I used to work on the dividing line between “downtown” and “midtown” Atlanta. One of the closest record stores to my work was a branch of the local Turtles Records chain. This location – in the same strip mall as Plaza Theatre on Ponce, for you Atlanta folks – used to be where mid-level musicians would turn up for “meet and greets”.
So one day, I snuck out of work to meet… Nitzer Ebb – a one-hit wonder Eurodance band. This is like admitting to going to meet Chumbawumba, only lamer because every English speaker under the age of 40 has heard “Tubthumping”, while Nitzer Ebb were known only in the “industrial dance” scene. I still have the “Lightning Man” 12″ single they autographed for me. I doubt I could get $1 for it on eBay, even with free shipping. Looking back on it now, it’s almost amusing that I risked my job for a band that 99.999% of America has never heard of, and even their fans haven’t listen to them since 1991.
I also met Maria McKee (lead singer of 80s band Lone Justice) at the same Turtles location. McKee was better known than Nitzer Ebb, so I’m not especially embarrassed to admit that I went to meet her. However, this story is amusing for two reasons.
First, McKee was stoned off her ass. I can spot a pothead from a mile away, and I can tell you that McKee was smoking far better weed than anyone I knew. After coming out and mumbling a few hellos, she started playing a couple of acoustic numbers… only she was wearing this giant silver ring on her “strumming hand”, and at one point it flew off and nailed someone on the forehead. At first she looked completely horrified, but when the guy she hit smiled and handed it back to her she just started giggling like something out of Half Baked.
The second amusing thing about this story is that it was the first time I met a “Creepy Stalker Guy”. The dude in front of me in line talked about Maria non-stop the entire fucking time we were in line. No matter what I said, he’d always move the conversation back to Maria McKee. At one point I even mentioned something about eating lunch at McDonalds just to get him to change the subject, and he (of course) said “Ohmygod! I heard Maria loves Chicken McNuggets” or something like that. He eventually pulled out a copy of her high school yearbook, to show me the pictures of her in drama club. Keep in mind that this was 1989, and way before the Internet made things like celebrity yearbooks easy to find. I asked if he went to school with her and he said something like “Oh no… I know someone that knows someone else that went to school with her, and I got him to send me a list of people in her class. I called or wrote every single one of them until I found someone that would sell me their yearbook”. This guy just totally gave off the “serial killer vibe”. To his credit, though, I found out that Lone Justice’s “aw shucks, we’re just good folk from Texas” image was a complete lie – Maria McKee went to Beverly Hills High School.
So… what about you? Do you have any signed books or CDs from “celebrities” that no one remembers? Ever share a beer with someone who was big for a time in the 70s or 80s, but doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page today? Ever sit next to someone on a plane who still hasn’t made it to VH-1’s I Love 1979, Part XVIII?