5 Depraved Things You See Working Backstage At Concerts
We've decided that people should get hundreds of millions of dollars for doing a good job at sports, pretending, or music. So being an athlete, actor, or world-famous musician is about the closest a human being can get to godhood. Our source today, Cory, spends his life standing at the sidelines of that glory. He worked backstage at a major concert venue, where he had to deal with the egos (and fans) of some of our biggest stars. Here's what he learned ...
Some Celebrities Get Upset When You Don't Recognize Them
When you see someone like Bruce Springsteen or Iggy Pop onstage, they're unmistakable as anything but the legends they are. But being a rock god is pretty darn exhausting, and any given famous musician spends most of their life looking more or less normal. Even the guys from GWAR probably prefer sweatpants and flannels to ... whatever this is.
Without his makeup, Gene Simmons could be a school teacher, while Elton John looks like an old dude who should probably jog more often. Backstage, this causes problems with the folks who make sure random people off the street don't sneak into the green room. For lower-tier celebrities, Cory and his colleagues were given pictures and packets of names to check new entrants against. "Most accepted it, but some would give us an attitude. I didn't know some members of My Chemical Romance, and one of them said 'Are you serious? Why else would I be dressed like this!?' Which really isn't a good reason, since it was a shirt and jeans, but he thought it was. We only did it purposely once, to Nickelback, but they thought it was funny, so cheers on them."
But the really famous ones expect to be recognized. And if they aren't ... "Elton John is who I remember most. We had a 16-year-old watching the door for a concert, and Elton John came up alone. Now, she was young. She might have known his music, but she later told us she had never seen him before. Elton John walked up to the door and she asked to see his pass. He told her, 'I'm Elton John,' but because she didn't know, she said she couldn't let him in ... Instead of calling his manager or someone more senior, he went ballistic. When I came to the room, I overheard him saying, 'Don't you know who I am?! I'm Elton John! Let me in my room!'"
According to Cody, Sir Elton John was "livid" and "red in the face" by the time he got there. "I ran up and opened the door, apologizing to Elton John as he went in. But he stood halfway through. 'I want her fired. Now. I'm not leaving until she's fired.' I got by with 'I'll see what I can do,' and he stormed away. We brought her back and she started to lose it. She was crying and saying, 'I didn't know!' We didn't fire her, but we made sure she saw pictures of whoever was performing from then on. And I can't listen to Elton John the same way anymore."
Now, normally guys like Elton, who have a net worth higher than most nations, travel around with an entourage. But it seems John had lost his that day, and without them, "he looked like a regular guy. My first thought wasn't 'That's Elton John!' when I saw him. There was a golf tournament in town, and I thought, 'That's John Daly trying to get in.'"
Elton John had the worst reaction Cody's witnessed, but he's not the only famous person to take offense at not being recognized. "Steely Dan were ticked off, because we had to hunt down a photo of them ... Nine Inch Nails showed us their driver's licenses, and we had to check their names against Wikipedia on our booth computer. They were speechless."
Of Course There Are Some Weird Stories About The Stars
The green room is the magical place where bands hang out before getting up on stage. And yeah, Cory has some stories. "I can't say who on this story, just being upfront. Anyway, a girl who was barely 18 was invited to go backstage by a member of a big band. I hear a big party in the back, and I don't mind it. About 20 minutes later, there was shouting, and I heard 'You said you would! YOU SAID YOU WOULD!' More shouting. Then 'KICK HER OUT OF HERE!' One of the band's private security guards then drags this woman to the door and pushes her out. He's in my face as soon as he does that. 'She does not get back in here, you got that?!' I nodded my head."
After that, "She gets up, crying. Me and another employee ask if there's anything we can do. She [asked us to] let her back there, but after we said no, she walks off muttering 'I said no. That's all I said.'" Now, your thoughts probably went to a dark place just now. And they were right to do so ... they just should've picked a much weirder dark place to go. "I found out after the concert that the band wanted her to be a table for a while. Like, a human table, as some sort of game. She told them no."
Getting angry at someone for refusing to impersonate furniture is the kind of dehumanization you don't really see outside of the music biz. But hey, on the upside, at least everyone's least-favorite rock band is apparently super nice. "Nickelback was extremely polite and said thank you for every little thing. That's the worst thing I can say about them as people. They were too polite."
Fans Can Get Extremely Out Of Hand
Cory's job is essentially acting as a gatekeeper to stardom. If you're going to get close to Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, or any Beatle, you've got to make your way past the doorman. Cory spends a lot of time making sure crowds of fans don't get too close to arriving stars. "In a crowd, 70 percent just want to be close enough for a cool picture for Facebook or Instagram. A few others want an autograph or a photo ... You need to watch out for more committed fans. They'll sneak in with a big entourage, or at least try to, because they think they're clever. Some are going to dress in all black to look like a stagehand or a roadie, but they forget we know all of them. We'll notice one we don't recognize."
The craziest stalker Cory encountered was a woman attending a Bon Jovi (obviously) concert. "We knew she was going to be trouble, because she was there at 1 p.m. for an evening show. She kept trying to get in. Whenever someone left, she would walk to the door before we put a hand in front of her. Every. Time. When Jon Bon Jovi did come, she went nuts. She said 'Jon!' and pushed past security and hugged him. For one second. She was ripped off by me and someone else, and she was grabbing ... at him, trying to pull him to her as she went down. Then she started flailing and said, 'I need him to read to me. Let me go!' ... When I looked around, Bon Jovi was gone, but fans were taking pictures of us. Police came and got her, but before that we held her down and asked why she did it. She said 'I wanted him to read to me.'"
It's a lucky thing nobody got stabbed there. The venue, understandably, took more precautions after that: "After Bon Jovi, we had Iron Maiden, and we made sure to clear the fans out of the area before. When they came, the first thing they said was, 'Where is everyone?' and we told them there were no fans there. They looked crushed, and their manager said to let them nearby if they wanted to. I guess it does something for egos." Or, y'know, maybe Iron Maiden just likes their fans. And can take a light stabbing now and then.
Some Odd Things Wind Up On "The List"
If you're important enough to, say, have Jon Bon Jovi read to you, you're going to be on "the list." A big part of Cory's job was being the keeper of that list. "There were some days when we had a printed list of people allowed to go backstage. Fan clubs or those Make-A-Wish kids were common enough, but then we also sometimes had scribbled at the bottom: 'Three girls I met in the parking lot getting off the bus. I forget what they were wearing. They'll tell you who they are!' That happened often enough that we had to go back and ask the band or whoever, 'Can you give us any more description?'"
But sometimes huge bands make requests that are downright heartwarming. "When Rush played here, there was a middle-aged guy waiting at the door, saying, 'You guys are amazing! You saved my life!' One of the band members stopped and said, 'Really?' The guy then said he was going to commit suicide when he was younger, but their music stopped him. [The band member] looked to me and said, 'Let him backstage. And get us some more drinks, OK?' That fan gave a giant smile as he walked past me."
And, this being rock 'n roll, Cory has also fielded his fair share of straight-up insane rock star demands on "the list." One time the guest list included a horse. "Like, a real horse. Why, I don't know. But we allowed it. We were halfway thinking it was a joke. But no. When the band came, there was a horse in tow. It stood on plastic sheeting in a corner until we brought it outside. We were never told why. I still don't know, either."
We pressed Cory for details, and he provided them. But we'll warn you, his explanation left us with more questions than answers. "Yeah, the horse never went into the green room. It went backstage. And it was back there for only about a half an hour until it started getting jumpy. I heard audio feed come over the speakers, some thuds, some 'whoas,' and the next thing I knew, it was being led outside. I really don't know why it was there. It might have been because a band member really liked it. They were country pop, so maybe he wanted it close? I don't know. The rest of the concert, it was on the lawn in a corral some of the band crew set up."
A big part of Cory's job is making sure no one under 18 gets in to see the rock stars. "We need their ID, and if they can't show it, we wouldn't let them in. The times we were asked why, we said it was because there was alcohol back there, and minors can't be around that. I'm not a lawyer, and I'm sure they could have disputed that, but they took it at face value. We didn't want any underage anything going on."
The music industry, ladies and gentlemen!
Venue Employees Pretend To Be Stars To Trick The Fans
"The weirdest thing I need to do is guard random areas. Sometimes a singer wants more privacy, and doesn't want the green room. Usually this means a big trailer, or their bus. We have a storage room they've used on occasion. When this happens, we need to keep up appearances. That means protecting areas ... to divert fans away."
Basically, when fans see a bunch of guys set up and guarding the green room, they'll assume it's because Motley Crue is behind those doors, doing blood magic or eating mice. So they'll hang around as close to that room as they can, while the real Motley Crue sits safely in their trailer. And when more elaborate deception is necessary, Cory and his co-workers get creative. "Either someone from the band crew, one of us, or one of the stagehands will be cloaked by an entourage. I have long hair and a small beard, so I'm usually picked with alt bands, or Kid Rock, or someone similar. We have exactly one black guy working here, so he's our choice for black performers. But that's what we do. Cloak them, and everyone thinks it's them. I've overheard 'Chris Cornell, I love you!' before, which made me happy."
When the band decides to post up somewhere besides the green room, they still need to be guarded. But the guards have to be less obvious about it. "What we did was, we fiddled on our cellphones or looked like we were waiting for something. Sometimes we were given a trashcan and a sweeper to make it look like we were cleaning when we were actually still, in effect, the doormen. I was personally asked a few times by fans what I was doing outside the bus, and I told them 'On break' or 'Cleaning.' Behind me was the singer, maybe a manager, maybe their spouse, and then a few other security guards. But no one knew the better. Then when it came time to come out, they would walk right past the fans into the backstage, and the fans didn't know it until they passed right by them."
Evan V. Symon is an interviewer, writer, and interview finder guy for Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience YOU'D like to see? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
Here's some help if you're still not able to wrap your head around the wild array of music that emerged from the 1980's.
Love Cracked? Want exclusive content? Prefer an ad-free experience? We've got you covered. Sign up for our Subscription Service for all that and more.
Follow our new Pictofacts Facebook page, and we'll follow you everywhere.
Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.