Rick Springfield in Cromwell

As a married man, I understand there are certain things I should do for my wife (just as there are certain things she should do for me). A marriage is a partnership and you want your partner happy.

That’s why I scheduled a vacation day for Thursday, the date of the WTIC-FM Second Chance Prom. It’s not that either of us wanted to go to a prom (neither of us did the first time around – though only one of us was a social misfit while in high school… guess which of us it was). It had more to do with the entertainment – Rick Springfield.

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you know Helaine is a bit obsessed (though in a perfectly fine way) with him. A fan for 30 years, she is the leader of his New York City Area Street Team – a grassroots promotional organization that’s probably more responsible than any paid promotion for whatever success his latest CD and single have had.

I consider Rick Springfield a dot-com success story. With little airplay or promotion he is still able to sell out midsized venues across the country. His fan websites, run by the fans themselves, have an incredibly loyal base of users. Many of them think nothing of driving hundreds of miles to see him again and again.

From my perspective, it’s fascinating. And, it’s a method of success (and make no mistake about it – he is a success today) that didn’t exist until the advent of the Internet.

As long as I was going, and to make my wife a little happier, I offered to produce a story for the station. We’ll run on our Sunday morning news show which has a slot for celebrity interviews. Of course I was upfront in my reasons for wanting to do the story.

Thursday afternoon, Helaine, Steffie and I headed out to the Radisson in Cromwell (nice hotel – good sized room – plenty of towels). Since the prom was 21+, and Steffie is 17+, we got a room and checked in. I met up with Ronnie, Rick’s road manager, setting up the specifics of the interview. In many ways, Ronnie reminds me of Arthur (Rip Torn’s character) from the Larry Sanders Show.

By 3:30 PM Andy, my photographer, had arrived. We scouted out a vacant meeting room, borrowed a few balloon arrangements from the prom, and set up. The background wouldn’t look so sparse with the balloons.

Rick came down and we were ready to go. We talked about 15 minutes. I tried to avoid asking him about Jessie’s Girl – only because I had heard it asked every time I’d heard him interviewed… and every interviewer misunderstood the actual meaning of the song – how he wished that he had Jessie’s girl. But we talked about the Internet fans and Street Team and his new CD.

The interview went well. He opened up and answered thoughtfully. I couldn’t have asked for more.

As we got up to walk into the main room for the sound check, Helaine turned to Rick and recounted a story about how, while working in radio in 1981, she had picked up his dinner tab and he had told her the next dinner was on him. Though the statute of limitations on dinner had surely run out, Ronnie asked us to join their group for dinner.

I’m sure I’ve been to band sound checks before, but I never really thought about the tedium for the band. Each room is different. Often, a different city means different equipment. It always means different acoustics. But a sound check isn’t really music as much as it’s repetitive note playing.

Dinner was nice. The band was like any bunch of guys, on the road, away from home. Helaine sat between Rick and me. He and I spoke through most of dinner. We talked politics and Iraq. He told us about his sons, one a recent high school graduate on his way to college. Steffie soaked up the conversation. Helaine was in heaven.

We went upstairs and changed to our evening wear. Everything went fine, except putting on the studs! I’m not sure who designed them but they were murder to get in place. Of course without them, the shirt was buttonless – there was no choice.

We made the prom around 7:30 PM. I knew some of the folks from WTIC-FM and said hello. Rick came on at 8:30.

Of course a significant portion of the audience was his loyal supporters – and they crowded the stage. But, I sensed the people who were there as prom attendees were also getting into it. Yes, he was a soap opera pretty boy – but that doesn’t mean he can’t play.

The concert was as loud as any I’ve ever heard. The fact that we were inches from the speakers probably didn’t help.

He played the hits, and the new stuff and we went upstairs happy.

Tonight, I finished my end of the deal. I screened, wrote and then voiced the Sunday morning package. Later today an editor will look at my notes and try and cut it as I wrote it. I’ll see it the first time Sunday at about 8:50 AM.

My Very Strange Readers

When I look at the logs for this website, I can often see what brought readers here. Sometimes it’s a bookmark or a link from another site (I am always grateful when others link to this site – though, as you see, I don’t have permanent links to other blogs here). Many times, it’s a search engine leading folks here.

Just to give you an idea, so far in June Google has sucked down 26.5 MB of bandwidth as it indexes this site. MSN, whose search engine is just ramping up, has pulled down over 100 MB! Nearly 1,300 visitors in these 11 days of June have come from search engines. At the moment, Google brings in 3 times as many readers as Yahoo, 10 times as many as MSN.

If you come from a search engine, like Google or Yahoo, the actual search query you entered is logged for me and it’s often fascinating info. For the past few months, many strangers have come here because of things I’ve written, or photography I’ve posted, about John Mayer and his road manager Scotty Crowe (Scotty has many fewer web citations, so I come up very high on a search for his name). They have been the 1 & 2 most popular search terms for months.

Now, joining them on the hit parade is “Carrot Top Shirtless.”

I don’t which is scarier – people are looking for Carrot Top – shirtless, or the fact that there’s content in my blog that makes geofffox.com show up in the search… in the second spot on Google!

100,000 Pages Served

Sometime on Monday the little counter on the bottom right of this website will spin past 99,999 and move into six digits. It’s my website, and I am impressed. I never thought there would be anywhere near this much traffic.

However, let’s keep this in perspective. Compared to a large commercial site like Google or Yahoo I’m not even a rounding error. This site has so little traffic that it easily shares a computer with dozens of other small sites (and my server is in Chicago).

For a one man operation with no promotion, and no draw other than a look at what I’m thinking on any given day (not much it often seems) 100k since July is livin’ large.

To define terms, each time a full page of this website is viewed the counter goes up one. This page counts as one. If you go back and look at a single archived entry, that’s another one. Looking at a full screen of thumbnails in my gallery is one more. And, if you click on any of them to get that single image in a larger view that is yet one more.

There are other counters at work on the site. Most of them operate behind the scenes on the management pages.

This is the 400th entry in my blog which started on July 4, 2003 (you can see the titles of each with links by clicking here). The combined text and images here take up 285 MB. This website has spit out a little less than 15 GB of data, enough to fill 20 or so CDROMs. There have been 56,000 separate visits to the site. If you count each individual file that’s called on, each image, style sheet, table and text files, you will be just short of 1.5 million hits!

This site is fully indexed on all the search engines, but gets the most traffic, by far, from Google. The largest number of referrals come from people entering the name, “Scotty Crowe,” John Mayer’s road manager who I had written about… and who doesn’t appear on other sites often enough to move me from a prominent showing on Google and Yahoo. In 2003, Scotty was only number 2, just behind “giblet gravy,” a term I had used in a context that probably wasn’t be searched for.

There are other Geoff Fox’s listed on the Internet – many others. But, I am the number one result when you Google my name. I’m also high on the list for ‘dissed’ and, of course, Scotty Crowe.

Each day, between 350-450 of you visit, looking at about 2 pages per visit on average.

There is a certain amount of exaggeration when you see all these numbers. Some do nothing more than reflect the Internet equivalent of a wrong number, as people come here by mistake. Others are reflecting robots and spiders and crawlers from search engines like Google, Yahoo and now Microsoft. Still more, less than 10% but significant, are from me… looking for errors and proofreading my work (I spend a lot of time spellchecking and proofreading my work and mistakes still get through all the time).

Actually, I often stay away from the public pages, lest I run up the counter.

If I told you how much this endeavor has cost, you’d probably be surprised. The main software is Movabletype, which is free. Same goes for Gallery, my photo gallery software and GrADS which produces the meteograms. All the software on this site is freeware.

Renting my little corner of cyberspace is also pretty cheap. I paid $100 for one year of webhosting, which provides the destination when you type https://www.geofffox.com. For that $100 I get 350 MB of space, more bandwidth than I can use, and the ability to control my mailboxes and truly be the master of my own domain! Owning geofffox.com is another $20 (I also own tv-cd.com).

Please accept my thanks for coming here and helping me stay motivated. I have become somewhat anal – posting virtually every day. I am surprised, gratified and a little scared when I think you’ve spent a time reading what I have to say.

The Cult Moves South

Early this morning… well, early for me usually, but I got up… Helaine and Steffie piled into the car and set out for Toms Rivers, NJ to see Rick Springfield. The house is very quiet. I’m seeing how long I’ll stay in pajamas. It could be all day (though the siren song of Dunkin’ Donuts is calling my name).

I told Helaine I’m inviting college girls over. Her thought is, they’ll ask me if I went to school with their dads!

At times like this, I really miss Ivy the dog. Ivy was never a ‘licky’ dog – overly affectionate. Ivy’s charm was her self assured, quiet manner, as she stayed by your side (as long as you didn’t move around too much). Petting a dog is therapeutic.

A just heard from Helaine and Steffie on the phone. Though the concert is later tonight, they’re at the hotel, meeting and greeting the other rabid fans (aka the cult members). Some of them are committed beyond any level I can imagine; taking in dozens of shows, across the country, every year.

It’s all mind boggling, and I’m started to come to the realization that Rick Springfield isn’t the only act that gets this kind of adulation. I remember, 25 years ago, a friend working for Barry Manilow who told me similar stories (though at a much smaller numbers). The Grateful Dead was famous for their legion of traveling fans.

As Steffie and Helaine walked toward the lobby, walking in the other direction was Rick and his road manager Ronnie. Helaine and Steffie said hello. Rick complemented Steffie on her necklace. For them the day is off to a good start.

I have given them my Fuji digital camera. Some critical functions of this normally manual camera have been preset. Tonight they will use it to snap photos and document the trip. Steffie has taken great ‘in concert’ pictures before (here and here). I hope she’ll do that again tonight and get a little more confidence as an artistic photographer.

At the same time Helaine will be holding a cell phone up, catching the music for another fan who couldn’t make the trip this time. That is dedication in action.

Who Came Here in 2003

I don’t have an incredibly long history as a webmaster. So, for me, it’s often confusing and at the same time interesting to peek at the inner workings of this site. I have owned the domain name geofffox.com for a few years, but it’s only been since late July that I’ve mounted this blog and photo gallery.

My webserver is actually located in Chicago, and run by hostforweb.com. It is shared with other small websites. I have access to most of the server’s guts through shell programs.

In order for you to see what you’re reading now, I have to upload all the files and images and programs from home. There are a number of programs, like the one that produces the weather forecast meteograms that run on clocks and execute a few times a day. I had to write the scripts to do that too.

Running this website has forced me to learn a little about a bunch of computer disciplines, like php, Perl, bash shell scripts, html and a veritable alphabet soup of minutiae. It’s been challenging and like Blanche Du Bois, I am often dependent on the kindness of strangers. The more I learn about computers, the less I realize I know.

With the year over in less than four hours, I though I’d summarize a little of what’s gone through this site in 2003. Since it was only born in July, the stats are (hopefully) less than what I’ll get to publish in 2004.

7.76 GB That’s the total amount of data I’ve spit out. It melts down to 10 CDROM’s worth… or a few DVD’s. The majority of my hits go to the United States, but most of Europe and the Pacific Rim are represented as well.

271.69 MB That’s what Google slurped up. Loads of spiders and crawlers moved through the site, picking up the data that goes into search engines. Google took down nearly 5 times as much data as the next biggest search engine and was responsible for 6711 page views by users. I have chronicled elsewhere my rise in the Google rankings – a feat which both intrigues and fascinates me.

Giblet gravy That’s the most used search engine phrase that sent people to the site. They must have been disappointed because I used the phrase to illustrate a point that had nothing to do with cooking. The next most requested phrase was Scotty Crowe, John Mayer’s road manager.

Thanks to everyone who’s written to ask me for John’s email address. Even if I had it, I couldn’t give it out. You will be glad to know your admiration is not misplaced. There’s a whole lot to admire about John. I don’t think he’ll be spoiled by success.

I’m not sure how or why, but people searching for dangerous Internet cafes in las vegas nv and she had to remove her shoes airport ended up being sent to geofffox.com.

My cousin Michael and his wife Melissa in Sunny Southern California became blog readers. More than anyone, Michael made me realize I could use an editor from time-to-time. I try to spell and grammar check, but you need a dispassionate eye too.

My dad reads the blog every day. That pleases me more than he’ll ever know.

From time to time I’ve looked at my logs, seeing where readers are coming from. There’s someone at NBC in NY who reads pretty regularly, same at the vendor of our station’s weather equipment and Mississippi State University, where I’m taking courses. Most readers are connecting through residential addresses, but I’m amazed by all the different companies and universities that are listed.

Once, I made reference to probes of my home computer by a virus ensconced in a PC at a San Fransisco Honda dealer. I made an analogy that used the word ‘doorknob’. A few days later a computer at a doorknob manufacturer downloaded a significant portion of this site. They’ll be as surprised as the giblet gravy crowd.

In 2003 approximately 17,000 separate viewers came calling to this site. Collectively you visited 30,000 times, downloading 872,000 files. My page counter now sits just north of 60,000.

Every word I write is read, re-read, edited, punched up and perused again before it goes online. One of the more pleasant surprises of blogging is how challenging and how much fun it is to write. I never felt that way about writing before.

Often it is a cathartic experience, allowing me to get something off my chest. Other times it’s fun to let you in on something I observed and want to share.

My family puts up with this to a point. I reveal a lot in this blog, but not everything. A friend wrote to tell me he was surprised to see this ‘warts and all’ self assessment. If there are warts here, they are a small portion of my own personal wart colony. Like most people, I keep a few skeletons in my closet.

Thanks for reading. It really means a lot to me. Really.

Am I John Mayer’s stalker?

Click here for more photos from the concert

As of Wednesday morning, I still hadn’t heard from John Mayer’s road manager, Scotty Crowe, as promised. Just a little worried (it is my nature), I sent another email to the management folks and got a reassuring email in return.

By early afternoon there was an upbeat voicemail at work. We were good to go (literally and figuratively). The only surprise was the time. “Meet and greet” is normally a post show event. Not with this show. John would be entertaining at 7:00 PM.

Anticipating Hartford traffic (which we never saw), Steffie and I arrived at The Meadows a bit before 6:00 PM. A line had already begun to form the entrance. People with tickets for the vast expanse of lawn wanted to stake their claim and find a good seat.

Good lawn seating is miles away from the stage. Bad seating is in another time zone.

We hit the “will call” window, looking for our “Meet and Greet” passes. Nada. But, that’s not at all unusual. As it turned out, the clerk was looking in the wrong place, and a turn to the left produced two round adhesive passes and a small Xeroxed set of instructions to the marshaling point.

The gates to The Meadows actually open at 6:30 PM. But the real excitement starts a few minutes earlier as a PA announcement lists what you can and cannot do… can and cannot bring.

Digital cameras were on the forbidden list. I decided to take it anyway and hope for the best. After all, meeting John and having the passes might be enough of a mitigating factor. As it turned out, the ‘frisker’ took a look at he camera, pondered for two seconds, and pronounced it within reason. My guess is, with the lens retracted, he thought it was a non-professional film camera.

My first rock concert was probably 1966 or 1967. I went with my Cousin Michael and Larry Lubetsky to the Village Theater, aka The Fillmore East. We did that often on Friday and Saturday nights. It was pure fun and music (with the Joshua Light Show and the smell of marijuana pungent enough to knock you on your butt).

Things have changed

If there is something that isn’t for sale, or marked with signage, I didn’t see it. I’m surprised a wheelchair company doesn’t sponsor the handicapped ramp.

In the parking lot were four perky post-teens (male and female) wearing red t-shirts. They would be passing out Trojan condoms throughout the evening.

Dodge sponsored this, Comcast that, and Channel 30 something else. Dunkin’ Donuts was passing out Fruit Coolatas, but most everything else was for sale and over priced beyond belief (again, please excuse my naivet´┐Ż. I’m 53 and I’m not in the concert demo anymore).

Considering there is a law in Connecticut preventing a reseller from marking up a concert ticket by too much, you’d think the venue itself would follow that same policy when it came to bottled water or beer or pretzels. They could let you in for free and still make a profit.

A few minutes before 7:00 we met Scotty Crowe. It’s interesting how the Internet can catapult unlikely people into the limelight, and Scotty is one of them. Once I knew I’d be meeting him, I “Googled” him. Not only does he write John Mayer’s Road Journal, he also has some dedicated fans, including a Scotty Crowe bulletin board. Damn!

We went into the hallway that would serve as “Meet and Greet” central, and waited. I tried to make small talk with Scotty, but as is always the case when I do something like that, I came off as a total dork. At least I gave him a good PhotoShop tip (Ctl-L is perfect for enhancing video levels on digital photos).

John came out a few minutes later. I don’t notice these things, but Steffie said he was wearing the same outfit we saw him wear at Oakdale. He’s tall and thin and young and I’m jealous..

After saying hello and posing with the people in front of us, John came over. He was very nice (though after meeting him at KC-101, Oakdale and now here, I can’t help but wonder if he thinks I’m a stalker… or if I actually am a stalker).

As soon as he started to speak to Stefanie, he said, “You’re Stef, right?” I believe that was the magic moment as far as she was concerned. To be remembered by someone in his position, who meets so many people, was very gratifying.

I told John I thought he was smart, and a nice guy. But, I had seen others who had that… and lost it. I told him it was very important he remember to continue to be the kind of person he is now. I seriously think he will. But, as with Scotty a few minutes earlier, I felt like a dork after I said it. I hope he’ll think I was somewhat appropriate.

We had come very early and we found out we would be staying very late. Not only was John Mayer performing, so were the Counting Crows and an opening act before them. There was only so much we could take, so Steffie and I sat outside, people watching, while Stew (or possibly Stu… I wasn’t inside) performed.

We headed inside and found our seats before the Crows hit the stage.

If you have never been to The Meadows (and now that I’ve talked about all the commercialism, you should know, it’s the “ctnow.com Meadows Music Centre). It is a huge, high roofed pavilion with theater seating and a removable rear wall. There is no air conditioning. There are no ceiling fans. It was hot and sticky and uncomfortable.

I had never seen the Counting Crows and I was favorably impressed. Lead singer Adam Duritz, his hair fashioned with somewhat wild dreadlocks, is very talented and (and I always like this in a performance) a commanding presence on stage.

Toward the end of the set, he told a story of going to school in Watertown, CT and flunking a music course. Judging by the description, it is probably The Taft School. A website FAQ confirms it.

The Crows got off after 10:00 PM. The venue had not cooled down. Every once in a while, a brief whisper of air would move by, and you’d think, maybe it’s going to cool down. But the ‘waft’ was short lived; a tease at best.

Not quite 11:00, John Mayer took the stage. As appreciative as the audience was for the Counting Crows, they stepped it up a notch and a half for John. There’s no doubt that a packed house is good for the home team, and he is the home town here.

He is an artist who sounds just like his Cd’s (I wanted to write records, but that would make me very old, wouldn’t it?). That means his artistry is real and not produced into being. Most of the house stood for most of the performance.

He did the hits, and some cuts from the new CD (out in a few weeks) and then a phenomenal guitar solo. As good as he is as a troubadour, John Mayer is a masterful guitarist; as good as I’ve heard

There’s obviously some BB King in his riffs, and probably others I don’t recognize, but mostly it is his ability to make the guitar become its own voice that makes his playing so good. It is my contention that if he weren’t singing, he’d have an amazing career as a guitarist.

At 11:45 PM he said goodnight, only to come back on stage alone to do the first of two encore numbers.

We were out by midnight. As soon as I turned on the car radio, I realized I wasn’t hearing quite as well as I did when I went in! Within ten minutes we had navigated Hartford and gotten onto I-91 southbound.

Though Steffie tried (and she has pre-season field hockey practice tomorrow morning) she had only a few minutes of sleep before we were home.

Great night. I’d do it again.

Click here for more photos from the concert

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.