“Groupies sleep with rockstars because they want to be near someone famous. We are here because of the music, we inspire the music. We are Band Aids,” ~Penny Lane, “Almost Famous“
Last week I went to the Medina Ballroom to see Bret Michaels. Yeah. It’s taken me an entire week to process the experience. It was unlike any concert I have ever attended and I’m hoping it stays that way.
With each year I grow older, my desire to go see live rock and roll diminishes a little more. In fact, there are fewer and fewer acts that can lure me out of the house. Is that a little lame? Yes, but I don’t care. It’s why I much prefer being a booknerd and not not a musicgeek.
Left to my own devices I’d never, ever attend a Bret Michaels concert. But it was FFJ’s birthday and I’d do just about anything to make her happy, even attending a concert where about 50% of the attendees were dressed like rejects from Whore Bus and the other 50% were the men who lust after them. I was definitely uncomfortable. It was not my scene at all.
Adding to my discomfort was the fact that I felt kind of suckered. I’ve made it clear that I doubt the seriousness of Michaels’ various health ailments. Plus, I can guarantee you that show was nowhere near sold out until after Michaels’ became headline news. I’d venture to guess that nearly half of 2000+ audience had no intention of going to a Bret Michaels concert before he suffered the hemorrhage. (Just like how his Facebook page went from 30,000 fans right before the news and skyrocketed to more than 380,000 after the news spread).
It was just kind of icky. I wasn’t there for the music. I’m a casual Poison fan at best. That’s probably even too strong. I’m a non-hater, a status that has become even more precarious after hearing Bret slaughter a cover of Sublime’s “What I Got.”
While I wasn’t there to be near anyone famous, it sure felt like a lot of people were.
Matters weren’t helped by the merch table, where if you were willing to shell out $150 (the price had gone up from the pre-illness rate of $100, the signs were crudely marked up with a black Sharpie) for “vintage” Bret-gear you would get a VIP pass and the opportunity to meet Bret outside the Whore Bus.
Since FFJ was one of those willing to shell out the bucks to meet Bret, I got to spend a lot of time sitting on the side of a hill pondering things.
The Bret Michaels people were not messing around about who could and could not linger next to the Whore Bus — it was very clearly for paying customers only. I watched as they aggressively threatened a few people who were standing too close without paying for the privilege. While FFJ mixed with the VIPs, I wondered who I would pay $150 to meet. I couldn’t think of anyone.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, I thought, I’d pay $150 to see Barack Obama speak, but then only if it was a fundraiser. I did pay $30 to hear (not meet) John Irving, but I also got a signed first-edition hardcover book with that.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s nobody I’d pay $150 to meet.
Once FFJ came back, dreamy-eyed and giddy over having hugged Bret, she told me how even with the VIPs security weren’t messing around. She said they kept reminding everyone that he is sick, which made me feel a little better. But mostly it just made me feel kind of sad, as sad as you can feel for someone who, by my estimation, made at least $10,000 from the people who wanted to meet him.
It made me sad. Not just because people were willing to pay to be near someone famous, but that Bret Michaels, at least to me, had ceased being a person and had become sort of commodity.