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Story: Random Encounters with Rock Stars

Over the years I’ve had the chance to meet many well-known musicians from Robert Fripp to Richie Havens (see the picture) to Damo Suzuki to Nik Turner, and many others. But those, by and large, were planned or semi-planned meetings. I was interviewing them, or met them after their show, or met them at a record signing, etc. But I’ve also had a few totally random encounters as well, and what follows is the stories of some of those encounters.

In the mid-80’s I had the opportunity to see avant-garde classical composer Philip Glass in concert a couple of times. The first time was when I was barely out of my teens. I went with my friend Dave to a performance in Toronto. We knew that Mr. Glass would be doing record signings in the Green Room after the show, and figuring we certainly had to be the biggest Philip Glass fans at the show, we certainly had to be first in line to get our albums signed. When the encore was just coming to an end, we hopped up and hurried out and downstairs to ensure we’d be first in line. But we were beat there by one other person! That person happened to be Jane Siberry, who at the time, was at the height of her success with albums such as No Borders Here (1984) and The Speckless Sky. In fact, I had seen her perform at Ontario Place just earlier that summer. Anyway, Jane turned out to be a very cool person and we chatted with her until Philip Glass showed up, and all three of us, me, Jane and Dave, got to be the first ones to enter the Green Room to meet him. I got my vinyl copy of The Photographer signed.

My first time visiting New York City was in 1986, on a school trip with my broadcasting class. At this time in my life I was 22 years old and obsessed with all things 60’s. So maybe this next encounter was not exactly a ‘rock star’, but it was still fun meeting him. I was in Tower Records, browsing wide-eyed through the vast selection of albums when I bumped into another browser, none other than Tiny Tim, famous for his 1968 ukulele pop hit ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’. I was thrilled to meet such an icon of my beloved 60’s. I said to him, “It’s so great to meet you. I’m a huge fan.” Tiny Tim seemed a little surprised that some 22-year-old kid in the 80’s would even know who he was, much less claim to be a fan, but he took it all in stride. With a great big grin, he bowed and in an endearingly pompous manner said, “Of course you are!”

When I moved to Toronto in the 90’s, just after university, it was a big step to the big city for me. My roommate also came from a smaller town like me. We used to play this silly game, predicated on the notion that surely there must be lots of celebrities walking around the big city: when out and about, we’d look around for people who looked like famous people, and rib each other and say things like, “Hey look, it’s Sean Connery loading a vacuum cleaner into that car over there.” We were once in the grocery store picking up some things for dinner, waiting in the checkout line when I nudged my friend, pointed to the fellow ahead of us

and said, “Hey look, it’s Kim Mitchell buying bananas in our grocery store.” My friend took a closer look and said, “I think that actually is Kim Mitchell.” Which it was. Kim Mitchell of Max Webster fame was indeed buying bananas in our grocery store. So we introduced ourselves and had a little chat with him before he went off on his way to enjoy those bananas.

I went out with this girl I worked with to see the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood at the theatre in 1994. This was back when there were still a lot of theatres that weren’t part of Cineplexes, and we were standing in the line outside waiting to get in. So while we were waiting, I told my friend about this goofy game my roommate and I used to play. So I challenged her: I said, “Next person who walks around the corner, look at them and tell me what famous person they remind you of.” Well, the next person to walk around the corner was actually Moe Berg, from the band Pursuit of Happiness. My friend happened to be a huge Pursuit of Happiness fan, so she kinda went bonkers. We got to briefly say hi to him. Turns out he was actually coming to see the movie too.

Just over a month later I met another rock star in a movie line-up. I went to see the movie Interview with the Vampire, by myself this time, and who was standing in line right in front of me? None other than Geddy Lee of Rush! I really didn’t want to go totally fanboy on him, I mean, the guy was just out to see a movie. So I decided to keep my cool. As he turned around at one point and our eyes met, I nodded and just said, “Hey Geddy”. He nodded and smiled and said, “Hey,” back to me. That was it. Coolest rock star encounter ever!

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