Welcome, Heraldonians to the Fall 2013 installment of “Almost Famous” – the journey you’ve taken with me since 2001! I’d like to do things a little differently this go-round and begin with the most recent show I’ve covered, since it’s closing on October 20 before it goes to Broadway and I’ve been permitted to get it in just under the wire so you won’t miss it! Then we will start back at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” – Curran Theatre, San Francisco, October 13, 2013
Back in 1971, an album called Tapestry was released by a new solo artist, a singer/songwriter named Carole King. With every song an instant classic like “I Feel The Earth Move”, “So Far Away”, and “You’ve Got A Friend”, it remained on the Billboard charts for an astounding 68 weeks and became one of the best-selling albums of all time. Some of the songs had already been career-making hits for other artists, like “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” for Aretha Franklin. It defined a generation and opened the door for the era of the singer/songwriter. And when I write these words, I am speaking from the heart of that generation.
As a kid growing up in suburban Daly City, close to the big city of San Francisco, that album and that artist defined ME – the songs were constantly on my transistor radio and I knew every note and lyric by heart. I learned most of them on my guitar, although my new idol was a brilliant piano player, and each one of them resonated with me deeply. There was something about the warmth and earthiness in her voice, the immediately identifiable emotions in the stories she told, and the way she wrapped the melodies around them that drew me to her and kept me there, wanting more…
But who was this trailblazing singer/songwriter Carole King, and where did she come from? Little did I understand at the time, that this solo artist was already some other kind of wonderful: ½ of the incredibly successful husband and wife songwriting team Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who wrote hit after hit for artists like The Shirelles (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”), and The Drifters (“Some Kind Of Wonderful” “Up On The Roof”) long before I could even talk, let alone sing along. How did she manage to achieve so much at such a young age during a time when women weren’t considered driving forces in any industry – and how did she parlay that behind-the-scenes success into headlining at Carnegie Hall in 1971? What was her story?? Who else is in it??
That is exactly where “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” - which is using our fair city by the bay for a test spot before heading to the great white way in a few weeks - begins. And it’s certainly a fine beginning to what appears to be a beautiful and long time home for this jukebox bio show.
We first see Carole King (an arrestingly good Jessie Mueller, Tony nominee for 2011’s On A Clear Day You Can See Forever) sitting at the piano at her famed 1971 Carnegie Hall concert performing the beginning strains of “So Far Away” and telling us how thrilled she is to be there. Then we are transported back in time to a spunky 16-year-old Carole Klein’s life in Brooklyn with her no-nonsense divorcee’ mother (Liz Larsen) and that ever-present piano. Carole sets out to sell her first song to famed song man-with-a-plan Don Kirshner (a snappy Jeb Brown) at the legendary Brill Building, a dream factory at 1650 Broadway in New York City where suggestions begat songs, songs hatched careers and legends were created and established forever. The set design by Derek McLane is certainly one of the stars of this show, cleverly replicating the floors of rooms where these songs were written and recorded with excitement and pizzazz, and it meshes beautifully with Josh Prince’s choreography. One really feels what a ground-breaking time this was.
It is here where spitfire composer Carole meets fellow college student (she’s skipped a couple grades) and talented lyricist Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein -Spiderman, Billy Elliot), whose equal parts charm and pathos quickly become the yin to Carole’s yang, creating not just soon-to-be chart-topping hits, but a baby on the way. He convinces her to marry him and it’s off to the races for this dynamic doo-wop duo.
King & Goffin making beautiful music together
But they’re not the only new kids in tune town. The other stars of this show and story are another pair of future hitmaker/spouses who meet at the Brill Building, hypochondriac composer Barry Mann (a delightful Jarrod Spector – Jersey Boys) and glamorous wordsmith Cynthia Weil (a perfectly matched Anika Larsen – Avenue Q), whose wacky “opposites attract” kinetic energy become the perfect combo platter of fierce competition and genuine friendship for the complicated professional and personal partnership of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Mann and Weil also penned many hits for a generation, including “On Broadway” (with famed songwriting team Leiber & Stoller) and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for The Righteous Brothers. While their scenes together spark many laughs as well as tender moments, it is the juxtaposition of hearing the song played and sung simply in one of the writing rooms by the songwriters, and then seeing and hearing it fleshed out in all its spectacular glory by the artists who made them hits that truly steal the show. Knowing this is how it all really happened is a true thrill – although I think if you’re not in the music/entertainment business, a fan of pop music and/or don’t know these songs or care how they came to be, you might not have as much fun. But based on the audience response at this show, those folks were clearly in the minority. We were all having the time of our lives re-living theirs.
A typical day at the office for Kirshner, Goffin/King, and Mann/Weil
The second act delves more deeply into the troubled marriage of Carole and Gerry, and his implied mental health and drug issues, which manifest into erratic behavior and blatant infidelity. Carole attempts to stand by her man and keep her family and songwriting partnership together, confiding her humiliation and confusion to her friends Barry and Cynthia, who are also having their own relationship woes. Barry wants marriage, Cynthia wants independence and to keep things as they are. Both couples go back and forth and up and down, until Carole finally has enough and gets the courage to leave Gerry, while Cynthia finally sees things Barry’s way and true love and wedded bliss win out after all. There were some fun moments around this time, watching Carole grudgingly be persuaded to dip her live performance toes in the water, sitting in at the legendary NYC nightclub The Bitter End, a club I’ve played many times and still have an open invitation whenever I come to town.
But it is at this point in the story where the book by Douglas McGrath could use a bit more work in fleshing Gerry Goffin’s troubled character out, and Carole’s road to autonomy, single motherhood, and her emergence as one of the most successful solo artists of all time. I felt the actors really trying to go there, but the dialogue just wasn’t quite deep enough to stand side by side with the perfect songs that reflected the reality of those times. It has been chronicled that after encouragement from her manager/daughter Sherry Goffin Kondor to give the green light for this musical to be made, Carole King sat down with book writer McGrath and allowed him to lead her through her extraordinary life. Perhaps he can draw more from this meeting of the minds and dig deeper as this already wonderful work-in-progress continues to develop. It will only make the bittersweet and ultimately exhilarating ending – Carole King back at that piano on the stage of Carnegie Hall, performing songs like “It’s Too Late”, “I Feel The Earth Move” and the title track of this historic and groundbreaking show that much more beautiful and profound.
A couple things on a personal note, since this is, after all, MY “Almost Famous” column…I had been alerted by my super-scribe pal Ben Fong-Torres (who wrote a fantastic cover story for the SF Chronicle Datebook about this show) that the real Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil might be in attendance! During my formative LA ‘80s days, they were two of my greatest songwriting mentors, alongside other greats like John Bettis (who I worked with in Nashville), and I used to follow them around and hear them speak and perform at events like National Academy of Songwriters show “Salute To The American Songwriter” and seminars through ASCAP and other songwriting organizations. I had even met them a couple times. Imagine my delight in discovering them in the Curran theatre lobby, looking every bit as happy and glamorous as I remembered them back in the day! I went up to them and introduced myself, recounting this information and feeling myself getting a tad emotional as we tripped down memory lane together, and they could not have been warmer to me. Barry asked me if I had anything recorded, which I told him I had, and Cynthia insisted I get in the picture with them that I asked if I could take. It was a truly magical, full circle moment in my “almost famous” life!
Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and yours truly sharing a beautiful moment after the show!
Lastly, I want to end this piece by mentioning a dear friend and talented guitar player pal of mine from my LA years in the ‘80s, Rudy Guess. He became Carole King’s guitar player, musical director, and producer and was her right hand man for over two decades. Sadly, we lost Rudy to lung cancer at the end of 2010, and it was Carole King who opened his moving memorial service in April of 2011. She spoke and sang for all of us; using her gifts to pay tribute to a great man we love. His beloved wife of 28 years, Lorna, worked as Carole’s manager for many years and is thrilled that the efforts she made in this same direction with various sources has finally found the right team to bring the dream to life. She said,” I hope ‘Beautiful – The Carole King Musical’ is amazingly successful. Carole King is one of a kind and legendary, and likewise for Gerry Goffin, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. “
Couldn’t have said it better myself. A beautiful sentiment, indeed! Now go, go, GO see this show before it hits the neon lights on Broadway! Hurry!
The late Rudy Guess and the real Carole King side by side for many years
“Beautiful - The Carole King Musical” – book by Douglas McGrath - through Oct. 20
Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco - Tickets: $50-$210,
And NOW on with the rest of MY regularly scheduled show…
Hello, Heraldonians and here’s hoping y’all had a fabulous summer! Mine has been a mixed bag of highs and lows - and since you and I have been riding them together dating back to the beginning of 2001, I’d like to begin this journey on a serious note.
If you go back to the “Almost Famous” archives, you’ll find a tribute to my late dad Arthur Goldberg, who passed in March of 2001. He’s the reason why I moved back home from Nashville at the end of 2000. I did the same for my mom Doris “Bergie” Goldberg during the summer of ’09, moving back from Nashville a second time to pull her back from the grip of the grim reaper and keep that “Energizer Bunny On A Walker” going strong for a whopping four more years!
Sadly, on June 11, 2013, Doris’ big time battery pack finally ran out and we had to say good-bye to a true force of nature. All the way up to her last couple days, Doris was living large, stomping around town going where she wanted, getting to her last family party on June 4, and even demanding to watch the Tony Awards in ICU, spouting trivia about the nominees in that Marge Simpson steel wool voice, “Did you know Tom Hanks is from Oakland??”
Her memorial service was everything my brother Kirk and I could have ever hoped for it to be. Retired California politician extraordinaire Quentin Kopp (who also officiated my brother’s wedding in 2004) opened the service speaking with such reverence about my mother’s unending commitment to community activism, and then my mom’s brother David, my brother and I took our turns sharing who Doris Goldberg was and always will be to each of us. I played a couple of her favorite songs of mine, the ones she always asked for, “A Place In Your Heart” and “Rope Of Faith”.
If you’ll permit me, I’d like to share the obit I wrote for her for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was my toughest writing assignment and deadline ever. I had to submit an abridged version to the Chron because of the astronomical fees they charge (don’t get me started) so it is a great gift to give my mom her proper send-off here, with all of you, my loyal “Almost Famous” readers…
Our hands on her last day
Doris Marian Goldberg
December 23, 1924 - June 11, 2013
Doris Marian Goldberg passed away peacefully at Mills Peninsula Hospital surrounded by the love of her family. After bravely beating back a myriad of enormous health challenges so many times they should name a wing in her honor, Doris fought her last hurrah on June 11, 2013. She was 89 years young.
Doris was a proud 2nd generation San Francisco native, born to Sol and Mathilda Friedenberg, both colorful characters in their own right. Doris attended Washington High School and graduated in the June Class of 1943. She and her brother David Friedenberg, just 18 months her junior, were very close and remained so till her last day. Doris loved to dance. If the Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, or Glenn Miller Orchestra was in town, you can bet Doris was out on that dance floor swingin’ and shakin’ a tail feather with the best of ‘em.
Doris was a passionate political activist and began volunteering for the Democratic Central Committee of San Francisco to get out the vote before she was even old enough to cast it herself, campaigning for candidates and causes on both the local and national level. Whatever needed to be done, Doris was at your service, all the way up to helping President Obama get re-elected for his 2nd term in 2012. She was described as “legendary” at the San Mateo County Democratic Headquarters. Doris won the prestigious honor of “Oldest and Longest Living Volunteer” at their 2012 awards ceremony after the election.
Doris’s other passion was her immediate and large extended family. Doris and all her cousins formed a club called The Progenies and even created a song they sang at every family gathering. Doris recently became the oldest living member of her entire clan and was able to attend a family birthday party just a week shy of her passing. Doris rarely missed an opportunity to celebrate something with someone; she just adored the whole ritual. She was very devoted to the traditions of her Jewish faith and culture, which she passed onto her own family.
Doris worked in the insurance claim field, but took a year off in her late 20’s to live in beautiful Hawaii before it became our 50th state. She fell in love with its magical, exotic appeal, and was an avid Hula dancer throughout her life.
In 1958, she achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a wife and mother and married Arthur Goldberg, another native San Franciscan and WWII vet who owned 26th & Lake Street Market in SF with his brother Lou. They moved to Daly City in 1961 and raised two great kids with successful careers in the arts. Doris and Art enjoyed doing volunteer work together like Meals On Wheels. She loved to travel, with and without Art in tow. Through the ups and downs, Doris and Art remained devoted to each other till his passing in 2001.
Although Doris faced many serious challenges throughout her life, her bright spirit always returned no matter what her circumstances. Even as her health issues became progressively more complicated, her fashion sense, quest to keep up with current events, politics, and enjoyment of the arts never lessened one iota. She loved movies, plays, festivals, street fairs or just going shopping at Walgreens or reading her daily paper outside in the sun – she had an unceasing zest for life, an ability to adapt to anything, and a great sense of humor.
After she sold her Daly City house in 2004, Doris enjoyed a full new life, first at Sterling Court and then Marymount Green Hills retirement homes. Her children remained a constant presence in her very active social life. And all the way up until the very end, if someone wasn’t available to join her, Doris would just walk or take Redi-Wheels or public transportation to whatever destination she was determined to go. People would see her crossing the street on her walker to get to the movie theatre, get her nails done or buy her grapes. Her daughter christened her the “Energizer Bunny On A Walker”. She rarely took no for an answer. Doris was a true force of nature.
Doris is survived by her devoted children: daughter Kim Goldberg (Kimberlye Gold), son Kirk Goldberg, daughter-in-law Jana, and her loving brother David Friedenberg. A memorial service/celebration of life will be held for Doris on Wednesday, June 19 at 11am at Temple Beth Israel Judea, 625 Brotherhood Way in San Francisco. A reception will be held in the Fellowship Hall immediately following and all are welcome to attend.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made in Doris’ memory and honor to Temple Beth Israel Judea, 625 Brotherhood Way, San Francisco, CA 94132, http://bij.org/community/giving/index.html, Planned Parenthood, http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ or the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee, 751 Laurel St., P.O. Box 702, San Carlos, CA 94070, http://www.sanmateodemocrats.org/.
Doris’ last family party on 6/4/13, Election Night 2012, and her last birthday on 12/23/12. We love and miss you, Mom…
The (Bad) Company we keep and other tales from both sides of the stage - - - Bone Bash w/ Night Ranger, Lynrd Skynyrd at Shoreline Amphitheatre June 23, 2013 and BR Cohn Charity Music Fest w/ Pablo Cruise, Doobie Brothers, and Bad Company September 21, 2013
Some of you die-hard San Francisco Herald “Almost Famous” fans may remember my long standing history with ‘70s classic rock band Bad Company, dating all the way back to my working for the WEA record labels in New York City in the early ‘90s and my now classic interviews with original and current lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke in 2001 (see “Archives 1998-2005 –Almost Famous Part IV” - http://www.cal-list.com/SF_Herald/columnists/gold/gold.html). Simon even came to see me perform at The Bitter End in New York City during my last visit in 2004! Bad Co. still remains one of my favorite classic rock bands of all time. So when I heard they were doing a 40th anniversary show with Lynrd Skynyrd at Shoreline Amphitheatre on June 23, I thought about trying to get in touch with my Bad Co. peeps and reconnect. Especially since one of my first gigs when I moved back to the SF Bay Area from Nashville the first time to take care of my dad in 2000 was…singing background vox for a Lynrd Skynyrd tribute band! A perfect combo platter, indeed!
But life had other plans with my mom’s swift decline and farewell and all the arrangements that had to be made. Suddenly it was just a couple days before the show, and I came back up for air to return to the land of the living. I scored a review ticket through my pals at Live Nation, and flew solo over to Shoreline after one of my retirement home gigs that afternoon.
Unbeknownst to me, local hometown boys made good Night Ranger were also on the bill! But unfortunately, the stadium was less than half full and the sound man insisted on mixing it as if it was, which meant ear-splitting decibel levels of everything, especially the bass that literally ripped through my chest and hurt with each pounding note. So high energy crowd pleasers like “Sister Christian” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” were just an exercise in torture and I couldn’t wait for their set to end. Am I just getting old? Don’t answer that…
Night Ranger’s unfortunate loud as !@#% set
By the time Lynrd Skynyrd was about to hit the stage, it was a whole new ball game. The amphitheatre was packed, the sun had gone down and the energy was ripe with anticipation and excitement for these Southern fried rock faves. I’m not entirely sure which were the original members and which were the newbies but there must have been at least a dozen of them up there, including three female background singers and they ROCKED it!! All of us out in the audience were going wild singing and dancing along to every LS hit you could imagine: “What’s Your Name”, “They Call Me The Breeze”, “Saturday Night Special”, “Gimme Three Steps”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, all of ‘em! The high point was a beautiful rendition of “Simple Man” that tangibly moved the masses. And the encore of course was…”Freebird”! (You were expecting “Stairway To Heaven”??) Really uplifting and fun in the best !@#$-kickin’ way, my only question was how does a band top “Freebird”?? Tough act to follow fo' sho’!!
Lynrd Skynyrd’s southern fried pride!!
Finally, at 9:45pm, it was overdue time for the headliners, Bad Company to bring it! Would they be able to top Skynyrd’s kick-ass set?? My bet was on the Bad Co. Boys and they did not disappoint. Paul Rodgers and Company descended on the stage amidst thunder and smoke, with original members Mick Ralphs on guitar, former original Heart guitarist Howard Leese also on guitar, my afore-mentioned pal Simon Kirke on drums and some newbie bass player dude. Paul & Co. pulled out all their greatest hits as well, opening with “Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy” and the sound man could not have dialed it in better at this point, no need for earplugs at all, which is how I like it! It is truly amazing how Paul Rodgers just keeps getting more fine-tuned with age, his voice soaring and crystal clear, in the best shape of his life at almost 64! The band could not have sounded better or fuller with these two astounding guitar greats and super Simon Kirke steadily steering the rockin’ ship behind his drum kit! We were on our feet for the entire “no frills, just chills” set, which included “Runnin’ With The Pack”, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”, “Gone, Gone, Gone”, “Shooting Star”, “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love” (which Paul tossed the chorus out to audience every time – priceless!), and encores of “Bad Company” and “Rock Steady” to send us home happy and satisfied.
Bad Company rockin’ steady after all these years!
All through the concert, I was thinking of my mom as I tried to just take in the joy of the people around me and the music we were sharing together. I had requested backstage access with the Live Nation folks, but since it was all so last minute, I was lucky to even get a review ticket. I knew I’d probably have to wing it after the show and take my chances with the Shoreline backstage gatekeepers, one of my least favorite things, but an “Almost Famous” girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get that story, right?? Just as I was about to give up – it was after 11pm at this point, fer gawdsakes – a guy came out to get his sister at the stage door and I was face-to-face with the guy I should have remembered to contact in the first place: Bad Co.’s wonderful tour manager Chris Crawford, who recognized me the moment he saw me (all the way back since 2001, nice!!) and told them “She’s fine” and ushered me through that darn gate – YES!!!! We had a really nice chat on the way catching up and he made it clear that Paul Rodgers would not be coming out at all, but he would try to get Simon Kirke for me. I was SO tired at this point but I had come this far, I committed to see it through as far as it could go. There were several folks hanging out at that familiar backstage Shoreline Amphitheatre meet ‘n greet area y’all read about in these columns so many times before, sitting in semi-darkness at tables waiting for whoever might miraculously appear out of the shadows.
Suddenly, Chris Crawford re-emerged, not with Simon Kirke, but with guitarist Howard Leese, introducing us and walking away. Huh?? He must have told Howard I was some kind of press person, because Howard was so friendly and polite, like I was someone he should speak to. So I took the opportunity to ask him about his on-stage musical reunion with his original (and my all-time favorite) band Heart at the 2012 Rock ‘n Roll Hall Of Fame Induction ceremony a few months back. He told me how emotional it was for all of them and I told him what a HUGE influence Ann and Nancy and Heart had been on me my whole life and admitted I was weeping like a 15-year-old on my bed watching it on TV. We had a moment.
But then out of the corner of my eye I spotted Simon with a suitcase looking like he was ready to get the hell outta there. So I politely thanked Howard Leese for traveling down memory lane with me and made a beeline over to Simon, who was now talking with a conservative Asian couple who looked about as rock ‘n roll as…well, who couldn’t have looked any less like they belonged back there. He was asking them if they got in okay, did they enjoy the show, etc. and they were politely responding, it was all such an odd little scene, I was waiting for them to bow to each other. Finally, I was able to find a moment to get Simon’s attention and he recognized me right away and gave me a big hug. I told him about my mom and he was so sweet and comforting, just like he was about losing my dad in ‘01. Our visit was very brief, as he had to be whisked off, but I gave him my card and told him I hoped we would stay in touch and he agreed. Lovely.
Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and moi’ saying hello after the show
I came, I saw, I conquered. It was time to make that long-ass trek to find my car somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight, seemingly miles from where I was. Where was my parking pass and V.I.P. parking?? Sigh. As I was leaving the venue, I noticed that Asian couple who were talking to Simon and we said hello to each other. I asked them if they, too, were off to find their car, and low and behold, they were! I had (not bad!) company, at least. So, of course, I had to ask them how they knew Simon. Their names were Poh and Shelly Guee, and had met Simon the day before the show on the Mountain View Golf Course. Poh lost his orange hat, and Simon cancelled his cab and rode with them all around the golf course, helping them look till they found it! Then invited them to the show and got them backstage. Remember when he got my friend Laurie Jacobs and me a room and tickets at Konocti Harbor Inn to cover their show back in ’02?? http://www.cal-list.com/SF_Herald/columnists/gold/gold-03-02.html. Well, apparently, this is just what Simon does for EVERYONE! He is a true mensch (Yiddish for “cool guy”)!
I asked them if they were Bad Company fans and Poh said he had heard of them but really didn’t know their music. Shelly just kept nodding and smiling, I don’t even know if she spoke English. I wish I had a picture but this conversation took place in almost complete darkness. I promised them this was perfect fodder for my column and they seemed delighted. Best news ever: they helped me find MY car. Mission accomplished!
BR Cohn Charity Music Fest w/ Pablo Cruise, Doobie Brothers, and Bad Company September 21, 2013 and the road to it…
So the next thing that came my way was a lovely e-mail from Simon Kirke saying how great it was to see me, warm wishes about my “dear, departed mum”, and an offer to send me his very own solo artist CD! I looked him up on Wikipedia and learned that his wife Lorraine is the very successful vintage boutique owner of Geminola in SoHo NYC who supplies clothes to the stars like my dear, departed HBO series Sex & The City and one of my new HBO faves Girls...and guess who is one of the cast members of this critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated show?? Why, none other than their daughter Jemima Kirke!! Who KNEW??
Shortly after, I received an autographed copy of Simon’s wonderful CD Filling The Void from 2011, chock full of largely autobiographical tales of graduating from the school of hard knocks: hitting bottom, tough love, redemption, his 9/11 experiences, really great, personal stuff – even his musician daughter Domino contributes some poignant backing vocals. Far more than just a world-class drummer, vocally he is reminiscent of Pete Townsend (I had actually heard Simon sing on the Ringo All-Star tour back in Nashville, which I wrote about in my afore-mentioned 2001 AF column), and Rolling Stone compared him to two of my favorite seminal songwriters, Jackson Browne and Don Henley! Not bad company to be included with, indeed! While I was so impressed to learn he had played most of the instruments on this hidden gem, what blew me away even further was that my favorite NYC musician brother team Steve and John Conte had contributed some great guitar and bass tracks! My ever-shrinking world got that much smaller once again…
Simon Kirke’s critically acclaimed solo album “Filling The Void”!
But wait – that’s not all, folks! Another thing I discovered while researching all things Bad Company for my upcoming review: Bad Co. was headlining a fabulous upcoming trip down my personal memory lane on September 21 with Pablo Cruise and The Doobie Brothers at the BR Cohn Winery in beautiful Sonoma, CA!! With my beloved Heart headlining the next day! Oh MY! I used to be so obsessed with Pablo Cruise back in the day, I had a florist shop make a real Hawaiian lei which I brought to one of their concerts and placed around keyboard player Cory Lerios’ neck. (Oh shut up, I was in high school, it was cute!) I actually caught them with The Tubes at the Sausalito Art Fair in 2010 and no floral arrangements were bestowed upon anyone. But the last time I had seen The Doobie Brothers was back in 1980 at the Calaveras County Mountain Aire Festival on a bill with Ambrosia, Toto, and opening band Huey Lewis & The News – one week shy of them releasing their first (and BEST) self-titled debut record that no one heard. Huey dedicated a song off it titled “I Want You” to me, “D.C.” - his nickname for me because I was a babe-in-da-wood from Daly City and his tour manager J.B. was chasing me at the time. I wrote about it in my very first “Almost Famous” column in all its’ glorious detail: http://www.cal-list.com/SF_Herald/columnists/gold/gold-02-01.html
The original ticket to Calaveras County paradise! Only $15! (No, I didn’t save it, I found it online!)
Not to mention the fact that one of the very first bands I ever joined when I was in high school was led by a boyfriend/girlfriend team of drummers and we covered songs by great bands from the ‘70s like Steely Dan, Heart and…The Doobie Brothers! So I HAD to go to this doobie, I mean, doozy of a nostalgia line-up at the BR Cohn Charity Music Fest with Pablo Cruise, Doobie Brothers, and Bad Company!! And who better to ask to make this dream a reality but my pal Simon Kirke, who was more than happy to oblige!
During this time, I met one of the most renowned San Francisco photographers in the business, Pat Johnson. Originally from Cleveland, home of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, Pat has created his own City By The Bay Hall Of Fame for over 25 years, shooting everyone from David Bowie and Mick Jagger to our own hometown boys made good Green Day, interspersing high profile music gigs with corporate assignments and high-fashion models (poor guy!). Pat has worked with everybody who has graced these pages, including our own actually famous scribe Ben Fong-Torres. Here’s where you can see for yourself: http://www.patjohnson.com/. Turns out Pat was the house photographer for the Bone Bash show, as well as the BR Cohn show I’m about to yak about, capturing those “money shots” for winery owner Bruce Cohn for decades! I was a lucky gal to make Pat’s acquaintance before this show, so the photos you are about to witness all get a photo credit by Pat Johnson, instead from me and my lame Sprint phone…
The day of the concert finally arrived and with it…pouring rain!! WTF?? Thank goodness my photographer pal Pat had warned me to wear flat shoes, because I wouldn’t have made it out of my car. I had to park miles away in some wilderness vineyard parking lot, way out in the B section and then walk in the muddy grass for what felt like miles to a yellow school bus to ride with all the concert-goers to the actual venue. By the time we arrived, I had to be led across the venue to the V.I.P. Will Call area to pick up my tickets and Bad Company after show passes, c/o Mr. Kirke. I tracked Pat down (what did we do before cell phones??) and he was kind enough to lead me down to an area right in front of the stage occupied by folks who had held this spot for years. There were no seats, only a grassy hill which had been covered by tarp and blankets, and people were literally laying in the mud, drinking their wine, smoking and eating pot cookies, and happy as pigs in !@#$! Luckily, the space I had been granted had somehow remained miraculously mostly mud-free, and I descended upon it gratefully, praying for the now-dwindling rain to stop. Right before Pablo Cruise took the stage, it (mostly) did. With three of their original members: guitarist/lead singer Dave Jenkins, drummer Steve Price, afore-mentioned keyboard player Cory Lerios, and newbie bass player/lead singer Larry Antonio, they cruised through all the songs I knew and loved so well including “Worlds Away”, “A Place In The Sun”, “Whatcha Gonna Do” and “Love Will Find A Way”, interspersing them with extended music jams that once again proved what consummate musicians they are. Especially at this close range, I am still amazed at the lightning speed Cory Lerios’ fingers play that piano. Good thing I didn’t have a lei or any other type of floral fan offering ‘cause he would have earned it, big time!
Pablo Cruise finding their place in the sun
By the time The Doobie Brothers were ready to hit the stage, the rain had completely subsided, thank you Mother Nature! But it was still treacherously muddy all around our little mostly dry oasis, so I stayed put, save the couple of times I headed for the two VIP bathrooms I had located early on and waited in a long line to get in. (The rest were port-a-potties that were even more disgusting with all the mud). The place was still packed with happy, wine-drinking, pot-smoking, post-hippie baby boomers and some of their younger counterparts, many of whom apparently come year after year.
Everyone jumped to their feet as soon as the strains of “Jesus Is Just Alright” began and stayed up for the whole set, basking in the glory of so many of their hits, like “Rockin’ Down The Highway”, “Eyes Of Silver”, “Black Water”, and on and on, all of which I found myself rockin’ out and singing every word as if I heard them yesterday. I marveled at what a definitive sound they still had. Even with newbie double drummers, keyboard player, sax man and bass player, the original two front men, lead singer/guitarists Pat Simmons and Tom Johnston and long-time guitarist John McFee made it look and sound eerily like it was 1970-something all over again. It all washed over me like a super-nostalgic wave of sight and sound, truly taking me back to a place when my whole life was ahead of me, bittersweet and beautiful.
Noticeably absent was most of the material from the Michael McDonald era, until they introduced their distinguished-looking, bearded bass player, who I was stunned to realize was John Cowan, an old Nashville acquaintance I used to love to go see perform at The Bluebird Café and many other old haunts! John is an incredible singer/songwriter, another one of those mega-talented folks who woulda/coulda/shoulda been a superstar in their own right, hello?? He tackled the Michael McDonald vocal part in “Takin’ It To The Streets” and just nailed it – go, John! Apparently, he has been a Doobie Brother on and off since the mid-nineties, who knew??
Nashvillian John Cowan touching bass with The Doobies!
The high point came during the encore of “Listen To The Music”, when a cast of thousands joined The Doobies on stage to sing that undeniable chorus, including wives, kids, members of Pablo Cruise and old hometown royalty The Rowan Brothers!
Doobie Bros. Pat Simmons, Tom Johnston, and John McFee rockin’ down the highway
The crowd waited in heightened anticipation for Bad Company to come out, and come out they did in grand rock ‘n roll style amidst more theatrical thunder and smoke, even though it was still broad daylight! As the smoke cleared, my first response was “Where is Mick Ralphs?’, Bad Co.’s original guitar player who was with them in full force at the Bone Bash show along with current member/former Heart guitarist Howard Leese. This time around, it was just a power trio with Howard, my pal Simon Kirke on drums and newbie bass player Todd Ronning, with lead singer extraordinaire Paul Rodgers occasionally tinkling the ivories. It was still the same great show (see Bone Bash above), and an added treat to witness it at such up close and personal range this time. Howard’s lone guitar still sounds reminiscent of those great original Heart records, even while nailing all Mick Ralph’s signature licks. Fun! Paul tossed the chorus of almost every single song out to the audience and we all complied with great glee. Paul still loves to use his mic stand like a combination sword and scepter, definitely one of his trademark performance rituals, and this audience was just as mesmerized by his every note and move. Everyone both on and off stage looked genuinely happy as rock’n roll clams, delightful and delicious!
My favorite part was watching the folks backstage, which was actually off stage right, watching the show themselves. My Doobie pal John Cowan was fixated on Bad Co.’s every move and note, resting his head on his hand, mesmerized like a kid watching his childhood heroes, along with Pablo Cruise and Doobie Bros. members paying just as rapt attention and reverence themselves. Priceless!
Can’t get enough of Bad Company’s love!
Happy camper Kimberlye “Almost Famous” Gold caught by BR Cohn house photographer Pat Johnson!
Before Bad Co.’s set came to a close, I made my way through the mud and mayhem to yet another gatekeeper so I could go backstage to say hello after the show. People had to grab my arms a couple times to prevent me from literally slipping down the muddy hill. Unlike my Bone Bash experience at Shoreline Amphitheatre, I was bolstered by my Bad Company 40th anniversary tour after-show pass that miraculously remained intact through the hours of Music Mud Fest.
Alas, my confidence was sadly misguided.
“I have no idea what to do with that,” Backstage Gatekeeper Man said, looking at my red and black after-show pass planted on my matching top like a meaningless fashion statement. Meanwhile people with laminates hanging around their neck were coming and going and I realized that this pass was probably used for every Bad Company show on their tour. Since this was a special event, apparently it was useless. UGH. I SO did not want to have to talk my way backstage again and explain that Simon Kirke had gotten me in himself, yada, yada, yada…I was just about to turn around and slither back defeated when my knight in muddy armor photographer pal Pat miraculously appeared and said, “It’s cool, she’s supposed to be backstage” or something like that, because all I knew was I was IN and I better make the most of it. It wasn’t exactly backstage, more of a narrow corridor in front of it, but WHO CARES, I was somewhere other than waiting in the mud!
The first person I saw was my Nashville pal John Cowan, bass player for The Doobie Brothers. I had to remind him who I was, but as soon as I did, I saw the light of recognition in his eyes. We had a great chat and tried to remember how/why/who we had in common to have met, because neither of us could remember the exact circumstances or details, laughing as we both agreed we weren’t crazy, we did know each other somehow. I told him it was probably from The Bluebird Café or Douglas Corner Café, both of which we had played and the latter I had worked as a waitress. “Ah, that must be it!” John mused. God, I hope not. I told him I was a brunette, or maybe a blonde by then, which didn’t help my credibility, when photo pal Pat ran over and muttered under his breath “Look, there’s Simon Kirke, he’s getting into his car!” so I bid my farewell to John and ran over to say hello to Simon, my actual friend who was expecting me with no explanations necessary. As soon as Simon saw me, he said, “My wife is here and she’s coming right now!” and immediately, the attractive brunette woman I had seen online while researching Simon and Bad Co. appeared. “This is Kimberlye Gold, she’s a singer/songwriter!” was Simon’s hurried introduction and I parroted him, “Yes, I’m a singer/songwriter and it’s a pleasure to meet you!” or something equally ridiculous, as I shook her hand and realized this was not the friendly visit I had anticipated and I better shift gears immediately. “Did you get in okay, good, well, we have to go then, bye!” Simon said as I thanked him and they drove off.
Before I could collect myself to figure out what to do next, Pat was back, gesturing to me that Paul Rodgers was leaving, about 10 feet away, flanked by security and a few hangers-on and I just yelled out “Paul!” Everyone stopped and Paul turned around and looked at me, as if we were suddenly filming an E.F. Hutton commercial. “I’m Kimberlye Gold, I interviewed you several times over the years, you may remember me?” I called out to him, expecting security to grab me and haul me out at any moment. Paul paused a moment and said, “Yes, of course. Cynthia is here!” I remembered that was the name of his wife, and the person who handled our interview details and who I met at the 2001 concert I reviewed, so I knew in that moment he was saying, “Yes, I remember you are legit.” and “My wife is here and you know her!” not just to me, but to everyone who was watching and listening in rapt attention. I just took it as an invitation to bridge the gap and went over to say hello and shake Paul’s hand. Paul was very friendly and warm, telling me to make sure someone tracked down Cynthia because she would love to see me as well, and I agreed, saying “So great to see you again, you and the band are better than ever!”
Everything happened so fast and I was so caught off-guard I neglected to remember I had one of the greatest photographers in the world right behind me, waiting for the “money shot” of Paul Rodgers and me that apparently I needed to ask him to take. I missed my photo op. DAMN!! Before I could take another breath, there was the lovely Cynthia, greeting and embracing me, as if we were old friends. “You changed your hair color, I like it!” acknowledging my switch from blonde to red, as only a savvy businesswoman and wise wife who really pays attention to every detail would do. Impressive! We chatted for a few minutes and I gave her my card and then she was off.
So I missed photo ops with both Simon Kirke and Paul Rodgers. Now what??
Suddenly, I spotted Bad Co. guitarist Howard Leese and was not about to strike out three times. I went over and introduced myself and reminded him we just met at the Bone Bash show at Shoreline in June and he appeared to remember our little chat. I asked him if he would take a picture with me and he was happy to oblige. I called out to Pat, ready with his giant camera, and Howard uttered my favorite line of the day, “Wow, you always bring your own personal photographer?” But of course, I’m Kimberlye “Almost Famous” Gold!
Actually, no matter how old I get, or how many titles I have attached to what I do: journalist, publicist, singer/songwriter, business owner, at the end of the day, I’m still just a girl trying to get next to the rock star after the show. Oh well. Sigh…
Third time’s a charm with current Bad Co. and former Heart guitarist Howard Leese!
Everyone backstage had been ushered to a lovely sit-down dinner which I was not privy to, Pat needed to get to, and I suddenly realized that I had to get to my car, which was worlds away out in the muddy vineyards somewhere. So I thanked my new friend profusely for all his help throughout the day and promised him glorious photo credits for the spectacular article I was going to write, and set off in search of that yellow school bus. What I found were dozens of wine and mud-soaked concert goers who were still partyin’ down, waiting for the magic bus to take us all to our cars. All I could think of was that nobody in this happy herd would believe I was a guest of one the founding members of Bad Company, most of all, moi’! It was just ludicrous.
Finally the buses came and they broke us up into groups of however many they could fit for each trip. By then, the sun was setting and by the time I got on a bus, it was pitch black darkness. I sat next to a nice woman who chatted with me about the multiple DUIs that surely awaited so many of our tipsy travel companions. (I hadn’t touched a drop, can’t imagine how over-the-limit most of these folks were!) The bus driver dumped us off into the darkness and I literally had no idea where my car was or how to find it. Before I could burst into tears, my seat buddy said “You come with us and we’ll help you find your car!” Her two friends concurred and these three angels with halos piled me in their car and we drove around until we found the B section of that dark, muddy, almost empty lot, and miracle of miracles, my car! Thank you, ladies! May great CAR-ma be with you always!
I came, I saw, I conquered. Sort of. These stories never end, do they? I guess I AM gonna have to write my book someday after all…meanwhile, let the hits keep on comin’!!...
Alas, I did not go to the show the next day for Day II and see my beloved headliners Heart. I heard they were AMAZING and such great gals. Don’t I know the former and wish I knew the latter firsthand. Maybe someday…Thanks to FAB photographer Pat Johnson for this and ALL the great “money shots”!!
A few shameless plugs…
Here are a couple shots of a new band project I debuted last month, Kimberlye Gold’s Violint Sax featuring TK!! The band (so far) consists of yours truly on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, longtime music maker Calvin Keaoola on violin, founding and current Iggy Pop & The Stooges sax man Steve Mackay, and newcomer Tom “”TK” Kelly on drums! Kind of like a super high-energy female Dave Matthews band, I can’t wait to see where this goes!!
Poetry in motion! Thanks to Steve Austin for the great shots!
Last, but not least, if you need a great dentist and live in the San Francisco Bay Area, forget 1-800-whatever, look no further! Run, don’t walk to Dr. Josephine Weber, who is not only the BEST dentist I have ever been to in my LIFE, she also went to my now-defunct high school Serramonte High!! I found her totally by chance (I knew her as “Jit” with a different last name) after finding an ad in the SF Weekly a few years back and have been a loyal follower ever since. But don’t just take my word for it, check these links out and tell them Kim Goldberg sentcha!! Here’s the location: 9 Silliman Street, Suite 1, San Francisco, CA – 94134 415-486-11777
Well, tttttthat’s all for now, folks! Hope you enjoyed our time together as much as I did. Till we meet again…###