This is a story about decades-long dreams coming true, and how meeting your heroes can sometimes lead to disappointment. Not that this is a sad story, it’s totally not. It’s a happy story. I’m blessed beyond belief, but I also have an uncanny ability to ruin nearly any amazing opportunity that comes my way. Here’s an example of such an opportunity.
Since I made the decision to attend Camp Mighty back in 2011, I’ve been crossing things off my Life List left and right. I’ve done a lot of awesome things that I never thought I’d actually get around to doing, such as seeing a Beatle in concert, go to Europe, and dye my hair pink. But one of the biggest, the Holy Grail of my Life List, has always been to hug Tori Amos. I would have been just happy to meet her and have a chat, but specifically on my list was a hug. And it happened last week. In the most awkward way imaginable, because, HELLO, I’m still me. Always awkward. So awkward. But it still happened. Sometimes, you get what you ask for in the most painful way possible.
But before I get into all that, some back story.
I don’t really talk about it much here, but Tori Amos and her music is pretty much my everything. I discovered her when I was 12, with seeing the video for Crucify on VH1 (!!!) while was waiting for my school carpool to pick me up in the morning. Could have happened yesterday, I remember it so well. My first thought was “This is …. different.” I can’t say I liked it straight away. But I was compelled. I thought about the video and the song all day. I thought about her eyes and how it felt like she was looking right into my soul. There was something about her.
From then on, I watched VH1 every morning to try to see it again. They actually seemed to play it quite often, at that same time in the morning. The next video I remember was Silent All These Years, and that’s when I was hooked.
Without getting too deep here, I was a troubled kid. I was struggling with my sexual identity on top of just the weird puberty stuff every 12 year old goes through, also I was a total outcast at school and was just depressed in general. I went to a Catholic school and was really questioning my faith and my relationship with God. I knew the things I was feeling were condemned by my religion and I felt alone and scared. Basically I felt like my life had no meaning. When I heard Tori’s music …
“Where are those angels when you need them? Why do we crucify ourselves, every day I crucify myself, nothing I do is good enough for you.”
“Got enough guilt to start my own religion”
“Years go by and I’m here still waiting, for somebody else to understand”
“Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years.”
… I knew. This music was written for me. I saw a light, and for the first time in a while I felt like someone understood me. I felt like there was hope for me.
For my 13th birthday in 1992, I received a CD player and my first CD – Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. The CD player has been replaced many times over but I still have that CD. I treat it like gold. It saved me.
So needless-to-say, I became a super fan. Bought every CD the day it was released, bought posters, songbooks, magazines where she was featured. I plastered pictures of her face all over my bedroom walls. I was that girl. Every high school in the 1990s had one.
I first saw her in concert the summer of 1996. Then had a dry spell and next saw her in 2003. Then twice in 2005 and once in 2009. So that brings us to last week, July 2014.
I had tickets to see her at the Los Angeles Greek theater (my third time seeing her there!) and since I am now
unemployed self employed I was able to go to her Meet and Greet. Tori generally meets with her fans after soundcheck, anywhere between 2pm and 4pm, if she can. It’s not every show and sometimes it’s a gamble – maybe she will show, maybe not. Based on Internet rumblings, it seemed chances for an L.A. Meet and Greet were good. So I made plans to get to The Greek theater at 11am and camp out. I got there and there was a crowd of about 10 people. I made friends and plopped down on the ground for the wait. The line grew and everyone was generally friendly. At one point a Greek Theater staff member asked us to move our line. When we did, some people jumped in front of us. Annoying, but no problem, I was still about 20th in line, and by then the line had grown to over 100 people.
Around 2:00 or 2:30, her tour bus arrived and she jumped out and gave us a quick wave. After that her tour manager came out to address us and say that Tori didn’t have much time and she probably wasn’t going to get through everyone in line. We also could either ask for an autograph or a picture, but there wasn’t time for both. Then we waited and waited some more, and around 4:00pm, Tori came out!
I watched her interacting with the people in front of me and getting more and more nervous. I practiced what I wanted to tell her in my head. Thank her for giving me hope, request she cover “Let It Go” (she was part of the inspiration behind the song, you know) and her song Purple People, give her the gift I made for her & her daughter – flower hair clips inspired by her song 16 Shades of Blue, get my picture and a hug, walk away and cry forever.
When I was next in line to go, the tour manager announced that she was going to start rushing people. This threw me off completely. I panicked and got really nervous. I saw the person in front of me get their picture and a hug. My mind went blank and I walked forward. I saw Tori put her arm out and I went in for a hug. As I was hugging her she said “What’s your name?” and I managed to remember and tell her. Then when I was standing in front of her I shakily explained that I’ve been waiting over 20 years to meet her, that I was struggling and when I first saw the video for Crucify she gave me hope, and I was grateful because now I was really happy. She said, “Oh, you’re really happy? YAY! You’re really happy!” and threw her arms up. I giggled, but felt a little like she was mocking me, maybe.
That was when I sensed that something may be wrong. And that made me more nervous. But I stammered “I just mean that my life is really good now and without your music and your gift, I don’t know what would have happened.” And she just kind of nodded and stared at me.
So then I panicked EVEN MORE (IF POSSIBLE!!!!) and started rambling again. “I’m wondering if you would ever consider covering “Let it Go” from Frozen? The song means a lot to me and I know you were part of the inspiration for it.” She wrote it down on her notepad and said “I’ll look into it.” And then I said “And from your catalog I’d love to hear Purple People,” and she said “okay.” She didn’t write it down, and this was my second clue that everything was going terribly wrong. She then said, “Is that for me?” regarding the card with flower clips I was holding. I said “Yes, I make these flower hair clips and I made these special for you and Tash …” and I TOTALLY mispronounced her daughter’s name even though I was practicing it over and over again while in line BECAUSE I’M A TOTAL IDIOT and at that point I decided to just stop talking and I didn’t even tell her the clips were inspired by her song. Ugh ugh ugh. But I’m still kind of in this weird out-of-body euphoria state so I smile for my picture, say “thank you” to Tori and the tour manager, gather up my things, and walk away.
Writing down “Let It Go.” She doesn’t seem thrilled with my suggestion.
Afterwards I was standing with the new friends I had made in line, sharing pictures from our cameras with each other and generally coming down from our Tori high when I realized … I wasn’t high. I felt … kind of like, nothing. Wait a second, did I just meet my idol? This person who meant so much to me? It really didn’t feel like it. I realized I seemed to have a different experience than everyone else did. People were saying, “Oh it was so cute when Tori cheered for you!” and I replied, “Uhhhh I kind of think she was making fun of me, you guys.” Everyone assured me that so wasn’t the case and I tried not to think about it too hard because, duh, I just met Tori and gotten that hug (!!!!) and took a picture with her and I still had awesome seats about eight rows back for her show that night, the closest I had ever been to the front! BEST DAY EVER!!
But I’ll get back to the concert later. I want to address the Meet & Greet while we are on topic. In the days that followed I couldn’t shake what exactly went wrong at our meet. Other people seemed to have a meaningful connection, and their photos have them leaned in real close, and the comparison monster was attacking. Why didn’t that happen with me? I actually turned to a Tori Amos Fan group on Facebook and shared my story of happiness but disappointment at the same time. I received a lot of feedback, some helpful, some not … but things like, maybe your expectations were too high (I don’t think so), maybe you were treating her like a “goddess” instead of a real human (errr … perhaps a little but not really), maybe she just had a really intense conversation with the person before you and she was distracted, or maybe (my personal favorite) she sensed I didn’t need a message from her right now. But mostly I was reassured that many people had these disconnected and painfully awkward meetings with her, and that I shouldn’t take it too personally.
In my online conversations, someone directed me to a section of a Tori fan site, Undented, titled “Tori Turned Me Stupid” where fans submit their embarrassing encounters. First of all, this site made me feel SO much better about everything. But it also gave me some answers. I realized after reading a couple entries that it was the hug. THE HUG. THE ACTUAL THING FROM MY LIFE LIST RUINED EVERYTHING. I learned that basically Tori finds it a little scary when strangers hug her without talking to them first. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I realize now when she was reaching out her hand, she was simply just waving me over, not inviting me in for a squeeze. And those people who were hugging her straight away, she must have met them before and remembered them from past meets. I could seriously die. It devastates me that I met this wonderful person who has meant so much to me over half my life and I basically brought her negative energy. When I realized this, I felt equal parts relieved and equal parts terror. Now my main focus is to meet her again and redeem myself. (NEW LIFE LIST ITEM.) I just hope I don’t have to wait another 20 years.
Sigh. “That’s so Mindy.”
Moving along … back to Greek concert day. I had the best seats I’ve ever had! Fourth row behind the pit. I could see everything so clearly. And, Tori’s daughter sat in the row in front of us! She graciously posed for a selfie with me and my friend Amy (I didn’t say her name because I was terrified I’d screw it up again). She’s a total sweetheart, mature beyond her 13 years and very gracious with compliments (I told her she has the voice of an angel and I’m waiting for her solo album).
The concert itself was great. She played Crucify AND Purple People (I found out later one of the people in front of me in line requested it too, so that’s why she didn’t write it down) and it was a great set list in general.
For those of you familiar with her catalog, here’s the set list:
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Los Angeles, California – Greek Theatre
Bouncing off Clouds
Tubular Bells / God / Running Up That Hill
A Sorta Fairytale
Fire on the Side
Hyperballad (Bjork) / Cloud on My Tongue Mashup
You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (Dead or Alive)
Someone Saved My Life Tonight (Elton John)
In Your Room (Depeche Mode)
So, one of the best shows I’ve seen live, for sure! I think may be this is her best tour to date; all the set lists have been solid.
After the concert I drove home but couldn’t sleep well. I was replaying our meeting over and over in my mind and also excited about seeing her again in San Diego FROM THE FRONT ROW the next day!
When I woke up, I packed an overnight bag and made my way down to San Diego around 2pm. I met up with my friend Amy who I had met the day before, and we went and had lunch. We knew there was not going to be a Meet and Greet today but we found out that while we were at lunch next door, she arrived in her tour bus and waved to the small group of fans outside. I was happy to hear she didn’t stop to sign autographs because I would have been super bummed to miss out on that.
Amy and I walked around and killed time while waiting for our 6pm dinner reservations. At one point we sat by the resort pool and were having drinks when sound check started! We could hear it clear as day. She played around eight songs either in their entirety or partial versions. We couldn’t see her, but it was like a private concert just for us (and the rest of the people by the pool, most of whom simply did not realize what a REALLY BIG DEAL this was)! Dinner at the resort restaurant was part of our ticket package. We also were meeting with our new friend Katie. Katie is the reason I was able to get a front row ticket! She posted in a fan forum that she purchased a pair off Stubhub and looking to sell her other one. Even though she paid a lot more, she was willing to sell it to me for face value! WOOHOO!
We had a great dinner at Humphrey’s and then walked next door to the venue. The venue is VERY tiny, only 1500 seats! Since the venue is flat, the stage is very high, and we basically were looking up at Tori the whole time. Due to the angle from my seat, Tori’s face was partially blocked whenever she played her Bose piano but I could still see her eyes and her legs. And if you’re familiar with Tori, you know she plays the piano with, um, her entire body. When she turned to play the keyboard/organ, or while she was playing both, I had a perfect view! I can’t believe I was so close, it was an incredible experience. Before the show, the tour manager came out and instructed the front row not to take pictures or take out our cell phones – I guess Tori doesn’t like it. So of course I respected that. But when everyone rushed the stage for the encore, I was nearly front row center and all bets were off! I took a lot of blurry photos but a couple turned out okay.
It was another good show with lots of surprises. Muhammad My Friend had not been played live since 2010, Wild Way is one of my favorites from her newest album and I ugly cried all the way through it, and Living on a Prayer/Like a Prayer was a really fun mash up.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
San Diego, California – Humphrey’s
Bells for Her
Tear in Your Hand
Livin’ on a Prayer (Bon Jovi) / Like a Prayer (Madonna)
Say Something (A Great Big World)
Forest of Glass
Another Girl’s Paradise
Muhammad My Friend
16 Shades of Blue
After the show I said my tearful goodbyes to some of the new friends I had made the last two days and drove home. I was wide awake until 4am. I couldn’t believe I saw Tori FRONT ROW!!!!
I spent the next few days obsessing about our meet but I’m feeling better now. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I unwittingly mucked it up and it will probably haunt me forever. But still, I crossed two things off my Life List, so … yay?
Please tell me, have you ever made a complete idiot of yourself during a celebrity encounter? Your story would make me feel oh-so better about myself.
And, not that she will ever see this, but, to Tori … I’m sorry I grabbed at you before introducing myself and I think you’re amazing and thank you for sharing your beautiful gift with us. If I ever crawl out from this rock under which I am hiding, I hope to “meet” you again someday. xo
PS – Thank you to my new “meet and greet” friends and also to Tori Songs on Facebook for snapping the pictures of me and sharing them. I’m forever grateful. <3