A Near Iron Maiden Mishap While Delivering Dickinson
There are few things in life more embarrassing than being charged with ushering a rock star around and then making a mess of it.
I experienced that scenario firsthand when I worked for Capitol Records and one of our bands, Iron Maiden, came to town. I was living in South Florida at the time and working as a promotion guy. So naturally, I had a large area to cover which meant I was given a big responsibility. Maybe if they had known me better, they would have rethought that proposition.
A group of us went to greet the band at their hotel, and I was surprised to find that despite their ominous image, they were actually quite a quiet bunch, somewhat shy and not given to making much conversation. Not that it mattered. We were there in a professional capacity, and my main purpose was to arrange to take singer Bruce Dickinson around for some meet and greet opportunities at some of the more important retailers and radio stations the next day.
The arrangements were made, and the following morning, I dutifully picked the singer up at his hotel. Here again, I found he wasn’t exactly the most talkative type, so I did my due diligence and took him to the designated clients hoping that he would charm them sufficiently and make them all the more inclined to sell the band’s product and/or give them some radio exposure. Fortunately, he was more communicative with them than he was with me. I suspect he considered me one of the so-called “suits” from the label, making for a relationship that was for him, obligatory at best.
The band was due to perform that night at a huge dump of a place called the Sportatorium. It was out in the middle of nowhere and only accessible by one highway that had a single lane running in either direction. Naturally, that usually made for a monster traffic jam, causing any commute to take twice as long as it should have.
I should have known this because as much as I dreaded the place, I was frequently forced to show up there whenever one of our bands was in town and booked for a gig. I recall that on more than one occasion I would arrive and go to the Will Call window in search of my tickets an and backstage passes, only to be told they were nowhere to be found. I’d often have clients with me who had been promised the opportunity to meet the musicians after the show. Aside from the embarrassment it caused me, I felt horrifically humiliated because I was forced to stand outside the backstage area and bang on a metal railing to get someone’s attention.
Ah, I digress. But I was thinking about that possible predicament when it was time to get Dickinson to the gig. It had been a long day and we had made many stops, and considering South Florida is a sprawling place, I found that we were running behind and I’d have to hustle to get Dickinson to the Sportatorium in time. Remember, there were no cellphones in those days — we’re talking the early ‘80s at this point — so other than trying to find a public phone, I had no way to alert his road manager that we were running late.
As we were driving down that one lane highway to our destination, I began to worry. Worry? I was in a near panic. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if I happened to be the cause of the show being delayed. And worse yet, a misstep of that sort could cost me my job. I realized I had to take a drastic measure.
I approach an intersection where a stoplight awaited. There was a right turn lane, and with a back up of cars in front of me, I decided to go for it and then cut in front of the line. Waiting in traffic was simply not an option. So I made my move…
And promptly got pulled over by a cop who was waiting there to nab anyone who dared defy the rules of the road. He pulled me over and proceeded to write me a ticket.
“Officer,” I pleaded. “I have the star of the concert sitting in back of my car. I have no time to waste. I’ve got to get him to the show.”
Clearly, the cop didn’t care. Obviously he wasn’t a Maiden fan. Or, maybe he was. Regardless, he didn’t even look up while doing his due diligence and writing out my ticket. Had he done so, he would have seen Dickinson sitting stone faced in my back seat.
That’s right, Dickinson didn’t ride with me in the front seat. I guess he considered me his chauffeur. All the more reason for humiliation.
The cop might not have noticed, but a ton of fans sure did. As car after car drove by, the passengers popped their heads out of the windows, pointed at the hapless singer in the back seat and laughed hysterically. I’m not sure how they knew it was him as opposed to just another long-haired metal maven, but somehow they did. Of course that didn’t endear my passenger to me any more either. He had barely spoken to me all day, and by this time it was clear he was pissed.
The officer handed me my ticket and I resumed our chase. At this point I knew I’d be hard- pressed to make it to the Sportatorium on time. Yet somehow I did. I pulled into the back gate, and pleaded with the security guard to let us in. “This is the lead singer of the band in the back seat. The kids in the cars recognized him. Surely you do as well!”
Eventually, he did. I sped to the backstage area and was greeted by his distraught road manager. who ushered Dickinson in without saying a word to me. I was left outside, simply relieved that I was done tending to my charge.
Dickinson later wrote a memoir called What Does This Button Do that recounted his life and adventures spent in pursuit of rock and roll. Honestly, I half expected to see a mention of my mishap included. Hey, if I had to make a blunder, at very least it should have gained me some musical immortality. But sadly, no such luck.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to interview Dickinson about the book, and at the end of our discussion, I asked him if he remembered the incident, and how he nearly missed a gig due to a certain record company rep shuttling him around all day.
He didn’t recall a thing.
Honestly, given the stress it gave me, I wished he would have remembered. So goes the fleeting mind of a heavy metal icon.