DISCLAIMER: Let me just handle this now before we start this story. Yes, the below is a true story. Yes, it happened. No, I am not going to tell you the name of the band, unless you know me and I am comfortable enough to drink with you. And last, yes, I have stranger stories. Ok, with that out of the way….
In my early twenties I worked as a production assistant for live shows. The days were long but they always ended with live music or comedy. For me that made all the menial tasks worth it. Normally I ran around in a fifteen passenger van doing errands for the promoter, the band or a combination. I was good at what I did. I was also liked. I could read a room. No when to talk and when to keep quiet. It was a few years in when I received a call from a promoter asking me not to run errands but instead to be a conduit between the band and the promoter. I was to run the other runners or PAs.
I would be in a room with the promoter, take phone calls from the tour manager and get the band things after getting approval. There had apparently been friction between the promoter and the band but they were stuck with each other for the next 18 months. This happens a lot. This was however the first time I had been asked to straddle the line between the two.
I would wait for the phone to ring and receive the band’s request. Most of the time I would get asked for something simple like five reams of paper. I would ask the promoter sitting behind me if it was approved and then send a “runner” out to get it. When the runner returned, I would bring the item to the band or tour manager.
For the most part I was asked for things that were necessary and easy. And by the second hour the promoter told me to use my discretion and just come to him if there was something I wasn’t comfortable approving.
The tour assistant was a lovely, soft spoken woman. She would call and say, “Hi Mara, this is Flo, we need….” And I would say it out loud in my little room and everyone would hear me. I would write the item down on the pad next to me as well as where I thought my “runner” should go to get it. I would tell Flo how long it would be or she would tell me when she needed the item. All worked well for about three hours and then THE call came.
“Hi Mara, this is Flo, we have a birthday for one of the back-up dancers today and we are going to need a few things.”
This is common when bands are on the road. They become a family and they find things to do as a family such as celebrating birthdays, playing softball, visiting the zoo, having a family dinner. You get the picture.
“We would like everything by 2:30. Can we get a phallic cake, preferably black with white candles? Although candle color is not super important. As well as plates and napkins,” said Flo.
“One black phallic cake with white candles, no problem,” I reply.
Then write it down on my pad as well as the place I have purchased them in the past. You read that correctly. Where I have purchased them in the past. It really was not that unusual to be asked for phallic or breast cake. I knew the bakery that would have them in stock. Don’t be judgmental, you don’t have any privacy on a tour. You need a sense of humor. Most of the time a juvenile one.
“Great, thanks Mara. We also have a tradition for the dancers that we change up a little for each one. Today we are going to need 4 midget strippers, preferably female. Again if they could be here by 2:30.
“Four female strippers, wait did you say MIDGETS?”
The room behind me, filled with men talking, instantly goes silent. Everyone is staring at me. Nothing will stop a conversation quicker than strippers or midgets. It was like a bomb went off. If I wasn’t slightly anxious, I would have burst out laughing. As it was the only thing going through my mind was where was I going to find strippers that were midgets? And was that the politically correct term? Could you even ask for them?
“Yes, midgets, preferably female as it is a male dancer and by 2:30, please. Do you need anything else from me?” Flo asks.
Hmmm, now I get some strange requests. Have even been asked for strippers and ladies of the evening but this is a first. Midget Strippers. I am not even sure where to start, let alone in under 3 hours. Still, it is the job.
“Nope, we are good. Let me see what I can do,” I respond.
The first call I make is to the nicest strip club in town. The one that not only do you know that your boyfriends have been to but that you may have actually gone with them or with a group of your girlfriends.
“Hi, is the manager in? I am working a concert over at the arena and we are looking for some entertainment.” I was still shaky on the whole midget strippers term and I didn’t want to offend anyone. This was my first call. By the time I was on my third I was more direct.
“Hi, I am looking to hire four midget strippers and I need them in 2 hours, do you have any?”
All that was going through my head at this point was that I have a college degree. Not one of my classes had prepared me for this job. Were there classes that would?
After my seventh call, I was feeling desperate. What if Minnesota didn’t have midget strippers? What would be the alternative to offer? I am a deep believer that even if you can’t get exactly what someone needs you can come close. I am not sure what to offer as an alternative or what would be considered coming close! But on the tenth call I finally received a promising lead.
“You have to call Squiggy, he handles all the specialty dancers.”
See, I knew there was a better term.
So I call Squiggy, and I tell him what I need and that I now need it in an hour. He tells me it is not a problem; he only has one question. Wait for it.
“Do you want them with or without animals?” he asks.
My mind just blanked. Animals? Is this a legit question? Do I call Flo? Ask the promoter? Can we bring animals into the arena? I’ve seen dogs. I guess we could.
I make an executive decision, no animals. Whenever I tell this story to friends or family everyone asks the one question I did not. WHAT TYPE OF ANIMALS?
At 2:30, four very pretty, very short ladies show up with two very big bodyguards. I walk them down to the dressing room where we have decorated, set out the phallic cake (yes, we got a black one) and depart. I don’t want to stay. I don’t need to have my education enhanced. I am almost back to my little room when over the radio sounds.
“Mara, this is Flo, our guests need something to play their music on.”
I almost fell over. The tour I was working on had 55 tour trucks, normal tours have 5! It had a truck that just carried Segways. No one had a portable speaker? And the ladies could come with animals but no way to play their music?
Luckily, I had one in my office. Always good to be prepared.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is not the strangest job story I have to tell you. On the other hand, this story is a perfect example of two great lessons learned. One, no matter the task, there is always a solution. And two, be prepared to make a lot of calls.
Oh, and if you need a specialty dancer in Minnesota call Squiggy!