Being an Inflatable Dog/Attending VIP Parties

“My career should adapt to me. Fame is like a VIP pass wherever you want to go.”

Leonardo DeCaprio

On May 26, 2007, Boston radio station WBOS was hosting Earthfest at the Esplanade, located on the banks of the Charles River in Boston, adjacent to the notoriusly curvy Storrow Drive. Such headliners as Guster and Vega 5 were present: there were three different stages, and thousands of people. The sun was shining bright: it was about 86 degrees F. Great weather for an outdoor concert.

If you were to stand in front of the main stage, and make your way to the left, down the asphalt walking path, away from the smell of the food vendors, you passed numerous trash piles and port-o-potties. And walking further along, and veering to the right, you would come to a second, much smaller stage, with numerous tents set up to form a rectangular viewing area.

This was the Kid’s Area. Rebellious looking high school kids were replaced by five year olds and parents in this area: to say the least, it was a different crowd. On a related note, I’d much rather hang out with parents and their kids then a bunch of dweeb high schoolers from the suburbs at this point (I feel I have much more in common with young parents with a little kids….and somehow, this doesn’t bother me.).

And that’s exactly what I was doing….hanging out with little kids and their parents, and other numerous people. Half of the time I was dressed as myself, talking about my employer (I was there for work). The other half of the time….I was dressed as a dog.

I won’t go into specifics as to who the dog is, or who my employer is, but I will give a brief description of what its like to dress up as a dog who little kids are familiar with.

First, the specifics of the suit and situation: I had a trailer to change in, which was shared with all of the artists performing on this stage. I needed a handler at all times (I was actually supposed to have two handlers, but since a few volunteers didn’t show up, we had to make due with one). Handlers help with crowd control, ect.. After going into the trailer, the handler had to help me change (this was a little weird at first). There were four major components to the suit: pants, feet, power pack, and body suit.

The first thing to go on was a power pack, which went over my shoulders like a backpack and weighed about 30 pounds or so (good thing I go to the gym). Once the power pack was on, I took off my sneaks and hid them under a table. Next it was time to put on the pants: bright orange furry pants. A little on the warm side, but whatever. After the pants were all set, I had to put on the feet: this was probably the most awkward part. I’ve never worn clown shoes before, so I didn’t really know what it was going to be like to have feet eight times the size of my normal feet. To say the least: I was a little clumsey at first.

Once all this stuff was on, it was time to put on the body suit. Now this particular dog was fat: to keep him fat, the suit blew up like a balloon. A fan was needed to keep the suit inflated. Hence the power pack on my back. Our method was to leave the trailer door before I was blown up: once outside, I would connect the plugs, and blow up like a balloon. Unfortunately, I there was a broken strap inside, so it was a constant struggle to keep air from escaping: but once I figured out to keep the suit synched by holding the string in my teeth, I was all-set.

And there I was: a big inflatable dog surrounded by thousands of kids.

I have to say: I didn’t know what to expect. I figured kids would like me, but I didn’t know how much. Following my handler, we turned the corner to where everyone was….and thats when the real fun started. Kids came flying at me from every corner. Parents held up kids to give me a kiss (very, very weird from my end). I did my best to shake kids hands and give thumbs up….it was really all I could think to do. Once in awhile I tried to dance for them….they were sort of indifferent.

And it was fun….eventually the air started running out since the batteries weren’t fully charged (damn!), but even when the dog started to delfate, and I had to hold up my head with my left arm and swelter in 110 degree heat without a fan, it was still satisfying. It really was….I guess I really didn’t know how enthralled kids are by this stuff.

Walking out of my trailer after it was all done in my t-shirt and shorts, I couldn’t help but feel a little unwanted as I crossed the field filled with kids….and no one looked my way.

Ahhhh…..the life of an inflatable dog.

—-

Ofcourse, being an inflatable dog has its benefits…..mainly, that I was invited to attend an all-access VIP party hosted by WBOS at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston. Hey….twist my arm.

The funny thing is that I almost didn’t go. I was only in the dog suit for about an hour: the rest of the day I was running around doing random stuff. For the last two hours, we had to figure out how move all of our stuff (a logistical nightmare considering that we to load it into a car, and Storrow Drive is the only accessible way in, and a lane was closed, and so on, and so on). Well…..we finally got the stuff loaded into the car. By that time, I was the only one left from my group: I figured I’d catch a little Guster since I didn’t know much about them.

But after hanging out with the crowd for about five minutes (High School Central), I realized I didn’t really care about the music, and I was exhausted (its a good thing I left….the T was a mess enough getting out of there, and that was an hour before Guster ended). So I headed home….VIP placard around my neck, red wristband around my wrist.

The wristband was what was important…it provided access the VIP party which was going on later. But at the time, I was a little sour on everything. Here was my situation:

1) I was exhausted. Not only did I have to spend about an hour in a dog suit, but about five minutes were in a totally fanless, deflated suit in about 110 degree after we discovered the second battery was totally dead. Ofcourse, I was already outside, and kids were hugging my deflated legs. Not only was it weird…..it was excruciatingly tiring. I think those five minutes alone wore me out.

2) There were all sorts of logistical problems throughout the day. First, the sign we were supposed to have at our tent was mysteriously not there: this caused some headaches. But later, when it was time to get lunch, the real headaches started.

BOS was nice enough to give everyone working the event free meal cards from a food vendor: some Stone Hearth Pizza place, where we were supposed to get a free personal pizza and soda. The only problem: the event was so huge, we had no idea where the vendor was. Giving that we were short volunteers, only one person could go looking at a time. When the first person came back fruitless, I decided to give it a go (and was pretty sure I’d be successful). Well, as fate would have it….I wasn’t. The real frustration came from the fact that no one working the event knew where the vendor was. This was because most people working there (from BOS) were treated to a bar-b-q pit behind the main stage, so they didn’t need to know where this place was. The aggravation level rose when I would ask where the place was, be told to go somewhere, and when I would get there, I would be told to go somewhere totally different. To add to the stress:

a) It was hot

b) I had just spent about 40 minutes in a dog suit, and had to be back in it in about an hour.

c) People were waiting for me, and I had been gone for about 25 minutes without finding anything

d) No one I asked really seemed to care, or have the slighest clue (except for the girl working the kids stage with us, she was really great….unfortunately I didn’t get to give her a blog business card).

After searching for the vendor among the numerous food places and people, I gave up. Since I had a VIP necklace, and a VIP party wristband, I figured I could just go get some bar-b-q, to save time (our volunteer had gotten some food there earlier without a problem).

So I went to the gate, showed my card, got in, asked where the food was….and almost got thrown out on my ass. The guy at the gate started getting in my face, thinking I was pulling a fast one, and told me to “get lost!!” (The problem here: I needed another wristband, for food: I just figured my necklace would work). Well, it didn’t…..and at this point I lost it. I usually don’t lose it, but as you can see from my above situation, it was well deserved here. They found out from my tone that I wasn’t just some punk who had borrowed a necklace. Despite all this….I couldn’t get any food here.
It all worked out….I was able to eat the layout Whole Foods had left in the trailer for us (us being artists, friends of artist, and people like me). But as I sat on the bench at the T stop at the end of the day…its easy to see how I was considering not going to the party.

(A big note on this: as you’ll read on, BOS ended up being absolutely great in the end. Anytime an event this big is going on, its very easy [almost invevitable] that things like this happen. No matter how organized an event is beforehand……once thousands and thousands of people show up, things just get a little hectic. I just wanted to emphasize all this to show how worn out I was.)

With all of this in mind, there was also the fact that I only worked with four people, and it seemed pretty inevitable that I would be the only person there that I knew. So sitting among hundreds of people in 80 degree heat, worn out and waiting for the T, you can see why I was considering not going to the party.

The important part of that last sentance: considering. And to be truthful: I was never really considering. Any time I get invited to an All-Access VIP Party (which is pretty much: never), I attend. I don’t care if I was fresh out of a coma, with slight brain damage and a bad case of the post-coma sickness: I’d still attend, and sit in a corner, just to see what it was like. So there was no way I wasn’t going: I just didn’t know if I’d enjoy it.

Later on, after I had gotten home and showered, I got the phone call that I would indeed be flying solo: my co-worker was bailing out. So I headed out, armed with a bottle of water, some Tic-Tacs, and a few blog cards. I got back on the T….and headed back into the city. A sign that the night might be good: it was one of those beautiful spring nights, that you treasure when they’re around (usually only late May and early June).

And I got to the Hard Rock, wristband still on from the morning, and all of the sudden, I knew I had made the right decision: the second I was in, some Hard Rock employee was treating me like a VIP. It was my first VIP experience. He didn’t even say anything: just looked my way with a mix of envy and intrigue, like, “Who the Hell is this guy, and why is he important?” And despite the look, he was very nice to me. I have to say….I felt really, really freaking cool.

I immediately picked up a free Heinenken Light, and headed over towards the stage (live performances at the party: Toby Lightman, Vega 4, Gran Bel Fisher, and Tim Finn.) It wasn’t long before I was meeting a lot people who worked in the radio business in one way or another. Everyone seemed especially friendly, probably because we all had worked at the same event earlier in the day. Some highlights from the party:

1) I had my first martini. A pomgranate one. It was pretty good.

2) As most people know, I’m always into free food. Among the many different types of food, was a pasta primavera section, where you picked out whatever you wanted on your pasta plate, and then watched it get cooked up. Reminded me of being in my college cafeteria on Thursday nights. But hey…can you really beat Pasta Primavera?

There were also tables spread out with all types of cheeses, fruits, veggies and dips, ect….the real highlight was the deserts. Good Lordy.

When I first came in, I smelled a familiar chocolate smell, and realized that there chocolate fondue pots laying around. Later on in the night, I approached the desert table with some people, and found the following spread: a huge bowl of Blow Pops, a huge bowl of Jolly Ranchers, a huge bowl of Tootsie Rolls, a huge bowl of the little Reeses’s Peanut Butter cups, and most impressive, little cubes of Rice Crispie treats that you stab with sticks. It was my first time eating Rice Crispie treats off of sticks. Quite good.

There was also an area to make S’mores, with all the required ingredients. In all seriousness….it was stuff like this that made me momentarily feel like a rock star. I mean, we’ve all heard of the Van Halen story: back in the 80s, they were on tour, and while at a certain hotel, requested that they had bowls of M&Ms laid out for them, with all the brown ones extracted. Well, they got back from their show, and found the bowls set up perfectly, except that the brown ones were still there. They were so enraged totally insane that they destroyed the suite they were staying in, causing more than $10,000 damage. The point to bringing up this story: a huge bowl of Blow Pops is one of those things you can only imagine rock stars requesting. Which is why I felt like a rock star as I took a couple and stuffed them in my pocket.

To put it plainly: this party rocked, and I am very glad I attended. Like I said before….there was no way I wasn’t going to attend. But after having a stressful day…..the night more than made up for it. BOS really laid themselves out to set up this party for everyone. The real funny part….in the last two days, I’ve been listening to a lot more 92.9.

After drinking and eating for free until around 12:30, handing out a few cards, and talking to a member of Guster like a drunk fool for a couple of minutes, I was back on the T, my VIP status quickly becoming a thing of the past. No more free drinks; no more looks of envy/apprecation. Nope….just the good old Redline, taking me home to Harvard Square. But one things for sure: if I ever get the chance to dress up like a dog again, in order to attain VIP status….I surely will.

Driving to a graduation party yesterday, I happened to have WBOS on in the car. And after the song ended, the guy on the radio started talking about Earthfest, and went on to say something like “And last night at the Hard Rock, all those staffers who worked hard at Earthfest played hard at the Hard Rock….and now I’m sure they’re all sleeping hard.” A big smile came over my face……hey, if nothing else, my experience on Saturday, May 26, gave me a moment of feeling really cool while driving in my car. In all honesty…..I’ll take that.

Until Next Time,

Greg

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