Purple Polish

I can't crash backstage parties at concerts. I'm intimidated by the six-foot guys with no necks, their yellow windbreakers, their crackling walkie-talkies. They see through every story I tell in an attempt to BS my way backstage. When my favorite '80s band, Bow Wow Wow, came to town years ago, I was determined to get backstage. I talked to their tour manager and made an appointment to interview the band.

I met the band in the late afternoon. Singer Anabella Lwin was worried that she didn't have any purple shoe polish. She said she wouldn't have time to get any before the show, and I volunteered to get it for her. I drove around to every shoe place I could find. Some were closed for the day; others didn't have purple. When one confused shop owner asked why I needed purple polish, I said, "A singer in town needs it." Because the guy looked to be in his 70s, I was shocked when he asked, "Prince?"

After an hour, I called everyone I knew. One of my friends had seen shoe polish at Rite Aid. It would be the last place I checked before giving up. They had purple.

I rushed back to the venue, and when Anabella arrived, I handed her the shoe polish. She thanked me and tried to give me money, which I refused. Nicole, the tour manager, gave me a music book as a gift. As I enjoyed the show, I was sure I'd be ushered backstage after the performance. I was wrong.

When Bow Wow Wow came to town to play the House of Blues this November, I doubted I'd make it backstage. I tried to get backstage at the Ted Nugent show there, even got the opening band's tour manager to put me on his guest list, but it was to no avail.

I contacted Nicole, who remembered the shoe polish, and she told me I could hang backstage with them after the show. The concert was great. The set was short -- they were opening for Dramarama -- but they did their hits ("I Want Candy," "Do You Wanna Hold Me?" "Go Wild in the Country").

Usually you're bummed when concerts end, but I was stoked. I'd be hanging backstage with Anabella. You see, growing up, my friends had posters of Farrah Fawcett on their walls -- I had pictures of Anabella. When MTV went on the air, my favorite video was the one with Anabella dancing around on a beach. I was thrilled to discover that we were about the same age, which gave me the misguided belief that if I ever met her, I'd have a shot.

I watched Anabella exit stage left and followed by exiting audience right. Should I have brought flowers? Nah, that's going overboard. I had another idea. I went to the merchandise booth and bought one of her shirts, which I hung out of my back pocket.

As I approached the backstage door, I could see the security guard tense up. He was ready for trouble. I had the backstage pass stuck to my leather jacket, and just as he lifted his arm for what I thought would be a left hook, I pointed to the pass. I was being paranoid. He was opening the door for me. I walked a few steps, made a sharp turn, and was backstage. Nicole and I hugged, and she introduced me to Anabella. I reminded her of the purple shoe polish, milking it again. She thanked me, and I said, "I never saw what you used it for." She told me that she never had time to apply it to her shoes. We made small talk, and I tried not to gush over her like the hardcore fan I am. She lifted a big bag, and I asked her if she needed help with it. She didn't. I mentioned the song "C30, C60, C90." It was written about the record industry and how many believed tape-recording albums would hurt record sales. In concert, she changed the lyrics, and I said, "It was clever how you updated that to include the word 'downloading.'" She replied, "Ah, you noticed." She then noticed the shirt hanging from my pocket. She smiled as she yanked it from me, saying, "Look you guys! I have my own shirts now!" She handed it back, thanking me for buying it. I was making progress.

As she went to the corner, I walked past the fruits and chips that had been set up for the band. I met the drummer, who was new to the band, and we talked briefly.

Bassist Leigh Gorman was packing his gear when a fan said, "I love everything you've ever done." Gorman smiled, and I said, "I do too. Well, except for the Paris album," a CD by their former manager, Malcolm McLaren. He laughed and told me how long it took to make that record. We talked music for about 15 minutes, and I could see Anabella looking at me from the corner of my eye. Was she wondering why I wasn't talking to her anymore? My ego wanted to believe this, but she was probably wondering who I was -- one of the few people back here with her band mates.

I approached her and asked if the blue wig she wore to start the show was distracting. She looked puzzled by the question. I said, "I saw you move it once, like it was about to fall off." She laughed and said, "You noticed that, did you?" I asked her why the band never played "Cast Iron Arm" live, and she told me that song was one of their early demos. One of the opening bands came backstage wanting pictures with her, and I went to talk to their guitarist. He told me he also plays in the band Common Sense.

I heard someone remind Anabella of a previous time they had met. She didn't remember. I told her that Saturday Night Live did a skit once where Paul Simon remembered everyone that had ever met him after a show, and he described the clothes they wore at the time. But he didn't recognize Garfunkel when he walked in. She looked to her friend and said, "He has a story about everything." I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not.

Leigh called me over to the refrigerator and offered me a Heineken. As we talked, I noticed Anabella was getting ready to leave with a few of her friends. I asked if she was still with the photographer. She looked a bit shocked, and I said I had heard her on a radio show years ago talking about him. She said, "No. We were engaged. He's married to someone else now. And has kids. I still don't, though."

My mind raced. She was no longer engaged! I should make a move. She introduced me to one of the ladies with her. She seemed shy. They were about to go out for something to eat. I thought about recommending a place or asking them if they would like to join me for a bite to eat. I could hear Dramarama on stage, and a big guy, Anabella's hairstylist, was ranting about President Bush. It was difficult to hear what they were talking about. I decided I'd just say goodbye. I figured, better to leave before being asked to leave. I was hoping Anabella would ask me to stay longer or to join them. She didn't.

My ego convinced me that we would've gone out together if she didn't have friends with her. My friends convinced me, when I tell this story in the future, and I will, to make up a spicier ending.

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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