Lack of sleep and excessive enervation may not give this blog the justice it deserves. However, I’d rather write while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind. There are three reasons that I have been on a quest to be a performer since I was a child: my grandmother, Bette Midler, and Stevie Nicks. When my grandmother passed away, Bette Midler became my surrogate, my mentor, and the sole example in my life that showed I had a way out of my circumstances, my town, and my limited resources. What followed all was finely detailed in “Bette or Bust” and when the wounds from that time needed to heal, and I needed a new artistic inspiration… I discovered Stevie Nicks.
So, imagine, the completion of my first album coinciding with the announcement that my two greatest inspirations were coming together on my favourite holiday, Halloween. Nearly three months ago I discovered that Bette Midler’s Hulaween Ball would be featuring Stevie Nicks at the Waldorf Astoria. I set on a mission, acknowledging that my creative muses were about to collide and I had to be there. From seedy replies to Craigslist ads, to emailing every single donor of Hulaweens past and present, to contacting friends who once donated to NYRP, to getting on the volunteer list, networking with executives of the Hilton corporation, and damn near selling my soul. Yes, my soul was for sale, but my bank account was not. I physically and mentally and financially could not handle the required $1,000 donation. Not that I haven’t made historically ridiculous spends on my diva fixes in the past… but some things do change with maturity.
As the event neared, every single angle to get myself a ticket and on the list fell through. I was left with only one choice… with my dear pal, Chelsea, the event was going to be crashed. Chelsea and I were persuaded by an array of omens, having seen Bette at a guest appearance on Martin Short’s Broadway show, “Fame Becomes Me.”
After the musical and an impromptu version of “The Rose” by Miss M, we headed for drinks at my favourite (gay) bar and were one cocktail down when Stevie Nicks’ Dreams remix resounded through the trendy lounge. It was our first omen. Then a day before the Hulaween ball, I walked across the street at my local grocery store and out walked Joy Behar (of the View) who announced she would be the emcee for the Hulaween auction. I still doubted the signs when I received a call from Chelsea on Halloween morn and she spit out the details that in her quest for Midler-costume, she ran into a woman asking advice on which glasses matched the costume she carried.The woman’s costume was worn by Bette at the first Hulaween ever and she intended to wear it that night to the gala that night. It was a trifecta of signs.
Halloween night, with me in my mardi gras garb and Chelsea in her full-fledged Midler-ware, we headed downtown to the Waldorf Astoria, where three years prior I marched through round after round of auditions for American Idol. I was laden with party-crashing arsenal: a floorplan, a backstage pass from another Stevie event, a pack of cigarettes, and the phone numbers for the Hulaween party planners. With plan 1 in stride, we headed up the grandiose stairs to the ballroom and attempted to mesh into a crowd of attendees and pass the security guard. Unfortunately, he instantly saw badgeless cleavage and returned us to the registration desk. It was important to be subtle and indiscreet, and I wanted to avoid the volunteer desk at all costs. With the help of an alias (courtesy of some research in the world of donors) and Chelsea’s keen eye, we managed to score two badges. Two VIP badges.
I entered first, heading into the grand ballroom and Chelsea eventually found me. Through disbelieving eyes and a cheshire grin, she revealed that she ran into Bette while coming up the stairs and received a thumbs up from the diva for her costume efforts. When the dinner began, we knew it was time to disappear as our VIP status would be foiled when it was realized we lacked seats at our “assigned” tables. Additionally, I did not want to be accused of “theft of services” other than watching my favourite singer perform. Excusing ourselves for a “smoking” break (enter cigarette prop), we stepped out and ventured to a nearby McDonald’s to kill some ample time.
We returned and found a few of Stevie’s bandmates in the hall, who were quite flirtatious and I inquired when they were going on. They didn’t even know! Chelsea and I found ourselves back in the ballroom, as Bette took the stage and dedicated an award to Willie Nelson. They sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” and then Willie went on to do another five or so songs.
Then Bette took the stage again and announced the band was setting up for Stevie’s set and we better prepare to rock out because they are loud. Bette’s intro to Stevie was rather profound to me, something inexplicably alluring to watch my first idol gushing over my current one. Excitement was on the rise, and I know that Liz Smith commented that this year’s event was very “downtown” and young, but I think that Stevie Nicks’ appearance was a big part of it. Stevie diehards were ubiquitous and there’s something infectious about their presence. The older folks (and even the middle-aged corporate ones) began to trickle out before Stevie even left the stage. It’s so typical at these events that people bail out early and it really assauged any guilt I felt about sneaking in. Being there, in that moment, meant more to me than any amount of money could afford… and it was the fact that it happened rather seamlessly that evening that meant even more.
The band took the stage and opened with “Standback” before Stevie swiftly entered the stage in her traditional black platform boots and witchy attire. The woman looks like she’s still in her twenties, when it comes to the high kicks and the swirling about the stage. It’s absolutely incredible. She kept the crowds dancing an incredible version of “Rhiannon,” “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” “Outside the Rain,” and “Dreams.” Mid-set, Bette came to the sidestage and sat on the steps to watch Stevie perform… a visual that has imprinted itself in my mind. She spoke of the honour it was to perform for Bette, and of her equal admiration, and sang “Landslide.” The show was closed with “Edge of Seventeen” and an encore of “Rock and Roll.” The people in the balconies were ecstatically dancing about as the security guards watched in awe, disconcerted by the energy of Stevie fans. It was a shame that Bette didn’t join in on the encore, but a sense of reverance kept her sidestage. When Stevie finished, they embraced, and Bette thanked everyone for coming and that Hulaween was over.
However… Chelsea and I had VIP passes, which said to enter the 4th floor and join Bette’s private party. Memories certainly come in layers, as I ascended the stairs to the same room I auditioned for Simon Cowell and his cronies three years ago, singing “Gypsy” by Stevie. Within a few minutes, Bette arrived to the crowd of twenty or so people and was instantly swarmed by attendees. The high-priced donors were her main objective to thank and greet, but we managed to get her attention after some persistance and snagged a photo.
It only took eight years of missed opportunities, and the gravity of the moment didn’t really sink in until we took a seat. If I were to recall being 8-years-old and proclaiming I would someday meet her, or to flip through the verbose pages of my 18-year-old journey, I would have really lost it in that room… the moment left an unconscious imprint, too deep to detail… and a conscious omen that I’m on the right path.
After chatting with some other attendees, Chelsea and I wandered in the adjoing room and I went to the piano just before Bette left and began playing.
There was something important about filling the room with my music… a Waldorf employee brought me a chair and I played a few new songs, and a few that are on “Chained by Dreams.” I even played some Stevie songs, hoping to lure her in… but she never made it to the party. Those who listened were very kind and complimentary… and it was a full circle event for me. In my heart of hearts, I truly look forward to the day when I’ll get to sing with Ms. Stevie Nicks. I know that day will come.
|Currently listening : |
By Stevie Nicks
Release date: By 25 October, 1990