I was quite proud to be a part of the June issue of Static Live Magazine and thought the Prince cover was awesome … and it became a harbinger of this month’s story time. An embarrassing, surreal, albeit 100%, non-exaggerated true story of my life lies ahead …
Just prior to starting in radio in the ’90s, I listened to Atlanta radio on a daily commute to the gridlocked extended city. I was a writer/ producer for a television production house and loved the job but did little else. I had been dateless for over a year following a bad live-in breakup, a key factor here. I had seen Prince live from the front row a year before, the most I’ve ever paid for a concert ticket. It was worth every penny. So when my morning commute soundtrack told me that Prince was playing a private show and they had tickets, I knew I had to make it happen. It was a morning radio dating game, and Trixie selected me over the other single dude callers. It was on. I was ecstatic! I won a blind date to see Prince in a tiny club and then go on the radio show after to discuss the details. Such a simple formula, it seemed.
I worked all my contacts to help make this a special night for my blind date. The crown jewel was a limo company that I had produced some commercials for offered to give me transportation for the night. So I stocked that bitch with champagne and pizza, ‘cuz I’ve got CLASS. I dressed to impress, black suit and shoes, open collar and a fistful of flowers. It’s probably fair to point you now to the picture of me on this page as I was working a “unique” look at that time in my life. After only two conversations, there she was: Trixie. Attractive, intelligent. Perhaps it’s also important to point out that I picked her up from her parents’ house. That may explain some things later. I was a nervous blabbering nerd as I poured her some bubbly and offered her a choice of pepperoni or veggie, ‘cuz again … CLASS. As the driver navigated Atlanta traffic, we talked about our favorite Prince songs and more. It was exciting and enlightening.
As the limo exited the interstate, her champagne flute slid from its holder and spilled on her shirt and the seat. I quickly attempted damage control but I could tell she was off-put. I apologized profusely as we rolled into what was a jammed parking lot, a line hundreds of people long snaking around the venue. She seemed even more annoyed at the potential wait in the cold. I saw the eyes of our driver and his partner in the rear view as he shook his head and headed past the barricaded area and into the backstage lot.
An attendant stopped the car and he spoke briefly to them, then waved us around. My limo pals opened the rear door and we stepped out, approached by a man with a headset and clipboard. Now I know things are getting official. And just then, the driver leaned in toward my ear and murmured something … I asked him to repeat what he said and he quietly whispered back, “I told them you were Kenny G”. Before I could process those words that just slammed into my gut, the headset dude steps up and says, “Great to meet you, Mr. G” and shook hands with me and Trixie. Yup …. “Mister G”! That’s who I now was expected to be on this night. We were whisked through the backstage door and into the private VIP balcony. I quickly realized that if I said I wasn’t who they think I was, we would be bounced. And that is a bad impression on a first date. And perhaps they would find a picture of Kenny G and realize I look nothing like him, which also would end with us missing the show. Another important note that this was pre-smartphone, so there was no instant google image search. Ahhh, the simpler times. So since I am non-confrontational by nature, I rolled with it. I was Kenny G.
A line formed outside this VIP area over the next 30 minutes, many of them women who were coming in and getting wind of the “celebrity” in their midst. I was terrified of being exposed, scared of losing this dream date, and generally nervous about the whole scene. But I channeled the energy into meeting some of my “admirers”, several very attractive women who told me which album of mine was their favorite, and I signed several autographs. I went with a “K” and a tailing squiggle. It seemed the best way to get through this uncomfortable situation. Thankfully, I worked at Turtles Records for a dozen years and was well-versed in Kenny G album knowledge. There was even one beautiful woman who told me what my music did to her during private hours and handed me a hotel key card.
I was overwhelmed with nerves, excitement, and a desperate need to see Prince. I thought certainly there was no way all these people are looking at and talking to me and were convinced that I was the saxophone legend. Apparently I was mistaken. Then it all went south.
The headset/clipboard man returned and gently interrupted, “Excuse me, Mr. G; The Artist would like you to join him for the encore.” Again, ZERO exaggeration or enhancement in this story. It happened. And I felt cold. I felt like the human embodiment of the scene from THE SHINING when the blood pours from the elevator doors. It seemed all the blood had rushed out of my body and I was an empty shell. I fumblingly told him that Trixie needed to leave before the end of the show and turned to her to get confirmation of this hasty lie that would prevent me from having to jam with the greatest musician of my time. But she was gone. Really gone, like no sign of her, no one recalling seeing her, nothing. Was she a mirage of my shitty dating world? Did she bail after I got the hotel key? Perhaps the ladies room? I checked the latter, but no dice. I had nothing other than her home phone number and with cell technology as huge and clunky as it was, there was no accessing her whereabouts. I managed to delay answering my headset/clipboard friend long enough to race around the club looking for her.
So now I am alone as the show begins. My mind races between thinking of an escape plan and not wanting to abandon this poor girl who, for all I knew, could be trapped in a stairwell or something. Also, Prince was awesome. Just killing it, long ripping guitar solos, dancing, singing his ass off, deep cuts, hits, it was an amazing set. And the entire time I am thinking, “I’ve never played a saxophone, I don’t own one, I am about to puke from nerves, I cannot possibly carry this charade that I didn’t create all the way to the damn stage.”
So I called the limo guys between songs but no answer. I now knew I had to leave before the last song. But Prince doesn’t like to tell you the set is ending. And all of a sudden in the middle of a song, I see him walk off stage. Panic set in. I hustled to the door we entered through, right next to the stage. Headset/Clipboard was there and I made no
eye contact as I scurried for the exit, hoping he would figure that I was just headed out to get my horn out of my trunk. My giant cell rang and I answered to hear my limo pals telling my they were out back and that Trixie had her mom pick her up. I grabbed the door of the white stretch and ducked in the back seat and closed the door. Whew! Safe. Then I fixed my gaze on what was in front of me … Prince and 2 women, sitting opposite of me in the limo. He spoke a gentle “Hello” and I freaked out, immediately apologizing and grabbing for the door handle. I climbed out and saw my driver waving his arms, just one car ahead. As the driver and his pal laughed hysterically at the exploits they presented, I hopped through the details, but defaulted every minute or two to the stunning feeling of being that close to Prince. How did his security just let me jump into his car? Did they think I was Kenny G? When he headed back into the venue for the encore was he to be disappointed at the lack of a jazz sax icon? Why were these limo guys who set me up such dicks? Whatever. I just wanted to hide and process it all.
The following Tuesday morning I received a call from the morning host asking me to come to the studio, that Trixie was ripping me apart and they wanted my side. I jumped out of work and headed to Atlanta. I got a flat. I arrived late to the radio station frazzled, nervous, dirty and sweaty with an audience of 20-30 loyal listeners who were in-studio looking on. The morning hosts laughed hysterically at the details of this absurd story and one took particular sympathy on me as Trixie (she made up that name, go figure) divulged her plan to ditch me as soon as she saw me. I was cotton-mouthed dehydrated, nervous as hell and embarrassed beyond reason. But the details of the story served as radio gold. So good, in fact, that they used it on their “Best Of’ shows for 3 years after. I got to relive it over and over.
I made a vow from the moment I got my first morning show that applies today to The Morning HOG show … NO dating game bits. So apologies to Kenny G for the bad impersonation, to the lady with the hotel key that I never used, to the late, great Prince, and to Trixie, whom I hope thinks of me every time she hears a Prince song.