In high school, I was convinced that I was born to rock. In 9th grade, I shaved what little hair I had on my chest into a peach fuzz pleasure trail extending down from my bellybutton – just like Poison's Brett Michaels. The next year, I bought a pair of black jeans covered with skulls and roses – perfect for a wannabe Axl Rose. As a senior, my dreams of ruling the Billboard charts took a huge leap when I began fronting Grundle – a grunge covers band.
        Unfortunately, when our version of Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box" didn't even earn us an honorable mention at the high school talent show, I learned that I couldn't really sing. I already knew that I was too lazy to learn an instrument – the bass had been too boring and the guitar required too many lessons – so it looked like rock stardom would never be mine.
        I went off to Vassar where I realized that being in college is kind of like being in a band, since you pretend like you're there to do great things, but all you really want to do is drink too much, experiment with drugs, and try to sleep with girls. I also discovered that there was a whole industry built around rock 'n' roll, where you didn't have to be musically inclined in the slightest.
        So, I weaseled an internship at Atlantic Records, which was home to some of the greatest rock 'n' roll and R&B acts of all time: Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, AC/DC and Ray Charles. When I graduated in 1997, I scored a job there as an executive assistant in the new media department. The rock 'n' roll dream was within my reach again.
        A lot had changed at the label – the big acts were then Matchbox 20, Jewel, Kid Rock and Sugar Ray. One band that had been huge wasn't so huge any more – Hootie and the Blowfish. It may seem hard to believe now, but just a few years earlier, they were the biggest band in the world after their debut – Cracked Rear View – sold over 16 million copies.
        Oh, how quickly things change. By the time I was working at Atlantic, Hootie had gone from being the cash cows that earned everyone insane bonuses to a what-the-fuck-were-we-thinking musical embarrassment.
        Right before Hootie's third album was released, they announced to the Atlantic staff that they were going to throw a huge bash to celebrate, but with a twist. It was billed as the "If you can fire someone, you can't come to my party" party. This meant that you had to be the lowest of the low to attend. Basically, us plebs were the only people that Hootie felt that they could influence to help them promote their new album, so they were going to woo us as best they could. I didn't care that I was the lowest of the low, I was getting paid to party with Hootie. Rock on!
        Hootie Friday rolled around and I rolled into work with a green-face, cottonmouth and a pounding head after a long Thursday night of debauchery. Thankfully, I only had to work a couple of hours before I was loaded onto a bus with the other executive assistants, interns and gophers. We were driven downtown to a trendy bowling alley and I made a beeline for the bar. I needed a drink like Hootie needed a hit.
        I ordered a Sapphire and tonic, but the bartender quashed that dream. "Sorry, rail drinks only. That's all the band paid for."
        A preppy looking gentleman behind me, who looked like he just walked off the fairway, piped up, "Fuck that," and handed over the first black Amex I had ever seen in person. "The bar is open. Anything anybody wants is on Hootie."
        I didn't know this guy, but I thanked him. "Pretty cool party trick."
        "I'm Gus Gusler," he replied. I may not have known the face, but I knew the name. This guy was Hootie's lawyer, one of the people who made an eight figure bonus when Cracked Rear View turned into the momentary soundtrack for a very misguided generation.
Page 1 2