Friday, July 29, 2005

The Rock Star Died at 27!

Dang, I forgot to post about this for like three or two weeks! I am such a knucklehead sometimes, I swear it. Anyways, I took the party-plannin' reins from Téodor because I was concerned that a Russian outfit was rippin' him off when it came to catering our parties, and I got deep back into the swing of event coördinating. Since it was my first time back in a while, I threw myself an extra-curvy curveball in terms of a theme, just to make sure I was on my game: "The Rock Star Died at 27." Now, how you gonna party around that sentence? Not many, and indeed perhaps less than one man in ten thousand could get action going around such a concept.

First of all, I set up all these big glass cases around the property, in both dark and light areas, which contained completely animated life-sized mannequins of all the main rock legends who died at age 27: Jimi, Janice, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, even old seminal bluesman Robert Johnson. Folks could press on a button at the base of each display case and the mannequin would spring into action, saying a little bit about the circumstances of their death. For instance, Kurt Cobain by default was in this indian-legged sitting position with his Fender Mustang, but when you pressed on the button he sheepishly stood up, pulled the hair outta his eyes, and said, "Hello, I'm Kurt Cobain. I blew my head off on April 5th, 1994. Would you like to hear 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' the hit single that many consider my rock-and-roll masterpiece?" At that point Kurt would freeze and the button would blink to let the folks know to press it to continue. Naturally, there was a guard at each booth, who could unlock it so that you could have your picture taken with the star. This was real popular, except for the Jimi Hendrix one, which was having electrical problems and sparked this one dude pretty bad.

In addition to that "meet the stars" lineup, I also had the crew build little sets of where each star had died (i.e. the bathtub for Morrison, the swimming pool for Jones, with the appropriate music from each artist) so that guests could live the death out moment for moment. Talk about your conversation starters! "So, what went through your mind when you were lying on the carpet next to the puddle of chewed carrots and sleeping pills?" It's not like folks get a lot of chances to compare such experiences. I noticed a lot of new couples forming in the little areas between the sets, talking real excitedly to each other and just laughing in that way a guy and a girl do when they both realize that they are excited to meet each other and have something to actually talk about.

For beverages we had some pretty rock'n'roll stuff: Jack and Cokes, 7&7s, Jack, brew, cheap jug wine with a pinkie ring, even some Ripple (they still make a version of it in Chechnya that Dimitri from the distributorship found for me). Food was a design-your-own-sausage bar, where you went down a line of meats (ground pork, lamb, beef, veal, rabbit, boar, venison, etc) and then added spices, herbs, and fats. At the end of the line a couple of professional butchers would grind your stuff together and shoot it into casings, which a third dude would then throw down on the grill. I was pretty proud of this concept, and although it has nothing to do with rock and roll, it worked really well. The trick is knowing how to prevent bottlenecks (in this case, the two butchers instead of one, and posting basic recipe suggestions along the meat/spice bar).

The whole night went pretty well, and had a great carnival-type feel, except for one incident. Round about a quarter of midnight the party was going full steam, with people crowding the dance floor, giddy couples running off to darker corners, dudes inside playing Grand Theft Auto blazed outta their minds, and full-on vodka pong over by the hot tub. Healthy lines were still forming in front of the mannequin cases, which pleased me because I had been particularly proud of that innovation. Gradually, though, I noticed that a larger than usual group had formed around the Hendrix case, which was unusual because I thought it had shorted out earlier in the evening. I strolled over to see if one of my technicians had managed to revive it.

It was kind of hard to get to the front of things and see what was going on, as a large and noisy crowd had formed in front of the case, but bit by bit I managed to worm my way through and eventually I had a view of the action. It looked like Sothar, this big dude we always been kinda chummy with, had broken his way into the Hendrix case and tried to take the mannequin's guitar. The mannequin was writhing and fighting back, trying to push Sothar off with pretty realistic anger. This was weird, because the mannequins hadn't been programmed with artificial intelligence or anything. If anything, it should have just shut itself off, as per the First Law of Robots. But no, it seemed genuinely pissed at him and when it finally got an edge up, it knocked him to the ground and hit him real hard on the head with its Stratocaster. Sothar went limp like a rag doll and crumpled into a heap. This is when things got kind of weird.

The mannequin started lurching left and right and emitting all these howls, like a sort of primitive victory dance, and I noticed that all the lights on the property had started to slowly dim. Pretty soon it was completely black, and the crowd got that hush over it like it wasn't sure whether to watch or run. Then, from outta nowhere, a light inside Jimi's case started to glow and spin in all these psychedelic colors, and he launched into a blistering instrumental version of Purple Haze, so loud that all the muscles in my face kind of involuntarily went to one side. The crowd stood rapt at attention, all eyes on the case, caught in Jimi's sonic tractor beam.

Purple Haze melded seamlessly into Foxey Lady, which he then whipped with much madness into Fire. After about thirty seconds of riffing on Fire he dug his pick into All Along the Watchtower with such heft and blast that off to the side you could almost visualize a Jumbotron video of The Edge, back at home in Ireland, scampering under his bed in a pair of Robin Underoos.

The crowd was transfixed, frozen to the spot. Jimi didn't give a damn about any of that, though — he went on ahead and nailed us extra with a Star Spangled Banner so pure and loud that you could hear every coil on his low strings fit to bust. As the tune rose to its highest point he doubled his picking and then quadrupled that, until it seemed like we were all being shot through the head with pure lasers of American sound. Just when we thought there was nothing more that a man (?) could do with a guitar, he tore his shirt open at the chest, smashed his Strat all around until it was in kindling, and screamed, "NO EARTH CAN KILL ME!"

At that, the case burst into flames. Folks cleared back a few feet to make a perimeter, and we watched as the rubber flesh melted off the Jimi mannequin to reveal the simple aluminum armature inside. It fell to its knees, then forward against the glass front of the case, then slid down, leaving a trail of polymer slime with a bandanna stuck to part of it. By the time some dudes got to it with a hose, the whole unit was pretty much a heap. Everyone who had been watchin' kind of tried to believe that it had all been part of the show, but I hadn't been privy to any such plannin'. A dude here and there slapped me on the back real falsely, and would say things like "amazing, man," but I knew everyone just wanted to get pretty much away, because everyone knew that a mannequin wasn't supposed to have maliciously maimed Sothar (who, incidentally, had been pulled to safety by a couple of guys before the pyrotechnics).

The party cleared out pretty fast after that. I like to stroll the grounds after the last guest has left, and I took a careful look at the melted Hendrix case. The extension cord ran from the case, under an insulated runner which took it through a rose bed and a hedge, and then to the stinger, the power hub where the gaffers plugged in all the powered units. Oddly, I noticed that the Hendrix cord wasn't plugged into the stinger. In fact, the prongs had been clipped entirely off.

I know it doesn't mean anything, but I went into the kitchen, grabbed a bulb of garlic, and scattered it all around the burned-out case before I went to bed. The next day, the crew came and took the cases away, and in this weird way they didn't take my deposit for the ruined Jimi unit. There wasn't even any mention of it. I just signed on the dotted line, they smiled and shook my hand, and then all was gone. Just to be safe, I'm putting all my Jimi CDs into a drawer in my tool shelf in the garage, where I am unlikely to find them for a while.