Backstage with Ron Onesti:
It’s not all roses backstage
I can’t tell you how many times a week I get emails, texts and Facebook posts that say: “Boy, I wish I had YOUR job!” They see me on stage or in the dressing rooms with celebrities and imagine it is always a party down there. They think pretty much all I do is pose for pics and bust open the champagne.
Really, for the most part, celebs I deal with are really cool people. Especially since most of my shows involve those entertainers who have been around a while. Most of them are over the “green M & M’s” phase of their respective careers. They just want a simple, streamlined and pleasant, good-time experience at the venue.
But then there are those few who still believe they are “above the law” when it comes to being nice.
For fear of being “whacked” by “their people” (lawyers), I am not going to name names. But if I see you around, I’ll tell ya who I am talking about!
There was the teen heartthrob from the ’70s who refuse to “disclose” his flight info and hotel location. We normally pick the entertainer up at the airport and provide them with hotel rooms. But he was concerned his location would “leak” out to the masses, so it was a biiiiiig secret.
It was July, but he showed up in a long trench coat with collar up, a baseball cap pulled down and sunglasses. He pulled up in front of the Hotel Baker, dropped his limousine window down half way, then said he wanted to pull in back and enter the hotel through the kitchen. Nutso.
There was not one “crazed” or otherwise fan present.
Later, he showed up five minutes before his show. He was obviously under the influence of some liquid confidence builder. I had to practically carry him up the stairs.
He proceeded to do more talking than singing, prompting one audience member to brazenly shout: “Shut up and sing already!”
He then engaged into a forbidden activity and an unwritten rule among entertainers. He began to argue with the audience, chastising them for not continuing to stand during his performance. That became the point of no return, and it just got worse from there. The teen “heartthrob” left the audience’s hearts less than throbbing after acting heartless through the rest of the less-than-entertaining performance.
Speaking of heartless, there was this superstar vocalist who sold out a 10,000-seat-venue show for me. She was still obviously near the top of her popularity, but at a low as far as being nice in my books.
Besides have the vibe backstage being one of complete fear among her staff and crew, she really never associated with anyone outside of her inner circle.
I was sitting just outside the dressing room right before sound check when the superstar’s assistant came running into the room, completely crying, exhibiting emotion just a notch below complete hysterics. She had just received a call that her mother was tragically killed in an automobile accident.
“I don’t give a (bleep) about your mother right now. We have a show to do. Get a hold of yourself or you are gone (she had been her assistant over seven years). Did you get the purple roses for the piano?” she coldly asked.
On another night at The Arcada, a legendary performer was backstage getting ready for me to introduce him. As I walked passed him to enter the stage, I said: “Break-a-leg, Mr. (name omitted).”
“Why would you say that,” he sternly asked me. “What would happen if I actually broke my leg right now? What a stupid thing to say.”
I replied apologetically. “I am so sorry! I thought that was what we are supposed to say!”
I dropped my head and walked onto the stage.
Before each show, I go out and welcome the audience. I talk about upcoming shows and other things. This has served a few purposes. It makes the theater a more personal experience. It also bridges the gap between the time people get into their seats and the time the entertainers actually hit the stage.
My most recent “spanking” came when I exceeded my expected onstage time by seven minutes. I did not realize it was over as I introduced some new sponsors and announced some new shows. Usually a few minutes one way or another really doesn’t matter.
It mattered that night.
The star, and a pretty big one at that, was backstage swearing up a storm about this “idiot” on stage, referring to me. He was demanding his people get me off the stage. We never met because he chose not to leave his tour bus until the show. He did not know this “idiot” was the one who signed his massive check. I didn’t use that tidbit of info either.
I finished my intro and walked off, passing him on my way out. He looked at me with a disgusted death-stare and said: “What the (bleep) was that about? How about if I cut a few songs out of my set?”
I apologized and said: “If the seven minutes I took up means you are going to disappoint your fans with a shortened set, that’s up to you.” Well, actually, I said that in my head. What I really said was: “I am so sorry. I did not realize I went over. Please forgive me.”
For the most part, it’s really a pleasure to deal with these acts. They will meet some of our guests, be appreciative toward their fans and are generally fun to be around.
And sometimes, ya just gotta take it in the shorts, smile and celebrate the moment that their bus is on its way out of St. Charles.
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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