THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY MEMOIR “RAISED ON THE RADIO” WHICH I LOOK TO RELEASE IN 2018.
This picks up where my last post left off as I spent the summer of 1984 working day maintenance at Poplar Creek Music Theater in Hoffman Estates.
Some Poplar Creek acts were a big enough deal to do two nights in a row there. For that summer those stars were John Denver, James Taylor, Willie Nelson and Rod Stewart. However, only one artist merited three straight nights and that was the darling of the Nederlander organization, Neil Diamond. I use the term “darling” because all the stops were pulled out when Neil came to town in late August. Plush new chairs and sofas were delivered to the dressing rooms. There was special wiring done backstage for better TV reception and we had to roll in a fire hose on a giant wooden spool to hook to a fire hydrant backstage to accommodate the lasers Neil used during his show. It was like the Pope was coming. Maybe some of this upgrade was due to Diamond’s concert contract rider demands, but being a fan of his, I was fine with the extra work. It was fun to be part of the big arrival for the “Jewish Elvis.” Would they call us Neil fans “Diamond Heads?”
(The Jewish Elvis, Neil Diamond)
Neil Diamond had the tightest security I saw at Poplar Creek. All summer, we maintenance workers could work and wander all over the seating area during artist’s sound checks, but not for Neil. Nobody was allowed to be within sight of the stage from any location. They had security on the north and south ramps to keep everyone from catching a glimpse of Mr. “Holly Holy” during his show prep. Even backstage, outside of Diamond’s dressing room two black curtains perpendicular to his door and the stage door were hung. The curtains were there so nobody would see Neil Diamond leave his private dressing room and push through to the stage door.
I asked one of his people why things were so buttoned down. The reply I got came down to there were some Diamond fans who had their minds bent to thinking he was singing only to them and they had a special “relationship in their minds” with him. Things could get a bit scary when they got too physically close to Neil. It also sounded like there had been some recent close stalker situations on this issue.
On the morning of the second Diamond show I led a crew to clean the dressing rooms. When we got to Neil’s lair, his stage clothes were hung on the racks and we snickered at his sequined shirts and vests. The glittery stuff seemed dated even for 1984, but he wore those shirts for years to come. I also spotted black hair dye stains all over the sofa throw pillows in the star’s dressing room. Neil must’ve had a pre-show touch-up and leaned back on the pillows while still not quite dry from the hair coloring. What price vanity, right?
Due to lack of night staff I was on the clean-up crew during the last of Neil Diamond’s shows. Midway through the concert I was summoned to bring a can of vomit comet to a section in the pavilion. Vomit comet was a powdery substance sprinkled down to deodorize the stench after someone else cleaned up a puddle of puke. In this case, the problem was the puddle was all over a woman who was passed out drunk in her seat after getting sick on herself. There was nothing to really clean off the seats or floor so I sprinkled the vomit comet powder all over the lap and blouse of the passed out woman. This countered the stench and everyone sitting near her could enjoy the show without gagging from the regurgitated wine and nachos. Just another of the guest services provided to you by the friendly and helpful staff at Poplar Creek Music Theatre.
(Nilosorb, or as we called it, “Vomit Comet”)
Neil Diamond wrapped up his last show and having to work early the next day, I slept on a stretcher in the maintenance office which was a double wide mobile home. The next morning I went to the dressing rooms to take a shower. Plenty of clean towels were around and I ended up using Mr. Diamond’s shower where there was liquid soap and his bottle of shampoo was left behind. So in a roundabout way you can say I shared a shower with Neil Diamond. Too bad I never got to relive this “Brush with greatness” with David Letterman. In modern days, I could’ve saved Neil’s shampoo bottle and sold it on E-Bay.