Monday, November 28, 2016

C'MON! (Chapter Eight: Game Changer)

C'MON!
My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation
(The 5th Anniversary Edition)
- Christopher Long -

__________________________

CHAPTER EIGHT
Game Changer

At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000, the new millennium was ushered in officially. Despite rampant Y2K conspiracies, the world (obviously) did not come to an end. And I welcomed the perceived promise of a fresh start that accompanies a new decade — not to mention, a new century.

Now approaching 40, I was focusing on new endeavors. I was establishing myself as a popular area special events and nightclub DJ and I also had been hired recently to write record reviews for Florida’s east coast entertainment magazine, Brevard Live. Although I had contributed to such Florida-based publications as The Buzz and JAM! throughout the ‘90s, my gig with Brevard Live offered an opportunity to develop my writing skills and reputation on a greater level. In fact, it was a total game changer.

In Los Angeles, talking music with
rock legend George Thorogood.
(2000)
I became bored quickly with merely writing record reviews and I soon began seeking out national recording artists whom I could interview for Brevard Live in conjunction with feature stories regarding their upcoming Florida concert appearances. And with the growing popularity of hip-hop and electronic dance music, rock acts now were becoming quite accessible to the press — even to a small-timer like me. And before long, I was conducting phoners (telephone interviews) with members of many of my all-time favorite arena rock bands, such as Poison, Cinderella, Stryper and Quiet Riot.

Yes, the new decade would offer numerous industry-related experiences. Some were more positive than others. But overall, I was enjoying my newfound “insider” role thoroughly in the early 2000s.

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Heads Are Gonna Roll
As a writer, I was gaining access to rock stars successfully, but I still needed to navigate through the obligatory line of managers, press agents and handlers in order to set up many of my interviews. And I discovered in short order that even once arrangements were made, things often would change at the last minute. Phoners that were to take place on Tuesday would be rescheduled for Wednesday, 3PM would become 5PM and sometimes I’d wind up interviewing the drummer or guitarist of a particular band instead of the prearranged frontman or bassist. However, some of my most memorable rock and roll experiences would play out by complete accident. And a complete accident perfectly describes the chain of events that led to my personal encounter with the iconic heavy metal band, Judas Priest.

Initially, I hadn’t planned to attend the Judas Priest concert in Boynton Beach, Florida on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2002. The band had achieved legendary status during the 1980s, releasing a string of chart-busting records such as British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith, and I was one of their most devout followers. However, my enthusiasm for their music had waned since the 1992 departure of original frontman, Rob Halford. In 1982 I would have killed to witness a Judas Priest concert. However, in 2002, seeing them live was less of a priority.

But I began having second thoughts about attending the concert after speaking to my old friend, David Thornquest, on the morning of the show. David had heard some buzz on a local radio program regarding the event and he surmised that it would be a must-see performance.

My primary concern was whether or not tickets were even still available — after all, it was the day of the show. So I called the Club Ovation box office and to my surprise, the owner, John Gracey, was manning the phones personally that morning. Gracey turned out to be quite personable, and he informed me that tickets were, in fact, still available. Perfect!

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During our conversation, Gracey revealed to me how he recently had spent close to a million dollars renovating the 3,000 person capacity venue and he was thrilled to be booking such top-name acts as Judas Priest. I mentioned my interest in doing a feature on the club for Brevard Live and that I’d bring a camera to the show and take a few pictures of the venue to coincide with the story. My offer was music to Gracey’s ears. He graciously invited me to be his personal guest that evening, offering a VIP table, an after-show pass and an opportunity to meet, and perhaps even interview the band.

I arrived at Club Ovation precisely at 10:30PM, just as Judas Priest was taking the stage. The club was packed and the band delivered the kind of high energy performance that one would expect. Afterword, I was escorted by a couple of the club’s beefy security guards to the backstage meet-and-greet area.

Drummer Scott Travis was the first band member who I encountered upon entering the hospitality room. Literally standing close to seven-feet-tall, Travis resembles a cross between an NBA star and Lurch from the 1960s comedy TV series, The Addams Family. In passing, I complimented Travis on his incredible performance that evening to which he replied with a scowl, “Yeah, whatever.”

In contrast to Travis’ less than warm and fuzzy vibe, the other members of his band proved to be quite charming. Bassist Ian Hill appeared to enjoy the post-concert festivities thoroughly — seemingly delighted to be hanging out with his fans, as he signed autographs and posed for pictures.

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During my backstage conversation with guitarist K.K. Downing, I couldn't help but overhear a petite blond girl chatting with Travis, just a few feet away.

“I’ve loved you guys since I was a teenager,” she confessed — nearly breaking her neck to make eye contact with the giant.

“You probably don’t even know my name,” Travis replied sarcastically — dismissing his passion-filled fan as a garden variety, backstage bimbo.

You’re Scott Travis,” she fired back. “I’ve been coming to see Judas Priest shows since 1986. I ought to know your name.”

"Honey, I wasn’t even in this band in 1986,” he replied, seemingly looking for any excuse to be argumentative.

“I didn’t say you were,” she shot back with rapid-fire reflexes. “I said that’s how long I’ve been coming to see the band."

Anyone who loves to quarrel loves sin.
Proverbs 17:19 (NLT)

After listening to about a minute of this ridiculous exchange, I realized this gal was a diehard, longtime Judas Priest fan and likely knew as much about the band’s history as Travis did. By the time she began schooling him on some of their more obscure earlier material, I surmised that it was an ideal time to move on and say “Hi” to guitarist Glenn Tipton.

Backstage with my (then) girlfriend, Vicki,
and Judas Priest guitarist, Glenn Tipton.
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As I was preparing to leave for the evening, I mentioned to (then) frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens that I was interested in setting up a phoner with him for a feature story in the following month’s issue of Brevard Live. Although I had hoped for an interview that night, it was obvious that this backstage scene wasn’t the best environment for conducting such business. However, Owens seemed quite interested in doing an interview later in the week, and he went into his dressing room to get a pen so we could exchange contact information. This made for one last opportunity in which Travis could demonstrate his particular brand of “people skills.” And he succeeded with grand style.

One thing I’ve learned during my music biz endeavors is that when it comes to dealing with rock stars, it’s important to understand where you do and do not belong. At that moment I knew I definitely DID NOT belong in Owens' dressing room. So I stood in the doorway while he dug through his travel bag, searching for a pen. As we were getting ready to exchange phone numbers, Travis came up and grabbed me from behind.

Apparently feeling that I was violating Owens’ personal space, Travis loudly offered some choice expletives as he physically dragged me by the throat from the dressing room doorway. Angry and somewhat embarrassed by the incident, I figured it was best that I make my exit right then. Over the years I’d been accused of having my own anger management issues, so the situation would have likely gotten uglier had I hung around any longer. Besides, I stood all of five-foot-six. What was I going to do, slay this “Goliath” in a “David-like” fashion by punching him in the ankles?

Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor;
only fools insist on quarreling.
Proverbs 20:3 (NLT)

When I first met Gene Simmons in 1983 I approached him as a giddy fan. Nearly 20 years later, my encounter with Scott Travis was as an industry professional. However, both experiences met with similar results. It took decades, but I was finally beginning to realize that my glorious perception of rock stars was all pie in the sky.

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The Big Score
I was determined to make something big happen during the early 2000s. Now in my 40s, I didn’t feel that going back to school and rewriting my life playbook was a terribly viable option. So I took my various industry-related “eggs” and put them into as many “baskets” as possible. One way or another I was convinced that I could somehow “make some rain.” My DJ business was successful, but playing Jay-Z records in clubs and leading the masses through the “Chicken Dance” at wedding receptions were less than fulfilling propositions. And although a bounty of writing opportunities were now coming my way, that was hardly paying the bills. I needed a big score.

Since my first plunge into the rock and roll world back in junior high during the ‘70s, management seemed to be my forte. Even during the heyday of Dead Serios, I was recognized more for my drive, marketing skills and business savvy than for having any significant musical talent. Although I had dabbled in representing other artists over the years, I always was consumed more with my own projects and consequently those endeavors all fizzled out rather quickly. However, that was about to change in 2004.

One night, while DJ-ing at a little club in Cocoa Village, Florida, a stunning-looking, 19-year-old waitress named Katty approached me with her demo CD. Given my current notoriety as a music critic, I recently had become inundated with demos from countless unsigned artists. To be honest, I had little interest in hearing Katty’s music. I was, however, quite attracted to her energy, big blond hair and other alluring physical attributes. In my depraved mind, I reasoned that if I listened to her song (which I was certain would suck) and at least faked some interest, I just might land her in the sack. But to my utter amazement, her little one-song, two and a half minute, ‘80s synth-pop demo was just about the most exciting thing I’d ever heard. “I’m gonna make you a star,” I vowed on the spot to the young, wide-eyed newbie.

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I went home that night and began devising an immediate plan of action. This involved putting Katty's band together, scheduling a photo shoot and recording sessions, generating press, booking shows and calling up every industry contact I had in hopes of selling my newfound pop princess.

I first reached out to C.K. Lendt, an adjunct professor of marketing at NYU and former business manager for the band, KISS. C.K. and I had developed a personal and professional relationship over the years. And as an acknowledged "big gun" with a stellar reputation, I trusted his judgment. In early 2005, he traveled from New York to attend one of Katty’s early shows in Florida. Simply put, C.K. was impressed, to say the say the least. Before I knew it, he and I had created a business partnership and we signed Katty to an exclusive management contract.

I still believe that Katty
was destined for stardom.
Next, I contacted Bobby Dall, bassist for the platinum-selling band, Poison. Bobby and I lived in the same town and through mutual acquaintances we had established a personal friendship in the late ‘80s. I recognized early on that he was the brains behind his band’s mammoth success. As a result, I valued his opinion. Although he hadn’t been impressed with any of my previous projects, Bobby definitely “got” Katty. He soon began mentoring the young singer / songwriter — helping to develop her material and ultimately producing one of her demos.

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With her captivating, Madonna-like persona, high-energy stage presence and hook-laden pop tunes, everyone who got an early taste of Katty was knocked out completely. And I knew that it was just a matter time before I finally landed that big score.

While C.K. dealt with business matters such as courting major record labels from his home base in New York, I attended to Katty’s personal day-to-day affairs from my home in Florida. And we went to great lengths to ensure that our client was presented and represented as a national caliber artist. Recognizing that perception is reality, I retired my collection of black rock concert T-shirts and replaced them with an array of business suits. And yes, I even bought a briefcase. If Katty was to be perceived as a big-time contender, then as part of her management team, I had to look the part as well.

C.K. and I spent the next year (and thousands of dollars) developing and marketing Katty. By the time she turned 21 in early 2006, Katty was performing in clubs and at major festivals throughout Florida — opening for such up-and-coming national acts as Silvertide and Family Force 5. Along the way, Katty and I became close and we enjoyed both an amazing personal and professional relationship.

Unfortunately, people can become greedy the first moment a whiff of "pie" is detected. So greedy in fact, a big score can be decimated before the pie is sliced, or before there even is a pie. And by the time C.K. and I had developed Katty fully as an artist, and we were ready to pitch her to major record labels, trouble already was looming. A couple of the trusted industry pros whom I hired to advise us had become paranoid that they would be somehow left out of the "serving line" when the pie was sliced. As a result, they began advising my client privately on career decisions based on how it best served their interests.


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After years of developing a personal relationship with Bobby Dall, I was hired to tour with Poison as Bobby’s personal assistant in the summer of 2006 — a dream come true opportunity to be sure. But when I returned home from the road in the fall, Katty notified C.K. and I that despite our 11-page management contract, she was going to pursue other career options.

For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition,
there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
James 3:16 (NLT)

The truly heartbreaking and frustrating aspect of that experience, aside from the small fortune C.K. and I lost in the venture, was that Katty personified the sound and style of such artists as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ke$ha — years before those divas arrived on the pop scene. And I still believe that if just a bit more faith and patience had been exercised, Katty would have been the big score. Fortunately, she and I managed to maintain our personal friendship, despite our professional break-up. Today, Katty still performs throughout Central Florida in various cover bands.

Paradise City
In February 2007 I found myself at the world famous Henson Studios. Located in the heart of Hollywood, the facility was built by silent screen star Charlie Chaplin in the early 1900s and was originally a movie studio. In 1966 it was purchased, remodeled and transformed into the legendary A&M Studios by music moguls Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. In 1999 the property was purchased by the Henson family. Jim Henson created The Muppets, one of TV’s most successful kids shows. In May 2000 the facility re-opened officially as Henson Studios. During the A&M days, this was the studio in which legendary such artists as John Lennon, Carole King and The Carpenters recorded some of their biggest hits. As an admitted pop music nerd, it was hard to believe that I was so privileged to be within such hallowed halls.

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Poison bassist, Bobby Dall, had invited me to accompany his 16-year-old son, Zak, from our mutual hometown in Florida to visit him for a few days in L.A. while he was in the studio working on the band's Poison'd! record. Like countless times before while working for Bobby, my role on this trip was that of “Rock Nanny" — attending to and entertaining Zak. And although we did enjoy some leisure time — shopping, sightseeing and eating out, Bobby had a full workload. Hence, most of our L.A. excursion was spent holed up in the studio.

During the long sessions, Zak kept himself occupied, playing with his assortment of iGadgets while relaxing in the studio lounge. These diversions afforded me extended nanny breaks — allowing me to hang out in the control room and experience the recording process first-hand. The record was being produced by Grammy Award-winning music biz guru, Don Was. Don’s impressive résumé includes producing critically acclaimed records for the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt and Brian Wilson. For years, I had been paying my dues on an indie level, working in, and learning my way around various recording studios from Florida to the Carolinas. So to be actually sitting at the mixing console, side-by-side with Don Was during a major label recording session had me awestruck to say the least.

While Poison worked in Studio B, Guns N’ Roses alumni Slash and Duff McKagan were in the adjacent room recording Libertad, the sophomore record for their current project, Velvet Revolver. Zak is a huge rock and roll fan and can’t get enough of the fast-paced lifestyle. He loves to be on tour with his dad, and with his up-to-the-minute rock fashions, painted finger nails and expensive, ever-changing hair styles, it’s often hard to tell between father and son who's the rock star. Standing in the hallway of Henson Studios and hearing Slash’s signature guitar riffs buzzing through the walls was more than Zak could endure — he had to meet Slash. In fact, the prospect of meeting the rock icon was all I heard from Zak for days. Then one night during one of Poison’s sessions, Bobby finally gave in. He approached me with the official order — “Take Zak next door and introduce him to Slash.”

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This was the night of the 2007 Grammy Awards and Henson Studios was hosting a lavish after-show party. From such current pop sensations as Christina Aguilera to retro hit makers like Taylor Dayne, the Henson party was an all-star event. Yet despite being Bobby Dall’s son, getting Zak to Slash was going to be no easy feat. I first introduced myself to one of Slash’s handlers. I was instructed to have Zak stand by for a few minutes while Slash finished his session.

Before joining Guns N’ Roses in the mid 1980s, Slash had actually auditioned for the guitar slot in Poison. Legend has it that Poison frontman Bret Michaels wanted Slash but was out-voted by Bobby and drummer Rikki Rockett who wanted C.C. DeVille. The possibility of lingering bad blood caused Bobby to be a bit skeptical initially about Zak meeting the guitar hero. But Slash couldn’t have been nicer. Wearing black leather pants, a lavender silk shirt and his trademark top hat, he was quite cordial and even displayed a sense of humor and patience when I had difficulty operating Zak’s camera. Although the meeting was brief, Slash proved to be gracious and completely unassuming. Zak got to meet his hero and we escaped the Grammy hoopla by slipping quickly back into the quiet comfort of Studio B.

Slash cutting tracks at
Henson Studios in Los Anges.
(2007)
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Hit Me Baby One More Time
It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But it took a while for me to get that memo. Despite the obvious lesson I should have learned from the Katty debacle, I opted to move forward in the field of artist management.

Deana Lane was an 18-year-old singer / songwriter who I met in Tennessee while on tour with Poison in 2006. Shortly after returning home from the road, I encouraged Deana to relocate to Florida so we could begin developing her career properly — an invitation she accepted gleefully. Although Deana had zero experience, and her initial songs were dreadful, I was impressed by her enthusiasm and apparent drive for success. But her material developed quickly and it didn’t take long for me to recognize that she truly was a diamond in the rough. Unlike Katty’s polished pop sound, Deana’s music was raw and edgy. Her lyrics portrayed a sharp sense of black humor — sort of like a southern-fried, female version of Alice Cooper.

C.K. Lendt thought the bandaged wrists
in Deana's photo shoot was a “gimmick."
It wasn't.
To me, Deana’s most endearing attribute was her willingness to do anything to make it. During a 2007 photo shoot, she appeared in one shot, snorting chopped-up lines of powdered candy that spelled out her name, cocaine-style, from a mirror on the studio floor. Even Bobby Dall said that we went too far with that one!

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In 2008, I booked Deana to perform at an East Coast music awards ceremony. It was a fairly upscale event in which all of the female performers and presenters looked very elegant, with their spray-on tans, black slinky dresses and golden hair highlights — everyone, that is, except my client. Deana walked onstage wearing a tattered $2 dress we bought from Goodwill that she had stained cleverly with heaven only knows what. Her hair was tied up in ratty pigtails and her make-up was smeared from ear-to-ear. In short, she looked like a deranged mental patient who had just crawled out of a dumpster — and I couldn’t have been more proud. In fact, Deana made such a powerful impression that night, the promoter of the event called the next day to chastise me for putting such a "hideous spectacle" on the awards show stage.

And that summed up my dilemma perfectly. Katty was cute and bubbly. Her music was infectious and salable. Conversely, Deana’s vibe was dark and abrasive. Oh sure, I “got” her, but I just couldn’t find others in the industry besides Bobby Dall and C.C. DeVille who shared my enthusiasm. In late 2008, after two years of total dedication and another huge financial investment on my part, Deana chose to return home to Tennessee, also to pursue other career options.

Deana Lane
(2008)
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Our subsequent personal relationship hasn’t fared as well as my relationship with Katty, which is sad because it’s tough to live with someone for two years without becoming close. Deana and I worked together diligently on her music and marketing, 24/7. We made several long distance trips to visit her family, and I even brought her to L.A. for her first taste of big city life. And while Deana turned me on to some incredible, early David Bowie music, I introduced her to the genius of Debbie Gibson. It was a fun and exciting time — or so I thought. But hey, if I had lived with me during that period, I wouldn’t talk to me anymore either! And I wish her the best in her future endeavors.

I now maintain a strong “Just Say No” stance regarding my personal involvement with any bands or solo artists. In fact, when my own son came to me for help with his band in 2009, I orchestrated and financed ONE professional photo shoot, set up a ONE-song recording session and booked a (proper) initial gig or two in order to ensure that they were launched in the right direction. I then advised him passionately to quit.

Like father, like son.
(Jesse Long - 2009)
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A Family Affair
Feeling burned-out and defeated, I was desperate for any kind of break in 2009. I met Chris Dillon in 2006 while I was on the road with Poison and he was on tour with Butch Walker. Over the years we’d become good pals. As an acknowledged touring veteran and close personal friend of frontman Michael Sweet, Chris had just signed-on to manage the upcoming Stryper tour. Realizing how gaga I still was over the ‘80s Christian rock combo, he offered me a position handling merch on the tour. Given my often less than pleasant Poison road experiences, I had vowed to never step foot on a tour bus again. However, this was a Stryper tour! The money being offered to me was less than I’d be making as a nightclub DJ at home in Florida, but on the road, personal living expenses are a fraction of what they are in the real world. So I reasoned that financially, I could afford to take the gig.

The tour kicked off in September. The band already had a merch guy signed on to cover the first leg of the tour and I would connect with them in Chicago on October 4th for the second leg. During that time I was in frequent communication with the band’s management company regarding my personal tax and passport info, and setting up payroll arrangements. Chris also kept in touch with me through emails, phone calls and video clips.

I was goofing around with Chris on the phone shortly after the tour began, when I jokingly asked him if Michael Sweet was likely to go crazy on me, Poison-style, while on the road. “Dude, this is a Stryper tour,” Chris calmly, yet enthusiastically, reminded me. “This is a ‘family’ and it’s gonna be the best experience of your life.”

To say the least, I was psyched to be going on tour with my longtime Christian rock heroes. I’d immediately put in for a four-week leave of absence from Siggy’s and my bags were packed, sitting by my front door for more than a week prior to my scheduled departure.

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One morning, just a couple of days before I was to hit the road, I received a call from Chris. He was upbeat and excited about me coming out, and he wanted to let me know that the band’s travel agent had just emailed me all of my flight info. Then, to my chagrin, I received another call from Chris later in the day.

“Dude, I’m at the airport, headed home,” Chris informed me — clearly bummed out.

“What?” I exclaimed in total disbelief. “Did you get fired?” I immediately asked.

“No,” he quickly replied. “I’m leaving the tour for medical reasons — Michael Sweet makes me sick!”

Hold on! I thought this was going to be a “family” affair. I thought it was going to be “the best experience of my life.” Now, at the last the minute, my contact, my buddy was off the tour. What was I going to do? I’d already put in for a leave of absence at my regular gig — I couldn’t afford to lose this tour!

But the dilemma wasn’t for me to resolve. The next day I was contacted by the band’s management office and informed that given the circumstances (i.e. being Chris Dillon’s "guy"), my services would not be required on the tour. And that was that. Just a simple, half-hearted apology, followed by the obligatory, “Good luck” — and NO offer of any type of monetary compensation.

Fortunately for me, the owners of Siggy’s were delighted to hear that I wouldn’t be leaving for another tour after all, and I didn’t wind up losing any work. But what if my situation had been different? What if I actually was a full-time touring guy? What if I’d turned down offers from Foreigner or Taylor Swift in order to go out with Stryper? I’d have been in real financial dire straits, that’s what! But that clearly was of little concern to the Stryper organization.

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Writer’s Block
Despite my professional frustrations, writing was one area where I truly continued to excel. I now was getting offers to write official bios and press releases for various top-name artists and I also had been brought on as a contributing writer for the popular music and culture website, Ink19.com. It was becoming apparent that I just might have a future in writing.

Since reading Bob Greene’s 1974 backstage tell-all, Billion Dollar Baby, I’d been drawn to stories based on the personal experiences of music biz insiders. In recent years, I’d devoured such behind-the-scenes memoirs as C.K. Lendt’s Kiss and Sell and Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel — which only further fueled the desire to tell my own story. But publishers were universally ambivalent about embracing any of the feel-good, fan-type book proposals based on my involvement with various bands that my agent had been pitching over the years. While I did have some interest from publishers, it was clear that none of them were going to sign me until I took off my "fan hat." I’d have to dig deep, get real, and focus on ONE particular band if I was to advance to the next level.

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Read C'MON! in it's entirety 

Copyright 2012 / 2016 Christopher Long

Thursday, November 24, 2016

THANKSGIVING 2016: The Top 10 Things I'm Most Thankful For This Year

THANKSGIVING 2016
The Top 10 Things I'm Most
Thankful For This Year
________________________

My amazing son. my ripped
abs, Paul Stanley the list of
things for which I'm constantly
thankful is endless. However,
I'm particularly grateful to
have experienced these 10
super-sized blessings in 2016.
_________________________

10
POLAR POP

Any size ice-cold, refreshing soft drink
for just 79¢. Polar Pop — my personal
flavor of choice is Full Throttle.

9
STARBUCKS

It's my personal sanctuary and
social hub. It's where I go for my
"medicine" and also to enjoy daily
quality Bible study time. That is all.

8
THE STRUTS

I'd almost given up on rock and roll.
Then, I discovered The Struts.
Read all about it HERE

7
CASEY KASEM

An admitted teenage radio geek growing
up during the 1970s, I was addicted to
Casey Kasem's popular weekly American 
Top 40 program. And in 2016, I partied
like it was 1974 all over again — thanks
to iHeartRadio and my trusty smart phone,
I carried Casey and his classic show re-
runs right in my hip pocket — 24/7.

6
ARBY'S SLIDERS

Ham, corned beef, chicken — tasty
tiny gifts of goodness from God.
And usually just a buck a piece.

5
LORETTA LYNN

Thanks to her amazing new album,
Full Circle, Miss Lo-Retty was
back on my radar in 2016. In fact,
it was THE "Record of the Year!"

4
MAD MEN

Hello. My name is Chris.
And I'm a "Mad Men" junkie.

I've had TV service disconnected in my
home since 2008. As a result, I was
completely unaware of Don Draper and
the ad team at Sterling Cooper Draper
Pryce. But thanks to my tech-savvy
GF (and Netflix), that all changed in
2016, as I devoured all 92 episodes
of the award-winning series that ran
originally on AMC from 2007-2015.
Now, Draper is a household name.
At least in my household, anyway.

3
SOBRIETY

I'm not gonna get on my soapbox —
just wanna say that 2016 marked
Oh, sweet freedom — thanks, Jesus!

2
CENTRAL LIFE

The "C.L." are NOT my initials. They
stand for Central Life Church. With
two current Florida campuses —
Cocoa and Melbourne, "Central" is
a life-enriching, non-denominational
church that has nothing to do with
religion and everything to do with
Jesus. Yes, there's a BIG difference.
And 2016 marked my second full
year of claiming Central Life as my
church home. Why is church such a
vital part of my life? Simply put, church
is what activates faith. And "Central"
keeps me and my faith very active!

1
MY CHICK

I did NOT see it coming. But when I
heard that "still small voice" in 2016,
it SCREAMED — the voice of God
said, "Dude, I'm giving you an angel.
DON'T BLOW IT!" The rest of the
story is mushy and gushy, private and
personal. I'll just say that I love Diana
with all my heart. Thanks, Jesus. I
owe you — BIG TIME!

There ya go — my personal Top 10 best blessings of 2016. So, what are you thankful for this year?

-Christopher Long
(November 2016)

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Monday, November 21, 2016

C'MON! (Chapter Seven: Life, Death and Butterscotch Pudding)

C'MON!
My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation
(The 5th Anniversary Edition)
- Christopher Long -

__________________________

CHAPTER SEVEN
Life, Death and
Butterscotch Pudding

At first glance it appeared as if the '90s were poised to become the '80s, Part II. The Bush presidency was a spillover from the Reagan administration, popular ‘80s TV shows such as L.A. Law and Full House remained ratings champs in the early ‘90s and people all still pretty much looked like Lita Ford  even some of the chicks. The music scene was status quo as well. While established acts, including Poison, Cinderella and Mötley Crüe were showing early warning signs of their impending self-destruction, new bands such as Slaughter, Firehouse and Mr. Big all were dropping platinum-selling debuts as they carried the ‘80s arena rock torch into the new decade. And I was perfectly content to “let the good times roll!”

Basking in the final glory days, hanging
out with Slaughter drummer, Blas Elias.

(Fort Lauderdale, FL 1990)
90
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Smells Like Bad Music
A fateful Saturday night in the fall of 1991 changed my bright and sunny perception of the new decade when a frumpy-looking trio from Seattle, Washington called Nirvana, debuted their ground-breaking video, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball program. And within the three-minute span of their music video, the rock world was effectively turned upside down. Chart-busting, good-time-party poster boys who maintained solid, successful careers on the Friday preceding Nirvana’s proverbial A-bomb, found themselves standing in rock’s “breadline” by the following Monday morning. Any musician after 1982 who had ever smiled at a camera, wrote a catchy anthem, worn tight pants or, heaven forbid, donned a little makeup seemingly was banished instantly from rock's "Champagne Room." They’d all been expunged and replaced on the charts and the airwaves by a new crop of grimacing, brooding, unwashed, hobo-looking characters, wearing flannel shirts with misbuttoned sweaters and sporting short, greasy, unkempt coifs. And to me, the music made by this new breed of anti-rock star was, in a word, depressing. Simply put, the party was over.

Despite some of our rather abrasive qualities, at the core, Dead Serios was actually just a hard rock party band. And when the party officially came to an abrupt end for the "big boys" in early 1992, any chance we had of “making it” also had been squelched. But I wasn’t about to go quietly. In fact, I remained in denial for the next few years — convinced that the glorious arena rock era would make a full recovery. 20 years later, my conviction has wavered.

Mmm, Butterscotch!
As an admitted lifelong, self-centered creep, I never wanted a child. The notions of a baby’s non-stop crying, midnight feedings and dirty diapers were offensive and frightening to me. And I simply was unwilling to put anyone else’s needs before my own selfish ambitions. However, to my amazement (and many others who knew me), I did a complete 180° about face regarding parenthood the moment Trish came home from her gynecologist appointment in early 1993 with the big news  “I’m pregnant!”

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We began immediately renovating our apartment  painting walls, child-proofing cabinets and transforming the one-time guest room into a brand-spanking new nursery. I was also present at every one of Trish’s monthly check-ups throughout her pregnancy. We even attended Lamaze classes together.

Everything about Trish’s pregnancy seemed to be a breeze. She experienced very little morning sickness and she gained hardly any weight. And on October 5, 1993, the night our son, Jesse, was born, Trish was in actual hard labor for only about an hour. In fact, I joked that the baby came so quickly and effortlessly that Trish didn’t even smear her typically immaculate, Stryper-like makeup.

The deal was, if Jesse had been a girl, Trish would have named him Shandi Nicole. “Shandi” is the title of a KISS song from the band’s 1980 pop album, Unmasked. But since he was a boy, I got to name him Jesse Tanner, after the John Stamos and Bob Saget characters on the aforementioned ‘80s sitcom, Full House. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. But from the beginning, I’ve made no bones about maintaining how I’ve always been a dork!

I now was a dad and I knew instinctively I had to step up and make some life changes. But I was a 30-year-old with few options. My high school effort was minimal, I'd quit college after only a couple of weeks and I had no back-up plan in the unlikely event that my rock and roll “lottery numbers” weren’t called. And they weren’t.

Fatherhood - just days after bringing
Jesse home from the hospital in 1993.
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In the mid-‘80s, I became acquainted with a local entertainment booking agent named Greg Kimple. In 1989, Greg and his brother Jeff opened a rock and roll mega-club in Melbourne called The Power Station. Dead Serios became a proven and consistent cash cow for the Kimple brothers, and through that association, Greg ultimately brought me into his DJ business in late 1993. He loaned me a cheesy, AM radio-sounding audio system, a case of cassette tapes and put me to work. Before long, I found myself making DJ appearances in clubs and at private events several nights a week. And I was grateful for the opportunity, just when I needed it most. Soon after, Jeff offered me a job tending bar at a smaller nearby nightclub that he and Greg also owned.

Thanks to the Kimple brothers, I was earning a decent living by the summer of 1994. However, the fallout from working in the bar business was beginning to take a toll on my marriage. But it was that crazy, late-night existence that allowed me to be home with Jesse every day. From feedings to diaper duty, I found indescribable joy in caring for my son. In fact, I changed so many dirty diapers when Jesse was a baby, that to this day, I still can’t stomach looking at a bowl of butterscotch pudding! And because of that early bond, we continue to enjoy an incredible father / son relationship.

The Dope Show
In the early 1990s I began hearing reports of an outrageous new band coming up on the South Florida scene called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids. I loved the name and after seeing one of their early promo photos in a local music magazine, I became even more intrigued. Wearing gobs of makeup and dressed in striped tights, with colorful, fashion-forward hair styles and carrying lunchboxes, they combined a 1990s “club kid” look with old-school Alice Cooper-like attitude. Even without having ever heard their music I just knew that these guys were going to be huge. Unfortunately, I don’t think The Spooky Kids shared the same enthusiasm for my band.

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Dead Serios was set to perform at JAM! magazine’s 1992 Jammy Awards after-show party at The Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando. During the ceremony’s intermission break earlier in the evening, I noticed various “Spooky Kids” hanging out in the auditorium lobby. There they were, Twiggy, Biggy, Piggy, Ziggy and the whole crew — sporting outrageous L.A. rock fashions and carrying their obligatory lunchboxes. I remember thinking how absolutely amazing they looked. They were a unified team, making a bold artistic statement and not giving a hoot what anyone else thought. Now that’s rock and roll. And I was really hoping to impress them later when Dead Serios took the stage at The Hard Rock. However, judging by the disapproving, scowling faces and the militant, cross-armed stances they displayed while watching our set from three rows back, I’d wager a guess that the Spooky Kids were less than impressed.

Doug Gibson and Joe Del Corvo performing
with Dead Serios at Orlando's Hard Rock Cafe.
JAM! magazine began holding its annual Jammy Awards ceremony in 1990. This was a major Central Florida event held in various 3,000-plus-seat venues over the years and was attended by throngs of the local music biz insiders, all dressed in their “Sunday best.” The top honor of the event was the coveted “Entertainer of the Year” award. Similar to the Miss America pageant, it became a Jammy tradition for each reigning Entertainer of the Year to present the honor to the next recipient the following year. In 1991, the band Stranger presented the award to Dead Serios. In 1992, Dead Serios presented it to (then) 13-year-old blues guitar ace Derek Trucks, nephew of The Allman Brothers Band founding drummer Butch Trucks. This was simply a respectful means of passing the crown from one “pageant winner” to the next. That is, until Marilyn Manson accepted the crown from Derek Trucks in 1993.

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Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids had been discovered by Nine Inch Nails frontman and producer Trent Reznor who recently had helped sign the band to a major label deal with Interscope Records. Having dropped “the Spooky Kids" from their name, frontman and namesake, Marilyn, now was taking full advantage of every opportunity to publicly shock and outrage the masses.

Despite now only being 14, Derek Trucks already had become a well-respected, nationally-known musician by early 1993. He even arrived at that night’s event in his own personal tour bus. This meant precious little to Mr. Manson, who upon approaching the podium to accept the award, patted Trucks on the head and mockingly announced over the microphone to the thousands in attendance that Trucks would likely be better suited at home doing his homework. In addition to ridiculing Trucks, arguably the most talented musician at the event, Mr. Manson further proceeded to raise eyebrows by publicly accepting the award in the name of Satan, his “personal Lord and Savior.” “Did he just say what I think he said?” I asked my buddy who was standing next to me in the back of the auditorium. “Uh, yeah,” he replied. Yikes!

The words of the wicked are like a murderous
ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.
Proverbs 12:6 (NLT)

Regardless of my own personal sensibilities, I’ve never been one to have a “book burning” mentality. I don’t have to agree morally, spiritually or even politically with an artist to appreciate a work’s creative value. In fact, Dead Serios didn’t exactly create a family-friendly product either. Hence, I was able to overlook personally troubling lyrics and recognize Marilyn Manson’s 1994 major label debut, Portrait of an American Family, as one of the year’s best rock records. In fact, by year’s end, I was actually involved with promoting a Marilyn Manson concert date at The Asylum nightclub in Melbourne.

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In addition to being one of the co-promoters of the Marilyn Manson show, Dead Serios also was one of the opening acts. Although they were now a national contender with a major label record in stores, I was surprised to notice during soundcheck that Marilyn Manson’s stage amps and drum kit were as beaten and weathered as Dead Serios’ gear. After soundcheck I was standing at the back of the club perusing the tremendous assortment of T-shirts Marilyn Manson had for sale at their merchandise area. In fact, the wall behind their table was covered with about a dozen different shirts. They all had the band’s eye-catching trademark logo on the fronts and various different troubling slogans on the backs encouraging fans to hate their parents and blaspheming God. Known for my often caustic sarcasm, I incorporated these negative messages into my band’s signature grand finale later in the evening. Taking on the persona of a rock and roll version of the popular children’s television personality Mr. Rogers, I reminded the 200-plus Goth kids in the crowd to brush after every meal, do their homework, go to church and love their parents. I doubt any of them were “buying” what I was “selling.”


Remembering how disinterested the Marilyn Manson members seemed with the Dead Serios performance they’d seen in 1992 and given my growing lack of enthusiasm for them, I didn’t stick around to watch their headline set. I left the stage, walked out of the club, got in my car and sped home to watch the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Of course Marilyn Manson went on to become one of the biggest names in rock. In 2008 I took a teenage friend of mine to see Marilyn Manson perform in Orlando. I noticed that not much had changed about Mr. Manson’s presentation, as onstage video screens flashed messages promoting drug use and blaspheming God throughout the show.

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I Need to Know
I’d just been going through the motions with Dead Serios for the last several years. We were no longer the cutting edge punks that we once were in our award-winning glory days. The young rockers coming up on the East Coast scene clearly had no connection to guys in their 30s and our once diehard teenage followers were primarily now all married or divorced — with kids of their own, mortgages and understandably, little interest in the local rock and roll scene. I hoped that our new guitarist could provide the spark needed to re-ignite the band and keep us moving forward. We loaded our gear into our van on New Year’s Day 1997 and traveled from Melbourne to producer Jim DeVito’s recording studio, 90 miles north in St. Augustine, to begin working on what ultimately would be our last record.

During our first day at Jim’s studio we got a visit from a guy who lived nearby. Around lunchtime this animated, hyperactive fellow came bopping through the studio doorway dressed as if he’d been playing tennis. He was none other than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drummer, Stan Lynch.

Talking non-stop at about a million miles an hour, Stan is quite a character. Rattling off insider rock and roll stories at a rapid-fire pace, Stan rides a fine line between captivating and annoying. However, I for one, immediately liked the guy. And I think that he liked my band too. In fact, he came to the studio each day we were there that week. We had been recording an EP that was to include a White Zombie-like remake of the 1978 Village People disco hit, “Macho Man.” Stan thought that it was an inventive and hilarious concept and offered to produce the track. However, after noticing some of the rather tongue-in-cheek impromptu vocals, he backed away from the project because, as he put it, we had “gone overboard” with what he referred to as “fag-bashing.”

I could listen to Stan’s insider, rock and roll war stories all day. While taking a break from recording one evening, Stan got caught up in telling us about his experience during the 1970s as an opening act for KISS during the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tour. “I had to play under that KISS sign night after night while people booed us,” Stan recalled passionately. “But I just thought, hey, I’m up here and you’re down there!”

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From memories of drug-crazed experiences while working with Stevie Nicks to studio dish on recording with John Mellencamp, Stan had a million outrageous tales to tell.

Recalling his days with Tom Petty, he admitted that in the beginning they were great. However, according to Stan, while in the studio during his last days with the band, egos had gotten totally out of control. Stan claimed that by this point nobody was allowed to speak directly to Petty any longer. In fact, all communications with the legendary singer / songwriter while in the studio had to be done via handwritten notes.

One morning Stan described to me the recent influx of band requests for him either to produce or manage them. “I send them all back the same three word comment card... Sucks! Sucks! Sucks!” he told me passionately with his arms flailing about. “Nobody’s got any originality anymore and everyone’s afraid to be themselves,” he added. “If you’re an aging '80s hair metal guy, then hold your head up and be the best aging '80s hair metal guy that you can be!”

I found Stan’s stories to be fascinating and his words of advice to be quite inspirational. In fact, I would apply his “hold your head up,” “be the best you can be” philosophy to my future spiritual life.

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith.
Be courageous. Be strong. And
do everything with love.
1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT)

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Let Them Eat Cake!
I met a young woman named Jules in 1993 as she and her girlfriends frequented the South Florida nightclubs where Dead Serios  often performed. Simply put, Jules was a cool chick and after coming to see the band live a few times, she began inviting us to crash at her place whenever we were in town. Even after the band began losing momentum, Jules and I still kept in contact. And in early 1997, Trish and I received an invitation to attend Jules’ wedding.

Despite her reluctance to divulge the info when we first met, I soon learned that Jules’ father was a media mogul who at one time had owned several radio stations and founded a couple of successful TV cable networks. Although Jules' wedding reception was set to take place at her parents' palatial West Palm Beach residence, the ceremony was to take place at the nearby home of her father's close longtime friend, Donald Trump.

I remember feeling as if I’d been cast in a real-life episode of the popular sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bell-Air, as Trish and I arrived at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate. Oh sure, our car was considered a sporty ride back in our hometown, but as valets parked our 1992 Dodge Daytona among the near countless Mercedes, Cadillacs, BMWs and other luxury vehicles, I quickly began to feel somewhat out of place at this black tie gala.

The nuptials took place in Trump’s personal theater-type room, overlooking the Mar-A-Lago golf course. As Trish and I sat in the temporary wedding chapel, waiting for the ceremony commencement, I began to recognize the faces of many of the guests who were seated nearby. From old school show biz-types like Connie Stevens to “The Donald” himself — seated with then-wife Marla Maples, Jules’ wedding was truly a “who’s who” event.

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While making our way through the receiving line after the ceremony, I recognized legendary music manager, Doc McGhee, standing in the back of the room. Having managed such heavy weight rock acts as Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, and Skid Row, McGhee was currently managing KISS — I would have known him anywhere.

The wedding was a very formal affair and all of the men were dressed in black tuxedos, while the women all wore glamorous evening gowns. Anticipating that a situation like this might arise, and not being one to ever miss a promotional opportunity, I intentionally had lined the inside of my tux jacket with half a dozen Dead Serios demo tapes. Although I genuinely didn’t want to offend McGhee by bothering him, “off the clock,” I didn’t want to miss the chance of getting my music to an iconic industry power player either. Trying to appear cool, I waited for an opportune moment in which to make contact.

I became a little nervous as he approached me, because in Elvis-like fashion he was surrounded by a huge entourage. Then, just as he was about to pass me by, I finally made my move. As politely as possible, I apologized for the intrusion and asked if I could give him a demo tape — a request that he graciously granted. For an up-and-coming musician like myself looking for that big break, the courtesy was appreciated greatly. This was the first of several personal experiences I’ve had with McGhee over the years and he has always proven himself to be a class act.

While attending a KISS show a few years later, I noticed McGhee walking through the crowd — suit and tie, of course. As he approached my crew seated near the front of the stage, he noticed my son, Jesse, who was still quite little, sitting with us. Seeming genuinely concerned for the welfare of such a young child attending a potentially rowdy rock concert, McGhee inquired if Jesse was okay, if he had a clear view of the stage and if he needed earplugs. Next to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, McGhee was probably the most important man in the entire arena. Yet, he showed concern for the well-being and safety of one child. As I said, “a class act” to be sure.

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Trish and I continued to experience life in the lap of luxury at Jules’ reception — sampling caviar for the first time and schmoozing with the "upper crust." Guests were all placed for dinner according to assigned seating. Among others present at our table, Trish and I also enjoyed the company of a woman resembling actress Bea Arthur who had traveled to the gala from her home in The Hamptons. With the face of her fox stole staring me down, the regal-looking woman informed the two of us commoners that the miniature sorbet sculptures which had arrived at our table were not ice cream treats, but were intended to “cleanse the pallet” following the main course — truly a Grey Poupon experience!

Cooter Time
“Is he dead?” I could hear the rather reasonable question, but I couldn’t render a response. “No. He’s breathing,” another voice offered.

It was the summer of 1997 and my new band, a hillbilly-type, southern rock-inspired glam combo called Glitterhick boldly was taking the debauchery I’d experienced in Dead Serios to a whole new level. On this particular afternoon I had succumbed to the effects of an all-day binger with my newfound bandmates. Our guitarist and ringleader, Moe Cooter, had just broken his leg jumping off the roof “golden god-style” into the pool, while I was passed out, naked, floating on a raft.


GLITTERHICK
(That's me in black and red)
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Probably our favorite word in the Glitterhick vernacular was “more.” More girls, more booze, more drugs, more brazen cock-rock swagger — more, more, more! Despite wearing little more than T-backs and cowboy hats during our live performances, Glitterhick somehow managed to cultivate a large and loyal following among the local bikers. And our shows were more a means of executing organized sex parties than they were music events. We also quickly became THE band of choice for the hometown nudist club. I doubt whether club members had any true affection for our music, but we were the only band in the area with enough chutzpah to perform in the nude when booked to play at their monthly get-togethers. When in Rome...

Glitterhick performing in Los Angeles.
(1997)
We formed in 1997 and gave it our best until 2001. In that time we played seemingly countless shows on both coasts and released one full-length, self-produced CD. And it was while performing in Los Angeles in 1997 when Glitterhick earned its most dubious distinction — we got banned for life from The Chateau Marmont.

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Located on Sunset Boulevard, The Chateau Marmont is no $75 a night Hollywood dump. Referred to as the “great castle on the hill,” The Chateau Marmont is truly a legendary Hollywood landmark — an elegant, luxurious getaway with a storied past. Jim Morrison reportedly injured his back while attempting to swing in through the window of his room via a dangling drain pipe. It also was reported that the members of Led Zeppelin rode motorcycles through the hotel. And it was in a Chateau Marmont bungalow where actor John Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982. So a reasonable question might be, “how on earth do you get banned from the Chateau Marmont?”

I knew Glitterhick was likely to run into trouble when I entered our room at The Chateau Marmont following that night’s show at the Coconut Teaszer and immediately tripped over one of our crew members snorting drugs off the carpet. I had already been spotted earlier that day hanging out our room window overlooking Sunset Boulevard, which began to raise concerns. And subsequent guest complaints to hotel management regarding the volume of our post-show partying didn’t help matters.“Sir, you and your entourage will have to leave the hotel, AT ONCE!” ordered a rather annoyed security guard when he caught up with our obliterated guitarist, Moe Cooter, at 6AM — urinating on a BMW in the hotel’s parking garage.

I took this shot of Motörhead frontman,
Lemmy Kilmister and Glitterhick drummer,
Mike Coe while partying at Hollywood's
iconic hot spot, The Rainbow in 1997.
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A few days after returning to Florida following our West Coast jaunt, Moe Cooter’s brother, who had booked the room on his credit card, received an official letter from The Chateau Marmont, clearly stating that were no longer welcome at the hotel — ever again!

My Glitterhick experience also led to my 1998 discovery of Jägermeister. “It’s sweet and warm, just like cough syrup,” I was told by our new drummer, Scooter Greenbud, as he handed me my first shot of the tonic. Mmm, he was right! My dysfunctional love affair with Jägermeister would endure for the next several years.

Simply put, girls were
ga-ga for Glitterhick!
‘Til Death Do Us Part?
Be sure that I don’t claim to be a psychologist or a professional marriage counselor. I’m just a guy who’s offering a little personal commentary about surviving a particularly painful disease — a disease known as divorce.

I vividly recall the minister who married Trish and I confronting me in a back room of the church just minutes before our wedding ceremony in April 1985. He bent over, lifted his robe slightly, removed one of his shoes and shoved it in my face. “If I ever find out that you screwed this up, I’ll come find you and stick this shoe up your ass,” he warned me with considerable conviction. I assured him that he'd never have reason for concern.

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Trish and I were high school sweethearts. We dated off and on for more than four years prior to my popping the question in 1983. And although our engagement lasted a year and a half, we still were quite young at the time of our nuptials. In fact, I was 22 and Trish was just 20. But at the time, we’d already been involved with each other for six years and we knew that we were meant to be together. We were the rock and roll “Ken and Barbie.” We loved the fast-paced party lifestyle — jet setting to L.A., hanging out backstage at major concert events and basking in our local notoriety. We hit several rocky spots in our relationship along the way, but we always managed to rebound — that is until the late ‘90s. Then everything just went crazy.

Me and Trish backstage during
the '90s with REO Speedwagon
guitarist, Gary Richrath.
There was plenty of blame to go around regarding our split and the fact that we were becoming consumed by partying didn’t help. I could easily offer a dozen reasons why everything was all Trish’s fault. But truth be told, I can come up with just as many examples of how I blew it. Marriage is often fragile and it requires constant care and attention. And I lost it all while my back was turned — running around trying to play rock star.

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We had been fostering a questionable environment for years and consequently we now were surrounded by people of dubious character. My perception was that our relationship had spun out of control and had simply become unfixable. FYI — it’s always fixable. But my pride kept me from recognizing that, and in the summer of 1998, I split — losing everything I had in the process — most importantly, losing out on half of my son’s life. Jesse had nothing to do with the garbage that Trish and I were dealing with and he certainly didn’t deserve to have his family torn apart — especially at age four. But that’s how divorce rolls. And its repercussions are far-reaching. Divorce is a disease that affects many — especially the innocent little ones. I once was criticized by an editor for likening divorce to cancer. As someone who has experienced the effects of both personally, I believe that's actually a perfect comparison.

I was determined that NO judge would dictate when I could see my son — Jesse was all I cared about. But with my tattoos, piercings and shoulder-length hair, my appearance was hardly an asset. Plus, I worked in the nightclub business and played in a band that was better known for its carnal escapades than for creating music. Conversely, Trish’s appearance was always polished and proper. She looked like actress Heather Locklear and had a respectable career in banking. Plus, we lived in Florida, which typically means, that in divorce proceedings, if you have a penis, YOU LOSE! Consequently, it was imperative that Trish and I work out our differences privately and avoid a potentially nasty and costly court battle. In the end, we agreed on a 50/50 custody arrangement — something that no judge likely would have allowed. And with nothing more than my car, my DJ gear, a few KISS collectibles, some clothing and less than $100 cash, I started life all over at age 35. If it’s true that time does heal all wounds, I’m still waiting.

My splintered family in 1998.
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Fly to the Angels
In the early ‘90s I had never heard of multiple myeloma. However, by the mid ‘90s, I’d become all too familiar with this form of cancer that affects the plasma cells in bone marrow — causing bone pain and breakage, particularly in the back and ribs. I recall my mother first complaining of breaking ribs while simply picking up laundry and rolling over in bed. Yet it took doctors a couple of years to diagnose her illness accurately. It was multiple myeloma.

My folks in the '90s - just prior
to receiving Mom's diagnosis.
Upon finally receiving an accurate diagnosis, the cancer was spreading rapidly throughout my mom’s body and she was expected to only live a short time. However, with the news of Trish’s pregnancy in 1993, my mom seemed to harness an intense will to survive. She was clearly committed to being around to welcome her new grandchild into the world. I believe God timed Jesse’s birth perfectly for that very reason. Mom did live to experience Jesse’s arrival, as well as his first, second, third and fourth birthdays! And the relationship they shared was amazing.

By the summer of 1998, Trish and I had split up officially and Jesse and I briefly were attending weekly church services with my parents — which meant a lot to my mom. Then, one Sunday morning in September, I overheard her mention to another woman at the service how she was once again breaking bones. I was shocked, as she’d been in remission for some time and I for one thought she had won the battle. A few days later, her doctor informed my mom that she had at best, only a few months to live.

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Mom was clearly losing the fight in early 1999. The medications were taking a noticeable toll on her and she was becoming extremely weak, yet I remained ever hopeful that she would make a full recovery. Then one Sunday afternoon in March, she couldn’t even get out of bed when my then- girlfriend Karen, Jesse and I went over to visit. This had never happened before.

We visited briefly with my dad in the living room and then made an early exit. Just before we left, I went to the back bedroom and said goodbye to my mom. She seemed disoriented and kept saying she was cold. I covered her in an extra blanket, told her, “I love you Mom,” and went on my way. Those were the last words I ever spoke to the best friend I’ve ever had. Within 24 hours, I received a call from my dad telling me that my mom couldn’t be revived and that an ambulance was on the way to rush her to the hospital.

Mom wasn’t allowed to receive visitors until the next day. When Jesse and I arrived at the hospital, she had been unresponsive for some time. Not fully grasping what was happening, Jesse made his way to my mom’s bedside, reached up and held her hand. At that moment, Mom’s eyes opened. Immediately recognizing the face of her five-year-old grandson, she squeezed his hand tightly for a second or two and then slipped into a final coma.

With the aid of life support, my mom hung on for more than a week, during which time my family kept an around-the-clock vigil. I visited her at the hospital every day and then returned late each night when I got off work from the local nightclub where I was DJ-ing. The sound of my mother gagging and gasping for breath, echoing throughout the quiet hospital halls at 3AM, was agonizing. I’ll forever remember the moment I walked into my parent’s house that afternoon in late March. I was greeted at the front door by my brother’s wife, Beth, with the words, “Mom’s gone.”

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The day of my mother’s funeral was a particularly painful one. As I stood next to the now closed casket following the service, I was approached by a deacon from my parents’ denominational church — a guy named "Dick." “Your mother wants you to join her in heaven,” Dick told me. “But if you don’t change your ways, you’re not going to make it,” he added. Really? This was the single worst moment of my life. I was saying goodbye for the last time to my best friend and that was what this guy wanted to say to me? Dick knew my family. Dick knew me from attending his church for several months with my parents — and those were the words Dick chose to offer. Needless to say, Dick’s words offered NO comfort and I once again felt dragged back 15 yards by a member of my own team.

This memorial lies beneath a tree that was
planted on the property of my parents' church.
Coke Chaser
I was in my late 30s by the end of the ‘90s. Life as I had known it for years recently had come to a crashing end. My mom’s death a few months earlier and my 1998 divorce created the first of several layers of darkness that would hover over me for the next decade.

After being introduced to Jägermeister during my tenure with Glitterhick, I was guzzling the stuff at an alarming rate by 2000. At the time, I was DJ-ing at a local nightclub owned by the Kimple brothers’ youngest sibling, Scott. A shrewd businessman, Scott surmised that it would make better economic sense for both of us if he offered me an unlimited bar tab as part of my nightly wage. But after noticing the unbelievable amount of Jäger he now continually had to restock, Scott opted to pay me in straight cash.

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I also developed a similar reputation at another venue where I DJ’d frequently — a local hot spot called Siggy’s. In 2000 I'd become quite tight with one of Siggy’s nighttime bartenders, a crackerjack, seasoned pro named Pattie. Siggy’s entire storefront is glass, and from her position behind the bar, Pattie could see my van coming through the parking lot as I arrived at work each night. By the time I could drive around back, park my vehicle and make my way into the club, she’d have a monstrous-size shot of  Jägermeister with a Coke chaser and an ice-cold Heineken on the side, already waiting for me in the DJ booth. Hence, I’d begin my night of drinking before even powering up my DJ amplifiers. By the end of the night I’d be stumbling through the bar and screaming profanities over the microphone. On several occasions, I don’t know how I even made it home. But I do recall regaining consciousness one night, sitting at the wheel of my car, which was facing the wrong direction on a major thoroughfare. That’s right, I was now driving drunk on a near-nightly basis.

I was clearly out of control, and I had to get sober. But I worked full-time in the bar business and I really loved to drink. I needed to drink. Plus, I reveled in being the life of the party. I would continue drinking for another four years.

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Copyright 2012 / 2016 Christopher Long