Get Happy." She quickly realized that our seats were heavenly for an obsessive fan but not conducive to making an exit without being noticed by the main attraction. She finally said, "To hell with it. If I need to rush for the bathroom I'm gonna crawl under the tables."
The show finally began, 10 minutes late, and Mr. Cassidy emerged from the curtain and was literally no more than three feet away from me the entire evening. Chester had made countless jokes about being able to see signs of his plastic surgery and Botox with seats that close, but later admitted that she didn't think he had had work done. She also made some crack about him looking like a well preserved little old man, but I choose to ignore that.
As soon as David hit the microphone center stage, Crazy, seated at the center stage table, started wailing his name and standing to take pictures, much to the annoyance of the people behind her. An announcement had been made just prior to the show that the fire marshal insisted people stay in their seats and no standing or rushing the stage was allowed. Crazy must have been busy pushing an octogenarian out of the way to get a rum and Coke at the bar and missed the message. During the first song Crazy alternated between loudly singing along and standing with her camera shouting his name. When the song ended she started screaming, "David! David! I woke up in love this morning." He smiled and said, "You woke up in love this morning? Me too." She let out a scream and then hollered, "It's my birthday! It's my birthday!" He gave her a crooked smile and said, "It's your birthday? Really? Funny, that's what a thousand other people in this room said." He then made some crack about her showing her "birthday suit" while grabbing his guitar from in front of the drum kit. Crazy jumped to her feet yelling, "OK! OK!" and pretending (I hope) that she was about to pull her Beatles t-shirt over her head. Cassidy caught a glimpse and said, "No! No! I was joking. Please, I was joking."
Before breaking into "I'll Meet You Halfway," David found himself with an extra pick and tossed the spare into middle of the table next to us. I was bummed it wasn't our table until I saw the scramble for that pick. You would have thought it was Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball. "Don't bite!", David quipped. It didn't help that it landed in the center of Crazy's table and she was on her feet and yelling something about getting candle wax on her hands. She stood there showing her waxed hand to Cassidy while he continued with the song. At some point other people apparently got tired of her standing and shouting and voiced their objections. She countered with a loud, "Oh, shut up!" of her own.
A few songs later, as David was preparing to introduce a Rupert Holmes-penned tune, Crazy screamed, "It's my birthday, David!" He said, "Yeah, I heard that before. And you woke up in love this morning." He began to sing and wander the stage and when he reached out to touch the hand of the woman directly below him, Crazy came pushing through the people in front of her to get his hand and had to be returned to her seat by security. She got particularly obnoxious a few songs later, pushing towards the stage and refusing to sit down despite the demands of the other patrons, including an overdone blond who looked like she might deck her at any moment. Security appeared again with another man in tow who may have been the owner or manager. They read her the riot act for several minutes, probably threatening to eject her if she didn't behave. My only concern was that if they ejected her she'd return with the handgun she keeps in her glove compartment. She truly seemed like that type.
Towards the end of the concert I looked over to see Crazy putting on her jacket. She got up and exited her table and I whispered to my sister, "Crazy's on the move." Shortly thereafter David sat on the stool with his guitar and I heard the opening of "I Woke Up In Love This Morning." He smiled and said, "Somebody's been waiting to hear this song all evening..." He did a double take at her empty spot at the table and laughed and said, "She's been yelling for this all evening and she's not even here." Suddenly I hear a voice to my left screech, "Here I am! Here I am!" and Crazy comes hurtling past me. She fell over my feet, cracking me hard in the ankle, and I let out a loud, involuntary "Jesus Christ!", which half the audience probably heard. Crazy went racing for her seat with a security guard right on her heels. (I pulled my legs in for him. I didn't want him to fall while in hot pursuit.)
I knew from past concerts that during "Echo-Valley 26809" he always took somebody's cell phone from the crowd. I was prepared with phone open in my lap and sure enough, he asked if anyone had a phone. I thrust my phone toward him at the stage and he approached, but quickly another phone shot past my face at the end of the arm of my dinner partner to the left. Our phones were side by side, with hers slightly ahead of mine because she was standing, and she had pulled up a photo of him on her phone to get his attention. B*tch! Naturally he took her phone and I grumbled over being outmaneuvered. I had thought of reaching out a hand to gently touch his shirt sleeve as he took her phone but I personally don't like to make a spectacle of myself in public and was afraid I'd be body slammed by security who were already on edge over Crazy.
Near the end someone threw a lovely g-string with a tuxedo design on stage. After finishing his song, David picked it up and held it aloft, eyeing it suspiciously before asking, "What psychopath threw this on stage?" He flung it onto one of the speakers and it stayed there the rest of the concert. I thought about scooping it up when the show was over since he'd touched it, but I was a little afraid of what the woman had been doing with it before bringing it to the concert.
The crowd got rowdier and pushier towards the end of the show, figuring their chances of some interaction with Cassidy were almost gone. That's when the "Porcine Parade" started, with women rushing down to the corner of the stage with old Tiger Beat magazines, album covers, and huge signs. What amuses me the most are the ones that attempt to thrust the memorabilia and a pen at him, hoping he'll stop in the middle of the show to sign an autograph. It's bad enough to wait out the slight lull when he pauses to allow one of the fan's friends to take a picture of her standing in front of him. I protected my unobstructed view by putting my booted foot on the edge of the stage and blocking the way. My sister had already positioned her chair to keep any crashers from coming between the two tables.
I had joked with The Professor before leaving that I'd make a leap for David Cassidy at some point to touch him and probably get thrown out. He gave me one of his aloof stares and said, "You're not really going to do that, are you?" I had no intention of actually making an exhibition of myself, but I did intend to get a hand on him one way or another before the night was over. My chances of getting that close again were pretty slim considering I don't have a stalker's mentality nor the spare cash to go to 2000 more concerts. When "I Think I Love You" started I knew it was now or never. That's been the last song at the other shows, so I figured this was my last best chance. Fortunately he encouraged everyone to get on their feet and I found myself standing right in front of the stage, ready to propel a hand at him (or make a grab for his clothing if he started to pass me by). The Porcine Parade turned into a stampede at that point and I was quickly surrounded. As he came along the stage touching hands I feared mine would get lost in the sea of phalanges that were in his face. Fortunately I was just far enough away from the others... I leaned forward, pushed my hand out, and he looked me right in the eye as he took my hand. Granted it lasted a fraction of a second, but it was the most gratifying fraction of a second I've had in years. The song finished up, he took his bows, and as he started to exit the stage, one of the maniacs attempted to push a Sharpie and towel at him to sign. He grabbed the towel and said, "Thank you very much" before disappearing backstage with it, wiping the sweat from his head. Maniac was hollering, "Wait! Wait! That's my towel!" and attempting to follow him backstage. Last I saw she was whining to security.
David was in great voice, his usual charming, funny self, and the concert lasted nearly two hours. Even Uncle Chester, who is not a fan and, in fact, gets a twitch of her right eye whenever she hears any music from the 70s, admits he puts on a good show. As we were getting on our coats to leave, a guy from the next table was busily scooping up anything he could find on the stage, like a piece of paper with the lyrics to "In My Life" scrawled on it. He probably has his loot on eBay this morning. As I was zipping my coat I heard angry voices at the next table and there was Crazy trading insults with the women around her who were ready to kill her. She went pushing by me and Chester whispered, "Trip her!" I started to stick my foot out but my ankle was still throbbing mildly from the last time she tumbled over my feet. Besides, she seemed like the type that would sue. After her departure a wide-eyed woman at the vacated table said, "That woman's completely nuts," and a chorus of voices cried out in agreement.
I told my story to my family when I got home and I showed them my hand where David had made contact. The Vulcan asked, "Are you never going to wash that hand again?" I replied, "Aw, I never do anyway," to which The Professor said, "Well, I bet if he knew that he wouldn't have touched you."
Originally published January 23, 2011.
You might also be interested in:
* MEET THE INMATES -- "FOGHORN"
* MEET THE INMATES -- "THE PROFESSOR"