By the time Linn was done, every member of the band and all the dancers had some electric blue in their hair. So did Mickey, the stage manager.
Mickey was one of those guys who was going both bald and gray but that didn’t stop him from putting his hair in a pony tail. One time back at the office I’d heard his response to the suggestion that he cut it: “What, I should look like some old guy?”
He was the one, that same afternoon as Jordan’s visit, who got me and Ziggy together in a corner somewhere and said, flat out, “We don’t appear to be anywhere near ready for a dress rehearsal. Am I right?”
Ziggy tossed the answer-baton to me with a look.
“You’re right. I think we can run the first half of the show with the dancers at this point.” I had been hoping it wouldn’t come to this. “But we haven’t touched the second half at all.”
“And?” Mickey’s favorite way of demanding something was to simply ask, “And?”
“And we’ll have to start that tomorrow,” I said.
“Why not tonight?”
“Because my hand is getting ready to fall off.” I stuck it under my arm.
“Shit.” Mickey rubbed his tanned, wrinkled forehead. “We’re too deep in this to replace you, you know.”
“So what are you planning to do?”
Ziggy jumped in with, “I trust Daron to do what’s necessary.”
“This isn’t about trust,” Mickey said. “This is about logistics. Let’s talk options. Cut the show short. Convert one or two dance numbers to using pre-recorded music. Do them with the band but without you. Track the guitar part in on tape or not. Hire someone just to do the second half.”
“Who could learn the parts by, what, tomorrow?” Ziggy challenged.
“Like I said, too late to hire somebody. We need to do something, though.”
Of course we did. My brain had been so focused on trying to plow through it that it hadn’t even really occurred to me that there could be ways to lighten the load. Or to cheat. “Let’s evaluate where we are this time tomorrow. Tomorrow let’s try to run the whole first half of the show with full band and dancers, first thing.”
My guess was that by mid-afternoon tomorrow we’d all feel pretty good about that first half, and that would make working on the second half easier.
“Okay.” Mickey blew out a breath like he was letting go of stress. “Okay. But if we’re not doing full run through by day after tomorrow–”
“We know,” Ziggy said, somewhat sharply, taking me by the arm. “We know. We’ll get there, Mick.”
Every tour is different. Think of it like a military operation, where you have to coordinate the planes, boats, and ground troops and someone different is in charge of each of those. So you need a general at the very top, and then commanders for each thing, right? I confess I don’t know enough about the military to make this analogy anymore detailed than that. But here it is: I was in charge of the band, Josie was in charge of the dancers, Mickey was in charge of the crew. But really Mickey was in charge of anything and everything that happened on the stage, so we all answered to him.
Carynne, meanwhile, was the road manager, which meant anything and everything that was not on the stage was her job. Both of them answered to Barrett, technically, if you were going to make some kind of an organizational chart out of it, but only in the “he signs the checks” way, not the minute-to-minute logistical decision way.
And technically Barrett answered to Ziggy. But you know sometimes even though everyone works for the artist it still feels like the manager or agent is the artist’s boss.
So I hope I’ve explained why Mickey could bark at us like a high school history teacher and Ziggy and I would take it like schoolboys late turning in a project.
I felt a lot of guilt, though. I hadn’t been completely honest with Mickey since I was hoping to maybe work on some Star*Gaze stuff that evening. And I knew I hadn’t said a word to Ziggy at all about my worries about our plans for an acoustic segment in the set. When were we going to work on that?
The answer had to be “later.” Can’t do two things at once. We kept folks fairly late as it was, working on the closing three songs and the encore, because after what Mickey had said I was anxious about it. I soaked my hand, sipped Maker’s Mark from a flask, and roughed through it.
At midnight Tony took Ziggy and I home via Chinatown, picked up takeout (we stayed in the limo), and we didn’t even wait to get back to the apartment to dig in. Vitamin F was finally wearing off and my appetite came roaring back.
“How do you do that?” Ziggy asked.
“Do what?” I was shoveling fried rice into my face with chopsticks, straight from the container.
“You’re using your left hand.”
I paused in my shoveling. “It’s a little awkward.”
“It’s amazing. You’re right-handed.”
“I use both hands all the time.” I mimed playing the guitar, accidentally flinging some rice at him from the sticks still in my hand. “People who can’t use their left for anything probably don’t have to use it for anything.”
“Or maybe your superior dexterity is innate and that’s one reason why you took to playing the guitar so young, anyway.”
“It’s a chicken and egg problem,” I pointed out.
“Speaking of chicken and egg, give me some of that.” He took the carton from me and handed me a chicken wing. “But seriously, how is your hand?”
I pressed my injured palm against my cheek. “Amazingly, it feels fine right now. The question is how it’ll feel tomorrow.” That had definitely been the longest day with the most playing yet.
“How can I help?”
He was being so supportive and reasonable. Not diva-like at all. I was grateful for that. Which made me feel even more guilty about the things that weren’t done yet. I decided I had better say something about it now. “You’re already doing everything I can think of. Will you be angry if–?” I couldn’t quite make the right words form up.
“If what?” he asked through a mouthful of rice.
“If our big plans for an acoustic set break have to–” I paused to swallow. “Be scrapped.”
Time stopped while I waited for him to answer.
He pressed a gentle, if greasy, kiss against my jaw. “I think it’s you who are angry about that.”
Oh. “Um. Possibly.”
“After all, it was your idea.”
I suppose it was. “I’m just sorry I’ve waited so long to bring it up. I kept hoping if I just put it off a while, my hand would keep getting better, and maybe by the time we worked on it, it wouldn’t be an issue.”
“Because you’re an optimist.”
In the back of the dimly lit limo, I couldn’t see his face very well, but I could tell he wasn’t joking. “I am?”
“You are. You never give up. You always believe. Despite everything. You always believe.”
By everything I assumed he meant everything from growing up the way I did to getting injured the way I did. “My…talent is the one thing I never had to question.”
“This isn’t about talent, though.”
No, it was about logistics: did we have time and whether the tendons in my hand hold up. Physical realities that weren’t about how good we were or how much we wanted it. “I don’t know how to give up. I only know how to keep fighting.”
“I know.” He placated me with another kiss and I realized I was kind of arguing when I didn’t have to. “But making some necessary compromises isn’t the same thing as giving up.”
“You think we should scrap the idea for the acoustic set?”
“No. Who said that? Not even Mick suggested that.”
“Because Mick probably thinks that’s the only part of the show where he doesn’t have to worry about anything but making sure we have two stools,” I said. I was aware of a tightness in my chest that was probably panic trying to start, but I was still sufficiently mellowed from pharmaceuticals that it seemed very distant, like it was happening to someone else. “But what if I can’t, Zig?”
“Then we’ll think of something else,” he said simply, as if that was an actual answer.
I decided to take it as one, but in the middle of the night when I woke up thinking about it, I spent a good two hours trying to think of what that “something else” could be, and not coming up with anything.
I wanted so very badly to stand (or sit) on a stage with Ziggy again, just the two of us, and do what I knew we could have once done. I wanted it so much that even thinking about not having it gave me a pain in my stomach like I’d swallowed a stone.
(Do you know why this band is called Wilson Phillips? Look it up. -d)