Hip-hopped, Flashed, Pegged, Spaced and, um..Rudded

People often flip out when they see a celebrity, whether coincidentally or deliberately at events they attend. I am not one such, I don’t acknowledge “celebrity” in itself as anything important. The term is quite nebulous. Instead of going on an endless rant debating what the term means, who should and shouldn’t be worthy of it, and so on, I’d rather just tell two short stories that happen to involve a handful of well known people.

Biggie Grand and the Biz

If you’ll allow me to get personal for a minute, I’m not big on hip-hop or rap. It’s an argument I’ve been having since middle school, when these things mattered. Come to think of it, they mattered a great deal. Back then, music seemed to define who you were. The “rock” kids and the “rap” kids shared a healthy divide, and when new kids showed up, they were warmly assimilated into one of these inner circles. Naturally, I was the odd one out, not having listened to hardly anything contemporary outside of the car radio, possibly by accident.

7th grade was when I realized I hadn’t actively pursued my own taste in music. And since I didn’t have that, I had no need for music TV, so I was again missing large quantities of the raw materials used to fashion a social life. Awkwardly, I got my mom to take me to circuit city to buy my first CD, Aerosmith’s Get a grip album. Taking that and my new CD player to school had indeed convinced some kids to speak to me (not about me), which led to my second CD purchase, Offspring’s Smash. Superunknown, Far Beyond Driven, and Dookie got me through to High School, where a kid played an Op Ivy track for me and taught me the word “Ska.”

Ska and Reggae, Punk, then Techno, then house, I became a sponge to it all. These were the musical education years, where I would skateboard to the mall and rummage through the music stores, listening to everything, old and new. It turned out I did like some hip-hop, but mostly the old school stuff. the farther back, the better (especially while skateboarding). So when Rich called me up to see Grandmaster Flash and Biz Markie a few weeks ago, I leaped at the chance.

A new Guitar Center opened up in Garden City, and they went all out, taking half of the shopping center parking lot for their own. A tent housing a stage was set up, flanked by rows of booths. Lines wrapped around the building to see the the inside of the store while people flooded the scene. I couldn’t care less. Rich, Tony and I had no interest to see the inside of the store, nor go through the booths for the free swag. there was no beer, there was no one really over 20 anyway, and we were purpose driven. Faithfully, we camped out by the stage and listened to Sway (swaze? swazye? the guy from MTV) warm up the crowd…and by warm up, I mean speak in a slow, monotone voice and pose trivia questions for free merch. Mercifully, a man in a blue shirt and white Kangol hat took the stage and interrupted him, it was Biggie Grand himself, Grand Master Flash.

I’ve spoken before about heroes of their fields before, and here is another example. Flash was up there, fiddling with a laptop that fed music and controls through a top of the line turntable and sound system, switching and scratching some of the best tracks of all time. I couldn’t help but picture this man flipping vinyls back and forth using some 70’s record set-up at parties, forming the furious 5 and making unbelievable hip-hop before it had a name. Before it was a multi-billion dollar industry, listened to my millions of people across the entire planet. And he was there, at that moment, in that particular Long Island supermarket parking lot, taking us on a 30 year journey. It was a privilege.

We were hotly anticipating the Biz Markie awesomeness after being charged by GrandMaster Flash’s set. Swazyzye was replaced by another guy, who rode the audience’s energy, giving away more merch, having more trivia and verse contests as the show runners set up for Biz. After a good long time, we were getting pretty tired of hearing “who wants this?” while being teased with electronics, just to provoke a cheer from the crowd. Biz Markie finally takes the stage away from this guy, and procedes to play tracks from his playlist, doing very little spinning, as he’s unsatisfied with the setup they had. There was apparently some technical issue that wasn’t getting resolved and Biz was exchanging words with the head guitar center guy for a while, until he just sang the hook from “he’s just a friend” and left. all that waiting for very little in return. We caught up with him afterwards, where Rich consoled the big guy, telling him not to sweat it, but…well, he’s a hard man to read.


The Spaced Race

You never get to hear the “asshole’s” side of things, so here goes.

We were late. My intricate plan to see Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Jessica Hynes( née Stevenson) Screen episodes of SPACED was collapsing rapidly. They were promoting the release of the series on DVD for the first time in the U.S. of A, screening and doing a Q&A at the Village East Cinemas and I very much wanted to be there. I love SPACED. For the uninitiated, SPACED was the series that was the launching pad for the creative team of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. (all these links go to clips, btw. dive in.)

I love SPACED. I said it again, I know. The show was a great discovery for me because I enjoyed the characters, the stories, concept and how creatively it was crafted. Watching it, you feel like this was a true labor of love that proved you didn’t need to have an astronomical budget to make something great. I could go on, but I won’t. See for yourself, the DVD’s are available, conveniently.

Melissa and I were at the office because, well , it was Monday, that’s where we’d be. The screening being a free event, we couldn’t get tickets ahead of time, which elevated my anxiety since ticket-in-hand means a guarantee of ass-in-seat. VIctor was sent ahead of time to snag a place in line while we skipped out of work as early as possible, catch the LIRR to Penn Station and there either catch a subway to the village or, if we felt the crunch, taxi.

Murphy’s law was in full effect here, as my workload piled up with last minute changes, as did Melissa’s. Victor, whom we had sent ahead to camp out in line, was having difficulty getting a ride to the train station. He does eventually get on his way, and just a bit past 4:30, I grab Mel and we race to her house to drop off the car and get a our own ride to the station. We then sprint up to the platform because we are, of course, late, and there are a million people also trying to get their last minute tickets. We split up and go to separate ticket machines and then meet in the middle. and then nothing. The train had been delayed.

Disaster. I’m fully aware that Westbury train station is outside of Switzerland, and thus I should give them some leeway for tardiness, but this train was 10 or so minutes behind. Finally boarding, I tried to take that train nap, to no avail, my nerves were riled up from the mad dash to the late train. It was the beginning of a major loss of temper, I felt it. Blood was not yet boiling, but at a steady simmer. The train again takes its sweet time to platform, as if it couldn’t make up its mind. We need to make a mad dash at this point, but there is a multitude of people trying to exit as well, like coaxing molasses to flow uphill.

V calls. “the good news is I met Simon Pegg, the bad news is we might not get in, the line is massive and they might cut it off.” Crap. No time for subway then, we desperately need a taxi. Literally running out of Penn, we grab one and spit our destination at the driver. V calls again to say that the line is moving. “where are you guys?”. I don’t know what to tell him. It’s 6:40 in midtown Manhattan, traffic is practically standing still. and the event starts at 7. We crawl cross-town, watching the minutes pass. V calls again, and every call is a punch in the gut. Melissa doesn’t think we’ll make it, and I, distraught, begin to feel the same.

Our cabby then asks if he can try another way, to which we agree to, sullenly. He proceeds to take us UPtown, away from the village. Great, now we’re going slowly in the wrong direction. Then, he makes a rapid right and then another and we are suddenly flying down second ave. I sit up watching street signs blow by, 34th, 33rd,32nd… A crazy blurry countdown. it’s 6:55 and I think that we may just make it. And we do. Mel bolts out the cab to find V as I pay the cabby and resist the urge to kiss this wonderful, wonderful man. V sees us, amazed by our last minute arrival, and we tell him the story, as now we’re in line, hoping desperately to get in. the line inches to the door and they are letting people in by the handful, controlling the flow of audience members as the theater must be pretty full. We approach the door, as a man is counting all who enter. “..18, 19, 20”. and then clips the velvet rope after Victor, before Melissa and I.

“We’re all together,” we say, as the doorman gives an unsympathetic sorry. Victor is ushered in as some event officials mull over closing the doors. The venue looks full and we, after coming all this way, are to be the cut-off. Blood temp? boiling. Melissa looks at me concerned as she probably saw my mind click over to “rage”. I’m contemplating grabbing the rope guy by the throat at this point, when someone inside walks to the line and says they have a little bit more room, and the rope is lifted. We’re in. I have Melissa’s hand as we walk to the theater, I, still navigating through a red haze of anger. I’m at my tipping point and I’m trying very, very hard to control it.

We enter a large theater and we see V seated in the middle section, but we are ushered to the lower area to fill in seats. when we get there, the two that we were going for are occupied. we turn around, going back to two other seats we saw. Those are full as well. At the floor level, we find separate seats and I tell Melissa to grab one, while I go for the second, which she does, unhappy that we’ve been separated. the single seat I wanted was quickly occupied. This was getting ridiculous and I’m fuming. I storm back up to the middle level and grab a seat, while Melissa leaves and goes hunting for a seat on my behalf, which panics me because I’m afraid she’ll lose her seat. I call out to her (calmly as possible) to sit down and express my concern, and she returns.

I take a deep breath as I’m literally twitching at this point, when a girl in a (possibly, I can’t remember) purple dress asks me what the hell I thought I was doing. “that seat is taken” she says, heatedly. Now, I usually don’t act like how I’m about to describe, but the events that have transpired have left me in a state that would normally elicit a tantrum and destructive violence. I’m trying not to be a complete jerk here when I say “I’m sorry, but I left work early, caught a late train, sat in traffic to get here, almost not let in, and then separated from my girlfriend and my brother when we were because people grabbed seats from under me that I said were taken, so y’know what? I’m sitting here.” The girl, offended, began stammering, so shocked at my blatant douchebaggery, she didn’t know what to say other than the odd swear. I sat defiantly in that seat, pleading to the fates that she angrily summon her boyfriend so I can lash out like an animal and attack a person who would be so clearly well within the right ( I also wanted him to be twice my size, with a group of friends. I wanted war, right there, in the theater). I was aware of everything that moment, I knew I was being selfish and mean, but I was so goddamn angry, I just didn’t care. So girl in the purple dress, if by some coincidence you are reading this, I am very very sorry. I was not myself and my behavior was uncharacteristically malicious and vile. You had every right to be angry, and under normal circumstances I would have moved. None of this excuses my actions, but I do hope they explain them slightly. As it happens, you were in the path of a runaway train.

Fed up, the girl calls me an asshole and leaves, freeing up two more seats. Me, the asshole, is delighted by this and I leap to my feet shouting to Melissa and V to join me. Melissa has watched all of this transpire from the lower deck and approaches me with caution. The event is beginning and Melissa gently touches my arm, which I recoil to her shock. I’m electric. I’m so angry and so riled up, I am producing energy. At this moment, we realize that seated directly ahead of us is Paul Rudd, actor from Clueless and 40 year old virgin, among others. Melissa is upset at my reaction to her touch, to which I explain to her how I’m feeling. This is how brilliant Mel is at diffusing me, she says ” You know what you should totally do then? go punch Paul Rudd in the fucking face.” This cracks me up. It was such a random thing to say and an equally random scenario that would have transpired. We craft a scene where I go ” hey Rudd!” who stands up and I send him flying with a left cross for no apparent reason. I couldn’t help thinking how funny it would have been to start this blog with ” I punched Paul Rudd in the face.”

I of course, do not punch him or anyone else that evening. Simon, Jessica, and Edgar emerge to our cheers and introduce the three episodes that were selected by fans to be aired. We sit back and watch SPACED for the first time on a massive screen, galactic in comparison to the Windows Media Player we’ve been watching it on. These are episodes we know back to front, and they’re still hilarious. Enhancing the experience is watching the show with thousands of people all sharing the laughs together, hooting at our favorite scenes. The episodes end and the crew emerge for a Q&A that kind of falls flat. As good as their A’s were, the Q’s were a little “eh”, which led to mildly uninteresting responses. Simon would often go into tangents about his geeky nature, while Edgar spoke of his meeting famous people. Edgar Wright gets star struck. I hope this doesn’t give off the sense that it wasn’t enjoyable, it very much was.

Afterwards, throngs of people had also discovered Paul Rudd and surrounded him outside, beneath the Marquee for pictures and autographs and such. We watched in amusement from across the street. It’s there that I reflect on everything that happened. The mad rush, the anxiety, the embarrassment in the theater. We had ultimately succeeded in what we set out to do.

Happily, we left to find some food, and I spent the rest of the night walking through the city with my two favorite people in the world. As cheezy as it sounds, a perfect end to an amazing day.


1 Response to “Hip-hopped, Flashed, Pegged, Spaced and, um..Rudded”

  1. August 25, 2008 at 11:13 AM

    I have to admit, I found myself inching closer to the screen as I read about our journey to the city to see SPACED…hehe, like I don’t already know what happens!! “Ticket-in-hand means a guarantee of ass-in-seat.” Well put.

    I’m glad you had an awesome time and that I was there to enjoy it with you =)

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August 2008
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