Saturday, January 19, 2008

Groove Night

I am continually amazed and dismayed at how time flies.

January 19, 2008.


We are well on our way into the New Year. A blink or two and it will be February. And a few blinks after that we'll be closing in on 2009.

Last year at this time I was neck-deep in figuring out how I was going to get Everybody I Shot Is Dead done, having just decided to not got the NY big house publishing route (for a second time) and realizing that I needed to have it done and printed by Fall. Somehow I made that deadline but I still wish I could turn back the clock and have a little more time.

But this post is not about that. It's about how time flies. And I need to go back one more year to illustrate that point.

It was two years ago that I went to Groove Night and reunited with someone from my rock'n'roll past. And since I am going to Groove Night for a second time, I thought I'd replay the story from the beginning. This is how it all went down as I recalled it in a five-part series in 2006 (fuck, was it really that long ago?). Hope you enjoy this blast from the past. You might wanna grab a sandwich before you start - it's not as long as War and Peace, but it comes close.

Then and Now (Chris Parker & Me Part I)

I have always been nomadic. Maybe that's what attracted me to shooting live concerts. The musicians were nomads too. They'd come to town for a day or two and then be gone. Then a new group would show up. It was the perfect liaison. More intimate than sex. Through the lens of my camera. I could get close enough for my creative fix without the responsibility of sustaining an ongoing relationship. Just enough time to make a real connection, but not enough time to be disappointed. No trading phone numbers. No letters to write. Just a "see ya." I liked it that way.

Sometimes, the connections I made were fun and crazy. Like the time I invited Blue Oyster Cult to my house for a swim and they actually showed up. And sometimes the connections were more profound. Like the day I met Chris Parker at a sound check.
Sound Check

He was the drummer for Paul Butterfield Better Days. We had some kind of instant 'I get who you are' connection. Maybe it was because we were the youngest people there. We still had our innocence. We should have been in college, not in the demonic world of rock and roll.

After the show, we ended up in his hotel room. (Finally, a juicy, kiss and tell story? I mean, what else could it be but sex, drugs and rock'n'roll?) I'm not sure which one of us instigated the rendezvous, but I think we both knew that we weren't done hanging out. So, there we were. Two innocent kids in a hotel room. Both painfully shy. (Yes, there's a reason I liked to have a camera between me and my 'prey') But it was okay, because our shyness was overshadowed by a sense that we were kindred spirits. We stayed up all night long. (I hope my mother is not reading this) We did this:
"Me" photographed by Chris Parker

"Chris Parker" photographed by Me
And we did..., I'm too tired to finish this story tonight. Sorry.

Chris Parker & Me - Part II

So, where was I? Oh yeah, I was in Chris Parker's hotel room. For the whole night. Just the two of us. And what a night it was...yes, I remember it well...

To be continued...

Chris Parker & Me - Part III

Okay, so maybe my night in Chris Parker's hotel room didn't go exactly the way I depicted it in my last post. But that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of my story. Actually, that's not true. It does matter, because no matter what we did or didn't do in that room, in my head we had a connection. And I don't mean the rock'n'roll drummer meets the girl backstage and takes her to his hotel room for the night kind of connection. It was the real thing. It had to be. Anyway, the following morning, we said our 'see ya's' and that was that. I never saw him again. One night only. A sweet memory. But I always remembered Chris Parker - which says a lot. Did he remember me? Probably not. I'm sure he met tons of people/girls on the road.

What does all this have to do with anything? Well, it has to do with the power of the internet. And my book. Yes, I am finally getting back to the purpose of the blog...the making of my book. After I got back from the book expo in New York and had the agent that was wrong for the project interested (read that previous post HERE) I began to take the book seriously. For me, that means I'm definitely doing it, no turning back, no matter what. That's when I started pulling out the slide cases and negatives; separating them into the live box and the dead box. I sorted the ones I knew were dead and the ones I knew were alive but I was left with a bunch I wasn't sure about and had to look up. Alex Harvey - DEAD. Al Stewart - ALIVE. Stanley Turrentine - DEAD. Jesse Colin Young - ALIVE. Etc. Then, I wrote my sample piece on John Bonham and Led Zeppelin. That really took me back. I was officially living in my past. Remembering all the people I photographed and wondering, 'where are they now?' The musicians I was friends with in Toronto who I used as guinea pigs when I was starting out? The local musicians I shot in Vancouver and got to know a little more?

And, yes, Chris Parker.

So, on August 14, 2005 I opened up Google and typed "Christopher Parker." Did you know there's a young actor in England named Christopher Parker? I got a lot of hits for him. So, I changed my search to "Chris Parker + drums" and there it was - his personal website. But I couldn't click the link. Too many thoughts were racing through my mind. I mean, I had a connection to this guy. At least in my head I did. And I had a sweet memory of him. We had a nice time together. He was really cute. Remember, I'm a visual person. What if I click on his site and there are pictures of him? Do I really want to see what he looks like now? Maybe he's fat and old and ugly. And once I see that, there's no going back. Think about it. Your last image of a person is your lasting impression. That's why I love my dead rock stars. They are frozen in time. Just as they were when I shot them. Maybe I should leave Chris Parker where I keep Mike Bloomfield. So, to click or not to click? That is the question.

I could end this here...but I won't. I closed my eyes and clicked. Then I squinted, afraid of what I might see. Too late. A row of photos across the top. Wow. He looks good. It's safe to open my eyes and check out what he's been up to. The music, the photos and the art. And then...the contact page. I couldn't believe it. Chris Parker had a personal email address listed on his site. Uh oh. The click or not click decision was bad enough. Now I was faced with, to write or not to write? Here come the racing thoughts again. How do I write Paul Butterfield's drummer? The guy I spent one night with a million years ago? What if it's not really his personal email? What if someone else opens it and I look like an idiot? Or worse, he opens it and I look like an idiot? Do I really want to put myself in that position? You know the...hi, remember me? No, who are you? EMBARRASSED.

Oh, why not? You only live once. So, I share with you my opening paragraph of what I wrote to Chris Parker:
Hi Chris,
Back in the mid-seventies I was a rock'n'roll photographer in Vancouver, when you were touring with Paul Butterfield. Don't know if you'll remember but we spent the night together in your hotel room (don't worry - clothes remained on) talking (photography and other deeper topics) and taking pictures of each other. Of the hundreds of bands I shot and musicians I met you were one of the most interesting and memorable.

What was I thinking? That paragraph has embarrassment written all over it. A really, really pathetic opening. Then, of course, I had to go on and tell him about working with all the artists (Joni Mitchell and Ron Wood, etc.) in my book, Starart, so he would think I was important and not just some dumb groupie. Yes, it seems I felt I had to resort to name dropping. Feel free to laugh at me. I deserve it.

After reading the email over about five times (rewriting is my passion and this email could have used a few more drafts) my quivering, full of fear index finger hit the 'send' button. That was it. No getting the email back. All I could do is wait. And wonder. Would he write back? And if he did, would he remember me?

Chris Parker & Me - Part IV

The great thing about email is it's instantaneous. And the bad thing about email is it's instantaneous. I used to have AOL back when everybody had it. It was even worse because when you sent email to another AOL member you could look it up and see if and when they read it. And if they read it and didn't write back, well...I'm sure some of you know what that feels like. Fortunately, I don't have AOL and neither does Chris Parker. And, unfortunately, I don't have AOL and neither does Chris Parker.

So, there I was, checking my email every five minutes. Doink. That's the sound my email program makes when I check it and there's nothing new. Doink. I sent that embarrassing piece of writing out into cyberspace, to a guy I'd spent one night with and since then thousands and thousands and thousands of nights have passed. Doink. Why did I write that email? Doink. I must be crazy. Doink. Doink. Doink. I wish we both had AOL so I could get it back. Doink. Doink. Doink. I sent the email on August 14th, 2005 at 12:31 AM and it's now August 15th, 2005 at 12:31 AM. That's 24 hours. Stupid girl. Doink. Doink. Doink. August 16th, 2005 at 12:31 AM. That's 48 hours. I'm beyond embarrassed. Doink. Doink. Doink. The worst thing about email is that's it's instantaneous. Doink. Doink. Doink.

August 16th, 2005. 10:53 AM. Pingpingpingping!! Oh my God. It's an email from Chris Parker. I can't open it. No way. I already know what it says. I'm psychic that way. Really. It's say, "Thanks for writing. I met 800 girls on the road. Well, actually 1000 but only 800 made it up to the room - you should take pride in the fact that you made the cut. I'm sure you don't expect me to remember every one of you. If you send me your address I'd be happy to send you an autographed picture." I should just delete the damn thing.

Okay, I didn't delete it. I opened it. He left my embarrassing ramblings on the top so I had to scroll and scroll and scroll until I got to:

"Hi Deborah, Wow! How nice to hear from you. You sound great and productive and as always, very creative. Every time I've been to Vancouver since then, I always think of you fondly, and our long night together.
I must look for the books, Starart and Everybody I shot..-glad I'm not
in that one!!"

Somebody, pick me up off the floor. There was more, but that was the best part. He remembered me! Uh oh, what if he was just saying that?

So, we emailed back and forth a few times over the next three months. All very casual. Then on December 5th I got this:

"I am coming to the NAMM show January 20, 21, 22. That's Anaheim though. I'll be with the Yamaha artists doing Groove Night."

So what do I do? I send this:

"Hey Chris,
Anaheim is not far at all. Any chance you could get me in
to see you play and/or make time for a dinner?

Best, D "

Yes, I invited myself. At least I didn't write back the same day he sent it. I waited 4 days. But, again, I put myself way out on a limb. He didn't invite me. I did. And then I waited again. Doink. Doink. Doink. I waited until January 5th, 2006 for his response:

"It would be great to see you out there. I'll email you my hotel/itinerary as soon as I get it. And I'm sure I could have a guest-I only play one song but it's a cool event if you like drummers(?)"

Do I like drummers? Duh.

I wrote back:

"Sounds great. How fun and strange it will be to see you after all these years. Let me know what's best for you. My cell number is 818-xxx-xxxx in case you need it."

Fun and strange? That was mild compared to what I was really thinking. I should have gone for something closer to 'Freaky and petrifying.'

On January 19th he sent me his itinery. This included an invite for dinner on Friday night and a ticket and backstage pass for the show on Saturday night. Wow, a BACKSTAGE PASS. I remember those. I freaked and became instantly petrified. DO I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS?
The last time I saw Chris Parker, I looked like this:
And now I look more like this:
Somebody get me a plastic surgeon and a gym membership. Quick!

Chris Parker & Me - Part V

The re-meet is on! And I've only got a couple of days to prepare.
First, I hit the gym:Then, off to the plastic surgeon:
He invited me to have an early dinner before his rehearsal. I'm very excited and very nervous. I don't know what to expect. He's staying and playing in Cerritos. That's in the O. C. I live in the Valley. About 30 miles away by freeway. It's Friday, around 4pm. I hop in the car and take the 101 East to the 5 South. And then I sit and I sit and I sit. L.A. rush hour. It takes me two and a half hours to get there. I wouldn't do that for just anyone. Wow, I must like drummer(s).

So, we have a quick dinner in the hotel restaurant. Talk about this and that. Since he paints, I give him a copy of my book, Starart:And he gives me my ticket and backstage pass for the show the following night:
And then he sends me on my way. But not before he asks me to bring my camera to the show. [WHAT?? I don't shoot concerts anymore. I shoot pictures of knives and body doubles and screaming girls and other stuff to use in the presale movie posters I design. I don't remember the last time I shot a concert.] Okay, sure, I'll bring my camera.
I arrive a little early on Saturday night. The concert hall is right behind the hotel so I decide to park in the free hotel lot and walk through the lobby. As I'm about to pass the elevators, the door opens and out walks Chris. Good timing. Maybe it's me with a camera that creates our connection. Anyway, there's something very enticing about a musician who's on his way to play. We walk together and head backstage. Chris is sweet. He introduces me to all the players. Too many drummers to remember. Then he shows me one of his sketch books that he takes on the road. Pages and pages of beautiful water colors. How come he gets all the talent? I admire one in painting in particular. And right then and there he tears it out and gives it to me:
Okay, you had me at hello.

Then, I'm off to shoot the show. Ooops, the battery that controls the light meter in my camera is out of juice. Okay, don't panic. What did I use to shoot at? Push the film to 400? Or was it 800? Shoot wide open at a 60th? That sounds familiar. Oh my God...what if the pictures suck? All these other photographers here. All shooting digital. They can see their pictures on the camera screen. Dirty cheaters. I didn't bring my big-ass digital. No way. I'm shooting old school. Fuck. What if my pictures don't turn out? And I only brought one roll of film. No room to bracket. Oh well, I'm just here to have fun.

The music was AMAZING. You can read about who was there, HERE.
There were five drum kits set up on the stage. At the end, the drummers jammed five at a time, replacing each other in a drummer relay without missing a beat. I wonder if anybody recorded it. If so, I'd like a CD. Here are some of my pics (not bad for guessing):
Chris Parker

Ralph MacDonald - songwriter/percussionist extraordinaire
and plays in Chris' band Toph-E and the Pussycats.

Will Lee - Bass player on Letterman
and Chris' band Toph-E and the Pussycats.

Doug Aldrich - White Snake

The show ends. After we hang out backstage for awhile, I follow Chris around during the meet and greet in the lobby. Then a bunch of the players talk about meeting at the hotel bar for a drink. By the time we get there, it's closed. They all decide to head across the street to TGIFs or some other high class Orange County eatery/bar. But before we can go, Chris needs to put his bag in his room. He asks if I want to go up with him. Sure. Uh oh.

As we enter his room, we make some silly joke about the two of us and hotel rooms. You know, here we are again, after all these years, in a hotel room together. He puts his bag away and for some reason we just assume the position. I sit on the end of the bed and he sits in the chair. We start talking. And talking. And talking. All night long. Just like the last time. Alone in his hotel room. A little older. None the wiser. We completely forget about going to the bar. Uh oh. If I remember correctly, it went something like this:
And then it happened. I couldn't believe it. What I'd been waiting for all these years.


I'm not kidding. I can't believe I'm actually telling you this. But I can't help myself.

It wasn't just regular sex. It was passionate sex. It was loud sex. It was extreme sex. It was ultimate sex...


...And it was coming from the room next door.

What do they say? Close, but no cigar? Yes, but they also say, third time's the charm. I'll probably be on oxygen by then.

*the small amount of vanity I have is forcing me to reveal that the photos of the elderly woman in the above cartoon are not me (gotta love those eyebrows). The photos of Chris are Chris - hope he doesn't mind that I stole them off his website. The gym shot and the plastic surgeon shot are borrowed stock photos as well.

So, here I go again. I haven't seen Chris since last June. This should be fun. I'm going to take my cameras but not sure if I'll take any pictures. If I do, I will share them here. And the story, although I doubt I can top the one from two years ago.

Wish me luck.


One Wink at a Time said...

This was FANTASTIC!!! Of all the anticipation and pseudo-excitement(I mean "vicarious" here...) I felt when you were nursing EISID, this was even better. So personal, I felt like I was there. The feeling stupid, the heart pounding, the anticipation, all of it. I think you should publish this as a short story. Can't wait to read Chris' comments here... :-)
ps I want your life!

Chesher Cat said...

"ps I want your life!"

No you don't.

Trust me.

Chesher Cat said...

Although I did have a really good time at Groove Night.

Will be writing about that and posting some pictures in the next few days.

One Wink at a Time said...

I'll be tuning in...

I think it would be awesome to hook up with a few people I've been touched by at some point in my life.