Pine Knob and Full Circle Moments

When I saw the date pop up on our weekly updates from Rick Springfield’s managers a few months back, a little shiver went up my spine.  “DTE Energy Theater, Clarkston, MI.”   That was the new name for the ampitheater that had been known as Pine Knob when I was growing up.  It was the scene of the crime for my first concert, which of course had been Rick Springfield.  It had also been where I’d felt my first taste of idealism crushed when my fantasy of waiting by the backstage door to meet my idol had been swiftly and unceremoniously dismissed.

The thought of seeing Rick there again, as an adult who not only had met him after all but now was working for him, was impossible to resist.  I set up plans to visit my sister that weekend and asked Rick for my customary 2 tickets and passes to the show.

Walking into the theatre had been surreal; so little had changed over the last nearly twenty years since I’d seen him here last.  The lawn was vast, the seating area was huge.  I’d gotten here early, just as I had twenty years before, but this time as I descended the row after row after row down to my seats, I was greeted by other fans who knew me from my work for him.  My sister whispered under her breath about this one being fake and that one being unattractive as we finally found our seats in the center section, third row.

A far cry from the thirteenth row that I’d stood in back in 1984; the ten rows might have well been a million.

Every so often I would glance behind me at the huge concert theater; I felt a tinge of awe and excitement as I watched it fill, just as it had at the height of Rick’s popularity in the 1980s.  As the lights went down and the familiar music of Rick’s opening boomed out of the speakers, I willed myself to stay in the moment.  It wasn’t hard.  During Rick’s show in the 1980s I had felt an overwhelming need for him to notice me, and a bitter realization that he wasn’t going to as the show wore on.  This time, I had no such need; it was therefore ironic to me that during Rick’s foray into the audience, he paused right in front of me to play his guitar during the song, “Human Touch”.  He grinned as he straddled my chair and my face grew beet red; my sister clutched his leg and screamed “This is awesome!”

After the final encore was sung, it was time.  Time to retrace my steps from nineteen years ago to the backstage door.

I pulled our backstage passes out of my bag and marveled as we were pulled out of the crowd gathered at the entrance backstage.  Dozens of adult women stood there and watched as the guards plucked my sister and I from the pack and marched us down the walkway.  I absorbed carefully every bit of it; what everything looked like, how long the walk was.  Finally, we were brought into the hallway outside of Rick’s dressing room, where a much smaller group of women was gathered, waiting to meet him.  This time Rick’s manager pulled us out of the fray and into the dressing room.

I’d been in one of Rick’s dressing rooms a few times, and they were all mostly the same.  This one was pretty large, brightly lit, with bottles of water and food lining some of the tables.  Comfortable sofas with band members lounging broke up the space.  A few of them greeted me, and I introduced my sister while Rick went out to meet the radio station winners in the hallway.  “He’ll be back in in five minutes,” the tour manager told me.  “Grab something to eat or drink if you want.”

I still couldn’t get over the fact that I was here, in the dressing room at Pine Knob.  I pulled my bag off of my shoulder and said to my sister, “Who would have ever thought 19 years ago that I’d be here, in his dressing room, no big deal, go sit over there.  Like they’re used to me being here.”

She looked confused.  “Well, aren’t they?”

“I guess so,” I answered doubtfully.  “But I guess it’s just the gravity of here.  It’s a full circle thing.  I can literally feel the circle closing.”

“You can feel what closing?” said a sweaty Rick Springfield, slapping me on the shoulder as he went to sit in the chair next to me.

I paused, and took a moment to gather up my notebook and notes on what I needed to discuss with him.  But somehow, they were blurry as the emotion welled up in my chest.  “The circle.  It might sound crazy and weird, but this is the first place I ever saw you in concert.  I was way back in the thirteenth row, and all during the show, I remember thinking:   I’ll never connect with him, he’ll never know how important he was in my life.  I went up to the backstage door that night, and begged the guards to let me see you, but of course you know that they didn’t take pity on the little blond girl that was like every little blond girl out there waiting for you.”

Rick nodded, a half smile playing on his lips, encouraging me to continue.  Suddenly, though, I felt childish and stupid.  How was he ever going to take me seriously if I sat here and spun tales about how much I’d had a crush on him as a teenager?

“Well anyway, it kind of came over me tonight, again, here, what it was to feel like that, all that angst and sadness.  I just wanted to be able to reach back 19 years and tell that little blond girl:  ‘It’s OK.  It will get better.  It will get a lot better than just meeting him backstage one night.’ ”  I looked at him then, really looked at him, to see if my story was playing as silly or serious.

His expression was unforgettable.  “Thank you for telling me that story.  I love that things did get better for you and that I was lucky enough for you to not give up on that dream.”

Rick Springfield.  Lucky to have met me?  Wow.

I wanted to take that moment and bottle it up to savor, again and again, for the rest of my life.


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