Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rick Springfield is Going to Sing on General Hospital....Let Me Tell You Why I Care

If you were (as I was) a teenage Rick Springfield fan in the 80s, you probably know that he declined to make music on the soap opera during the height of his musical popularity. "Jessie's Girl" was just breaking onto the charts when Dr. Noah Drake appeared on the GH set, and the cross-promotional opportunities were impossible to ignore, but Springfield said something along the lines of, " character is a doctor??"

A quarter of a century later, Springfield is set to perform on General Hospital for the first time this Friday, and that's fun and brings back memories, but it's not headline news.

"So," you may be wondering, "why are you telling me all this?"

It's because several years ago, I found myself in the odd position of approaching Rick Springfield while perched on the precarious line between grown-up-who-used-to-be-a-hardcore-teenage-fan and professional trying to do a job. I was writing a book; my research was exceptional and my writing was solid. My credentials, though, were a little weak for the job I was doing.

I learned a lot about interviewing, about publishing and about copyrights and licensing. I learned a little bit about the music industry. I learned some great stories that I'll never tell on the record. And I learned that Rick Springfield is the kind of man every teenage fan wanted to believe he was 25 years ago.

I have very probably written more about Rick Springfield than any other writer. I've been cited and quoted and consulted by other authors and editors. I've done articles and bios and album reviews...and, of course, that little book. But what's below is the best thing I ever wrote about Rick Springfield, and for five or six years I haven't shared it with anyone except a few close friends and family members.

I've written nearly everything there is to say about what Rick Springfield has DONE. The story below, I think, is the one about who he is. Maybe it explains why it makes me happy to see him still rocking on network television the week of his 58th birthday.

Stars in Her Eyes

At 6:45 a.m. I have slept for only four hours and am feeling the effects of the rare two drinks I had the night before. I do not want to get out of bed. I look at my tiny daughter, sleeping in the center of the giant hotel bed. She’s tired too, and I can see that her father didn’t give her a bath last night.

I think, “She’ll never know. I don’t have to wake her up.” My head is pounding from lack of sleep and the tensions of the past two days. Very softly I say, “Tori.” There is no response. “

"Tori Linn,” I call, a little more loudly, but still she doesn’t stir.

“Tori,” I say, “you don’t have to get up. But if you want to, we can go down and see Rick before he leaves.”

Instantly she’s sitting up and nodding frantically. Then she asks, “Does he want to see me, too?”

Never, even in my wildest moments of teenage adulation, have I loved Rick Springfield as much as I do at that moment, because I know with absolute certainty that I can look into my six-year-old’s shining eyes and say “yes,” and he will not disappoint her.

We sit in a chair in the lobby watching early-morning businessmen checking out of their rooms and I can feel the tension in her little body on my lap. I’d still rather be in bed. I wrap my arms around her waist but she does not relax against me. Her back is straight and her eyes wide.

I watch Rick’s road manager, and then his engineer, and then his band come into the lobby one by one. I watch his road manager check them out and then make a call on the house phone, a call I know is intended to get Rick out of his room and into the waiting car. I watch them pace, and I warn my daughter that he is going to be in a hurry, that she will have only a moment.

She wants to take a picture of him with her new Barbie camera, being used for the second time on this trip. I tell her to be ready. Suddenly my confidence, so strong only half an hour earlier, is gone. I’m nervous for her. The elevator door opens and he steps through, ducking slightly, dressed in black.

It has been a long time since my heart stopped beating at the sight of him, but this morning it misses a beat for my daughter, waiting so eagerly. He looks toward the crowd of people waiting impatiently for him to leave and I nearly stop breathing. I put Tori down on the floor, but she clings close to my leg, suddenly shy in his presence.

He goes to her first, and in an instant is kneeling on the floor of the hotel lobby next to her. He is so tall, and she so small, that even on his knees he towers over her. His first words are, “I haven’t seen you in a long time.” My child, who talked in complex sentences at 15 months, is unable to speak.

I tell Rick that she just got her first camera and she wants to take a picture of him, but he misunderstands and moves to pose with her. I say, “Do you want Mommy to take your picture with Rick?” and she nods, still unable to speak. I take the pink plastic camera from her hand and, when she makes no move to help, unlace it from her wrist.
She’s glowing as he pulls her in close to him, his hand covering her entire midsection. I’m nervous about the Barbie camera. There is nothing to focus. There is no light meter. I know she will be devastated if this picture doesn’t turn out.

As Rick kneels on the floor holding my daughter, Matty Spindel, his Grammy-winning engineer, asks if I’d like him to take the picture so that I can get in it with them. I thank him, but smile and shake my head. This isn’t my picture.

Rick kisses her before he gets up and then moves to hug me. This takes me by surprise. It would never have occurred to me to approach him—this isn’t my moment. The zipper on his leather jacket presses into my shoulder as I rise up on my toes to whisper “Thank you” in his ear. He may not know what I’m thanking him for—there has certainly been plenty over the past few days. I had come to do an interview with a man I had admired for twenty years, and whose intuition let him clearly see both sides of that coin. He was the consummate professional during the interview, then hugged me and tousled my hair when it was over, understanding that the tape in my left hand and the gift for my daughter in my right were of equal value.

“Thank you” seemed to be all that I had said to him for two days. Thank you for the personal commentary that would change the texture of my book, although I already had all of the information. Thank you for free front row seats, for backstage passes, for inviting me to the sound check. Thank you for remembering Tori and that she would want to see him…he may not have known, in that moment, what that last “thank you” was for, or how heartfelt it was.
There were many things to thank him for, but looking over his shoulder into my daughter’s eyes, I knew that nothing this man could do as a Grammy-winning vocalist, as a gifted songwriter, as a sexy entertainer who held audiences in the palm of his hand, would ever impress me the way that it did when he took the time to kneel on the floor of a hotel lobby at daybreak and make a six-year-old feel that he did, in fact, want to see her too.

Ran Across a Blog this Evening....

that's asking the tough questions like, "Just why can't people (and major corporations) say 'iced' when that's what they mean?" and "Should use of 'their' with a singular noun be punishable by death?"

Okay, maybe I exaggerated the second one just a little bit, but if you enjoyed my Accidental Grammar Police post, One Step Forward will definitely make you laugh...and curse under your breath.

And while we're talking blogs, I nominated So the Thing Is... for the Blogger's Choice Awards. If, like me, you have the good sense to really and truly enjoy Barb Cooper's humorous and heartfelt presentation consider clicking here and voting for her: Vote "So the Thing Is..." Best Parenting Blog!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I Just Watched High School Musical 2

No, really.

I'm not a fan of Ashley Tisdale or "Baby V", and teenagers "spontaneously" breaking into choreographed dance in the middle of the kitchen don't do much for me, either. But I'm a big fan of this 11-year-old girl who was very excited to see the sequel, and so we planned dinner around the broadcast and I have to admit that there was a bit of spontaneous dancing in my living room. Some of us were more spontaneous than others--the over forty crowd might have required a little "Come on, mom!" type prompting.

I can sing "The Year 3000", too, and have some opinions on the various hairstyles of the Jonas Brothers.

No, I am absolutely not one of those "cool moms" you might remember someone having from your teenage years (though I have been so accused by my daughter's friends). I'm 41. I drive a Neon by choice. I'm a hardcore Catholic and a safety-precaution junkie.

Thing is, I like to talk to my kid. Of course, we talk about things besides teenage pop music. We're reading To Kill a Mockingbird together right now. We're both sort of information geeks. And we both always have a couple of novels in progress. Many of those interests she developed by my side. Writing may be a natural inclination, but it was undoubtedly also fed by the days when she sat by my desk with her V-Tech "laptop" and worked on spelling while I freelanced, and by the stories we wrote and illustrated together long before she started school.

Now, she's developing her own interests, and frankly, some of them don't interest me all that much. But SHE still interests me, and I guess it's my turn to look at things through her eyes instead of just showing her the world through mine. Sometimes, that means dancing in the living room during High School Musical 2. Sometimes, it means learning to differentiate between six or seven female pop singers with mediocre voices whose songs all sound the same to me. But it also means that when my daughter names the song she wants to sing in the talent show, I know what she's talking about, and I know whether it's a good fit for her voice and her range, and I know other songs to suggest she try out if it seems like maybe it's not. And it means I'm in a position to comment casually that Hilary is looking a little too thin, and I hope she's not letting the star image thing get to her and making herself sick when she was already so very pretty as a normal-looking teenager.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe quite a bit more than The Simpsons, and I wasn't that excited to see that Fantastic Four Silver Surfer thing at all. I'd rather play Scrabble than the Harry Potter edition of Scene It! I suspect, in fact, that sometimes she makes the same kind of concessions, that sometimes she plays Mancala with me when she'd rather be playing Spyrosomethingoranother on her Play Station 2...but that's what relationships with other people--even those little people who so rapidly grow into individuals who are far more than extensions of ourselves--are all about, isn't it?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Parenting - The Fun Never Ends

No, really, I mean it. When my daughter was a baby, I decided to stay home with her for the first couple of years. But then she just kept staying so small that I decided to stay home with her until she went to school. But kindergarten was less than three hours a day, and when I walked her there the first day and told her where I'd be when she came out after school she said, "But first will I see you at recess?" By then I was freelancing and teaching in the evenings, and it was the easiest thing in the world to push it back another year or two. Finally, changing circumstances made the decision for me when she was nine.

There were a lot of wonderful things about being home with her during those years--Mommy & Me, going swimming every day in the summer, hundreds of walks and hundreds of stories, and getting to be the one who pushed her on the swings and then who taught her to pump, who held up the back end of her bicycle and then let go. One of the greatest things, though, was seeing the world through her eyes. Things I would have walked right past required inspection--an unusual flower on the river bank, a stick that looked like a boat floating downstream and had to be named. I've never been a "stop and smell the roses" kind of girl. I know what roses smell like; let's move on. But if I didn't have a lot of interest in the rose, I was purely fascinated by the way my baby's eyes changed when SHE saw the rose, or the way she reached out for something new and interesting without even seeming to realize that she'd done it.

As so often happens to me, two things converged this week to bring all of this back to mind. The first was that a woman on discussion board referred to early childhood as "this wonder filled time". The second was that I took my daughter to register for middle school.

Let me admit right up front that I'm not thrilled about this middle school thing. The middle school is BIG. And it's a public school in a very socio-economically mixed area. I went to middle school, and even thirty years ago I was offered drugs and suddenly activities were being suggested that I'd never heard of before. This is where we find out just how much influence our family and the church has had on her decision-making processes, just how secure she is in her own values, just how she processes new and possibly not-yet-welcome information...and maybe it's not good parenting, but I'd put that day off for another decade or so if I could.

So, we arrived at the middle school gymnasium (at least, it looked like a gymnasium to me...they CALL it a "cafetorium") and I wrote checks at several different tables, and at each one she got something new...a planner, her locker assignment and combination, her schedule (as we walked away from that table she said, "I have a schedule!"), her gym suit. Then we went out into the school to look for her locker and her classrooms, and an amazing thing happened. The hallways were filled with children on the verge of adolescence who were still filled with wonder at the ordinary--it was just a different ordinary. They showed each other their (identical) gym suits. They compared schedules and jumped up and down when they found out they had classes together. They asked questions like, "Did you SEE the tables in the science room?!" They checked out all-important issues like "Can I work my lock?" and "Can I fit inside my locker?" (These seemed to be of approximately equal importance.) And I realized that watching my daughter work her first combination lock on her first official locker with barely controlled excitement was just as much fun as watching her discover her first butterfly, even if she did insist on trading in those cute little dresses for torn jeans and t-shirts somewhere in between. I suspect there are a lot of new discoveries still to come