Several months ago, I went to the Sunset Strip in Hollywood to see Slash and a few of the members of the Doors play at the Whiskey A Go-Go. During the day, my friend Doug and I made our way down the Strip and walked past Ben Fong-Torres, a writer for Rolling Stone and the L.A. Times. I stopped him and we chatted.
We grabbed some lunch at the Rainbow Bar and Grill. While sitting there, comedian/actor Tom Green walked by. We hit Book Soup and saw a flyer that announced Doors drummer John Densmore would be there autographing his new book, but we knew this already. What we didn't know was that Jane's Addiction singer Perry Ferrell would be with him, singing and doing poetry.
When we came back for that, the line was long and you needed a reserved ticket. As we walked away, a woman yelled out to us. She handed us her tickets, saying she couldn't stay. While in line, a veterinarian suggested we walk around back to see if we could sneak in early. We couldn't, but we saw Ferrell smoking. We talked to him for 15 minutes before a security guard came over and freaked out, yelling at us to leave. Ferrell laughed.
A few months later, on May 2, Patti Smith was performing at the Roxy on Sunset. She wouldn't be coming to S.D., so we headed up north. We stopped into the Rainbow for lunch. Owner Mario, as usual, puffed on a huge cigar and held court. A guy with long hair walked in, and a few people asked for his autograph. I asked the cute, blonde bartender who it was. She said, "A musician named Hughes. I think he's with Deep Purple." I asked one of the autograph-seekers, a guy in his 50s, who the longhair was. He said angrily, "He's one of the best drummers in rock. He played with Rainbow and Deep Purple!" I said, "Deep Purple's drummer is Ian Paice." The longhair replied, "Well, uh, he's the drummer now...I think. His name is Glenn Hughes." (I Googled him later and found out he is the current bassist of Deep Purple, and he was the vocalist for Black Sabbath for a while in the '80s.)
Later, a woman freaked out when Tommy Lee's brother walked in. I asked her why she cared about the brother of someone famous. She told me, "Well...he was in a band, too." I asked her the band name and she responded, "I don't know. I think they were called Krunk. They didn't last long." She, too, got his autograph. If the guy wasn't with a woman, I'm sure she would've gotten more.
Doug mentioned David Spade was a regular at the Rainbow, and the bartender told me he does come in once a week. I asked the bartender if she got starstruck, and she said, "Never. Well, it was kind of cool when Cher came in. Oh, and when Jack Nicholson was here. Yeah, I almost couldn't speak. When he was talking to me, it was just...yeah. That was really cool."
As I started to eat my chicken salad, the band Quiet Riot strolled in. It seemed odd to have such activity at three in the afternoon. Doug said, "Dude, I've seen people like that here at night, but this is weird."
Next door at the Roxy, we saw six people lined up who had been there since morning for Patti Smith. They wanted the best spots when the doors opened. We walked down the Strip and passed a model who was being filmed while she walked. A few cars almost crashed as they watched her.
When we came back to the Roxy, the line had increased to eight. I asked the last two people a question, and it turned out they, too, had come from San Diego. The woman works at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Her husband and I know a lot of the same people in local bands, and we talked about the San Diego music scene. At one point he said, "I still can't believe the Germs haven't sold out the Casbah. San Diego is so ridiculous. No wonder Patti Smith isn't playing there." A girl in line heard this and said, "This isn't her tour. She is just doing this show and one in New York." I found out from another person in line that she was going to be doing an autograph-signing the following day at another record store on Sunset.
When a woman in line heard that I hadn't purchased my tickets yet, she laughed and said, "Are you insane? This show has been sold out for a while." I walked to the box office and found out it was true.
Just then, a woman in her late 40s walked up. She asked if anyone had an extra ticket. We told her our dilemma. She said, "Well, I actually know Patti." I said, "Hmmm...if you know her, why are you trying to get a ticket from us?" She talked about a band she started with encouragement from Patti, and her story made little sense. She told us she performed at the funeral of Fred "Sonic" Smith, Patti's late husband and one of the founding members of the MC5. Nobody believed her. She said her band was called Purple Legion.
Patti Smith pulled up in a silver PT Cruiser, and a few guys surrounded her car, sticking posters and albums through the window for her to sign. We guessed that they were autograph dealers. They showed up 15 minutes before Smith did, and after they got their stuff signed, they drove off. When this lady tried to approach Patti, Smith was ushered into the venue with her manager saying, "We don't have time. We're running late."
The line grew to about 30 people, and we decided to see Elvis Costello at the House of Blues. Tickets were more expensive, and we'd seen him countless times before, but what made this a frustrating decision was a guy pulled up and said, "I need to buy two tickets." Someone in line whipped out two tickets for Patti Smith and sold them at face value. Everyone at the front of the line then asked us why we didn't do that. I said, "Uh, I just figured if someone had an extra ticket they'd say something."
As the woman continued to talk about supposedly knowing Patti Smith, Smith's twentysomething son and bandmate came outside to smoke a cigarette. The woman started to walk over to him as security was trying to push her away. She said, "I know your mother." He just smiled politely as he puffed away. She said, "I held you in my arms when you were a baby. I haven't seen you since you were five. My name's Karen. I was in the band Purple Legion." He dropped his cigarette and said, "Oh, my God! I still have those Purple Legion stickers. I remember you!" He hugged and kissed her all over. He said, "My mom is meditating now. She does that before the shows. She'll be so glad to see you. We'll definitely get you into the show."
I couldn't believe this woman had been telling a legitimate story. She looked at me and said, "Do you want me to get you a signed CD from Patti?" I laughed and said, "Hell, yeah," and handed her my card.
We then took off and saw Costello. Doug said, "She's not going to send you a CD. She was so flaky, dude."
Not long after, the disc arrived in the mail.