Zac Crain’s Almost Famous Moment
It was everything he always wanted—except the band was the Jonas Brothers.
In my previous life, I was the music editor at the Dallas Observer, writing about music and musicians for a living. So after Almost Famous came out in 2000, it seemed everyone I met thought he understood my job. Like young William Miller, between carousing at the Riot House with Stillwater and bearing witness to a steady parade of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll debauchery, I also wrote sometimes.
“So … that’s what your job is like, huh?” people would ask rhetorically, implying they did not consider what I did work, if what I actually did was hang out backstage with rock stars and their groupie girlfriends. If only. I had been backstage exactly once, at a meet-and-greet with the Go-Go’s. I don’t remember why I was there or why guitarist Jane Wiedlin pinched me. At any rate, it wasn’t exactly touring with the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin in the 1970s golden age of excess, as Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe had.
When I moved on to writing about topics other than just music, I imagined my Almost Famous moment would never happen. But then it did. Sort of.
An editor I know at RollingStone.com asked if I had time for an assignment. It would be a quick turnaround. A band was rehearsing for an upcoming world tour at the American Airlines Center. Did I want to write a behind-the-scenes report for the site?
It was exactly what I’d always wanted, except for one crucial detail: the band was the Jonas Brothers.
If I were a teenage girl, a gay man, or a youth minister, this news would have been thrilling. But as someone looking for a snapshot of rock decadence, I was, at best, ambivalent. I held out hope that I would find a darker side of the JoBros juggernaut, maybe catch one of them sneaking cigarettes or cursing or something. I told myself to keep my head on a swivel, be prepared for anything.
When I arrived at the AAC, I found a tiny glimmer of hope. Above the entrance to the loading dock—essentially the back door to the arena—I noticed two girls. I flashed to an early scene from Almost Famous, when William meets Penny Lane and the other Band-Aids for the first time. Yes! This was happening. Then the girls yelled a question to me: “Do you know when they’re coming out to play Wiffleball?”
A handler arrived to lead a photographer and me backstage. I spent the short walk down the loading dock’s ramp mentally regrouping. Our escort mentioned to the photographer that he needed to approve all pictures taken during our visit. Hmm, I thought, giving myself a mental fist bump. That sounded promising. What was he worried about?
I’m still wondering. Maybe he didn’t want the readers of RollingStone.com to know that Joe Jonas rides a Segway backstage. But it’s true! I saw him! He piloted the two-wheeler in lazy circles around the dock area while a cameraman taped him, for what I assume is the tamest episode of Jackass extant. To further the scandal, he even politely waved and said hello to me even though we had never met!
Or, maybe he didn’t want anyone uncovering what appeared to be an off-the-books, extremely underground Ping-Pong tournament between various Jonases and their crew members. Based on what I saw on an ad hoc scoreboard near the table, they might have even been betting on it! I’m not sure what was at stake, but it was definitely probably either money or firm, all-American handshakes. At any rate, Nick Jonas didn’t appear to appreciate my snooping.
I would have investigated further, because I’m a journalist and a 16-year-old pop star doesn’t scare me (much). But then I saw something I couldn’t ignore, a scene straight out of Hammer of the Gods, Stephen Davis’ legendary Led Zep biography. There was Joe Jonas on a trampoline, happily trying to double-bounce the band’s stylist. Someone totally could have gotten hurt—I mean, if there hadn’t been a big, soft tumbling mat right next to the trampoline to cushion the fall.
Now that I think about it, what the handler probably didn’t want captured for posterity was this: Kevin Jonas, stifling a giggle, announced it was time to warm up. The rest of the band walked away with knowing looks. The JoBros then proceeded to fart the entirety of their hit single “Burnin’ Up”—in perfect three-part harmony, no less. Then they left and locked me in the dressing room. It smelled like bubble gum and expensive steak.
Okay, I made that up. But on my way out, I did see two cigarette butts on the ground. They may have been there for a while. And they probably belonged to the Teamsters, anyway. I guess the lesson is this: if you want to compare my life to a movie, I think a better choice is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
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