Rock to Recovery 4: A Stagehands Perspective
I couldn’t help but think after dropping 30 bucks for parking how truly lucky I was today. As I walked the Boulevard of Stars, making the turn from Vine to Hollywood, I thought of the many people I’ve spoken to who would have given a body part, vital or not, to be on this very famous street as a mere tourist. But my reason for being here had nothing to do with star gazing, selfies, or buying overpriced trinkets; I was here to work.
I arrived at the Fonda Theater, a Hollywood institution since 1926, with a wide eyed combination of wonder and complete bewilderment. This was my very first experience as a stagehand, and it started right when I entered the hallowed halls of this long established theater. The trucks were arriving, and gear needed to be unloaded. The first thing I noticed was the speed and strength with which the long time stagehands operated. No movement wasted, every move had a purpose. It was a cooperative dance of efficiency. I realized the only way to be a moving cog in this machine was to divulge that I was new to this, and ask, specifically, what was needed of me. So long as I asked, and did what was told, the machine moved. Right away, my respect for those behind the scenes of any production grew significantly, for I was ignorant to the whole process despite being a part of a band and having to be my own roadie. This was load-in, but on a scale I had never seen before.
Eventually, I learned to shadow those who knew more than I did, picking up hints of what different terms meant, so I would not have a moment where I became a deer in headlights. As the day wore on I received more responsibility, including unloading a drum kit whose components were worth more than my life. Though everything there was durable to a certain extent, the amount of care shown to every piece of equipment on the production was a testament to the respect these men had for the business and the performers. I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with people more dedicated to their craft. Not one complaint was heard. Not one excuse. Get the job done. Period.
At times, work would slow to a stop. I took these opportunities to explore the halls, rooms, and various caverns of this historic venue. I met many nice people; each and every one with a stake in the success of the show being put on. Though I was a newcomer, I was treated with respect; which made me realize that there were no egos present. Maybe it was the event, a benefit concert celebrating an organization that works to use music as a bridge to sobriety. Most were donating their time and talents solely for the cause, or because the evils of addiction had impacted their life somehow. Or maybe its just how these people were; not the stereotypical “Hollywood” type we hear so much about, but just good people moving along in this journey of life that equalizes us all to some extent. Regardless of the reason, the vibe was very good, and it made the work a labor of joy.
As showtime approached, the anticipation was palpable. Last minute touches, revisals of the show order, lots and lots of tape; the tape being to mark where various set pieces were to go during the performance. It was during my experience placing these pieces of tape that I received an extremely light reprimand. “You never sit on stage”. The reason being is that when I do work on something, be it building a cabinet or working with something on the floor, I go naturally into an indian style seat. Don’t know why. Been doing it since I was 5. Now I’ll never do it again. As a stagehand, you must always be ready to go, to move on to the next task. Because when the work is moving, you’re either doing something productive, or you’d better get out of the way of someone who is.
The show began. I had a few responsibilities, but was mainly there for support. The large jobs were handled by those more experienced, as they should have been. Watching the show from the sidelines, sometimes on the stage, gave me a sense of pride. Not just from the work aspect, but for the courage of all those who were featured in this event. Brandon Novak, Katey Segal, John Feldman, and many others who’d fought the demons of drug and alcohol abuse and won. This was a fight my biological father, as well as millions around the world simply could not win.The sister of one of those who had fallen to the disease of addiction left the stage, fresh from performing one of her brothers favorite songs. I’ll never forget when she passed me, tears in her eyes. I nodded my sympathy as she touched my shoulder and said “Thank You. Little did she know that I too had lost someone to substance abuse; yet for that brief second, perfect strangers connected in passing, and in grief. That moment, with many others, made this a night I’ll never forget.
After the lights came on, it was time to load out, which seemed a lot easier than loading in. Being a stagehand is not just a day job, its a night job as well. After over 12 hours of working, waiting, and being at the ready, there is still work to be done. This comes with the territory. It is understood. Your job is not finished until it is done.
I arrived home more tired than anytime that I could remember. But at the same time, I felt energized. It could have been the venue, the amazing stories of sobriety and victory, the kickass music, or the fact that I now know I’m suited to be a glutton for physical punishment. Whatever it was, Rock To Recovery 4 was an awesome experience that I would do again in a heartbeat.
Find out more about Rock To Recovery: https://rocktorecovery.org/