Helaine and the Cult People

I kid Helaine, saying she’s in a cult. It sometimes seems that way. This is all because she’s a huge fan of Rick Springfield, and has been for over 30 years.

Rick Springfield had some big hits: Jessie’s Girl, Don’t Talk to Strangers. He’s got enough for a decent ‘hit medley’ in concert. Still, it’s been a long time since he had concentrated airplay.

Over the years, Helaine took me to see his early 80’s movie, “Hard to Hold” and later to see him in concert. After a while he became the ‘house act’ act the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, starring in EFX.

He is talented and charismatic on stage. He’s my age, but in much better shape (damn you Rick Springfield). A few years ago, in Las Vegas, Helaine convinced Steffie to go to see Rick in EFX and now she’s hooked too. After the show she told Helaine, “You never said he was hot.” Since then, Steffie has taken loads of photos at his concerts (here and here) and was even published in his Tour Book and 2004 Calendar.

With the Internet, acts like Springfield have been better able to sustain their careers and maintain a sizable fan base without continuous radio airplay. Helaine subscribes to a Rick Springfield group on Yahoo and receives dozens (sometimes hundreds) of emails daily. Some of these women analyze the nuances of his stage act with the detail of a color commentator going over a touchdown pass on the fifth replay.

Helaine has mostly lurked in the shadows, reading and not writing. She has made some friends through the group and kept current on what Rick’s doing. All that changed a few months ago.

Rick was in the process of finishing a new album and would be promoting it by appearing at concerts, doing interviews and making personal appearances. The fan club members decided they would help. They organized ‘street teams’ in defined geographic areas and set out to spread the word.

Helaine got to be manager for the New York region, though we live about 100 miles from New York City. For the past month or more, I’ve been watching her, amazingly organized, on the laptop, piles of paper at her side, planning strategies. Day-by-day she consulted and cajoled the members of her team.

I was a skeptic. I was wrong.

A few days ago, Rick appeared on WPLJ radio in New York. At street level, unseen by the radio crew, dozens of street team members congregated with signs and pamphlets and a whole lot of genuine spirit. Somehow, word got up to the studio and down came someone with a microphone and recorder.

Today, Rick was on “Fox and Friends” on Fox News Channel (click to watch the interview – high speed access only). Again, the fan club was outside. As I watched the broadcast, it was obvious the hosts were impressed by this show of strength. You could see posters and people through the window behind the interview set. Their presence gave Rick Springfield ‘street cred’ in the present tense.

As it turns out, one of our former technical directors is now a TD at Fox. With a few emails, I was able to get Helaine and Stefanie inside, where they watched the interview and schmoozed a little with Rick, his road manager and personal manager. I’m sure some of the other fans were jealous, but this was my doing – not Helaine’s.

Speaking of jealousy, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little jealous of Rick’s fans and their ‘street team’ mentality. How wonderful to have a fan base that is so dedicated that they’ll come and stand outside in the bitter cold or do whatever else is necessary to continue your success. Actually, that in and of itself might be more meaningful success than CD sales figures alone could ever show.

Helaine and Steffie are back on the road tomorrow, seeing Rick in concert in Toms River, NJ. All the other girls in the cult are going too.

Rick Springfield at Foxwoods (photos by Stefanie Fox)

I’m not sure how Helaine and Steffie could do this… I’m certainly not sure why they’re so motivated… but I know they are. In fact, they are one step short of ‘cult like’ when it comes to Rick Springfield.

Helaine first got hooked over 30 years ago during the “Speak to the Sky” era and kept her affection during General Hospital, Jessie’s Girl, Hard to Hold and beyond. Now, Steffie is right there with her.

I was able to get tickets, through a friend at Foxwoods, and Helaine made reservations so we wouldn’t have to schlep back after the show. We arrived mid-afternoon and checked in. Then, we headed to the box office to pick up their tickets (none for me, thanks).

Unreal as it seemed to me, there was already a sizable contingent of women, mostly sitting on the floor, in line, hoping to be first in. For most shows, Foxwoods Fox Theater has general admission with maitre’d seating up front and reserved in back.

We ate at Foxwoods’ buffet. It’s not Vegas. What can I say.

Helaine and Steffie headed to the show around 8:00 (Steffie taking my digital camera for more photos) while I headed to the poker room. Unfortunately for me, the wait was so long I knew I’d never play before the show was over. So, I played some slots and lost $40.

Too early to meet the girls, I hung out in front of the theater finding my friend Vinnie and his wife Jacqueline. After they went in I started talking with Mike, who was running the merchandising.

After a while, three women walked out, recognized me, told me they had an extra ticket, and gave it to me. So, I walked in.

Rick was mid-audience, on a seat, singing and playing. To say the crowd was going nuts was an oversimplification. This was an audience made up of adoring fans… and he was eating it up.

I watched Helaine and Steffie, standing in their front row seats, looking at Rick. It was actually pretty cool to be spying on them because they were having such a good time together.

Being a lone male in this sea of women gave me the ability to move at will through the theater. I went to see Steffie and Helaine and tell them I was there. I saw Vinnie and Jacqueline. I said hi to a few theater staffers I knew.

After the show, I had arranged for Steffie and Helaine to go backstage (actually downstairs, under the stage, in a stairwell) to meet and greet.

Rick and his road manager “Bucky” looked at some photos Stefanie had shot the night before in Westbury. Bucky thought it might be nice to have her ‘rose explosion’ photo sent to the office. Helaine will try and make that happen… if she finds out where the office is.

Both girls had their photos taken with Rick, as he held them. Then, they took a surprise photo, to be held for a later time (and, of which I can’t speak).

There’s no way for me to put myself in their shoes. I’m not sure who in my life would be a comparable ‘get.’ But, I do know they were amazingly affected, and that this was a wonderful time for both of them that they’ll never forget.

Steffie’s photos from both nights are posted in my photo gallery.

Steffie was scheduled to work Saturday afternoon, so while she went to bed, Helaine and I went downstairs to play. I found a $5/10 Texas Hold’em, with a kill (meaning the bets are $5 or $10 except after a pot of $100 when they are doubled). After a few hours, I walked away up $52. I really enjoy poker, and hopefully, am getting better.