My freshman year in college, my English Comp. professor called me into her office for a meeting. I was a music major and I wanted to perform on large stages for huge audiences. (I’m a Leo – self explanatory.) My professor valiantly tried to persuade me that I should switch majors to writing, but I wanted no part of it. It didn’t even dawn on me that while I was busy crafting pop songs in the practice rooms at Northwestern, instead of actually, say, practicing, I was already writing. When you’re 18, no one can tell you anything. So here I sit, years later, certain of very little in life other than the fact that, regardless of what form it takes, evidently, I’m a writer.
Here’s the thing about that, though – I had no idea that my life would become the fodder from which I would cull entertaining tales. And I definitely could not have foreseen that those tales would almost always stem from my most embarrassing exploits, complete with the requisite blow by blow of what was running through my mind the entire time.
I’m not talking about spinach in your teeth embarrassing, either. No, I mean the stuff which, in solitary moments, might and possibly has made me feel incredibly foolish or even made me cry – and on many occasions, both. That kind of sharing requires a particular brand of insanity…or genius, as the case may be, though the psychic on the phone said nothing to me about being a genius.
And that brings us to Kenny Loggins…almost.
If you’re new to this blog, well, first, thanks for stopping by and please tell your friends. And second, you should know that the blog began as a means of gaining a following for my book: In Search of George Stephanopoulos – a True Story of Life, Love, and the Pursuit of a Short Greek Guy.
The genesis for the book was a series of bad blind dates I was going on that coincided with (the then single) George Stephanopoulos being on every “most eligible bachelor” list.
On paper, I had more in common with George Stephanopoulos than any of the men I was dating…which begged the question, if only in my mind, why not George? (I promise this will all tie in later to Kenny Loggins, so keep reading.)
And thus began the tale of how a struggling songwriter living in Nashville, Tennessee set out to meet the former White House aide turned anchor of Good Morning America, while still managing to simultaneously pursue a music career.
If there is a theme to take away from the book, I hope it is that boldly following your heart and your dreams will reward you in unimaginable ways…and also that the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game is no joke. I put it to the test and it worked. (Not with Kevin Bacon, obviously, but with George Stephanopoulos.)
And now we’re finally up to the part about Kenny Loggins…
It all started a few months ago, when, after having moved back to New York to look after my father, I was missing Nashville and the unique songwriting community that exists there and only there.
I’m not exactly sure where online it was brought to my attention, but I read that two of my favorite Nashville singer/songwriters, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr, had formed a new band – with Kenny Loggins. And as a way of introducing the new band to an audience they might appeal to, they would be opening for Kenny’s solo shows. Splendid. I looked up the tour dates and sure enough, they were heading to New York in July. Now I just needed to decide if I was able and willing to shell out the price of admission to a Kenny Loggins concert. (I type this now from my really nice couch that my own #1 song got me, but as for oodles of disposable income for things like concert tickets, not so much, I’m afraid.)
So I did the next logical thing, which was refer to my CD collection. Did I even own any Kenny Loggins music? Of course, I did. How could any self-respecting songwriter not own something of his? So I gave the greatest hits CD a listen. Jesus, he’s good looking, I thought, glancing at the cover of the Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow CD.
I listened. I had forgotten how much I loved these songs. I had forgotten that there was a time when songs as meaningful as “Conviction of the Heart” and “The Real Thing” could top the pop charts. I began to remember why I wanted to be a songwriter in the first place. Screw it, I bought the concert ticket.
On the designated evening, I got in my trusty Subaru and headed for Peekskill. The opening act was just what I’d hoped it would be – that marriage of great songwriting craft and emotional oomph. (Is “oomph” even a real word?)
Anyway, I said hi to my Nashville acquaintances in the lobby during intermission and then went back to my seat for the Kenny Loggins solo portion of the show. I looked around at the audience, which was mostly older than me. But what they may have lacked in youth, they did not lack in enthusiasm.
Grown men, some in jackets and ties were hootin’ and hollerin’ like they were seventeen, while their wives, some of whom were gray-haired and some of whom had the good sense to color, left them behind at their seats to rush to the foot of the stage and get closer to Kenny. I kid you not. It was a beautiful, if not slightly bizarre, spectacle to behold.
For my part, I didn’t rush any stages with the other women, though I did love the concert and if I’m to be completely honest, the “Jesus, he’s good looking” refrain did run through my head a couple more times.
When the show ended, I drove home, thinking about what a great night’s music it was. And I thought about the new band, Blue Sky Riders, and what the prospects were for their success and the ramifications on the music industry if they could manage to pull it off.
Like I mentioned earlier, I write pieces in The Huffington Post, and though I started out as strictly a political blogger, I branched out to other things – like music and pop culture. So one afternoon, about a week after I saw Blue Sky Riders, I wrote a piece about them and submitted it. I didn’t give it a second thought. (Click here to read it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ilene-angel/blue-sky-riders-music_b_1717511.html)
When they published it, I did what I always do, posted it on Facebook, Twitter, and sent it to anyone who might be mentioned in it or an interested party. So I posted it on the band’s Facebook page and then on Kenny Loggins’ Facebook page. There, done.
A short time later, I saw that the band reposted it on their page, but Kenny not only “liked” it and reposted it on his page, but also said, “Thanks, Ilene,” complete with an accompanying smiley face after my name. (Insert audible, gushing sigh here.)
Now here was my assumption: I figured it was actually Kenny Loggins himself doing this. It very well may not have been…or it might have been. I’ll likely never know for certain, but at the time, I had every belief that I had somehow miraculously and sort of unconsciously made my way onto Kenny Loggins’ radar.
With my sudden good fortune of now possibly, maybe, conceivably, perhaps being on Kenny Loggins’ radar, I took the opportunity to consult my good friend Google, because frankly, I knew nothing about the man other than what his song lyrics imparted to me, which was plenty, actually – that he had kids, had been through divorce, is a reflective, articulate, and sensitive dreamer, and both believes in and longs for the kind of love and passion that truly lasts forever. See, I pay attention when I listen to songs. And for those qualities alone, who wouldn’t find him appealing? But it turns out there was an added bonus – he was single.
Oh no. Hadn’t I been down this road before? The melody was a familiar one. Yes, this time there actually were far more things I had in common in earnest with Kenny Loggins than with George Stephanopoulos, and I was starting out (I think) already being on his radar. So that alone was different. But the notion of trying to meet, let alone possibly date an actual rock star was more preposterous than anything I had heretofore ever conceived of or concocted in my little imaginative head. Nope. Absolutely not.
So off I went, back to work writing songs, playing them out, riffing about guns and politics in HuffPo, and doing my darndest to eliminate any lingering thoughts of the slightest possibility that I might one day meet Kenny Loggins.
It was a noble, if not futile effort, because the new band was beginning to headline shows in the fall, and coming right to New York City for five nights, Kenny Loggins and all. Short of actually knocking on my door, the proximity was irresistible.
I corralled a willing friend to join me. She didn’t know the band, but trusted my judgment and enthusiasm. Besides, she was under the odd and misguided impression that my life was always interesting, so how much fun would this be! At the last minute, her boyfriend, whom I had never met before that night, decided to join us. (*I’m going to truly beg their forgiveness right now, though I will always protect their anonymity.)
I wrote to the two band members I knew a week ahead of time and told them I was coming and brining a friend. No response. Oh well, whatever. Then, the day before the concert we were attending, I got a private message on Facebook. It was a lovely note thanking me for talking them up, coming to see them and bringing a friend. It closed with “Looking forward to seeing you,” and it was signed “Kenny, Georgia, and Gary” in that order.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I write a note or sign a card from more than one person, I always put my name first if I’m the one actually writing it. So after confirming that that is indeed the norm, I made another assumption – that Kenny wrote the note because his name was signed first.
Well, that about put me over the moon, because, to recap for a minute, I was now not only on Kenny Loggins’ radar, but he was “looking forward to seeing me.” And very unlike events with George Stephanopoulos, this came rapidly, with ease, and the only real effort being me writing one article and a note.
The big night arrives. I have given up carbs completely by now, been doing Pilates, running miles on the treadmill every day, fully aware that a rock star can have pretty much any woman he wants, especially one that can garner the “Jesus, he’s good looking” response when he’s sixty-four. My hair has been done. My makeup took me an hour. I’m in heels I’m praying not to topple over in. I’m ready.
I meet my friend and the boyfriend. We have a drink in the bar next door to the club, chatting amicably. I’m careful to just sip the glass of wine, given the heels I’m wearing that I can barely stand in sober and the fact that I’ve been taking prescription migraine medication for three days running.
We walk into the venue and they seat us – at a table that is, I’m not exaggerating, flush against the stage where, in a short while, Kenny Loggins will be standing. My friend is one hundred percent convinced that we were given the best table in the house because I knew the band. No amount of me trying will convince her otherwise. I must be very important. The heck with it, I’ll play along.
We continue chatting before the show. I order a salad. The table next to us orders pizza. I want to kill them, but I stick with my lettuce. The lights go down. The announcer announces, and the band takes the stage. We’re so close I can read their playlist upside down. We’re so close I could touch Kenny’s boots. Really nice boots, by the way.
And that’s when it happens. The boyfriend, who’s sitting in the middle between me and my friend, becomes That Guy. You know the one I’m talking about. There’s one at every concert, and if you’re a performer, at every gig you’ve ever played. He’s the guy that carries on a conversation with the band throughout the entire show. And he’s loud. Doesn’t matter if he’s drunk or sober. He’s yelling out requests, singing along, being part of the show. He’s Kenny’s new best friend.
I think I was unconsciously sliding my chair further and further away. I wanted to crawl underneath the table. And I really don’t mean to hurt any feelings here, but for the love of God, how was I gonna get a date with Kenny Loggins sitting next to this guy?!
Here’s the other thing, hard as it is to imagine reading this, I am shy. Painfully shy. Put me on a stage or with a pen in my hand and I’m outgoing, uninhibited even. But stick me in any kind of social setting with a large room full of people I don’t know and I am not inclined to speak unless spoken to. I’ve tried over a lifetime to change that, with only a small modicum of success. One on one, great. Room full of people, not so much. And yes, this will come into play in a minute.
So the show ends and Kenny and Gary disappear through the kitchen to I don’t know where. Georgia is far enough behind them for me to catch her and say hi. She hugs me and I don’t know why I think to say this, but I ask her, “Who wrote the note?” And that’s when she says, “I did.”
Well, never mind that Kenny has completely vacated the room. Now this calls into question whether he ever knew who I was to being with, ever read the note, or the Huffington piece, ever posted the smiley face on his wall. I could spend all day thinking about what an idiot I’d been, but the truth is, my assumptions were the ones I think anyone would have made under the circumstances, and I couldn’t fathom in my naiveté that Kenny Loggins had a gatekeeper or that I would actually know her.
So we left the room. And you would think the story ends there, but oh no, my friends. It’s just beginning.
There’s a merchandise table outside the doors of the club. I think they sold two items – a t-shirt and an EP with two live versions of songs on it. But if you bought the EP, you got to go backstage to get it signed by them.
And that’s when That Guy became my new favorite person, because before I knew it, he went walking, CD in hand, back into the club, through the kitchen, and straight to the green room, with us trailing right behind.
So next thing I know, I’m in a crowded room full of people I don’t know, including the band members, my friend, and her boyfriend. My optimum situation. There is no time for any kind of internal pep talk. So I find myself back speaking with the only person in the band I know, Georgia. And the more we talk, the more similar we both realize we are. But she’s got a room full of people to meet and greet, so we part ways.
Gary is off against the wall, surrounded by people he’s holding court with, so there’s not much opportunity to say hi, though he played so prominent a role as a songwriter to me in Nashville, that our interaction became two chapters in my book and they are, sorry to say for George, my favorite chapters in the book to this day.
So that left Kenny. And the boyfriend was already way ahead of me, talking to him. I don’t know what he was saying. I don’t know what my friend said either, really. I don’t remember, or didn’t hear, or blocked it out because I was going to have to say something by way of introducing myself to Kenny Loggins, and I had only moments earlier discovered that there was the very real possibility that he would have no idea who I was whatsoever.
I extended my hand and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Ilene Angel. I wrote a Huffington piece about you guys a few months ago.”
“Oh, I was wondering who that was.”
“It was me,” I think I said.
Then he talked about how challenging it was to keep coming up with new ideas for the posts. (The band has their own column in HuffPo, and they rotate who writes them each week.)
“How do you come up with ideas?” he asks me.
And I say – NOTHING!!!
He continues, telling me he edits himself a lot, or maybe he said, “too much.” I don’t know, because the ability to form thoughts or anything resembling a coherent sentence has completely left me.
I have the best opportunity of my life to talk about WRITING – with Kenny Loggins – who is asking ME how I come up with new ideas and stop editing myself long enough to get published, and I’ve got NOTHING??? Seriously??!!!!!!
I would like to tell you that, at just that moment, a flash of brilliance fought its way through. I was witty, charming even, found my voice, saved the day. But I’m not delusional. It didn’t happen.
What did happen was this picture with him, and to be honest, I’m drawing a total blank on how it manifested, who snapped it – my friend or the boyfriend, and if I even said, “Goodbye,” or, “Nice to meet you,” or, “Thank you,” which would have been the least I could say, but as it turned out, the least I could say was NOTHING!!!!
Now I could spend the rest of my life chastising myself for blowing that particular opportunity, but the truth is it provided me with a teachable moment, which, I’m not gonna lie, sucked royally and hurt badly – not because Kenny Loggins didn’t like me, but because he didn’t even get the chance to meet me. He didn’t catch a glimpse of the person you’ve seen here so far in this blog.
Tomorrow I’ll be playing a gig in a room full of people I don’t know. I will talk to the audience, maybe joke with them, play and sing my songs and meet and greet them afterward. It will be fine, because that’s my job and I’m pretty good at it after all these years.
How I will reconcile that experience with the one from a few nights ago, I don’t know yet. But here’s what I do know – that if Kenny Loggins were to read this, I’d want him to know, in response to the conversation he was trying to have with me, that there are never a shortage of ideas. It’s always about the questions you ask yourself. Hell, I could give him his next twenty column topics without blinking an eye because I’m the inquisitive type, so here are some questions I’d be curious to know the answers to on the off chance you’re reading this, Kenny:
What has being in this new band taught you about yourself that you didn’t know before?
If it ended tomorrow, what new insights would you take away?
If you were writing a book about this new band experience, what would it be titled and why?
Tell me something I couldn’t read about you in Wikipedia, something that impacted you profoundly.
Tell me the funniest thing that’s happened to you guys on the road so far.
Do you have a nickname, and if so, what is it and how did it originate?
Where do you see yourself and the band five years from now?
I really could give you twenty. I just had to stop myself!
And as for too much self-editing, we all do it. We all fret over what we’re putting out there, wonder if it will resonate with people, and worry that maybe we could have said it better somehow.
But at some point, we have to know that we are enough, that our best efforts will impact exactly the people they are supposed to in exactly the right way, and that when we show up fully as ourselves, we empower others to do the same and we are all forever changed for the better because of it.
That’s what I’d tell Kenny Loggins, if I could. That’s what I learned from my time spent as a mute that night. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get a second chance one day for a first conversation.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.