This weekend here in West Seattle where I live, we are celebrating the annual summer street festival. It’s a time when a lot of us old farts who live here come out of our cubby holes, and go up to the “junction” — our two block long shopping district — and drink a lot of beer, listen to a little live music, and generally have ourselves a grand old time.
It’s also a time where we inevitably run into a lot of folks we haven’t seen in awhile — kind of like a class reunion. And that’s when the stories come out. In my particular case, this almost always involves recounting the old war stories from my years in the music business.
So let’s get one thing straight. I never made it to the levels I once imagined, as an idealistic kid who loved rock and roll, I would. But I came close. So close, you could almost touch it. I played a significant part in the development of at least one act who came out of humble beginnings here in Seattle, to become — albeit briefly — a major superstar in music.
That would be Sir Mix-A-Lot.
The story behind that is one far too long to recount here — and I promise that at some future point we will get into all of that. But let’s just say that my association with Mix-A-Lot eventually led me to a gig in L.A. working at American Recordings for the biggest record producer in the world — one Rick Rubin.
At American, I ran national retail promotions for artists ranging from Mix-A-Lot to the Black Crowes to Johnny Cash. It was a very short time I spent at American — just under three years. But in those three short years, my life was forever changed. As a somewhat still naive guy from Seattle — despite being thirty something years old with a fair amount of music biz experience already under my belt — nothing on earth could have prepared me for what I experienced there.
I was like a kid in the biggest candy store in the world. And I have never been quite the same since. So like I said, there are numerous stories I can relate from my time there. The experience changed me forever.
But on a night like tonight at the West Seattle Street Festival — when some old acquaintance asks me to retell an old story from those days — there is one I always come back to, and one that I never tire of telling. When I retold that story earlier tonight at the Rocksport Bar and Grill for the hundredth time, I realized that I had never actually written it down for the world to read.
So here it is. The night I went to the Hollywood record release party for Mick Jagger’s solo album Wandering Spirit, produced by my boss at the time Rick Rubin.
When I got the invite, I was of course absolutely thrilled. But I was also warned. As the new kid on the block from Seattle, I was told in no uncertain terms that there would be no “gushing” over Sir Mick allowed at this party.
No big deal, I thought to myself. By this time, I had already rubbed shoulders with rock stars ranging from Rod Stewart to Bruce Springsteen as part of my music experiences in Seattle — and I even counted a few of them among my friends. Sir Mix-A-Lot certainly so, but also guys I’d come to know as occasional drinking buddies like Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil.
Like I said, no big deal. But hold the freaking boat. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come on this night.
When I arrived at the house located high in the Hollywood Hills, I was met by a diminutive lady holding a flashlight who checked to see if I was on the guest list. Shining her light onto the clipboard she held, I said that my name was Glen Boyd and that I should be on Rick Rubin’s list of guests. Once she checked my name and waved me in, she flashed me an inviting smile and said “have a nice time.”
Once I was inside this nice lady’s world, I had no idea of what I was in store for. Standing in a line for drinks at the bar set up outside, a voice behind me asked “who do I have to blow to get a drink here?”
When I turned and realized it was Cindy Crawford, my immediate reaction was to offer up myself. Wisely, I kept that particular thought in my pants. When leaving one of the outside bathrooms set up on the lawn I bumped into none other than Jack Nicholson — wearing a rumpled looking suit and clutching a drink in one hand and a joint in the other — I resisted the urge to ask him about his role in Easy Rider. Which was probably a smart decision, considering the beefy looking bodyguard he had shadowing him.
Later that night as I was preparing to leave the party, I went looking for Rubin to thank him for inviting me. Once I found him, I simply said “nice party, Rick.” Then from behind me, I heard another voice echo my parting words in a clipped British accent:
“Yeah, nice Pahhhty Rick,” the voice said.
It was Mick Jagger himself.
So that night, as I drove myself home through the Hollywood Hills in a decidedly drunken state, I found myself leaning out my car window and screaming to an empty sky about how I had arrived. Honestly, at that moment I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Sadly, that “arrival” was never meant to be. Some three years later, I left L.A., American Recordings, and my career in the music business under what I will readily admit were less than ideal circumstances.
Still, I have my memories and my stories. And this one has a particularly good punch line that I never grow tired of telling.
Remember that diminutive lady who met me at the gate of the party? As a short guy myself, I was particularly struck by the fact that she came up to about my chin at the time. Well, a few nights later as I watching the evening news, I noticed a story where I recognized both the house, and then the lady whose house I had apparently partied at.
The lady was Heidi Fliess.
And I had apparently partied at her house just a few nights before she was busted as the “Hollywood Madam.”
These days I may be a bump on the proverbial bar stool at my local watering hole. But it remains a story I never tire of telling.