“What ever happened to that beautiful sister of yours? I always figured she’d marry a rock star.”
“She did. Roger Waters.”
“Who’s Roger Waters?”
So said I to my old golf buddy and Sag Harbor native Jim Durning a couple years ago, at a reunion dinner of sorts at the American Hotel. Jim had recently moved back to the Hamptons after years away and we were catching up on our time apart. I’d had adventures, he’d had adventures, and his sister had married a rock star.
Who hasn’t heard of Roger Waters? To put this in perspective, I’m also the girl who once heard music I particularly liked at Red Bar and asked the waiter, Who’s that? “His name is E-L-T-O-N J-O-H-N”, he answered with loud, perfect articulation, like I might be from another planet or maybe just a bit slow.
I’ve never listened to much pop music, and once I became a jazz musician I was more interested in Charlie Parker than Charlie Watts. Sadly, I can’t avoid knowing who Miley Cyrus is, but somehow I missed Elton and Roger.
I am, however, not completely without rock cred. I’ve been to two rock concerts, one a big high school date to hear Three Dog Night when I was 14, and the other a foray into the world of *NSync, to interview the band’s pianist for my radio show Jazz Inspired. And yes, Justin and I hung out a bit.
A few weeks ago, Jim encouraged me to come to London for one of Roger’s last concerts of The Wall tour. “It’s unlike anything you’ll ever see. You really should come.”
By this point, I’d done my homework, met Roger and decided, why not? With Jim and his lovely wife Holly, I’d have backstage access, the VIP treatment and finally get to be a rock groupie.
I won’t attempt a full recounting, but here are a few impressions:
I now know Brits handle crowds better than anyone in the world. I, and 60,000 more, were smoothly directed to our respective areas without a hitch. Not even Disney does herding better.
Brits dress more stylishly than others for outdoor events, with the possible exception of the Italians. I’ve seen it at English picnics, where they’re linen and champagne to our ants and bug spray, but their chic approach to stadium wear is even more impressive.
Brits also have the most civilized bag inspectors in the world. To wit: One opened the bag of the man in front of me, pulled out his bottle of wine, complimented the vintage and offered to open it for him. He had a corkscrew at the ready, did the deed and, with a “Have a lovely evening,” sent him on his way. Downton Abby meets ReverbNation.
Pre-Concert, VIP Lounge
Champagne in hand, I ask a guy, “Do you go to lots of rock concerts?”
“Oh yes, HUNDREDS, at least one a week. You?”
Aghast, he sputters: “NEVER?”
“Well, I did go to one in high school.”
“Really? Who was it? The Monkees?”
“Do I really look that unhip? No, not The Monkees—Three Dog Night.”
“I also saw *NSync and hung out a bit with Justin.”
“Yeah, he’s always been into older women.”
Unhip and old.
Another guy sees me standing alone and shoots over.
He: “Is this your first time?”
In a VIP lounge? At a rock concert? Receiving a bad pick-up line? WHAT???
Not knowing his meaning, I fake it and say, “Yes.”
Inexplicably, he rejoins with, “Surprise me.”
Me: “I’m a man.”
Not doing the groupie thing well.
There’s a big wall involved that keeps being built up and torn down.
Various things get projected on the wall: Goosestepping hammers, sexy, almost-naked women, a younger Roger, mind-blowing graphics.
From a distance Roger looks like Richard Gere. Excellent hair.
Fireworks, a machine gun, an airplane flying through, a helicopter, a huge, evil pig floating blimp-like over the audience, gigantic, slow-mo puppets towering above Roger, like Julie Taymor’s Juan Darien on steroids.
Pulling a Seth MacFarlane, Roger does all the voices for the various cartoon characters projected on the wall.
“SCREAM, SCREAM, SCREAM”
Me, shouting to Jim: “WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?”
“ROGER, ROGER, ROGER.”
”FUNNY, THAT WAS ME A FEW WEEKS AGO AT THE U.S. OPEN.”
Very civilized and British, no drugs or craziness like that hang with Justin (kidding).
Tall, handsome, famous British soccer star approaches me and says:
“Hi, I’m ______ I thought I’d check out Wembley and see what they do here besides soccer. (He says “football,” but I’m translating, since I speak British.)
“Aren’t you Judy Carmichael, the super-famous, super-fabulous American jazz musician?”
“Well, gosh, yes.”
“I can’t believe it! You’re even hotter in person. How would you like to slip out of here and see if we can break down some walls?” (Maybe kidding, maybe not . . .)
Judy Carmichael is a Grammy Nominated jazz pianist/vocalist, and host of NPR’s “Judy Carmichael’s Jazz Inspired.” Judy’s newly released CD “I Love Being Here With You” is available at judycarmichael.com.