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, "UM...my 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.