July 06, 2002

Name Droppings: All-Access at the Grammys

Keir DuBois goes backstage at great personal risk. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 2/27/97).

What would you do if you had an all-access backstage pass to the Grammys? With whom would you schmooze? What post-show bash would you attend? Well, by the grace of power, ego, and a whole lot of Monopoly money, my fearless editor acquired me a pass to the underground, backstage, and soft white underbelly of what the music industry calls its “biggest night.”

“It’ll be fun,” she said unconvincingly. “Good old rock & roll you, on the loose in Madison Square Garden with all those superstars? How awesome is that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, they’d probably smell my uncool-ness from miles away. Besides, the flight’s at LAX in less than two hours, and I don’t even have a room waiting in New York.”

“I’ll take care of it,” she reassured me. “Just get your bags togethger and get on that plane. I conned some poor Geffen lackey out of all his arrangements, so your trip is basically in the bag.”

It wasn’t, of course, but the terrifying Ramada I crashed in, as well as the scary cabbie who leered at me through his rear-view mirror all through Manhattan, and a galaxy of other inconveniences I dealt with, is definitely another story. I was there to see the famous and talented fellate each others’ hubris, so the rest will have to wait.

Anyway, when I got there and stepped out of the taxi, dressed in my grubby black beatnik turtleneck, a roar of appreciation erupted from the star-hungry crowd, and it was so loud I was sure it was for me and me alone.

I was let down when several screeching bohemianettes ran toward me with eyeliner dripping off their brows like molasses. “Billy!” they screamed. “Billy! Billy Corgan!!!” Oh no, not this again! “Help!” I squeaked. Being mistaken for a rock star is one thing, but I didn’t know I looked as bald as the Great Pumpkin.

Another quick look at the oncoming throng startled me into action. I ran toward the last vestige of daylight that I saw, tearing across the red carpet faster than an incontinent toward the can.

I ran blindly, my eyesight now totally destroyed by the piercing haze ahead. The next thing I remember is crashing head-on into what seemed like a brick wall and falling to the ground without even making a dent in whatever it was I hit.

I came to in a few seconds and as I looked up I saw the face of the real Billy Corgan, as tall as Lerch and just as good-looking. It was then I realized the lights I saw were the flashes of the surrounding horde of cameras, reflecting off the shaved pate of the Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman. Reminded of the onslaught of feral groupies behind me, I got up quickly without warning Corgan of his imminent inundation and slithered inside the Garden.

Trying desperately not to bring attention to myself in such a pathetic way again, I promptly plunged into the crowd of luminaries headed backstage. As it turned out, my pass was unnecessary; no one noticed me, as I was inadvertently squashed between Aretha Franklin and Luciano Pavarotti. Suffering in that position was enough to make every one of my organs explode, so I slouched aside and bumped into Sting.

Irked at undergoing such brutally physical trauma, I got very cheeky with Mr. Sumner and asked him the way to the loo. He was not amused, and effortlessly shoved me in the direction of the polka band coming offstage. The accordion player showed me mercy, though, and I followed his directions to the bathroom.

Emerging from the shrine, I was immediately swept up again in a new tide of the music biz- this time it was a herd of suits. Before being trampled, I recognized Celine Dion, her hair full of Crisco and bigger than the ‘80s, riding sidesaddle over this stampede of men who were either the entire Montreal hockey team or the twenty-odd producers of her most recent schlocky album. It was a heady combination of contemptible pain, and I passed out again.

I regained consciousness again and found myself strapped to a makeshift gurney in one of the many dressing rooms that were, incidentally, segregated between MTV and VH-1 artists (those who fell in either camp dressed in the hallway). My only companions were several TV monitors on which I could see Gwen Stefani, ten pounds heavier, strutting her stuff onstage in pants six sizes too tight while the rest of No Doubt bounced giddily behind her. The mere sight of the former Queen Of All Abs with flubber rolling over her belt on every screen within sight was enough to make me black out again, but only long enough to purge the wretched image from my brain.

I was half asleep in some morphine-induced haze when an usher rolled up another bed beside mine, occupied by none other than Beck Hansen.

“Beck!” I gushed, jive-less. “Man, where it’s at!” to which he replied, “I cut my lips on the microphone!” while clutching his newly won Grammy like a teddy bear.

“Wow!” I thought. “What a great interview opportunity! The Nexites will be so proud of me!”

I promptly produced my trusty tape recorder and talked with the injured Beck about anything and everything until he was wheeled out again, leaving me alone with the TVs, which now showed Lyle Lovett pissing off the entire Nashiville industry by accepting his award for Best Country Album. As the interview tape rewound, I pushed “play” laughing out loud at Lovett’s pompadoured Afro and goofy smile.

I stopped laughing when I realized that my recorder had been low on batteries and had taped the interview I’d just finished at half speed and even less. My first question rambled on for way too long, especially considering that the tape delay caused my voice to sound like a tranquilized hippo. Beck’s responsde, played back by the powerless machine at about two revolutions per minute, echoed through the room a garbled “Msadcb&$f#$sF$%dvmmnS#!%***.”

“Damn,” I sighed. “There goes my career in rock journalism.” Aside from all of those unfortunate incidents, my little trek to the Grammys wasn’t a total washout. Later that night I found out in turn that Tracy Chapman wears hair extensions, two of the Fugees have fake green cards, Dwight Yoakam will beat the shit out of anyone who tries to take off his hat, and that Brandy and LeAnn Rimes are both nymphomaniacs.

Well, maybe it was a total washout. There’s always next year, I guess. Maybe I’ll sneak into the Espys or something.

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