Fame... What's Your Name?

by: Andrea Mulder-Slater

When I began interviewing musicians, I never expected to be propositioned by one.

I was 21 years old and had just graduated from art school. Full of confidence, I stepped through the doors of a local entertainment newspaper, looking for an opportunity to write art exhibition reviews. The scruffy editor sitting behind the desk reeked of cigarette smoke and sarcasm. He thanked me for my interest, gave a quick sideways glance at the essays I had arranged on his desk, and informed me that he was in need of a CD reviewer… and a good stiff drink.

It wasn’t the first time I would see him hung over.

Though it was not what I was looking for, the promise of free music in exchange for a few words of criticism seemed like a pretty decent deal to me, so I told him I would give it a try and I left the office with a Gary Clail disc in my portfolio case.

It took some parental coaxing to convince me I could actually write about music, but once I got the hang of it, I was hooked. I listened, absorbed and summed up, in 100 words or less, the sounds captured on shiny round discs. Issue after issue I religiously picked up my assignments and delivered the goods and my efforts did not go unnoticed. Bands sent me thank you letters and singers sent me free tickets to their shows. It was exciting but… I wanted more.

I wanted to interview the musicians.

At first I started by calling up local independent artists. It was easy. They were in the phonebook. I had questions… they had answers, and by the end of each telephone conversation, I had enough material to put together half decent articles. By the time I made it to my first face-to-face interview, I knew what I had to do.

It was time for the next step.

After nearly a year of writing for the local entertainment newspaper, I took my published articles and reviews, placed them in envelopes and sent them off to national magazines, asking for a chance to freelance for full color periodicals.

Within the year, I was given the title of senior writer at a national Canadian monthly while my feature freelance pieces regularly appeared in several other glossy magazines. I was wined and dined by record company A&R people and I regularly sat in fancy hotel suites across from rock and pop stars including Alanis Morissette, Gavin Rossdale and the Barenaked Ladies. It was a special time. I owned a voice recorder, carried a briefcase, dressed exclusively in black and collected backstage passes like pennies. I was… a music journalist.

It was the lead vocalist of a lesser-known band, who introduced me to a darker side of the music business.

It was my second interview with the group, who were touring the country with a number one single wedged firmly at the top of the charts and groupies at every venue. The motel room location wasn’t glamorous but the band was traveling in its own luxury tour bus and their rider included colorful fizzy beverages, several comic books and large platters full of oranges, kiwi fruit and chocolate bars… so it felt pretty big time.

With the Q and A complete, I began to say my goodbyes, but it was the bassist, guitarist and drummer who coyly offered farewell gestures, as they exited the room, leaving me alone with the singer who headed into the bathroom.

“I’ll be right back - hang on one second, ” he said to me, “I have something I want to ask you.”

He was not a particularly good-looking fellow. I suppose his fame made him appear more appealing than he was. What could he possibly want to ask me? I wondered. Was he interested in my hair care products? Did he want to take me on a date? My thoughts were interrupted once he reappeared, wearing little more than a smile. “Is it too soon for us to take a shower together?” he asked me in earnest. I looked at the wallpaper, the lampshade, the oranges... everywhere, but him. I was a naïve girl from the country. I was still a virgin. I had no idea how to respond. And then it came, to this day I don’t know from where.

“Honey, it will always be too soon for me to see you in your underwear.”

With that, I headed for the door, careful to grab a few kiwi fruits on my way out. It seemed like a fair trade for the little piece of innocence I left behind.

Years later, I gave up the thrill of interviewing celebrities, finding many of them far to high-maintenance for my taste. More than a few of those I wrote stories about were wonderful and several have gone on to big things. But as for the nearly naked singer in the motel room… his 15 minutes are up.

No, really.

Hit the Hills

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I don't ski... not downhill anyway. I have been known to strap a pair of cross-country skis on my feet, but really, that's not much different than slipping down the driveway on the way to the mailbox.

As a downhill skier, you are expected to obey certain rules like: "Please do not remove our trees with your face" and "Please refrain from skiing with one of our shrubs stuck to your head". These rules are put in place to protect you and others like you. Some resorts refer to these rules as "Your Responsibility Code" which makes sense, since you and only you - as a skier - are responsible for personal injury or property loss resulting from say, a mid-air collision with any natural or man-made object, including but not strictly limited to your best friend Larry.

I can't ski for one very important reason... rule number one of the code. This rule states that you must remain in control and proceed in such a manner that you can stop or avoid other people or objects. Control on an incline. Right. I have a hard enough time remaining upright while walking on level ground - which isn't to say that I don't make a fine dance partner.

Recently, my husband - who is able to control himself not only on level ground but on 90 degree inclines as well - decided I should really go to a ski resort and test out the hot chocolate they serve there. My husband is not stupid and he realizes that even if he had a million dollars waiting for me at the bottom, I would not send myself willingly down a cliff. A new pair of leather boots? Now that's a different story.

Arriving at the resort, I noticed armies of people in red suits who I thought were cub scouts but as it turned out were ski instructors. Once I located the washrooms and the coffee pots, I sat and inspected the colour-coded signs. The signs were there to let the skiers know where the hills were (HINT: Look Up!!) and the level of difficulty one could expect once they reached the top. From what I could make out, green = steep; blue = steep; black = steep and a black diamond = steep with trees. Orange = steep for snowboarders only, while pink = steep for slow skiers - no knee bends allowed.

While I sat next to a fireplace sipping hot beverages, my husband and assorted family members - two on skis, one on a board - went up and down and up and down and up and down the runs, which had names like Big Baby Danger and Easy Street Look Out (or something like that). You know you are in trouble when the hill you are descending has been designated Calamity Lane or Elevator Shaft!

After an afternoon of watching the action from inside and talking to a surprisingly cheerful gentleman in a full body cast, it was time to leave the safety of the ski lodge. Later that night, soaking in a hot tub with my daredevil hubby and friends, I decided skiing wasn't so bad after all. Next time I might even eat popcorn.

This article appeared in an issue of Our Canada magazine some years back. I still like it so I'm sharing it here and now, with all of you.

You're welcome.