I’m not easily star-struck. I think of most people, no matter who they are, to be fairly equal. I don’t particularly favor the saying, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time [just like the rest of us]” … but I suppose there’s not much denying it; I’m down with what it’s saying.
Why else am I like this? Well, I figure a lot of (meaning: all of the) celebrities don’t know me. At all. What can I possibly say to them (if provided the opportunity) that will matter to them? It’s not like I have any advice that they might take to heart or even a sincere compliment is lost in a sea of emphatic compliments; you know the formula: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The concept of saying anything to a celebrity to even be remotely remembered in their minds is a moot point to me.
I’d like to share my observations from the Pat Metheny concert I attended last night.
I have been a Metheny fan since 1997, around the time my printmaking professor gifted me with a Pat Metheny “staple” CD. I must have listened to it hundreds of times over the years. Now, that album takes me right back to college and all those times of being up all night in labs or completing my art assignments.
I’ve seen Pat perform live in concert on just two occasions – the second being just last night. I brought along my cherished CD to get signed, but doing so with no expectations – just as a “just in case I’m so lucky” preparatory action.
The concert ended (with two terrific encores) and I set out to meet Mr. Metheny in the Ryman Auditorium upstairs, as he and his virtuosic musicians were due out shortly.
I asked an attendant where to go to meet the group and then was delighted to find a friendly fellow fan who agreed to, not only lend me her Sharpie, but even graciously gave me a “Meet the Band” pass (yep, I’ll admit it. I didn’t even know that I was supposed to have purchased such a thing to make me so special to meet the group. Did I mention that I’m not the star-struck type? I don’t know how these things work). The group came out and we, after some waiting in the back of the line, migrated up to the front of the narrowly-packed small crowd.
There I was, standing right next to Metheny. My new Sharpie-armed sidekick and I waited for him to finish his conversation with another fan, capping it off with his signature on the inside cover of this proud longtime admirer’s own copy of his Pat Metheny Song Book.
It was our turn. You had to be somewhat forceful. Odd. Maybe not “forceful”… more like practicing “faux polite assertiveness.” We got our signatures! Her concert poster… my very first Metheny CD… but I didn’t even get eye contact. So I wasn’t finished. But I had lost my window; Metheny turned and others had shoved their way right in front of him, albeit in a “faux politely assertive” manner.
I stood. Patiently awaiting my next turn just to say a basic, unmemorable “hello” accompanied by a comparable unmemorable handshake – hopefully with a brief moment of eye contact. That’s all. I had come this far. Why not?
As I stood so patiently, having my one-on-one attention interrupted twice, I thought I would stay positive and use the opportunity to observe and learn some human behavior (always a sunny side).
The first somewhat aggressive attention-interrupter was a studio musician from right there in Nashville. I listened to the two of them talk, easily pinning that this 59-year-old fellow guitarist was no less than spellbound to be talking shop with one of his idols. I wondered if Metheny would even remember anything about their conversation after the next 24 hours. Maybe.
The next celebrity-attention-snatchers, at a logistical advantage (at this point, I was at Metheny’s back) jumped right into conversation about the good ol’ day performances of yesteryear, the venues, the other great musicians who were a part of those productions, etc. There were five in this small party – two doing most of the talking (who evidently shared some rich history and knew Pat personally on some level) and then to politely introduce their friends by first and last name. “Hey Pat, I’d like you to meet…”
Again, I reflected, “Is this performer even going to remember any of these new people? By name? By something else?”
To observe this, conservatively-guessed six-minute conversation was a true opportunity for human behavior discovery. As I honed in on their dialogue, I latched onto tons of names being dropped. It was, “Oh yes, that performance, was it [performer] that was on stage with you?” and “Hello Pat, I worked with your brother,” and more and more and more names. Names you’ve probably never heard of and never will. But famous-in-their-own-right influential people.
This time, I felt like I had an epiphany! “How many names must someone drop to truly be remembered in this one moment by this admired performer?”
After all, that IS why we do what we do, whatever it is we do, each and every day: we all just “want to be picked.”
My hypothesis is: “These people just want to be ‘picked’ by Pat Metheny.”
Did the studio guitarist think he was going to get invited to come tour with Pat’s group? It would make his dreams come true but I don’t think so. He was just trying to connect on some level with his idol.
These other five individuals circling around him, tossing out industry names, the movers and shakers… what about them? Were they just wanting the accolade to be able to claim, “Yeah, we stood right there and talked for 20 minutes. He’s a real down-to-earth kinda guy.” That might make their day. Indeed, they might feel, though for a short moment, as if they had been picked! And by this esteemed music icon, no less!
But how many names must someone drop to “be picked” then?
I might have come up with a couple (seriously, I might have). But I didn’t care to. Mr. Metheny certainly wasn’t going to remember me. How could I make this moment about him?
Well, I got to get my handshake in. I stood closely by Pat’s side and waited for the lively conversation to take a breath, then making my request:“Mr. Metheny, I’d just like to shake your hand ………… and I actually have no special names to drop.” (bam, he turned, I got my eye contact … and a smile, to boot).
That was it. Mission accomplished. I got picked! I even seemed to get some humor points from the Party of Five as they laughed and said, “Hah, what a great line!”
It wasn’t a “line” – not something like a pickup line that a Jersey Shore Guido recycles every night.
It was just what I could come up with that kept his valuable time flowing so Mr. Metheny could visit with all the others like me, waiting to shake his hand.
We cannot deny that our culture values things: Beauty. Fame. Money. Virtuosic musical skill. And, popular names. Just like in high school.
But here’s the rub. Dropping names still doesn’t get you anywhere (past an initial hand shake). At some point, if you wish to get into a professional relationship with someone, you will need to serve them and help them fulfill their needs and solve their problems. I wasn’t about to do any of that for Metheny in a such a brief meeting. What was the best thing to do? In my head, it was just to say “hello,” get a smile and and handshake and honor his time.
Thank you Mr. Metheny. It was an honor.