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Bob Sokol tells you all about the time
Meat Loaf tried to kill him at the filming of the movie

"ROADIE"


ROADIE_TITLE

Back in 1980 I was living in Austin, Texas when KLBJ FM, (THE Rock & Roll station at the time) began running a new series of live spots. They were talking up the filming of the movie ROADIE. There were rumours that Deborah Harry, the lead singer for "Blondie" was in town for the filming and had already been spotted in some down-town clubs. The production company had rented Manor Downs race track, and they were promising a beautiful day of fun-in-the-sun and a chance to hear some free tunes and maybe be 'in the movie'... They even went so far as to insinuate that some individuals would be singled out for close-ups. The radio ads were carefully worded to attract as many people as possible by painting a rosie picture of the day's planned activities: A free concert with Blondie, Meat Loaf and others, free barbeque lunch and refreshments, and a chance to be a part of the movie-makin' process...

So I was persuaded to take the day off (it didn't take much in those days). I headed out early to drive the 20 miles east to Manor because the ads had said they were only going to let in the first thousand or so 'volunteers'. As it turned out, it didn't matter what time you got there because they needed all the warm bodies they could muster. The idea was that they had erected a big stage at one end of this field and, through clever use of painted backdrops, made it look like they were shooting in an industrial section of downtown Cleveland!?!

STAGE

By herding all of us 'extras' tightly against the stage, they could shoot over our heads from an elevated platform towards the stage. From that angle, you couldn't tell that there wasn't a million screaming fans behind us crushing us against the stage. I figured that, having come this far, I wasn't going to miss my chance to be spotted in the crowd scene, so I purposely wore white painter's coveralls and a bright red shirt. I was traveling alone, so it wasn't any trick to work my way through the crowd to the center just far enough back so I could see the whole stage.

As the sun rose higher over this open field, it didn't take me long to figure out that it was going to be a long, hot day.

Crowd

The stage was well shaded so the entertainers would be protected (unlike the extras) and they had a killer sound system set up. Blondie (the band without Deborah Harry) came out and played one tune and then some guy strolls up to the mike and after a perfunctory welcome begins to give us direction. He informs us that, when the band plays the last note of the song, we are all supposed to burst into wild applause while the camera shoots the 'crowd reaction shot' from behind us.

crowd2

OK? Here we go! The band plays THREE NOTES! Dah Dah DAAAAAH! We all go nuts for like 2 minutes. The director runs out to the mike and yells, "That was GREAT!" Then we wait fifteen minutes while they move the camera about 30 feet to the left. The band has a smoke break. The director comes back out and says "Now we're going to do it again to get a different camera angle.

OK? Here we go! We all kind of look at each other, but the band plays three notes, Dah dah DaaaaaaH! And again, we all go nuts. Maybe not as long or as hard as the first time, but not bad considering how much we were being paid.

After about four more 'move the camera and shoot it again's, I was about ready for a beer. Each time the director said 'Here we go' we would press forward against the stage in a hot, sweaty, writhing mass. As soon as each take ended, everyone would back up. I took advantage of one of these breaks to go in search of 'liquid refreshment'. That's when I got the news that there's no alcohol allowed on the set... Not for the extras, anyway. Just a line for the warm water fountain...

After several hours of this, the crowd of extras started to get short on patience. The guitarist for Blondie was excellent and his attitude went a long way to cool us out.

Lead

He got the other members up to play a few tunes (instrumentals) between takes and they were the high point of the afternoon. But around the tenth take of this same scene, the 'last three notes of the song', Deborah Harry finally drags her butt onstage. There was, apparently, no shortage of alcohol backstage.

FACED!

Here comes the director, "We're gonna do it A FEW MORE TIMES with DEBORAH HARRY on stage." We all go crazy. After all, she's the reason most of us came out that day. The director does his "Here we go"; she sings ONLY the last two lines of the song, the band plays Dah dah DaaaaaaH! and like Pavlov's dogs the Extras slobbered her with their appreciation. FINALLY, we all thought. We sat through all this in hopes of seeing Deborah Harry do a few numbers and now we had done everything they asked us to do. We had applauded like insane people just because they asked us to. Now surely we would be rewarded for our good work.

But wait. Even as the applause is dying down she is leaving the stage. The guitarist steps into her path, and (too close to the open mike) he says, "These people have been out in the hot sun all day. How about doing a few tunes for them?" She tries to step around him. "Come on. Just one. The band is all set." He plays a couple of chords of a song the crowd recognizes and we all start to cheer. Her slurred response as she pushed past him: (Expletives deleted)
"The heck with them. It's too hot!" Tell us something we DON'T KNOW!!!
She left the band to play it as an instrumental.

Here comes the director with good news. It's time to film the BIG STUNT. The idea is to shoot a short sequence (from twenty different angles, of course) where Meat Loaf is supposed to take a fall off the top of the 40 foot scaffolding on stage right. He's supposed to fall through the stage floor and miraculously survive unscathed...

This was accomplished by first shooting the stunt man doing the fall. It was VERY effective because they filmed the actual fall without warning the Extras. During one of the takes, this 'Roadie' up on the scaffolding just stands up and falls 40 feet and goes through the stage.

Stunt

COOL! They got very genuine surprise from us. I thought the guy was dead and that was all for today. But, in fact, the stage in that section was balsa wood with an inflatable mattress underneath. To add to the effect, Meat Loaf was waiting under the stage. Just as the stunt guy landed, he jumped out wearing the same clothes.

Saved

Illusion complete? Not quite. In order to set up the shot they had to go back and shoot the close-ups of Meat Loaf up on the scaffold watching the show, drinking beer, and falling off. They provided a case of open, empty 12 ounce beer cans as props. A roadie tucked them under his arm and scurried up the scaffolding in about twenty seconds. He spread the cans around on the top level as though Meat Loaf had been there all day drinking. Here comes Meat Loaf, drunk, overweight, out of shape, and apparently a little scared of heights. He climbs each section of scaffolding and has to take a breather. Twenty minutes later, he is finally on the top level with the empty beer cans.

Beer_cans

A slight breeze blows and half of the cans roll off the platform and fall to the stage. The director starts barking orders, and a fresh 12 pack of warm, unopened cans appears. The roadie, who is part monkey, scurries up the scaffolding and delivers it to Meat Loaf and gets back down (without jumping) in about twenty-seven seconds, much to the crowd's delight.

Now you've got to get this scene. Here is Meat Loaf, sitting about fifty feet above the crowd, clinging to the scaffolding holding a warm 12 pack of beer. We are all spread out before him, pressing against the stage in our 'filming positions'. We've been out in the sun all day and we're all feeling generally ripped-off by this whole experience. Every one of us would kill for a beer. From somewhere to my left I hear someone yell up at Meat Loaf, "Hey man, toss me a beer!". I'm thinking, no one would be stupid enough to really DO that.

Toss

But I was mistaken; for even as I looked to the area where the yell had come from, I saw the can out of the corner of my eye making a graceful arc from high above the stage out into the crowd. I saw the crowd swell towards the point of impact. I heard cries of pain as 'those who saw it coming' walked over 'those who were oblivious'. I turned my eyes upwards to the scaffolding and started yelling,"NO! NO!", but it was too late. There was already a can heading my way. It looked like it was headed straight for me. I swear, if I was alone in that field, I could have held my hands over my head, taken one step and caught it. Unfortunately, there were several thousand Extras all around me, and at least a hundred of them were close enough to have done the same thing. The ones behind me started to move forward with their hands up; those in front of me began to step backwards. I was caught at ground zero. In a flash I was lifted off my feet, crushed between the two masses. I felt myself being carried along until my feet finally touched the ground. We landed like so many dominoes one on top of the next. The guy in front of me landed on my crotch, and the lights went out.

I remember lying on the ground in the fetal position for several minutes trying to catch my breath. After limping around for an hour, I was almost as good as new. I had a sore back and walked with a limp for several weeks after. If I had had my sh*t together that day, I would have sued that thoughtless butthole Meat Loaf, the production company, the studio, the race track and anyone else I could think of... Instead, I went on home like all the other sheep to await the release of ROADIE the movie. Maybe I would be one of the lucky ones who the camera zooms in on, cheering my head off like a madman.

Hot

Now, years later, I can get some small satisfaction from sharing this tale with you, kind reader, and hearing from time to time about the misfortunes and misadventures of Deborah Harry and Meat Loaf and take consolation in the fact that their careers have gone nowhere, as their minor measures of talent have dictated. What comes around, goes around.

Has he had that major coronary yet?

FatFace

Soon, I'm sure.

Is she still around? Oh yeah, but the years have not been kind:

UPDATE:

Sex Pistols spurn Hall of Fame, rebel rockers honoured

Tue Mar 14, 2006 5:49 AM GMT13

By Claudia Parsons and Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rebel rockers Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd were finally ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday after years of rejection but the Sex Pistols didn't bother to show up.

The 2006 class of inductees also included jazz legend Miles Davis and New Wave group Blondie, who made little secret of the antagonism between current and past members of the band at a ceremony marked by controversy, awkwardness and no-shows.

*SNIP*

BAND TENSIONS

The original crew of Blondie were inducted into the Hall of Fame but it was the band's current lineup led by a red-haired Deborah Harry who performed three of their hits, including "Call Me." There was an awkward moment when the original band members said they wanted to join in but and were turned down.

Guitarist Chris Stein said backstage law suits over royalties had soured relations.


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