I have always been an applause junkie. I have always had the travelin' bone. Even as a little kid running around the neighborhood sans diaper and turning on the neighbors hoses, I have craved attention. High maintenance has been a word to describe me. I have been mistaken for Richard Dreyfus. Not the old guy in his later years, but the guy that played Hooper in Jaws. I am not sure it that is a good thing or a bad thing...
Actually, the young Dreyfus does look a little like me. “Hey aren’t you Richard Dreyfus?” “No, but he looks like me.” I was that street musician that played in Saugatuck.
As many of you know I used to be a street performer. That is not to say that I was a great street performer, I didn’t juggle or swallow fire. I did not do magic. It was not as daring as that. It was simply a venue to play my music; you know those simple folksy story songs. I did not do it for the money. Although the money was sometimes pretty good, I did it for the fame, the applause, the notoriety. And as I love to attest to I was mildly famous.
It had its ups and downs like anything else. I choose to remember it as a great time. Not just to look at it thru the old rose coloreds, but because it mostly was. I had quit smoking dope, and saved up enough to hit the road in the converted Chevy van with my dog Busker. Life was good! I also had the SEAMONKEY my sailboat to live in…Yeah it was the shit!! I was Hey aren’t you….I was THAT guy.
Nonetheless, I was a street performer. I played in any town I could find that would allow me to play from Saugatuck on down to Key West. Which, BTW, were few and far between, but then again, I did not look very hard. It was more about being on the road than the destination. It was more about the music than the venue, but I even played on Mallory Square before they made it a bastardization of street performing with rules and auditions.
I played in Pennsylvania at some college campus. (Turned out it was Penn State, which has a beauty of a campus in Wilkes- Barre.) Don’t ask me how Pennsylvania could possibly be on the way to Key West from Saugatuck, but suffice it to say it was long before the invention of Sheila, the girl in my GPS. Even back then the shortest route was always the one I missed a few turns back. I played in rest areas. I played in St Augustine. I played on the beach as well.
I played at the Toledo Zoo on Thanksgiving week end. Damn it was cold, but I made a few bucks and so it was alright. Somehow on this same trip, I also got kicked out of a head shop. Not that I was still smoking dope, or that there is anything wrong with dope...I needed some papers to roll a cigarette.They kicked me out for saying, "Hey man that is a sweet bong!!" Apparently the term “bong” is not cool, or as they said, illegal...(as opposed to “water pipe” which is fine...just fine???) BTW...The LIONS even beat the vikes in a shootout that year on turkey day.
There was a great article written featuring the street music scene in Saugatuck, in the Kalamazoo Gazette. It included my picture and a few quotes. It was a nice little publicity thing. Once you become an applause junkie, it never stops. You need the attention. "Hey aren’t you that guy in the paper?" Holland’s little news paper also did a little blurb on me and the street scene as well. “Hey, aren’t you that street musician in Saugatuck?”
Mostly, I played on Butler Street in Saugatuck, next to the Sand Bar, and On Duval Street in Key West, anywhere I could find a spot. Eventually, the Saugatuck gig became political and they moved us down to the gazebo, where it ceased being street performing and became a stage act. Some how the intimacy faded when I got on stage, it really lost the flavor of the street, even though we were only 50 to 100 feet from the street. And don’t get me started on Mallory and all that, let alone House Boat Row.
And then I got remarried. Hey aren’t you mildly famous was now a dad. Scary, Huh kids?
Shortly after I re-married, Roxy, the kids and I were down in Key West. I ran into an old acquaintance, who asked me to sit in for a song or two. I, of course, said "Hell yeah!" As I was playing, the song Prisoner, some one walked by and said “Hey, Aren’t you that guy that plays on the street in Saugatuck?” I smiled and said yeah. Mildly famous. Jus' sayin'....
Time passes.Again I took to the streets. I played in Rockford and again someone decided to write about me. “Hey aren’t you that mildly famous street music guy?” I guess being pegged as a street musician is better than being pegged in America’s Most Wanted, or in the Arrest News. Mildly famous is not enough, but it was all I could do. I figured really famous was a lot of work. Anytime your passion becomes work, it becomes a job and I really do not like the business side of music. Hey, I also love to fish, but I do not want to join the Bass Tourney circuit.
Like anything else, the street gig came to a close; it became a struggle to maintain the purity. I did some coffee houses and a couple gigs at One Trick Pony. I played at the singer song writer’s gig at Schuler’s Books and Music. Mildly famous. It is tough to be a “where are they now” street performer.
Hey aren’t you mildly famous is now a dad, a soccer coach, and the Regional Commissioner of the Cedar Springs AYSO. Hey aren’t you mildly famous became “Hey aren’t you that soccer guy?”, and a lot of other names I won’t mention to try to keep this blog close to PG. Yeah, being Hey aren’t you... backfired in that little trip down the parenthood path. It was nearly as bad as being on America’s Most Wanted.
Time passes. Years go by. I have packed away all of “Hey aren’t you mildly famous” in a box in the basement. I have also packed on some pounds. Now I am “the Fatty”, Roxy’s (sometimes jackass) husband; Chris and Libby’s step-dad, Rich’s Friend that did this or that in stories for his ninth grade class, and a lot of other things; some that are nice and some not so nice.
Years roll on by. I now look more like Dreyfus in Mr. Holland’s Opus than Hooper in Jaws. I have a new gig. I do the best I can. I am sometimes not very good at my new role, but oh well…I do try... “Hey aren’t you mildly famous” is gone to live with Mr. Mo Jo Rison…
Recently, I was at the Kalamazoo Home Builders Show, doing the working gig I do now, selling and remodeling. I was standing in the booth. A lady walks up to me and asks, “Hey, aren’t you that guy that used to play on the street in Key West?” “You’re a little older,” she says, “and less hair, I mean no pony tail, but that was you, right? I was doing an internship down there and saw you all the time” I am kind of taken aback. “Yep” I reply. Mildly famous.
Just another day in paradise