In the early nineties, my friend Lisa and I hung out a lot together, walking at the track around the Hattiesburg Methodist Hospital after classes, eating frozen yogurt, and going down to New Orleans on the weekends. It took me a good while of track walking and yogurt eating to agree to go to New Orleans with her because she kept saying that we could stay with her aunt and uncle for free, and naturally, I didn’t want to do that, because of the awkwardness of staying with strangers and having to smile and make small talk and all that. But after a couple months I couldn’t think up any more excuses and off to the Big Easy we went.
She had told me that the aunt and uncle were wealthy and had plenty of room, but I was completely unprepared for the majesty and splendor that awaited me at their mansion in the Garden District. I was stunned almost speechless as we walked through the house to our rooms. Apparently, her uncle was a big shot in the oil industry and had more money than God. Lisa and I had an entire floor to ourselves, each with our own gorgeous bedroom and bathroom, and a lounging/TV area in which a pot of coffee along with pastries and fruit mysteriously appeared every morning.
One of the added benefits of being the guests of rich uncle was that he was somehow connected to a fabulous hotel in the French Quarter, which shall remain unnamed, but it’s possibly the ritziest in the city. It’s that type of hotel where regular people like me don’t even attempt to glance past the doorman in order to peek in through the beveled glass of the mahogany door. We just stare straight ahead and keep on walking to the Hampton or the Holiday Inn. But because of the connected uncle, we were allowed to have our car parked there and use the restroom facilities and so forth. That came in handy, because it was right in the middle of the action and it was safe and clean. So Lisa and I spent our days shopping and eating po-boys and our evenings either checking out the bands at Tipitina’s or The Maple Leaf Bar, or having a blast at a karaoke bar in the Quarter, and using the Garden District mansion and the fancy hotel as our headquarters. Pure heaven.
One day in spring, as we were making our way through the fancy hotel to the restroom that we liked to use, walking down a long, wide corridor that was well-lit by a wall of arched windows, I saw two strikingly handsome men approaching from the other direction, wearing sophisticated looking, European style suits. One of the men was of the beefy, bodybuilder variety, and the other one was slim with sandy hair. As we got a little closer and I could see their faces clearly, my brain accessed the massive, virtually useless database compiled through a gazillion hours of MTV watching in the eighties and told me immediately what I was seeing, which as you have already predicted from the title, was Sting and his bodyguard.
Though I’ve never been that much of a fan of Sting or The Police, I had watched that “Every Breath You Take” video ad nauseam and I knew, without any doubt at all in my mind, that I was looking Sting square in the face in this hoity-toity hotel. What’s more, a sustained Sting-Marie eye lock ensued as we walked toward each other. As you know, I’ve had the eye lock with another major figure in rock before. But that eye lock was different than this one. The Allman-Marie eye lock was of the natural, male-female, tummy-flipping variety that makes life worth living. This eye lock was a silent challenge – a showdown. He knew that I had recognized him, and we were in this hotel where people don’t do crass things like approach celebs, but he was still wary, probably thinking something along the lines of “Oh, my God, I just know this little chickie is going to ask for my autograph”.
But he didn’t have to worry. It would have to be a cold day in summertime New Orleans before I would have asked him for an autograph or in any way fed into the whole celebrity worship thing. And like I said, I wasn’t even all that big of a fan. My own thoughts were something like, “Oh, my God, that’s Sting! What the hell is he doing here? And why is he dressed like that? He looks like an arrogant snob”. So the eye lock held, neither of us backing down, neither of us smiling, maintaining absolute poker faces, as we got closer and closer. I think my goal was to let him know that I definitely knew who he was, but that it didn’t hold any water with me. I guess I was trying to take him down a peg or two. HA! Like that could ever happen. Finally, when he got within a few feet of me and the weirdness and tension became unbearable, he broke the lock. After he passed, I immediately turned to Lisa and whispered, “Do you know who that was?!” She had been digging in her purse the whole time, had missed the whole thing, and didn’t believe me when I told her that we had just passed Sting. We argued about it in the restroom, but we checked with the concierge on the way out of the hotel, and he confirmed that Sting was in town for a concert at UNO that night.
Reflecting back on this brief, silent encounter, it’s really not surprising that the vibes I got weren’t all that great, because I never really liked his music all that much. Conversely, in the Allman encounter, the vibes were fun and positive, and his music is right up there among my very favorite and most loved. Funny, huh? Make of it what you will, but that’s how it was. Not to get too metaphysical, and I’m sure I’ve alluded to this before, but there’s something very strange and wonderful about the power and meaning of music, and how we are drawn to (and sometimes repelled by) others through it, and how it can affect our perceptions and feelings and moods.
Of course, I don’t want to say that Sting isn’t a nice guy or anything like that, because I don’t know anything about his life or personality – he may be, and probably is, a perfectly decent human being. But I’m still glad I won the showdown.
Now Jeff Lynne I can dig. She came to me like a friend, she blew in on a southern wind, now my heart is turned to stone again, there’s gonna be a showdown…heh heh heh…
Okay, I feel a little bad for kinda doggin’ Sting, so as a token of my (guarded) respect, here’s one I do like, from before his suit days.
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