Monday, October 28, 2013

On Lou Reed, From a Non-Fan

"My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life.”--Lou Reed, March 02,1942 – October 27, 2013

It’s an interesting challenge, writing about someone for whom so much has been said and written about over the past couple of days. Suddenly, it seems, everyone is talking about Lou Reed…even people you’d never imagine knew anything about his material. (Hollywood being what it sometimes is, I suspect many of them actually don’t.)

Here’s something you won’t likely read or hear among the accolades today: I wasn’t a fan.

It’s true...Despite his legendary status (and our shared last name), I just couldn’t get into his music, no matter how hard I tried…

…And tried I did, because almost every artist or songwriter I’ve ever liked, respected, or worked with is a huge fan of Lou Reed’s music. (The famous Brian Eno quote that the Velvet Underground's debut album only sold 30,000 copies but "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band” is infinitely accurate.) I’m a believer in listening to your influences’ influences, because listening to the music that inspired your favorite artists brings new understanding and dimension to the music you already love. It can also open new doors to your own creativity by making you see things in a different way.

In the case of Lou Reed’s music, his music just wasn’t my thing. His vocal style put me to sleep, and I habitually switched stations whenever the intro to “Walk on the Wild Side” began playing on the radio.

I even—and this is truly a sin—turned down free tickets to a Lou Reed show my former boss produced at an intimate venue. (I know, I know…)

I do get it, though. Lou Reed’s vocal style and subdued delivery truly did fit his lyrics perfectly. He was a brilliant storyteller and lyricist who respected the power of the perfect word. Reading Lou Reed’s lyrics on paper, I always find something—a storyline twist, a turn of phrase, a lyrical smirk—that makes me think, “God, what an incredible writer.”

I just couldn’t stand to listen to the guy!

But I deeply respected him. And the honesty in his lyrics. And the fearlessness he often seemed to have in his interviews, when he chose to give them. (His reluctance to give interviews? I respected that, too.)

Most of all, I respected Lou Reed’s ability to be himself in a business that sometimes tries desperately to have you be anything but. From being an integral part of Andy Warhol’s Factory, to a heroin user who wrote about life in the Bowery, to a sober and devoted practitioner of T'ai Chi, Lou Reed led many lives--yet he seemed to inhabit each of their accompanying skins equally true to himself.

And he was damn cool.

Hey, maybe I’m a Lou Reed fan after all.   

 © 2013 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Letter to a Rude Guy: How Not To Treat People at a Concert (And What Happens When You Do)

Last week I aggravated an old ankle injury at a show in Anaheim, necessitating the use of a cane. For Bon Jovi’s Staples Center show a couple of days later, I was still on the cane so I used the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a differently-abled audience member (no industry perks, and without venue staff knowing I’m industry). I’d planned to post about that, but first I need to address an audience member who was at that show. At least six people saw what you’re about to read. To any guys reading this,  please be assured this is no reflection on your gender. There were plenty of rude women there, too. This person just happened to be the worst I saw. I wrote this the morning after the show.

Dear Rude Guy in Floor 1 at Bon Jovi Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, October 11, 2013:

If your behavior at the above-mentioned show is any indication, there’s nothing “dear” about you.

Out of human decency I will do you the courtesy of not mentioning our row number, or your seat number, in a public forum. But don’t think I’m not tempted to. You’re probably lucky I’m the one writing this instead of someone who does not consider the power of his or her words.

In the middle of Jon Bon Jovi’s Circle Stage* performance to my right, you barreled your way down our row to get to Jon, passing in front of everyone in our row without so much as an “excuse me.” As you pushed past, you inappropriately ran your hand over BFF @Jinjer ’s hip area, then knocked my cane off of the back of the chair in front of me, sending my purse flying and nearly toppling me over as I balanced on one foot. Had that chair not been in front of me to grab onto, I would have fallen; the only thing that kept me from it was a hopping lurch toward it on my good foot.

Someone with less mobility would have gone down. Someone with manners would have noticed their error and apologized and perhaps helped the injured party retrieve her purse and cane, or, at the very least, said a simple “excuse me.” You did none of those.

If you’d made a beeline toward the restroom after your loutish behavior, I might have been more forgiving, because you may have been ill. (You looked sober.) But no…

You proceeded to stand in the aisle that was next to me, blocking my view, and then you attempted to crowd me out of my spot in front of my aisle seat and claim my seat as your own. (My seat was a full-price ticket, bought through normal channels, by the way. I wanted to have fun and not feel obligated to “network” so I didn’t even use an industry buy. Your seat was at the other end of our row.) Then you had the temerity to nudge me and smile and try to be my concert buddy while I stood my ground (on my one good foot) and tried to ignore you as I clapped along in support of my favorite frontman.

Oh, but wait…There’s more.

When I shouted in your ear, “I’m balanced on one foot. Please move!” and held up my cane to show you--yeah, the one you never noticed you’d sent flying a minute ago--you ignored me and continued to crowd me while I balanced precariously.

This is why you were at the show without a date. And if you think that trolling Bon Jovi concerts for female companionship is going to help you, you are sadly mistaken.

Do not think for a millisecond that gold Rolex you were attempting to show off by pushing up the sleeves of your cashmere sweater will help you. It won’t.

Do not try to blame my icy glare--some might call it “the stinkeye”--and my lack of any friendliness toward you on the fact that Jon Bon Jovi was standing a mere few feet away. While that certainly wouldn’t help your case, Jon’s not your problem.

It’s you. More specifically, the problem is your behavior and demeanor.

You, sir—note the omission of a capital on that “S,” because you clearly don’t deserve one-- are an ass.

That is why, unbeknownst to you, while you were busy pulling out your camera, I caught the eye of the usher working the aisle, gestured toward you, and gave her the Security “he’s outta here” hand signal. She gave me a nod of recognition and came toward you immediately.

Until that show, it was unthinkable that I’d ever use it as an audience member. Even while working various artists’ shows over the years I’ve only had to use it twice, because most people are truly good people who just get a little carried away. I do admit to feeling more than a little gleeful when I used it on you, however. You groped my best friend’s *ss and nearly knocked me over, remember?

You then proceeded to stand in the aisle pleading with the female usher, which only made you look more asinine (I didn’t think that was even possible). You had no case, and she got rid of you as two members of Security--who’d silently moved in behind you without your ever noticing--stood ready to escort you out as necessary. (As it always does when I see Security move in on someone, the theme from “Jaws” ran briefly through my head.)

Let me guess: you didn’t get laid after the show that night, did you, Rude Guy?

While Security was dealing with you, I just rolled my eyes and shook my head and went back to watching my favorite frontman sing. You know…the guy who inspired me to want a music career in the first place. You know…the career where I learned that signal that made them send you packing.

Ain’t the Circle of Life grand?

And while all this was going on a few feet away from him? Jon, pro that he is, kept singing and didn’t miss a note, despite multiple audience distractions.


“Have a Nice Day,” Rude Guy.


P.S. The ushers and Security were very busy dealing with seat stealers and rude people that night. Thanks and kudos to them for doing such a great job.

Also, Staples Center Guest Services staff, you rock! Thank you for helping me get around that night. You went above and beyond, and you did it with a smile. I wanted to see what differently-abled concert goers really experience, so you didn’t know I’m industry ‘til now… Surprise! :-) Thanks again. I had a great evening, despite Rude Guy’s antics.

“The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are as*h*les, and the people who are not.”—Arnold Spirit Jr., The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

*For those not familiar with the show, that’s the part of the stage where Jon comes down front with his acoustic guitar to sing a few songs.

©2013 Randi Reed and
.All rights reserved.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Death of a Life

As I write this, someone I know is in the hospital as a result of chronic alcoholism. This is the second hospitalization for liver issues in less than six months. She’s now in multiple organ failure, and her body is shutting down.

She is not expected to live more than a few hours.

She will die today.

The person I’m writing about had so much promise. Her family seemed perfect…A Midwestern home that could have been used in any movie depicting exactly the kind of place where you’d want to raise children. Green, grassy hills for the kids to roll down in the summer. Lots of trees that shed so many leaves in Autumn, as a kid you’d be knee deep in them if you took the dog for a walk in the ravine. Woods to explore. And a tiny creek.

Well-rounded educations with plenty of extra-curricular activities for the kids…Little League. Girl Scouts.  Karate lessons. Football. Violin. Flute. Band. It was all the right stuff to get the kids into college for bright futures. A Journalism major for one, West Point for another. The person I’m writing about chose Business.

She graduated at just the right time: it was that period during the ‘80’s when Fortune 500 companies realized that women could not only be assets to the company’s bottom line, they could be good executives as well. The person I’m writing about was one of these women; she got in the “Executive Training Program” of a company that would go on to become a household name. Like the home she grew up in, with her power suits, blonde bob hairstyle and winning smile, she could have been straight out of Central Casting for her role.

I’m not sure when she started drinking. I was closest in age to the baby in her family (the West Pointer), and we had very different interests: She was in that executive training program and was married to a very straight-laced looking guy with short hair. I was a teenager who was interested in music, concerts, and rock bands, and hanging out with boys with long hair. She swore, but not in front of her grandma. I swore openly and burned incense in my room, so my grandma’s husband told my parents I was “smoking dope in there.” (I actually wasn’t. I just liked vanilla incense.)

She was the person people said I should be like.

“Look at [name omitted for privacy],” one of the adults used to say to me. “She’s going to be something! You’re not.” (At that age I probably told the adult who said it to “f*ck off,” because I knew it wasn’t true.)

I never resented her. She was always kind to me, so why would I? Her lifestyle just seemed kind of… boring to me. She probably thought my lifestyle was weird, too. (It is!) That doesn’t make either of them wrong…Just different.

Actually, as I write this, I do remember something we had in common: she liked Aerosmith. And I have a funny memory of playing in her grandpa's vegetable garden when I was little: she was singing just the chorus of Paul McCartney and Wings' "Listen to What the Main Said," which I'd never heard before. I didn't know it was a song from the radio and asked very seriously, "What man?"

And In hindsight, career-wise, she was probably a bit of a pioneer.

That’s all gone now. When her drinking escalated, it faded away. Marriage number one, rehab, husband number two (who hung in there as long as he could until a second rehab was in order)…The great corporate job went away around that time too, I think.

God her parents must be devastated…

I am, and I haven’t seen her since I was a teenager. (We moved to California when I was 13.) I write about her in the past tense, because everything I ever knew of the person she really was is already long gone.

Last I heard, she had a really scummy boyfriend who was an active user. For the past year, she’s been in and out of the hospital with liver issues due to chronic alcohol abuse…

…which is where I began this entry.


It took me two and a half hours to write this. Is she…?

I have no more words.


4:57 P.M. -- I decided to post this journal entry on my blog in hopes it will be a wake up call for anyone who needs help, or incentive for people in recovery to keep working their programs. I've been intentionally vague and changed some of the details in order to protect her family's privacy. We haven't been in each others' orbits for a long time, and they don't engage in social media so it's doubtful they'll ever know it exists.

As I was formatting this just now, someone in the family just called and told me she died. There will be no funeral, because all of her friends left long ago due to the drinking. Her parents and siblings were at her side when she died and are devastated.


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©2013 Randi Reed and . All rights reserved.