Aging rockers staging comedies
The catcher from my Little League baseball team was a dedicated rock ‘n’ roll fan. George claimed to have climbed from his home’s second-floor window to sneak out and go to a KISS concert at the age of 14. He refused to consider any career besides rock star, a typical choice among unrealistic high-schoolers.
I thought a lot about George last week after one of his heroes, former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth, made the papers for clobbering himself on the noggin with a martial arts staff during a comeback concert. Roth was once renowned for mixing his extensive martial arts skills with his high-jumping stage antics. Today, his black belt should be a hernia truss. Subsequent tour dates have been canceled as Diamond Dave recovers from 21 stitches and the sort of headaches his records gave our parents.
It’s a sad development when a 47-year-old rocker winds up in an emergency room nursing an ice pack instead of backstage nursing a bottle of JD with his groupies. Most other entertainers, from professional athletes to dancers to circus performers, know when they’ve grown too old to twist and shout like a 20-year-old. Not rock ‘n’ rollers. Born without the gene that helps humans register embarrassment, they can’t see when it’s time to scream for the final time “GOOD NIGHT, (CITY OF YOUR CHOICE). WE LOVE YOU! ROCK ON!”
My old baseball teammate George shares much with David Lee Roth. He has continued chasing his childhood dream of rock stardom, with disastrous results. His latest band is a sort of Goth/heavy metal act, complete with garish face paint and songs about dating zombies. The quartet calls themselves The Serpenteens without a hint of self-consciousness about being further from their teens than they are from AARP cards.
He’s not alone. On any weekend in this city, audiences can catch performances by tired-looking punk bands with bald spots interrupting their Mohawks and “rebels” who make millions.
For the big names, the money’s too good to fade away. So they continue on their creaky path toward self-parody. Some of rock’s biggest names are touring well into retirement age, somehow legitimizing, in the eyes of their overly sentimental fans, an otherwise sad affair. Some fans claim they’ll continue to fork over hundreds of dollars each year to see aging performers who, like Van Morrison and occasionally Neil Young, can’t remember the words to their hits or which city they’re performing in.
There were tens of thousands willing to line up to see the Rat Pack’s farewell tour in the early 1990s. Anyone who found pleasure in watching a geriatric Frank Sinatra struggle to read his lyrics from a giant TelePrompTer screen was crossing the line that separates nostalgia and ghoulishness.
Will the next Rolling Stones tour be sponsored by Depends adult undergarmentsâ¢ Will Aerosmith toss packets of Dentu-Grip into the audienceâ¢ Who knowsâ¢ I’ll bet David Lee Roth already has a sponsor in mind for his next tour: