Ron Onesti: Let the memories keep you 'up'
During these crazy times, I think what has kept me in the ballgame with hope and inspiration is the memories.
Memories have always been important, but now, more than ever, they should be used as a tool for survival as much as they are for reminiscing.
I can recall the countless times I have walked on stage to greet an excited audience. I would walk through the sold-out crowds, welcoming everybody. The fans would be proudly wearing way-too-tight concert T-shirts, faded "poodle" skirts or satin tour jackets from the 1980s. The only thing more prominent would be their smiles in anticipation of hearing their radio favorites.
Then, I would go to the dressing rooms to check on the band. At this time, they would be in their leather pants and sleeveless, studded shirts. The halls would echo with voices warming up and drummers tapping on a warm-up pad.
Because so many of these artists have performed with us at The Arcada before, they would often share their favorite memorable moments with me, mostly complimenting our "magical" place, and our fabulous fans. More often than not, they would talk about a former show they hail as "one of their best." A common reference would be that "undefinable energy" so many similarly refer to.
Then I proceed to our backstage area. I make sure I have two things there at all times: my microphone, and an American flag I have taped to an old curtain rod mounted on a rusty metal microphone stand base I have been using for years. It has a bit of sentimental value for me. I have been using it since the time I literally could not afford to buy a nice fancy flag and base with the gold rope attached.
I peek at the crowd from behind the curtain. Most are standing and talking to their neighbors. Their conversations are about the rock show they are about to see, remembering past concerts and favorite-song moments. They all look so happy!
The house lights go off, the crowd noise turns into a roar! I walk out to either "Hold On, I'm Coming" by Sam and Dave or "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin, depending on the make up of the crowd. After the big welcome, we salute first responders, medical professionals, teachers and other heroes as I wave my "Grand Old Flag." Rock 'n' roll and American pride … two things that DEFINITELY go together!
I introduce the band and the audience erupts with excitement! That is one of my favorite parts of the night. It has created some of my most favorite onstage memories.
There have been many of those. Taylor Dayne, the '80s pop artist, half-jokingly demanded a martini during her performance. So I answered her by sending a bartender to the stage who commenced shaking a martini during one of her songs, and poured it in a glass for her right on the stage upon the song's finish.
Another time, just before I introduced the main act of the evening, I brought up a young lady who called me prior to the show so she could surprise her boyfriend with an onstage meet-and-greet with the band for his birthday. We worked out a scheme where I would pull a fake raffle ticket -- her boyfriend's, in fact. So I did just that. I pretended to pull his winning ticket, and they both came up to the stage. But the joke was on her as he called me before she did. He went down on one knee, and, well, you know the rest!
Yes, life is about memories, most good, some not so good. And right know, we all must focus on those great times we have shared at past shows. I really love the part of my job that involves talking with our valued music fans. From "bobby socks-ers" to "head bangers," they bring with them THEIR memories, just ready to forget their woes for a couple of hours and party like it was their senior year in high school. That is when we take over.
I say this all the time: "Music, memories and meatballs," what could be a better formula than that?
Soon we will be together again, enjoying all three. Stay strong, safe, healthy and positive. And until we are together again, let those memories provide the strength you will need to get you to our front door when the time is right and the music is louder than ever!
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of the Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.