Monday, February 02, 2009

Brushes With Greatness

I was watching the Superbowl pre-game programs on NBC yesterday and there was a segment with Nightly News anchor Brian Williams where he tells a tale of his "brush with greatness. For all of his stoic talking head-isms and anchor like vocal timbre, "Bri" seems like a cool guy. His brush with greatness happened to be with Bruce Springsteen, who was next to him at a gas pump on the Jersey Shore somewhere in the late 70s. No words were spoken,and only a passing glance was shared.

Now that's a LIGHT brush. Of course, this got me thinking of my own brushes with greatness with MUSICIANS first and foremost, and what would be considered a "brush" in my mind. A brush, by my definition would be words exchanged between said hero/famous person and whoever you are. They could be as banal as "May I take your coat,sir?..Yeah, but be careful, it's very rare albino chinchilla." or " A bird just shit on your shoulder!-Oh,thats hella uncool." or even " Your last album blew tremendously.. Oh yeah, well fuck you very much.!" Those all qualify. And then there's the word "greatness". What's greatness to me may not be to you. My golden slipper might be your 6 day old corrosive sweat sock. Your tiara-my turd. With that said....

Here are mine.

In 1989 I met Kim Thayil and Chris Cornell from Soundgarden while on their northeast tour for the Louder Than Love album. My sister was working security(all 5 foot 1 of her) for a late great rock club in Rochester, NY called Backstreets. She showed me to their green room before the show where I hung out for about 20 minutes being a grunge drenched hanger on. There was nobody in there except the band and me. I was leaning against the catering table next to Kim Thayil(guitarist)
Words Exchanged: Me to Kim: "So what do you think about that Grammy Nomination?(Soundgarden had been nominated for Best Metal Performance for their album Ultramega OK)..Kim to me: "It's pretty cool. We're not really metal though. We'll see." They lost to Metallica. Me to Mr. Cornell: "I'd just like to say thanks, I'm a huge fan...looking forward to the show." Mr. Cornell to me while shaking hands "Thanks man. Here's a sticker" . He then handed me a sticker and asked if I wanted a beer. I had a Heineken, and stuck around long enough for my tighty whities to dry and left.

In 1990 at the same club, I was able to meet Noel Redding(Hendrix Experience bass player) for an autograph and a brief chat.Noel was sitting on a stool at the bar when I approached... My BRUSH was as follows : "Noel, Great to meet you. Are you playing any Fat Mattress tonight?" (Fat Mattress was a Hendrix side project with all of his songs and him playing guitar,nerd-tacular that I know that.) Noel to me: "You know Fat Mattress? Nobody knows Fat Mattress. Yeah we'll play some tonight." I couldn't tell you one Fat Mattress song, I only knew the name of his long ago band and crowbarred it in for a word with him. He signed a napkin or flyer for me and I was sent on my way.

In 2002 I went to see my cousin Lydia Lunch do some of her incredible spoken word at a club in Brooklyn. Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth opened the show with a feedback symphony and some poetry. I was introduced to him by Lydia before the performance. My brush was as follows: Thurston to Sean: "Hey there, nice to meet you." Seano looks way up into Thurston's eyes(he's 6 foot 5) and says "Hello. Love your work, especially Daydream Nation." Thurston: "Thanks,man." How poignant,right? Put a lot of thought into that one.

I've also met Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph, Warren Haynes, talked to Cyndi Lauper on the phone, been criticized by Chris Robinson for wearing a shoulder bag,shared an elevator with James Hetfield, been handed a guitar pick by Dicky Betts, wished Joe Perry a Happy Birthday and held the camera while Steven Tyler interviewed my sister for almost an hour.
I also answered one of Heidi Klum's carpentry questions,moved something out of the way for Georgio Armani and stalked Jennifer Connelly in Union Square,Manhattan while she pushed a stroller. These are not brushes...they are whiffs, whispers...filaments, residue and sniffing the fumes of greatness? You may beg to differ..thats OK.

The point is...there is no point. They were all great, and I wasn't. I swung for the fence and missed all three times...fumbling through fanboy anxious jibberish and spitting out the most least common denominator statement/tidbit/gracious offering I could find. Be prepared when you meet your heroes. Or maybe picture them on the toilet next to you to bring 'em down to your level. That way you can think of something better than "Thanks" in your one and only brush with greatness.

Do you have any stories to tell out there? Send them to my staff here at Circle of Fits and I'll be sure to post them.....


  1. Great stories!
    I only had one real "brush" and that was with my idol: Geddy Lee. I was so terrified that I had to have a co-worker get his autograph for me. Then I just followed him around for a minute and then had to leave. I totally clammed up. Sad but true.

  2. I've had brushes with fame with the band Chicago, Monica Lewinsky, and Rob Lowe.

    I had a whiff or breeze of fame when I walked past actor Jeff Daniels in a hallway at my college. He was teaching an acting class there for a couple semesters.

  3. Allison11:16 PM

    Good stuff Sean!
    My breeze with fame came back in '93 while visiting a friend in NYC, at a diner for breakfast when i heard a distinct voice ..i turned around and sitting in the booth behind me - mere centimeters away - was a rather portly Kiefer Sutherland. He smoked Marlboro reds the whole time, and i just sat there inhaling his second-hand stank and thinking "say something, say something!" but what was there to say? "Loved you in Lost Boys" just didnt seem like it was cool enough at the time! So I lost my nerve and said nothing! Oh, and one more - Bruce waved to me last time he came to Roch as he was exiting stage left!