Introduction: Almost 11 years ago, I posted about Leonard Cohen’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Of course, this occasion was also covered by all the major media outlets – but I offered a unique feature overlooked by Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Billboard…
Bonus: Unsolicited Advice To VH1-C Production Crew & Waldorf Event Planners
Here’s a wacky idea – what if, when the honorees leave the waiting area (aka the Waldorf Hotel kitchen) to mount the stage, the direction to their mark on the stage were made clear? Now, no one enjoys slapstick antics, not unlike that practiced by the Keystone Cops in their heyday, more than me. Watching the Ventures mill about before someone standing idly by pointed them toward the stage was a hoot. Even watching my man, Leonard, walk through the door into the bright lights only to realize that he was face to face with the live and TV audience with no means of determining the correct route to the stage gave me a tiny jolt of schadenfreude-infused delight. And, when I saw John Mellencamp nearly sprint the wrong way, toward the backstage area, … well, let’s just say, a knee was slapped and mirth prevailed. Heck, I’ll even admit to being a little disappointed when someone literally took Madonna’s arm to guide her directly to the stage.
Still, you might want to consider adding a navigational aid to assure that the show runs smoothly. I don’t see a need to pop for a GPS, but maybe you could – and I’m just blue-skying here – plant a big sign outside that door with an arrow pointing to the stage or instruct a flunky to stand outside the door through which the inductees enter and imitate a sign pointing unambiguously toward the stage.
An anonymous reader suggested I fabricated or greatly exaggerated this incident, declaring that he or she had watched that same VH1-Classic broadcast but had seen nothing that resembled the scenes I described.
Well, DrHGuy is at that awkward age when the possibilities of flashbacks from the 1960s and early onset dementia overlap, so a review of the TiVo recording of the ceremony was indicated. Upon discovering the anticipated answer – i.e., I was right (I know, how could I have doubted me?), I realized that nothing would do but to document this finding (i.e., that I was, in a word, correct) with cutting edge technology: I took photos of the recorded telecast of the induction ceremony with my pocket digital camera. I’ll apologize now for the poor quality of the images, but the content is clear enough for our purposes, which is, again, to prove that I was right.
Setting The Stage
As far as I could determine, only the inductees entered the stage through the door from the waiting area (which was also in use as the hotel kitchen). Award presenters, officials, and the others who appeared on stage arrived via other routes or, for all I know, were beamed up.
The graphic below comprises three views of the auditorium with the inductees’ entry door door marked.
An enlarged view of the door from kitchen-waiting area to stage is shown below.
Upon being introduced, the Ventures walked through the door – and realized they had no idea how to reach the stage. They first turned to a long hallway on their left. The dark figures in the hallway, also shown in the expanded portion of the graphic, were not, appearances notwithstanding, caught in media res during a murder by stabbing. The woman nearest the Ventures is intently gazing at the material in her hand (stage directions? show biz news? Cosmo?) and appears oblivious to the plight of the Surf Rock group while the figure behind her comes to the rescue, pointing the Ventures toward the stage.
The photo sequence reveals Leonard Cohen’s circuitous route to the stage of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Ever the independent spirit, Leonard breaks the pattern by first turning right (the wrong way) instead of the more common rotation left (also the wrong way).
The photo on the reader’s far right of that sequence is worth a closer, albeit blurry look because this may be the only instance I’ve seen of the unflappable Leonard Cohen1 approximating a WTF look – and even then, he infuses the momentary bafflement with a tonic dose of wry.
The captions below are, obviously, only my guesses about the thought process that went on following Leonard Cohen’s initial realization that he was adrift in the Waldorf’s own Bermuda Triangle.
From left to right: 1. “Why did entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seem like a good idea?” 2. “If the stage isn’t to the right, it must be to the left” 3. “Well, if that’s the stage, I’m kinda disappointed in the turnout.”
In the far right photo above, a shadowy figure is barely visible. Blowing up a view of that hallway and lighting up the area via software reveals two shadowy figures, a gentleman of significant stature standing behind a woman. It is the woman who helpfully points the way to the stage. While such assistance isn’t in the “Sisters of Mercy” category, I suggest it does qualify, as does the help received by the Ventures, for the Blanche DuBois Merit Badge bestowed for “the kindness of strangers.”
In keeping with his self-characterization as a hard core rocker, Mellencamp does not saunter to the stage to collect his award, memorably described by Billy Joel as a “shiny, little tchotchke.” He exits the waiting area already in full stride, making excellent time.
Unfortunately, the artist formerly known as John Cougar was making excellent time headed down the wrong hallway. Like the Ventures and Leonard Cohen before him, he was taken in by the hallway that runs behind the stage.
Abruptly noting his error (it is impossible to determine from the broadcast of the event if he was alerted to his missteps by hallway loungers, as were his predecessors, or if he had a unilateral epiphany), Mellencamp executes a pivot with expertise rarely seen outside the NCAA basketball tournaments and proceeds with undiminished velocity on his corrected course.
Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette
The cigarette Mellencamp has been carrying in his right hand, utilizing the classic smoker’s grip with the cigarette grasped between finger and thumb while the other fingers are protectively curled around the lit end, now comes into prominence. He takes a hearty drag in the hallway,
… and grabs a quick second hit as he ascends the short stairway onto the stage.
Once Mellencamp is on stage, the assembled crowd is treated to his graceful performance of a complex, multi-component pyrotechnic maneuver. After first taking aim, he hurls the still combusting cigarette stub to the floor in one smooth, unified motion. (The youngsters in the audience would do well to note the excellent follow-through demonstrated in the far right panel.)
After ritually gazing on the defeated cigarette, Mellencamp completes the well-practiced move, as intricate and difficult as figure skating’s One-handed Biellmann Spin or the Reverse Hecht in gymnastics, with a rapid flurry of in-place steps that both pummel the spent tobacco and simultaneously serve as a victory dance commemorating the triumph of athlete over the fiery and fearful symbol of death.
Mellencamp did forgo the expectorational flourish brandished by some practitioners, no doubt exercising such restraint in recognition of the fact that, after all, this is New York.
The Material Girl encountered no navigational glitches. These were precluded by the galoot who was attached to her elbow from the time she left the waiting area until she was on the stairway leading to the stage.
Note: I am republishing selected posts from Cohencentric (my former Leonard Cohen site), especially those offering information not available elsewhere, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at).
Credit Due Department: Photo of Waldorf Hotel by Chris Breeze. Photo of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame taken by Derek Jensen. Used under Creative Commons license; found at Wikipedia Commons
- Re unflappability, consider Cohen’s response to being threatened at gunpoint by Phil Spector as recounted in The Spector Tapes:
Cohen would later recall how on one occasion in the studio Spector approached him with a bottle of Manischewitz (Jewish ceremonial wine) in one hand and a pistol in the other, placed his arm around Cohen’s shoulder, shoved the gun in his neck and said: ”Leonard, I love you.” Cohen, with admirable aplomb, moved the barrel away, saying: ”I hope you do, Phil.”