With each passing year, Jimmy Buffett's Margarativille empire seems to grow faster than a Russian athlete on steroids. Not only are Mr. Buffett and his Coral Reefer band one of the most sold out concert venues in the US, Canada, and France (oui, c'est vrai), but Jimmy's savvy business dealings have earned him a lucky number 13 on the Forbes list of wealthiest celebrities. With resorts, casinos, restaurants, clothing, beer, books, blenders, flip-flops, retirement communities, and now a Broadway show to boot, this 71 year old's net worth is valued upwards of $550 million dollars. And with a no carb, no sugar diet in play, it doesn't look like he's slowing down any time soon. To which all my Parrothead friends will gleefully reply, Not Yet!
So why on earth, you ask, would a man like that come looking for a girl like me?
It all started back in 1982 with a cassette tape and a Pontiac station wagon. I had just learned to drive and thanks to my older brother's handywork with plywood, sub-woofers, and tweeters, Mom's blue LeMans station wagon was wired for sound. We'd just upgraded from an 8 track player to a tape player, and my brother and I had been busy ripping off Columbia House to get the latest and greatest music. (You remember those record clubs, don't you? You order 10 cassettes for 1 cent--cool deal, right? But then it becomes the never-ending music plan and you owe them $9.95/mo. for the rest of your life.) Anyway, one of those cassettes was called A1A, and it was by a Country? Western? Pop? Tropical? balladeer named Jimmy Buffett (that's 2 t's, thank you very much). For this midwestern girl, A1A represented all that was warm and sunny and spring breakish about life. My 16 year old self fell immediately in love with that guy in the cut-offs, sitting under the palm tree. He easily convinced me that my whole world lied waiting behind door number three.
With innocence and unbridled enthusiasm, I went out in search of my own Margaritaville; I lived in foreign lands, I took some chances, I saw beautiful things and I witnessed scary things as well. I had my heart broken to pieces and fell in love with more than one wrong guy. But at the end of the day my life had come full circle, and as I stood outside one fall afternoon under a half acre of oak trees, I had to ask myself how on earth had my world had gone from sailing ships to raking Mom's backyard? And so began the story, the story I wrote about Nichole Boccelli, a small-town midwestern girl who unknowingly falls in love with Garry LaForge, a bigger-than-life trop-rock star. It was the fun of the WHAT IF that pulled me through a long, tough winter, and later, when I drug that manuscript out of a box in the closet, it became the WHY NOT of this married woman with three children under the age of 5.
If I couldn't physically GET to Margaritaville, I was going to escape to Margaritaville any way I could.
I polished and wrote and rewrote my manuscript over and over again until I was ready to present my story (which I called, "Watch Your Step at the Wishing Well") to the world--the social media world, that is. When I wasn't changing diapers and trying to learn about bassinets, I hung out in Parrothead chat rooms. Sites such as BuffettNews, BuffettWorld and Meet the Phlockers provided me not only with lifelong friendships but with shrewd critics for my story. Thanks to them, I received invaluable feedback and was encouraged to move forward in the publishing process. Not only that, but my BuffettNews friends took it upon themselves to vote my book as Readers' Choice for Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Book Club.
At the time, I was living up in the northwest corner, but I would be spending my summer where Alpine Valley concerts loom large in the lives of Parrotheads. With a load of books in my hands, I set out the night before the show to meet a few Coral Reefers. Back in the days of meet 'n greets, it was quite possible to get up close and personal with Nadirah, Tina, Peter, Mac, Doyle, Robert, and/or Michael. Thankfully, I had Garry Joseph as my cheerleader (You don't know Garry? Well all the Coral Reefers seem to.) Garry was my wing-man in line as I handed a book to each member of the band, and I left that evening, satisfied that at least someone connected to Jimmy Buffett would MAYBE read my book.
Two weeks passed without a word, and then I suddenly received an email: "Lisa, I just wanted to thank you for giving me an autographed copy of your book when we were at Two Seasons Bowl in Wisconsin. I read it in a couple days and thoroughly enjoyed every word! I love reading all kinds of books and you are a great storyteller. I mentioned it to JB, he was intrigued, and I would love to get him a signed copy. (sorry, I'm keeping mine) We will be back on the road next week and I will personally put a copy in Garry I mean Jimmy's hands . . . Have you met Jimmy yet? If you are still in the Washington area maybe you can come to our show in Portland and we can make that happen."
In Civil War History her heart skipped a beat.
Ok, the God's honest truth is that I was actually NOT going to the show in Portland. Not that I didn't want to go, but I felt the cost of a ticket was outrageous, and as such, I had planned a sitdown boycott in my very own living room.
Change of plans . . . I needed a ticket ASAP!!
So how does one prepare to meet Jimmy Buffett? What does one wear, one say? Should I bring him something? Will he feel awkward? I mean, I'd written a book about, well, about . . . us? I'll tell ya, the best thing for me to do was to think as little as possible. Thankfully, I had three little kiddos keeping my mind occupied and my feet firmly planted on the ground.
I know this is going to be hard to believe, but my husband is not a Jimmy Buffett fan. I know, right. His allegiance leans toward Eckhart Tolle and the Canadiennes, and not particularly in that order. So, I set off on my own. (Nervous? YES.) But not before I picked up a little gift.
Portland's venue didn't particularly provide for standard Parrothead tailgating, which was just fine with me. I needed to keep a cool head and be able to savor every sober moment. I hung with my fellow Parrotheads of Puget Sound until I received a call from Nadirah, apologizing for being late and saying she'd be right out to get me. I have to laugh when I think back to that moment. Nadirah walked across the street and with a warm welcome hug, said, "You didn't buy a ticket, did you? I would have gotten you in for free." Oh well, a hundred and something something to hang with Nadirah Shakoor and meet Jimmy Buffett was well spent! But wait, she then told me something that made my heart sink. "Jimmy isn't feeling well at all tonight. He's come down with some sort of bug and is trying to conserve all of his energy for the show. I'm so sorry, but he says he's not going to meet with anyone tonight."
Take me from the knees of my heart.
Dissapointed? Of course . . . but still happy to be there. She presented me with a Backstage Pass lanyard and took me into the bowels of the arena. John Lovell chatted with us in the elevator. His family was in town and receiving a similar backstage tour.
I must confess, retelling this story is good for my ageing brain because several years later the picture is fuzzy and the details are sordid; however, I CAN tell you there was a hospitality room and a big bouncer (not Charleston). It was crowded (Hey, wait, I thought I was the only VIP. haha) Food. Drinks. People clammoring for photos. Nadirah so kindly hanging close. She then asked if I wanted to go up on stage. (Uh, yeah.) We walked, we chatted. She told me this gig was a far cry from her Taco Bell days in LA. She introduced me to everyone: sound techs, lighting, wardrobe, assistants, pre-show entertainers. She hawked my book. Many had read it and shouted accolades. I was a real rockstar (for 60 seconds at least). And then she took me up on stage. W-O-W! As I stood there, mesmorized, under the pre-show lights, watching thousands upon thousands of Parrotheads pour through the doors of the arena, I instantly understood how intoxicating performing can be. Imagine standing on a stage with thousands of screaming people there for one purpose and one purpose only--YOU.
Nadirah looked at her watch and hustled me off the stage, apologizing again for me not getting to meet Jimmy. She kindly offered for me to sit with her in her dressing room while she and fellow Reeferette, Tina Gullickson, got ready for the show; she said the choice was mine. Hahahaha. That was a no-brainer. It was no surprise to discover that Tina was just as warm and gracious as Nadirah. So there we sat, the three of us, Nadirah and Tina applying their make-up, while we discussed the most mundane, everyday topics . . . a tree had fallen in Tina's backyard; the tree guy had been out; she never realized how much a tree removal cost, etc. etc. I had settled in to the cushy upholstered chair in the corner and was feeling quite at ease when suddenly there was a knock at the door. Nadirah opened it, spoke with someone, closed it, and then said to me, "Jimmy's here, Lisa . . . and he wants to meet you." Aaakk! Jimmy Buffett was at the door! And HE wanted to meet ME! "You're the only person he's meeting with tonight," she said with a wink, "but the show starts in about 15 minutes, so I'm afraid there isn't much time."
I don't remember how I made it from that chair to the door, but I'll try to describe my thoughts as best as I can. First, he is not tall (but you knew that). Thankfully, neither am I. Second, he smelled like Vicks or Mentholatum. Poor guy; how on earth was he going to do a show, feeling so sick? Third, he was talking to me. (Focus, Lisa, focus.) He laughed and said, "So you wrote a book about my life?" FYI: he has a charming smile. He joked about how persistent Nadirah had been in getting him to read "Watch Your Step at the Wishing Well." He was glad he had. He thoroughly enjoyed it; said it made his real life pale in comparison. I gave him my own copy to sign then offered him the gift I'd brought along: a gold Saint Cecelia medallion. (Saint Cecelia is the patron saint of musicians.) Jimmy sincerely thanked me and was about to say goodbye when Nadirah nudged me. "Lisa, don't you want a picture?" Oh, shoot. Yes, of course I wanted a picture! There were hugs. They said to let them know when the sequel, "Just Another (Shitty) Day In Paradise" would be ready . . . Then they disappeared into a world of 20,000 coconut-shell bras and grass skirts, Jimmy, wearing the medallion I'd given him.
JB at the Portland concert, wearing the medallian I had given him.
And if you ever wonder why you ride the carousel, you do it for the stories you can tell.
Be sure to pick up your copies today:
"Watch Your Step at the Wishing Well" -- and the sequels -- "Just Another (Shitty) Day In Paradise" and "If It All Blows Up and Goes to Hell"
Silver wings shinin' in the sunlight. Roarin' engines headed somewhere in flight. They're takin' you away, leaving me lonely. Silver wings slowly fadin' out of sight.
***Disclaimer: all characters in my stories may or may not be modeled after "real" people. You may say yes . . . I may deny it.
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