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My focus shattered, I looked up from my music and all around me. Where was that yelling coming from? We were just starting the second half of an orchestral pops concert in a vast arena-like theater out by the airport in metro Chicago, playing to a near-capacity crowd of fans.
The fabulous Broadway singer Linda Eder was headlining that evening, her awe-inspiring vocals hypnotizing the entire orchestra during rehearsal earlier that afternoon. I was having a blast listening to this great singer–what might be a real ho-hum concert with a different headliner promised to be a real treat with Linda’s superstar singing.
Just before the performance, an extremely intense-looking spectacled and clean-shaven man clutching a bouquet of flowers came up to me.
“Eeeh… uh, how do I find Leeeeenda?” he asked.
I was just a random bass player on this gig, and I had no idea where the soloist was, so I shrugged my shoulders and the intense man shuffled off, flowers in hand, head rotating as he scanned the backstage area for Linda Eder.
An hour later, trying to determine where that loud screaming was coming from, I looked out into the audience… there was the flower guy! He was waving his arms and shouting at the top of his lungs:
“Linda! Leeeeeeeeeenda! Aaah!”
He sounded like man who’d just been shot in the eye with a BB gun. It’s actually pretty strange to hear a man shriek like that. I remember a former roommate who always played some sort of military shooter video game. Every time he pegged an enemy, the computer emitted an unholy shriek–just like this guy!
This night was starting to get interesting!
This hooting and hollering continued for the entire performance, interrupting nearly every soft passage or finishing cadence. There were even moments during the middle of a piece where, during a tender spot in the music, this guy would scream at the top of his lungs.
“Aaaaaaaaaah! Leeeeeeenda! We love you, Leeeeenda!”
Now, I’m all for exuberant audience behavior–it’s definitely nice to know that your musical efforts are being appreciated. But this was the only guy making any sound at all, and his loud shrieks had that escaped mental patient quality to them that makes you wonder if he’s got anything besides flowers under his jacket.
More and more heads turned as this guy kept up his loud caterwauling. Linda even acknowledged him a couple of times between numbers, pointing out with some humor that he “sure had a set of pipes on him.” This, unfortunately, did nothing to pacify him–the attention only seemed to intensify his enthusiasm.
At one point, Linda called out, “Who here has seen me perform live before?”
Many people clapped enthusiastically in response to this, but Mr. Intenso also shrieked, “Five times, Linda! Five times!”
A vision of this guy tailing poor Linda Eder around the Midwest, marring all her performances with his misguided fandom, immediately sprang to mind. Like a comedian trying to deal with an overzealous heckler, Linda had probably been dealing with this guy for some time now–I somehow doubted that this was his first outburst.
The sad thing is, this guy probably was Linda’s biggest fan. He probably has all her albums, posters of her up everywhere, and has memorized every turn of phrase and stylistic nuance associated with Linda.
He kept up his loud hooting through the entire performance. I cringed with discomfort every time he started bellowing, and I could see my colleagues onstage doing the same thing with each outburst. Even the conductor started looking around, puzzled at all that racket. This guy’s pipes were perfect for hawking hot dogs at Wrigley Field a few miles down the road, but they were wildly inappropriate in the concert hall.
Where was the security? After all, this was Rosemont, Illinois, a historically notorious mob hangout. One figures that a place that as mobbed up as Rosemont (their bid for a casino was recently tabled due to the overwhelmingly obvious mob presence) would hire some guys that could “take care” of such situations.
Linda finally came out for her final song, and this guy rose up out of his seat and walked right up to the stage, brandishing a bouquet of flowers.
Linda walked out to the microphone to begin her last number.
“Linda! Linda! Flowers! Flowers! Flowers, Leeeeeeenda…..flowers! FLOWERS!”
Linda looked over and smiled at the guy (what a pro–I wonder what she was really thinking?).
That smile only added fuel to the fire.
“Flowers flowers flowers floooooowers, Linda!”
She came over.
She bent down.
She took the flowers.
The flower man beamed, as if an angel had suddenly descended from the heavens and come to him in a vision.
“Oh, Linda. We love you!”