Tuesday, April 30, 2013

After the Noise: A personal memoir, featuring Barry Fey

By Peter Rodman

Our plate was full, to say the least.
With deadlines looming before the Stones’ July 16, 1978 stadium show in Boulder, my wife and I were spread out all over the floor of our tiny apartment. There were markers, stencils, tracing paper, poster boards, reference books, magazines, album covers, handwritten notes everywhere, a red telephone, and an old fashioned electric typewriter.
You might say we were immersed in 'Rolling Stonesville.'
She, laying on the floor--pretty as always--putting her finishing touches on a pencil drawing of the band so gorgeous that even the Rolling Stones themselves eventually approved it--with no words, nor any trace of their ‘tongue logo’ on the front--unheard of! (Of course, the back of the shirt said “Happy Birthday, Barry!” as the show was to take place on concert promoter Barry Fey’s 40th birthday, and yes…there you would find the ubiquitous, Andy Warhol-inspired logo.)
My own mission was to create a breezy-but-comprehensive “History of the Rolling Stones,” for the 50,000+ free programs/magazines to be distributed by the Colorado Daily at stadium entrances, on Colorado Sunday #2. Nothing else would appear in the magazine, besides pictures and ads.
It was all mine.
Every word was painstakingly researched, and a handful of small “sidebars” highlighted various non-musical (or cultural) events in their lives.
Soon--with less than a week to go before they hit the stage--we had finished our work, cleaned up the living room, and turned it all in.
Some tools of my trade in the aforementioned
living room, on a much calmer day.

The shirts (now priceless collectors’ items, believe me) were ‘offset printed’ onto white t-shirts with red “rings,” a signature of the times--with 'grey factors' to capture the detailed pencil work, a much more expensive prospect back then, than mere 'block coloring.'
And the programs came out beautifully, with one glaring exception:
They’d managed to omit my byline altogether!
Over 40 pages, and nary a mention of who wrote ‘em.
Not a trace of moi.
What's the old cliche again...

"It's only rock 'n roll..." 

Anyway, it was with no small measure of (let's call it) irritation that I fielded an angry phone call from Barry Fey about the program, a few nights before the show. It was hot off the presses, and he was equally hot under his (then-considerable) collar.
He opened in full 'Bill Graham tantrum' mode.
In fairness to Barry, that kind of over-the-top belligerence had become a sort of  'template' among rock promoters, ever since Graham’s monstrously bellicose (read: barking mad) behavior in the Gimme Shelter documentary had won him a nationwide ‘Don‘t Mess with Bill’ badge of honor.
You sometimes got the feeling Gimme Shelter was required viewing for rock promoters. Certainly Barry Fey had seen it--and he seemed to have taken pretty good notes, judging from the roaring lion on the other end of my cherry red, squiggly-wired home telephone.
(By this time, even Fey’s underlings fancied themselves as ferocious--though I never saw them as anything but tiny men behind the curtain, bluffing hopefully toward ‘Wizard’ status.)
But in this case the voice on the other end of the line was the real thing--and by that I mean really, truly chilling.
Now picture ME:
I am home, in said living room (probably in my pajamas, having a beer) taking this call--which always, to me at least, invited a little ‘Archie Bunkerness’ on my part, at the time. I may very well have been watching All in the Family.
All I remember is that I looked at my wife like,“Aw, jeez, Edith…who’s it now?”
The gravely-voiced lion began without so much as a hello:
What the fuck should I tell this kid, when he sees this?”
Well…at least I knew who it was...

“What are you talkin’ about, Barry?” I responded. (This was the rough equivalent of Alfalfa saying to Butch, “Yeah??? Put up yer dukes!” on The Little Rascals.)
I gathered some courage, and continued.
“Are you tellin’ me I get no credit whatsoever for doin’ all this stuff for you, and that’s all you have to say about the whole book?”
“This is gonna break that kid’s heart,” he insisted, lowering his voice in mock-sincere tones. “I’ll be surprised if he even wants to go onstage in Boulder now, after reading about an old drug bust in Toronto.”
(At least now I knew what he was talking about.)
On page 23 or so of the program, tucked away in a corner of this mighty tome I’d slaved over for weeks, I happened to mention (in one of those tiny sidebars) how triumphant it was, that Keith Richards was once again able to tour in the U.S., his working visa having been briefly suspended, as the case made its way through the Canadian legal system--at one time threatening to put him behind bars for a goodly sum of years. This infamous arrest (added to a heap of others, in my defense) had not only made worldwide headlines, but kept the Stones from touring in the States since ‘75.

The Rolling Stones in Ft. Collins, Colorado 1975
Photograph Copyright 1975 & 2013 by Peter Rodman.
As I saw it, this was mere reportage--and more than slightly relevant to the Stones’ upcoming appearance.
On the other hand, I didn’t exactly see myself as Barry saw me--which was apparently as more of a flak than a reporter, at that juncture.
But hey, I was young--and in retrospect, that was a good thing.
Others have kow-towed to promoters since, but me?
No Sirree…“I’m a ‘reporter,’ Barry!”
So I guess in that sense, my naivete about ‘integrity’ and such helped me find a unique voice. But on this particular night, Barry was not happy--and let’s face it, the access he and his company provided me (to just about every rock star on the planet) was pretty much my bread ‘n butter.
That point, incidentally, was not lost on my wife.
Silly me-- I was under the impression the Stones had actively cultivated their 'bad boy' image!
I must add, that was the first (and last) time I ever heard Keith Richards referred to as a “kid.”

The night before the show, Barry’s threw himself a birthday party at ‘Anthony’s Garden,’ a small disco inside Boulder’s Harvest House Hotel.
There, I saw something I’ve not witnessed before or since:
It was the formidable ‘guy you don’t mess with,’ Barry Fey--way before he softened his image and dropped 100 pounds--unabashedly and wildly dancing (in public!) to the Stones’ latest hit, “Miss You.”
I still have a vision of him, surrounded by women and sycophants, waving his arms in utter glee--lost in the beat, and shamelessly singing at the top of his lungs:
and some Puerto RICAN girls, that’s just dyyyyy'na MEEETchoo!!!”
When the song ended, he made the guy play it again.
…and again.
In truth (as Barry himself would tell you), he was never really sure he’d get to promote the Stones again.
Like so many ‘larger than life’ guys, Barry Fey was riddled with insecurities. They say anger and fear are close relatives, but most people are far more comfortable displaying the former. You might well wonder how anybody with such a resume could ever doubt himself, but he did.

Mick Fleetwood-- backstage at Folsom Field,
 with his lovely inflatable friend...
Photograph Copyright 1977 & 2013 by Peter Rodman. 
 Oh sure, there were the backyard parties with Lynyrd Skynrd, before the plane crash that ate half the band; the backyard basketball pick-up games with REO Speedwagon; the good times with Bruce, the Dead, and countless others--all backed up by endless stacks of laminates and stickers, as if to prove it all.
The “birthday party” existed as much to let off steam as anything else, since the road to presenting the Rolling Stones in Boulder in ‘78 had not been a particularly easy one.
The link below features Barry telling the 'inside story' of how he got the Stones to play Boulder that year, in almost maddeningly melodramatic fashion:
Barry Fey on 'Sunday Night with Peter Rodman' --May 21, 1978*
(You may want to read on first, as this page will disappear after you click above.)

On the morning of the concert, I arrived at the designated (backstage) chain-link fence at around 6 a.m., lugging my usual 20 pounds of recording equipment. Everyone I’d seen the night before, including Barry, was still in bed…but I liked to stake out a decent perch in the press box, a secret stash for handy portable recording equipment backstage, and to familiarize myself with each of the security staff members I’d encounter over the next 15 hours or so. Freelancers have an added responsibility, I always thought, to be on time, assist in any way they can, and generally stay out of the way until needed.
Believe me, I was groggy.
Okay…hungover, too.
Even my wife groaned, “noooooo, you can’t be leavin’ this early,” but it was a short walk across the lovely University of Colorado campus from our place, and besides…I kinda liked to soak up the calm before the storm.
To his credit, the guard said, “I’m sorry, where’s your pass?” and I showed him what I’d been given by Phil Lobel the night before, but apparently this wasn’t the right pass…so rather than argue with him, I thanked the guy and simply walked back home and crawled into bed.
“You were right, it’s too early,’ I said, and fell right back to sleep beside my beautiful wife.
Phones were a lot louder back then--or at least it seemed loud, when my ‘hotline’ began ringing, at around 7:45.
I was so sleepy, I rehearsed my “hello’s” a few times before answering. “Hello…helloooo…hem, ahem…”

In the pressbox at Folsom Stadium in Boulder, overlooking
another 61,000 seat sell-out, this time an Eagles show.
Photograph Copyright 1978 & 2013 by Peter Rodman.
"Barry, I didn’t have the right pass. It’s okay, I’ll be there later on…you don’t need me until…hey, I don’t even think you do need me there today, anyway!”
It was true. 
My work (creating the programs and t-shirts, and conducting all kinds of pre-show interviews on the radio) was done.
And besides, I didn't even work for Barry Fey!
“Listen," he said, calming down some, "I heard you were there (even though he wasn’t yet), and I know what happened. So you can just go back to the gate; the guy has everything you'll need.”
By this time I would rather have stayed home, but this was the nicest thing he could have done, and I wasn't about to not honor it.
So I dragged myself back to the stadium, and that was that.

Barry Fey backstage at Folsom Field in 1978,
with the Beach Boys' Mike Love--
plus a proof sheet from the Eagles show.*
Lest you think our personal or professional history was always contentious, Barry Fey appeared for a cumulative total of over ten hours on my radio show, in half a dozen comprehensive interviews (two of which are excerpted herein) over a ten-year period.  He even guested on my puny little Channel 12 TV talk show (appropriately called Who's on 12?), and allowed me unfettered access to nearly every single show he produced between 1975-1985, whether it be at Red Rocks or the Rainbow, Folsom Field, Mile High Stadium, Ebbets Field or Macky Auditorium.
Many of my work-weeks involved up to ten interviews, face-to-face, with every act from Sting to Van Halen to Zappa to the Dead, and back again.  (And by 'back again,' I quite literally mean doing fresh interviews when they all came back again, in a year or so.)
Probably the only time I ever had to beg for anything was at Red Rocks, where I’d try and get a parking pass, because they’d literally 'box in' thousands of cars alongside the mountain, and unless you were one of the 30 or so lucky cars backstage, you’d be leaving with everybody else, in the exact reverse order you came.
So that, to me, was a far more imoportant perk than any 'backstage pass.'
But the rest was pretty much just to facilitate the work, and the work was interviews.
What I got out of them was the thrill of presenting something beautiful on the air, or in print; what ‘Feyline’ got out of them was a single interview that I’d parlay into many different articles, columns, and radio shows from Colorado Springs to Aspen, all over the state.
My business card at the time, which listed many of my outlets, carried the slogan ‘Largest Freelance Music Circulation in the Rockies.’ In retrospect, the thing looked like a laundry list.

I’d like to add a few more things you might not know about Barry Fey here.
When Tommy Bolin died, Barry came up to the small funeral chapel in downtown Boulder and delivered his eulogy. A few years later, he did the same for Tommy’s former Zephyr band mate, Candy Givens. Both had died of drug overdoses.
A lesser man would have glossed over it, but Barry--to his great credit--went right at it.
His first words from the podium  at Candy's funeral were, “Listen, I have to tell you something--each and every one of you here-- and I‘m only gonna say this once. I did this for Tommy, and now I’m doing it for Candy. But I don’t wanna have to do this again.  Let me repeat that:  I don't wanna have to do this again."
That was Barry, at his very best. The man whose reputation as a 'bully' preceded him, had actually used a pulpit to create a better 'bully pulpit' than anyone else I've ever seen.  It was brilliant.

Mick Jagger at Folsom Field, 1978
Photograph Copyright 1978 & 2013 by Peter Rodman.
In his heart, behind all the bluster, he truly felt insecure. Barry would reveal this in stunning fashion on the air with me during 1979, during our third two-hour radio interview. By this time, his 'legend' was intact--and even an interview at the Governor's mansion wasn't complete without a Barry Fey reference.
The link below features both Governor Dick Lamm's comments, and Barry's unusual 'personal revelations.' 
(Once again: You may want to read the rest of this first, as this page will disappear after you click the link--but it is worth hearing!)
Colorado Governor Dick Lamm & Barry Fey on 'Sunday Night with Peter Rodman' 1979*

At one point during the interview, he said he’d wanted to ‘go hang out’ one night, “and it wasn’t that I couldn’t get anybody to do it, it was that I didn’t know who to call.” When he mentioned that he had never even had a driver’s license, we got dozens of calls from my listeners offering to teach him to drive. In short, his candor that night was utterly disarming.
Up until then, he’d rarely (if ever) shown such vulnerability in public (that I knew of, anyway), but after the overwhelmingly sympathetic response that appearance generated, ‘opening up’ in interviews became another part of the routine, for Barry Fey.
I’ve always felt kind of proud to have fostered the atmosphere that allowed that little ‘breakthrough’ for him--and I know he appreciated it, because he began preparing anecdotes even more carefully, for all the subsequent interviews we did. Almost like an act.
But I love good radio, and Barry Fey made mighty good radio.

Another story comes to mind, though I’m sure I’ve left out dozens of better ones, in my haste.
PR with Eddie Money (at left) in
Folsom Field, 1978
On the next Stones tour, in 1981, I found myself backstage in the dressing room area, waiting for one of the opening acts (in this case, Heart) with whom I was to tape an interview, after their set.
The room was more or less circular--designed for the opposing football teams in the stadium to have their locker rooms at opposite ends of the circle. But for rock shows at this 61,000 seat venue, the various opening acts split one locker room, and the headliners (in this case, the Stones) used the other.
Now Heart had just finished up onstage, and the Stones had arrived.
In fact, I’d been standing right next to Barry when Mick walked up (I seem to remember a helicopter, but he may have just stepped out of a limo that day), and by way of a greeting said, “Barry! Have you sold the 3,000 obstructed-view seats?”
I remembered that Mr. Jagger was a graduate of the London School of Economics, and I knew he’d squeezed every dollar out of Phil and Barry during negotiations for this appearance…but still…you could’ve knocked me over with one of Keith’s scarves, when I heard that.
No “hello,” no “Nice day!” Just…
“Barry! Have you sold the 3,000 obstructed-view seats?”
I wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t heard it myself!

Now you could really feel the anticipation building, between set-changes--as (for heaven’s sake!)...
The Rolling Stones were about to appear! If “Miss You” had been their biggie last time in Boulder, “Start It Up” was an even better hit to have, this time out.
Jane Rose, who handled such things for the band back then, had been very clear in our phone calls:
Don’t expect any interviews.
Learning how to make your best case and then take ‘no’ for an answer was a skill I’d now honed for seven years or so, with hundreds of publicists and managers--so I accepted my fate. (Incidentally, this paid off years later, as she got me on the plane with Keith and Ronnie and Stanley Clarke, for their ‘New Barbarians’ tour. Note to Freelancers: Be a long-distance runner. It’ll serve you well...I promise!)
But I’d be lying, if I didn’t say that some teensy-weensy, tiny part of the reason I was there to do 'Heart' was to be available, just in case the Stones had a change of heart…though they wouldn’t.
Look at it this way:  If you’re a photographer, at least bring your camera.
Okay, so back to that circular ‘ante room’ backstage in Folsom Stadium…
People were milling about, maybe 20, and I sat patiently on a bench, avoiding any conversations at all, just waiting for my Heart interview.

Ann  & Nancy Wilson (of Heart), backstage
at Mile High Stadium with Peter Rodman

Suddenly, a couple security guards came in and curtly cleared the place out.
I got up to leave.
“No,” said the guy. “You stay.”
I obeyed.
Now there was only me, on a bench in the circular white, cinder block room. It felt like being captive in a large holding cell at some prison, or being on an awkward date at some fancy restaurant. She’s gone to the bathroom, and you keep crossing your legs and nervously posing ‘just so,’ as you anxiously await her return to the table. (Or...the prison guard will be back in a moment!)
Actually, I wasn’t nervous…just self-conscious.
It seemed like it got very quiet, too, as I sat in my solitary confinement.
After a marathon two weeks preparing everything and very little sleep the night before, here I was in my ninth hour at the stadium, suddenly all alone with my idle thoughts, trying to keep alert.
What is going on? Let’s see…must be, ohhh…thirty feet across, between those doors. Should I look at the ceiling? Gotta downplay this recording equipment. What if I get kicked out? …wonder how many bricks there are in here… This went on for such a long time, I began to daydream about having made some huge mistake, and come to the stadium on the wrong day.
Now, in walks Mick Jagger. Believe you me, that'll interrupt a daydream.
Skinny! ...I began to 'come to'...
He was dressed as an American football player.  I'm not kidding--he had on everything but the helmet:
Crisp white football pants (knickers with pads, essentially), striped knee socks, sneakers, and a green (Philadelphia Eagles?) jersey with full shoulder pads.
In every sense of the term, this guy looked ready to play.

I didn’t even dare glance down at my prized JVC 1610 cassette recorder or the brand new $150 condenser microphone I'd bought for the occasion, both of which were right beside me. My left hand became a ball of sweat, trying to tuck the 25 foot wire closer to me, as if I could somehow hide who I was, and what I was there for.
He (Mick) seemed oddly…amused. 
It was almost like he was acting out a well-rehearsed scene, but he said nothing as he scratched his freshly shampooed hair, bobbed his famous head back and forth, and eyeballed the various white doors on the white walls which surrounded us.
I remained frozen in my seat.
Can this be happening? Where is everybody?  Do they even know I'm in here alone, with Mick Jagger? There must be 200 people behind the stage in this general area, and 61,000 more in the stadium!  Why is nobody else here at all? 
And let me just say right here and now, no famous person has ever looked so famous to me in person, with the possible exception of Muhammad Ali--and I'm not bragging when I say this, but there have been literally thousands of other interviews, over the years.
So I guess the good news about Mick is, certain people look just exactly like who they are.
The bad news…?
I was starstruck.
Finally, he spoke...in crisp-upper-(famously)-lipped, veddy British tones... 
“Do you 'appen to know where I might foind Haahht?”
“Oh!” (I snapped out of it again.) “Uhhh, yeah. I think they’re in there," I said, pointing to one of the doors.
Then came my geekiest moment:
I’m here to interview them!” I blurted.
Way too late for a pitch, Petey...

It turns out that more than a decade before they invented the term, I’d been “Punk’d!”
The whole thing was a set-up!
You’ll just have to take my word for it: Nothing like that ever happens by accident--especially at a Stones show. That much, I know.
Barry would never fully admit that he’d set me up…but I know he did.
Perhaps it was his way of apologizing for some of the rough treatment I'd endured over the years, especially during the '78 Stones fiasco. Or maybe he felt more grateful to me than I even knew, for all the interviews and writing and hard work.
I dunno.
But I ain’t been ‘got’ like that anytime before or since, that's for dang sure!
Not many folks can use Mick Jagger for their practical jokes, either.
But Barry Fey could!
And hey...at least I got 'Heart.'

In 2008, I was asked to speak at the 30th reunion of the University of Colorado Program Council (CU’s student event board), celebrating the ‘The 1978 Pepsi Summer of Stars,’ which had featured stadium shows by the Beach Boys, Eagles, and Rolling Stones, plus dozens of other acts in smaller venues. 
George Harrison at McNichols Arena, 1974.
Photgraph Copyright 1974 by Peter Rodman.
It was to be a 'whole weekend' affair, so I happily reserved myself a little log cabin at the old ‘Foot of the Mountain’ hotel, and flew out to Boulder from my home in Nashville to see everybody again.
I had no idea it would all come rushing back to me, after having left Boulder behind, during the mid ‘80s…but there were all the wonderful faces I’d worked with so closely, from Phil Lobel (my main connection to Feyline) to Stu Osnow and Bob Webster (all Chairmen of the PC at various times); Jc Ancell (Facilities Manager for CU, and a key liason with the City of Boulder); Bob Greenlee (the former owner of KBCO, where Sunday Night with Peter Rodman had aired for the better part of a decade), etc.
On Friday night we all convened at The Harvest House, in that same little bar/disco where Barry had held his party 30 years earlier, the night before that ‘78 Stones show.
Now, everyone was all grown up--balding, grayer, larger, older, and presumably wiser.
It was quite a trip.
Barry seemed delighted to be there. It seemed oddly as if he hadn’t been out of the house in a while.  He’d eventually been forced out of the rock promotion business, as corporate conglomerates came into town, hired up some of his old hands, and simply muscled him right out of the picture.
Paul McCartney playing "Yesterday"
on the 'Wings Over America' tour in '76,
at Denver's McNichols Arena.
Photograph Copyright 1976 & 2013 by Peter Rodman.
He looked content, but sort of shriveled up now--with a Wolf Blitzer/snow-white beard, and the sort of pale frailty you normally see in the halls at hospitals.
I decided to film a few moments on my (then new) fLiP camera, and as I began zeroing in on Barry, he was debating some past memory with one of the guys.
FUCK you!” he barked at the guy, with great emphasis, “You didn’t do that, I did that!!”
Then he noticed the camera, and his facial expression changed in an instant, from Ralph Kramden to Gleason's classic 'Poor Soul.' Turned out he was only trying on his old shoes for a second, because the man who was here tonight wasn't the same person who used to relish a fight. 
Barry Fey had changed.
He eyeballed my camera nervously now, and tried to deflect the attention his outburst might have gathered.
“Oh, that’s nice,” he said. “What is it?”
“It’s a fLiP!” I said, “and it’s a movie camera!”
I’d never seen Barry blush before, but his face got all red, and suddenly he seemed mortified, to realize he'd been caught on camera, doing his 'legendary Barry Fey' impression. We all joked around for a little while longer--but right then and there, I knew he had long since reassessed that ‘Bill Graham’ approach to life that had once served him so well. I felt guilty even looking at the footage later, but Barry later sent me a note saying I should have gotten more such footage! (see video link and Barry's note, below)
Clearly, life had quieted down for the Big Guy.
It had a big night out for him. In all those intervening years, he’d become considerably more fragile. His embarrassment at that key moment--even though it lasted only a second--was captured on video, and belied even more sensitivity than he'd shown in all of those ‘revealing’ interviews, so long ago.
The next day, we all met up at The Greenbriar for dinner.
Barry was a no-show. 
Maybe it's just my own perception, but it seemed like he just felt out of his element, pretending to pal around with old men and women he’d once known as college kids and/or employees. Whatever it was, his expected attendance never materialized. I became the de facto 'keynote speaker' at the dinner.

never saw him again.
But he slowly began showing up on Facebook a few years back, and pretty soon he’d come up with a memoir, too. Now he was all over Denver, signing books and recounting old tales, posing for pictures with strangers and revisiting his ‘Backstage Past,’ as the book title put it.
And that’s just it: I think the Barry of recent years felt removed enough from his ‘golden era’ to not only appreciate it, but to appreciate living without it.
That’s why, in a real sense, he could only revisit, not re-live it.
You get tired; you really do.
One such book-signing took place at a Walgreen's in south east Denver, on the former site of the Rainbow Music Hall, where everybody from Sting to Journey had started out, on their first-ever tours. The only trace of its "legendary" past is a little sign out front, just above the word Walgreen's--right over the LED marquee that scrolls through toothpaste sales and camera department specials.   

We had quietly begun sending notes back and forth via Facebook, and I’ll keep most of that stuff confidential, but it was often amusing tidbits about the supposed 'big-wigs' who'd succeeded him, many of whom he'd personally shown the ropes.
We talked about what we'd each been through (sometimes together) and shared a few lil' chuckles.
And in the end, he made sure to let me know he respected me after all, and I'm glad I did the same for him.
Not long ago I sent him another little note of appreciation.
Leave it to Barry.
He was full of surprises, but his response this time caught me off-guard:
“love you pete…”

That was in January of 2013; Barry Fey took his own life near the end of April.
Rest in Peace, Barry.

I liked you even better after all the noise.

*This article and all related photographs, videos and graphics are Copyright 2013 by Peter Rodman. All Rights Reserved. No portion herein may be used or redistributed without written permission.
ADDITIONAL NOTE (added on 5/8/13):
Barry Fey took his own life on April 28, 2013.
+Below is a link to the video of the referenced weekend I spent in Boulder in June of 2008, for the "30th Anniversary of the Program Council's 1978 Pepsi Summer of Stars." It features not only Barry Fey, but Phil Lobel, Stu Osnow, and many of the others mentioned above.
Underneath the video you will find several "Facebook" comments...one of which came January 18, 2013, from Barry Fey himself:
"you did a beautiful job peter, however if i had been featured more ???" 
(Note:  If you are not on Facebook, you may not be able to play this video.  It lasts just under 20 minutes.)

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