Friday, February 11, 2005

Ain't America Great?

The summer of 1980 was one of the hottest on record in the mid-south. There were thirty plus days the temperature topped 100 degrees. So, of course, some promoter decided to have an outdoor concert at the stadium in Little Rock. It was billed as the Wild Hog Boogie, and while I don’t remember all of the bands that performed, I do remember that Molly Hatchet was the headliner.

It was a scab show and the crews were not called through the union local. We were all warned that if we worked it, we would never get another union gig, ever. So, I had the party line when they called. “Sorry, man, I can’t jeopardize my career with the local.”

“Interested in working security?” he fired back.

A quick call to the steward and I had clearance. “Just don’t get caught touching any equipment,” he said.

So, early I arose that Saturday morning of July 12, and made my way to War Memorial Stadium at the appointed time. I was dressed appropriately in a pair of shorts and T-shirt. It was eight a.m. and already in the upper eighties. My post, it turns out was at the bottom of a ramp, just at the edge of the field. Right in the blazing sun. There was a water cooler nearby, so I figured I can survive one day of anything. It’s money, right?

I had worked up a pretty good sweat by 9:30, standing there in the tropical Arkansas summer sun, when a golf cart careened up beside me and the head of security asked me if I’d be willing to guard Molly Hatchet’s tour bus. “What do I do?” I asked.

“Beats me,” he said, “I guess just stand next to the bus and make sure nobody fucks with it.”

So, you know, what the hell. It pays the same to stand next to one thing as another. Besides, maybe there would be some shade. I climbed into the golf cart and we whipped up the ramp, nearly creamed a couple of scabs pushing road crates and skidded in the loose pea gravel to stop next to the bus.

It was one of those large customized tour busses painted gaily with scenes of the grim reaper, or somebody with a large axe, on the sides and the Molly Hatchet logo. Typical rock and roll excess. Diesel engines idling, air conditioner humming.

The driver, the tour manager, I don’t know, some guy got off the bus and gave me a no-nonsense hand shake and invited me aboard. He handed me a clipboard with a list of about thirty names on it. “These are the people that can come on the bus. Or, people that are with these people.”

“Here’s the fridge, there’s plenty of beer, here’s the restroom. TV up there, VCR, tapes, just make yourself at home. Once an hour, get off the bus, walk around and make sure some bastard isn’t carving his name on the side or some crazy shit.”

He opened the door and disappeared into the shimmering heat coming off the asphalt parking lot. Cool. I kicked back and checked out the video tapes. Lots of porn, a few recent releases. Opening the refrigerator I saw that it was nearly filled with Heineken. Those little green bottles looked like heaven to me. I opened one and popped The Warriors into the VCR.

A few guys get on the bus and after dutifully checking them against the list, they come in and sit down. They’re having a few beers and checking out the girls walking past the bus. The windows aren’t tinted and the shades are up and these kids are gawking up into the bus watching us drinking beer and watching them. The crew guys start trying to lure some of them on the bus. They’re reeling in a couple of twelve year olds and have just about got them convinced to come in and check it out when the boss comes back. He’s throwing a fit over the idea of them attempting to get a couple of pre-pubescent girls onto the bus. I’m kind of relieved because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do in a situation like that.

By now it’s full blown afternoon and they’re taking a steady stream of revelers out on stretchers with heat exhaustion. I later heard that temperatures went over 120 degrees in the stadium. The ambulances reminded me of a parade as they wound their way out of the parking lot. I would imagine it was a big loop for most of them all day.

But damn, I’m getting cold! The air conditioner is blasting and I’m just wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. I’m getting out and checking the graffiti artists more regularly just for a chance to warm up. And I’m getting quite a buzz on.

This goes on all day and by the time Molly Hatchet takes the stage and they’re ready to let me go, I’m drunker than ten Indians and watching full blown hard core porn on the VCR. The passing kids are really gawking now.

The boss comes and pays me off, gives me the ubiquitous T-shirt and releases me. I stagger out to my car. What a day. I got a snoot full of beer, a t-shirt, didn’t do a damned thing and they paid me for it to boot.

Ain’t America great?


Anonymous said...

I was at wild hog boogie in 1980, one of the bands that was there was the Doobie Brothers I do believe they were the headliner but Molly Hatchet definitely kicked butt!

admiral said...

Some of the high moments were ARS performing "Champagne Jam", Point Blank on "Nicole", Molly Hatchet "Flirtin With Disaster" and "Taken Into The Streets" by The Doobies. It was hot.Beer was good. Price was good then for an outdoor event. My posse of friends had a mahvelous time.

Anonymous said...

I drove from Jackson, Mississippi, 5 hours away to see Molly Hatchet, Atlanta Rythmn Section, Point Blank. The Doobie Brothers did headline but I did not stick around for them as I was satisfied with my Southern Rock Bands, plus I was drained from being out in the heat that day and simply could not take anymore. I was down on the field near the stage. I remember how shocked I was to not see Danny Joe Brown as lead singer for Molly Hatchet. I did not have a clue he was gone so it was really weird to see someone else I was not familiar with leading the band. However, Molly Hatchet put on a tight good sounding show!

Eric Nolen said...

i WAS THERE! About 120 degrees down on the ground - Molly Hatchet Bass player slung bass around his back and the bass came unstrapped and hit the stage floor at nearly full volume..!! I remember seeing Doobies guitar/fiddle player cat in some TOO SHORT Shorts...but it WAS Damn HOT!!!