Rod’s probing to get my feedback on his show last night was becoming increasingly less subtle and more difficult to fend. The urge to blurt out my confession that I had missed the show welled up inside me, until the memory of the solemn warning from his manager, Tony Toon, intervened my mind—“Wayne, don’t tell Rod you didn’t see his show last night— which subdued any rash compulsion.
God, why didn’t I take attending his concert more seriously? It wasn’t like I didn’t appreciate Rod as an artist. I did. Only a couple years before I drove up to Charlotte with a friend to see him and The Faces perform at Memorial Stadium. He was fantastic that evening too.
But now I was really stuck. Rod talked into my recorder like he assumed I was at his show last night but acted kind of funny—like he knew I wasn’t there—as if he was playing me along—punishing me for missing his show.
Switching gears, I pulled a question that I had strategically planned for the interview. It had just been announced that Faces’ guitarist, and long time buddy of Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, had become a member of the Rolling Stones. The press release also stated that Wood had joined up with The Stones on their current tour. So I popped the question:
“Has the absence of Ron Wood on this tour created any problems for you, creatively, musically, sexually . . .”
Rod Stewart and longtime buddy Ron Wood performing.
I experienced immediate relief with that pointed question. I not only diverted Rod’s attention away from hounding me about his show, but I successfully conveyed to Rod that I was on top of the latest music business buzz—and did you notice that clever sleight-of-hand dropping of the word “sexually?” As far as I knew Rod was heterosexual. He certainly courted beautiful women and was, in fact, at the time, lovesick over Swedish actress Britt Ekland. But I wanted him to know that I had no problem with anyone who was gay or bisexual—it was fine with me—just because I represented a small city in the Deep South, where prejudices, or discriminating stereotypes often abound, my own social attitudes were as evolved as any top radio guy in New York or LA. See, the way I figured it, when you’re hanging out with big time rock stars, you need to project a little cool.
“The absence?” Rod asked.
“Yes,” I replied, curious by Rod’s puzzled expression.
“Well he was there last night,” Rod said.
Rod looked gobsmacked. “I can’t believe it! Yeah! He was on the right side of the stage!”
I reached to press the stop button on my recorder but Rod grabbed my wrist. “No! We must keep this on tape, ladies and gentlemen. Because this man, was in about the fifth row, and he just asked me whether Ron Wood was on the stage last night. Now he must get the first prize . . . for being the prize prick . . . of the century!” Rod fell backwards on the bed, his legs up, both pedaling air with delight; he cackled as loud as you can imagine—while I sat silent across the bed from him—dying a million times.
When he finally regained his composure and raised himself back up, facing me on the bed, he saw that I was wounded. I watched the hilarity at my expense fade from him. He didn’t want to see me hurt. Now he wanted to help me, which, for an instant was endearing, but made me feel even worse. Suffering the hands-down most embarrassing moment of my life, which stood for decades until my colossally disastrous first meeting with George Harrison, the last thing I wanted was pity from Rod Stewart.
“You know that’s the second time I’ve been asked that,” Rod told me.
“No, no ,no. Couple gigs ago. A guy in . . . New Orleans asked me, ‘Where’s Woody?’ I said to him, ‘What are you talking about? He was there last night.” Rod looked at me to see if that made me feel any better. It did actually. I eagerly accepted that there was someone out there who was as big a schmuck as I was, but in the back of my mind I wondered: Did Rod make that guy up to help me out?
“I feel like such a jerk,” I said, apologizing.
“Nah. What would’ve been funny, if you had gone up to Woody, you know? And you asked Woody, ‘How does it feel to be taking Ron Woods’ place?” Rod laughed in the most playful way. A jack-the-lad, mischievous glint, shined in his eyes—relishing the idea. It pleased him to to see that he helped me feel better. There’s a kindness inside Rod Stewart that I hadn’t detected up until that moment. His genuine concern to quickly restore my human dignity earned my admiration.
Rather than throwing me out on my ear, he smiled, changing the mood in the room from disappointment to optimism, he said, “Next question, sir.”
We carried on with what turned out to be a really good interview, including personal stories he shared, behind the lyrics of some of his most famous songs, and some off his latest album, Atlantic Crossing. He could not have been any more gracious. When we finished, while I packed up the Uher recorder, excited to get the tape to the studio to share the playback with the boys, Rod asked me to go downstairs and have breakfast with him.
Rod Stewart – First Prize For Being The Most Gracious Rock Star Guy Of My Radio Career.
I was young and learning that when events and circumstances between me and others appear to be going off the map, when things don’t go as I planned and I don’t turn out to look so cool, some people, the best in people, will sometimes step up and help me out—and those things that I do, and don’t do, that make me look stupid, often work together to create a deeper and more meaningful, relational experience in the end.
Nevertheless, after many well-learned lessons that taught me I suck when I try to pretend I’m cool, it’s pretty much same as it ever was.:)
Copyright © 2017 Wayne Coster Cooper