When radio station KPRI announced a Van Morrison concert in L.A. that they’d be taking listeners to, I talked my way into joining afternoon DJ Oz in the limo to the show. We picked up the contest winners in Solana Beach and headed up.
Our seats at the Hollywood Bowl were two rows behind Dan Aykroyd, and I saw Robbie Robertson of the Band talking with someone I heard was the producer of Barney Miller and Night Court.
San Diego ticket broker Phil Cox was roaming around. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a concert where I didn’t see him.
We all enjoyed Van Morrison’s anniversary tribute to Astral Weeks and then picked up some wine for the trip back.
Other events I’ve crashed in L.A. proved to be more difficult.
One was for record producer George Martin, who is best known for his work with the Beatles. I have a Sgt. Pepper’s album cover signed by the entire band and wanted to get his signature. I thought this would be my best if not last chance, as Martin lives in the U.K. and is 90 years old.
The first event Martin would attend was on the USC campus, which provided two chances at meeting him — his arrival and departure.
I walked around the building and saw two security guards near the back, so I stood nearby pretending to read a magazine. I heard one of the guards on his walkie-talkie give the details of his arrival.
For 20 minutes, I watched as several autograph-seekers scouted out the area, trying to decide where to go.
Two black Lincoln Town Cars and a black SUV with tinted windows pulled up. It was as if the president was arriving. Three security guards stood by; one was pressing an earpiece to his head.
As Martin got out, people from the front of the building ran to get to him. They didn’t make it in time, which didn’t matter — four of us called his name from a few feet away, and he didn’t look at us. The guards had Martin ushered inside the building within seconds.
I noticed one guy had an Abbey Road album signed by guitarist George Harrison. Another person had a piece of paper with Paul McCartney’s signature on it.
As the autograph-seekers left, several saying they’d be back in a few hours, I went to crash the event.
I was wearing a tie and slacks, and as a group of well-dressed people approached the entrance to the party, I walked in with them. One of the women at the table was checking name tags, but none of us stopped. It worked perfectly.
I grabbed some white wine and saw music producer Jimmy Jam standing nearby. He looked spiffy in his bowler and pin-striped suit.
Once I got inside, I sat near the back. I saw guitarist Slash walk by — without his hat. When Jam sat down in the front row, I wondered if he’d take his off so others could see.
For two hours, Martin held our interest talking about the making of Sgt. Pepper’s while screening intermittent video segments.
As he was leaving the stage, one guy tossed an album up for him to sign. He glanced at it and kept walking.
Before Martin came out, one of the autograph-seekers said, “Instead of us all yelling and causing a ruckus, why don’t we all applaud? Maybe he’ll appreciate that more than just a bunch of Sharpies up in the air, with all the yelling.”
Martin came out and we applauded. He smiled, waved, and got into a black Jaguar. As the car drove off, he rolled the window down and thanked us. But he didn’t sign anything.
I still had the following day. My editor at Autograph Magazine put me up in a Marriott, so I checked into my room and crashed.
That weekend at the Marriott, there was an autograph show, like the one in the upstairs area of the convention center during Comic-Con. And, they have many of the same celebrities. What blew me away at this show was that it cost $30 to get in, and each celebrity would charge for his or her autograph, usually $25 an item.
Autograph Magazine got me free admission and a room, and I told my boss that I’d hang with him at the booth to help promote the magazine.
The woman at the door gave me a wristband, but when I got to the Autograph booth, a coworker said, “You should have a name tag, since you write for the magazine. Some people might want to meet you.” The thought that someone would want to meet me made me laugh. I mean, Lou Ferrigno, the Hulk, was sitting at the table across from us.
When I walked back over to the lady at the door, she got upset and yelled, “The wristband gets you in! I can’t just hand you a name tag!” I explained that I write for the magazine, and she said, “We don’t just have name tags laying around.” I glanced down and saw a pile of blank name tags. I said, “I can just take one of those and write my name in it.” She barked, “That would be unprofessional!”
After some wrangling, she gave in.
I saw Ed Begley Jr. by the front door. He had copies of his movies on his table, and he was working on his laptop. I asked how much he was charging for his autograph, and he said $10. His was the cheapest autograph there, and he told me that a portion of the money goes to green charities. I ran to my car to get a Spinal Tap CD from my trunk and handed him my credit card. I told him that I was the guy in the Spinal Tap shirt when he came down to Del Mar for the fair a few years back and that we had talked about his movie The In-Laws. He said, “Oh, yeah. I remember that conversation. You’re Josh.” I said, “Wow. You are the coolest celebrity ever, remembering my name.” He replied, “Well, it was an interesting conversation about the history of comedic films.”
We talked briefly as he ran my card. It seemed weird having Begley put in all the numbers of my Visa. It’s a lot of work for $10. I felt bad. When he asked me to sign the receipt, I said, “Cool, I can tell people that Ed Begley asked for my autograph.” He laughed and said, “Yeah, but I have a confession to make. I didn’t remember you from the fair. I glanced at your name tag.”
Next week, more L.A. stories: arm-wrestling the Hulk and a brawl...almost.