By Patrick Brady
Some firsts are better left unrecorded.
We males of the species are so eager to make our mark on the world that we see first experiences as rites of passage. In getting that first time out of the way, we’re one step closer to manhood. There’s the first bike ride on our own, the first broken bone, the first time we drive and the mother of all firsts, losing our virginity.
Of course, when we’re young, we don’t see these events as episodes of imperfection, brief introductions upon which to build a relationship. No, we see them as the magic ticket that gets us in the door. We’ve done it, so we must belong.
The truth is, all those firsts are no more than a toddler’s tentative steps away from the couch. The fall is coming, only we don’t know it yet.
My first bike race was a time trial. It was held on a rainy dawn in July in Memphis. At the start line the water temperature was only a few degrees cooler than what I’d run my shower at when I returned home. Friends had told me that the sweat should drip straight from my nose and on to the stem of my bike. Maybe that happened; certainly, my nose was close enough, but I couldn’t have been more besodden if I’d been playing on a Slip ‘n’ Slide.
Friends also told me to go so hard that I’d have nothing at the end, that if I could stand up and pedal up the rise to the finish, then I’d done it wrong. My final pedal strokes up to the dude with the stopwatch taught me a thing or two about pain. I didn’t appreciate that my rite of passage wasn’t winning the time trial, it was how deep I had gone into my pedal purgatory.
The following spring I raced my first crit. One lap in, I had my first crash, thanks to my first rolled tubular. Though I’ve raced plenty of crits since then, and I’ve had a few crashes, I haven’t rolled another tubular.
It’s moments like that first rolled tubular that get me to thinking. Some firsts, you don’t really want to repeat. You don’t want to be a member of the club and knowing the secret handshake makes you an initiate into something that just shouldn’t be a brotherhood.
In the 1980s, I was an aspiring asshole, I mean rock star. I played drums in a succession of lousy garage bands before playing in two bands I’m still sorry were never signed, with or without me. I counted as my one hobby going to concerts and hanging out at hotels waiting to collect the autographs of the rock stars I admired.
Firsts in this category included my first autograph (drummer Jimmy Marinos of the Romantics) and my first autograph from a big star (Freddie Mercury). Then there was my first back stage pass.
My friends and I caught AC/DC as they were about to get into their limos and head to the Mid-South Coliseum, where we second row seats, if memory serves. We collected as many autographs as possible and then waived as they drove off. Moments later a white-haired guy asks, “Did you see where the band went?”
With suspicion (who is this old guy?), I replied, “Yeah; do you have some business with them?”
“I’m the manager!”
In a former life I must have been a trader of some sort because within 30 seconds he, my friends and I were headed to my father’s Ford Granada with the promise of back stage passes if we’d just get him to the show ahead of the limo.
History did not record just how many laws I broke over the next 12 to 15 minutes.
That was my first experience ferrying a big shot in my dad’s car. The experience of hanging out back stage through the opening band was boring enough that I realized that being an aspiring musician was much better than hanging out with professional musicians. Who knew?
Some months later, while hoping to get autographs from members of Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and Judas Priest, my buddies and I got invited into the hotel lounge for the after party. I wasn’t yet old enough to drink; I was still in high school. So I watched Jon Lord, the man responsible for the greatest organ solo of all time—yes, you know, the one he played in Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”—get so drunk that by the time he signed my autograph book he took a second look at it and then pronounced, “Yeah, that looks something like it.”
I was pretty much ready to go after that. It was late, a school night and I figured the guys that were left were too drunk to approach. That’s when Judas Priest’s manager called us over. I couldn’t really figure why he was still up, much less why he wanted to talk to us.
Imagine a guy not terribly unlike the manager in “This Is Spinal Tap,” just with a slightly more cockney accent. He leaned in to us and began asking questions, seemingly random ones: did we know the club scene, places that stayed open late, places where a guy could really party down, maybe meet someone.
All of those were easy yeses, even if the entire bunch of us were virgins.
Then he wrinkled his eyes a bit and then rephrased his last question; it was evident we hadn’t caught his subtle innuendo. “What I’m talking about, I’m wondering about, you know, a place where a guy can meet other … guys.”
The lightbulb flickered to life.
“George’s!” We did indeed know of a place where guys could meet guys. Memphis had a gay bar named George’s, and I do mean a gay bar, as in singular. What he said next stunned the bunch of us.
‘Our singer, Rob, is looking to get out for a bit of action.’
It took me a second to understand him. My brain didn’t process “Rob” as Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest. As male fans, we didn’t call him by his first name; he was always Rob Halford. Weirder still was the fact that he’d been sitting next to us the whole time the conversation was going on. He’d run up to his room immediately after the show and changed into something less, uh, controversial. His manager handed him some cash and a sheet of paper with the hotel’s info on it so he could catch a cab back. It never occurred to me to ask why he didn’t call a cab to take him there; 30 years later, that answer has become more apparent.
Rob got shotgun and I forced my three friends to ride on the bench seat in back as we drove him across town to George’s. The manager didn’t ask us to keep quiet about it, but I didn’t tell the story for more than 20 years. I just didn’t think anyone would believe me.
The funny thing is, that wasn’t my only time to drive a big rock star. Three years later, as a college sophomore, I was working for the big concert promoter as a runner, an errand boy. I’d go get things. Liquor, laundry, lost elements of the entourage.
One morning I arrive and am introduced to someone further up the food chain than I’d ever met before. He was wearing a sport coat, which is a bit like showing up to church in lingerie. Ozzy Osbourne was in town with Motley Crue and the boys had been out drinking the night before. Ozzy took a leak on the side of a building. In Europe, c’est normal.
Memphis was another story, though. My job that morning? Drive the bigwig down to the courthouse to bail out Mr. Crazy Train himself. Because it was early morning, the limo company wasn’t yet open, so I was driving some dude who looked like he could buy and sell me with what was in his wallet down to the courthouse. And I was driving him in a 1974 Gran Torino. It was the green of baby poo and had four doors, so this thing did not conjure any cool Starsky and Hutch comparisons. It was the ultimate cool car fail, in part thanks to the peeling vinyl roof.
Ozzy got in the back and laid down. That wasn’t even the weirdest part of the day. That afternoon, just before the catered dinner showed up for the bands, I got to talking with Tommy Lee. I figured, he’s a drummer, I’m a drummer, what could go wrong?
As any true geek would, I asked him about the details of his sponsorship, how he tuned his drum heads, about how he set up his kit. He wanted to talk girls. Now, by this time I wasn’t a virgin, but I wasn’t really into bragging about my exploits.
So I wanted to talk drum licks, and while he also wanted to talk licks, the ones on his mind weren’t performed with a drum set, though there might have been at least one stick involved. The more I revealed, the more he pushed, the more he egged me on. Definitely the first time I’d ever told a rock star about my sex life. When I admitted that I’d only had two girlfriends, he responded, “Dude, you gotta try more babes!”
History did not record the crimson of my blush. Nor did it recall how after the show when I walked into one of the dressing rooms to grab some stuff I’d picked up earlier in the day for the drum tech, there was Tommy with his leather pants around his knees and a groupie in a leather corset and leather mini-mini-mini skirt doing what groupies on their knees in front of rock stars with no pants on usually do.
I must have made a noise; they both turned toward me. Neither was embarrassed. Again, that crimson thing. I mumbled some sort of apology and headed for the doorway. It was then that I heard shuffling behind me. I turned just as he reached me. He laughed as he grabbed my shoulder; his shuffle had made his divining rod swing like it was looking for a source of moisture.
“Dude! You’re next.”
First time, only time, I’ve been offered a blowjob by a rock star. Thank heaven.
Ed. Note: After riding many miles together at events on the road and dirt, convinced Patrick to write an article for us and now as a series.
He blogs at Red Kite Prayer.
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