AC/DC brings its Black Ice tour to the American Airlines Center on Monday night. (Tickets presumably still available.) Given that, I thought it was a good time to share my one and only story of backstage debauchery — or, at least, the only one I witnessed firsthand. See you on the other side.
The year was 1995. Or maybe it was 1996. I’m not sure as all the diaries from that period of my life were tagged into evidence a long time ago. Whatever the year, AC/DC was touring behind its new-at-the-time album Ballbreaker. I was not touring behind any album, but instead working as an usher/security guard (depending on the event and the makeup of the rest of the staff) at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, where I went to college.
During that period, I was slugged in the back of the head by a 13-year-old girl (at a George Strait concert); I was borderline sexually assaulted by a woman of a certain age looking for passage to the floor area (same George Strait show); and saw various Sesame Street on Ice characters smoking on the loading dock while still costumed. It was a fun time.
That said, whenever I think back to my days on the Erwin Center payroll the story that immediately springs to mind is when I saw a pimp calling in an order of working girls for AC/DC as though he was getting a to-go order from Pizza Hut.
For that concert, I was given my best assignment yet: working security, stationed by the steps leading directly to the stage. Most of the time, when I pulled security duty, I was stuck sitting in a chair in the bowels of the arena, protecting a hallway no one ever used — “just in case,” I suppose. The only person I would ever see is my supervisor, making sure I wasn’t reading on the job. Being an usher was worse; concerts meant trying to hear people above the din of whatever was going on, and then leading them to their seats in the dark. At basketball games, you had to stand with your back to the floor and watch the crowd. Once, I was given the task of making sure people didn’t smoke or drink outside alcohol — at a Pink Floyd laser light spectacular. They might as well have asked me to remove all of the oxygen from the air.
But for AC/DC, I was finally where the action was. And it was an easy gig: if someone was going to invade the stage from my station, they would first have to make it past a phalanx of other real security guards and, like, a million other stage hands and various other people. All I really had to do was make sure no one was standing in the way when the band got on and off the stage. I was a bigger threat to that going awry than anyone else. But I managed okay, trading some friendly hand slaps with the Young brothers (Angus and Malcolm), singer Brian Johnson and … the other guys before they took the stage. Since the most famous person I had met while on the job was WFAA sports reporter George Riba, that was a pretty big deal.
During the show itself, I mostly just sat there, occasionally clearing a path for whatever groupies that were allowed entry through the side gates to head back to the dressing rooms. After they finally finished the set and the encore, my night was pretty much done. I was just milling about, fairly wide-eyed, checking out the scene, waiting for my supervisor to say I could go home.
And then, all of a sudden, there was the band. Angus had changed out of his trademark schoolboy uniform and was wearing what appeared to be child-sized jeans; his brother is small, but he is impossibly tiny. He was also soaking wet, either from a post-show shower or onstage sweat. I kept my distance to be on the safe side. I officially met everyone and made awkward small talk. I should say it was awkward even for me, so much so that I immediately mind-wiped any and all trace of it, lest I break my neck cringing.
During one of the many pregnant pauses in the “conversation,” a terribly dressed man with a pencil beard and a slicked-back ponytail came over. He was covered in gold and rayon. I had seen him around earlier and had taken him for a pimp, as he looked like every pimp I had ever seen (in movies, of course, as I was from a small town and had seen little to nothing of the world at large). Turns out, hayseed me was right. And he didn’t care who knew. If pressed, I would say he seemed proud of the fact. He had a short conversation with the road manager and then produced a comically over-sized cell phone, which seemed even big for the time.
“Yeah, okay, yeah, what girls’re there? Okay. What? Yeah. I’m with them now. Uh-huh. Right. Right. Yeah, I’m gonna need three brunettes, a redhead and — two, right? Sure? Okay, yeah, and two blonds. Yeah, that’s what they want. Alright. Yeah, bring ’em right over. Okay. Peace.”
The band looked at me and kind of laughed and shrugged in a boys-will-be-boys way. Fortunately, before I had a chance to even attempt to make some comment on the situation, my supervisor showed up and sent me home.
And now that’s what I think of whenever I hear AC/DC.