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I crashed a benefit concert for a woman who crashed her car. I intended to pay the $5 cover at Portugalia in OB, but I forgot my wallet at the racquetball courts. The kid at the door reluctantly let me in. I walked upstairs and found the place packed. Tables were set up by companies that had donated auction items. Several bands were on the bill that day, and I walked in while Shoestring Strap was on stage.

The crowd of 20-somethings enjoyed food specials (with a portion of the money going to the cause), and I grabbed something to eat. I found Jessica, who told me about the event.

"Jean is a big music lover. She was going to a music festival in Las Vegas and was in an accident. She didn't have health insurance and ended up in a hospital there and wasn't getting the care she deserved. We're doing this to raise money for her."

I didn't have to ask which lady was Jean. She was walking around with a smile, despite the brace around her neck, head, and shoulders. I was reminded of the character in Office Space who was hit by a car and happy about it.

On the wall was a '60s Fillmore-style poster advertising the other bands on the bill -- The Blackbirds, Tribe of Judah, and the Chi Club. Jessica told me that Delta Nova had played but that they just did some drumming.

As I walked around, I overheard people talking about Jean's injury. One person said, "I heard she fractured her vertebrae." Walking by another group, I heard someone say, "Didn't she suffer a skull fracture?" When Jean would walk by a group, they would grow silent. I wanted to ask Jean if it bothered her to have her friends discussing her injuries, but since Jean's situation isn't permanent and this benefit is raising money for her, I think she was enjoying the day.

Jean's benefit was an all-day affair, so I headed out after an hour. I asked Jessica later how much money they'd raised, and she told me over $5000. * * * I went to another benefit concert that was more difficult to crash. Joe Walsh, the Eagles' guitarist, was hosting a benefit for the Grauer School in Encinitas. Walsh's event was held at the Belly Up Tavern. Tickets were $100. Since I'd seen him several times, I couldn't justify paying that cover, no matter what the cause, and I had never heard of the school. A woman I know wanted to go, but crashing a concert with someone in tow makes things twice as difficult.

I tried sneaking around the back, but there was a chain-link fence and a security guard. He said, "Can I help you with something?" I headed around to the other side, and while walking by the front door, I overheard scalpers selling tickets for $75 apiece. On the other side, it looked less secured. I got close but couldn't get in. I made it up to the back door where someone asked who I was and then told me to get lost.

I walked back around to the front door and told them that I was a reporter. They said that Joe Walsh had finished all the press he was doing, but after a few calls were made on their walkie-talkies, they let me in. One of them asked, "If you're a reporter, where's your note pad and pen?"

I looked around, grabbed a napkin off the bar and took a pen out of my pocket. The guy walked away shaking his head.

I ran into Phil, a ticket broker I know, and he and I had a few drinks and talked about concerts. Then I ran into another Phil I know who used to work at Blue Meannie Records. I said, "Dude, what are you doing here? We just saw Joe Walsh and James Gang at Viejas. Why would you spend $100?" He said, "Because I'm a fan."

Since I ran into two Phils, I wondered if it'd be a trifecta and I'd see my dad, a Phil, who I haven't seen in 30 years.

An acoustic guitar signed by the Eagles was being sold for $8000. That sounded expensive, but as a columnist for an autograph magazine, I know that musicians don't usually sign instruments. A friend of mine who knows Don Henley told me that he doesn't even sign autographs anymore.

One of the Phils told me that local Jack Tempchin, who wrote the Eagles' hit "Peaceful Easy Feeling," opened the show. I was bummed that I missed his performance.

An announcement was made that a guitar Walsh would play for a few songs would be autographed and auctioned off for the Grauer School.

When the show started, the sold-out crowd went nuts. Walsh started his set with acoustic songs. The crowd recognized "Meadows." The song "Life of Illusion" probably has new fans since opening the movie 40-Year-Old Virgin.

When Walsh switched to electric gear, the guitar that would be auctioned was handed to him. He played it for a few songs, and it sold for $5000. The guy who bought it said, "Hey, I was just trying to get a drink, and I ended up with this." Someone else said that he had asked the woman with him to get married. Though I couldn't confirm that, I did see that she got her cap signed by Walsh backstage.

A lot of the hits were played: "Life's Been Good," "Rocky Mountain Way," "Seems to Me," "Turn to Stone," and my all-time favorite, "The Bomber." He left the stage and then encored with the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane."

I ran into my friend Beth, who works for the Belly Up. When I told her that I had never heard of the Grauer School, she introduced me to Stuart Grauer. He told me a little about his private school and then I thanked him for his time and left.

As I walked out, a woman carrying a drumstick was behind the guy who purchased the signed guitar. She said, "Hey, I'll trade you this drumstick for that guitar."

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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