In my day job I get fairly close to celebrity from time to time. Last week Lisa Marie Presley – or ‘LMP’ – and her entourage were in town (we were instructed to put ‘LMP’ on the sign for her dressing room as per her contract).
Her show was part of her Australian tour:
Our venue in the southern suburbs of Sydney hadn’t before seen the large number of staff and crew that made up her entourage. It started with the set up team. Tattooed unshaven working class men taking respites between hauling equipment in the shade of a truck parked in the loading dock, sharing a case of cola. I have seen their like before at the Royal Sydney Easter Show – hard working, itinerant. The Australian tour manager was pacing up and down the loading dock, craggy faced, phone attached to his ear and cigarette in his mouth.
As the day progressed the staff changed as if actors on cue in a play: international tour manager, the band and crew, AV technicians, PR team, hair and make-up. There were at least 30 people attached to this one night only performance, to-ing and fro-ing throughout a 15 hour period (the set up team came back to pack it all down again at show’s conclusion).
There was no chance anyone was going to get past LMP’s personal body guard – a hulk of a man, direct from Gracelands. For a guy of his silhouette he moved very fast when a member of the audience produced a camera. Photographs were forbidden unless you paid the additional A$165 after the show for a brief meet and greet session.
I am not one for stalking people. They are all human beings to me (thought I do have a penchant for gossip!). Getting up close was the job of my manager who was there at her beck and call, sending last minute requests down the chain of command from her team to him and then to us fetchers and carriers. One of my errands was to purchase a cheval mirror and coat rack for her dressing room, looking like the proverbial bag lady as I balanced the bulky goods in a Kmart trolley for three street blocks. And later running to a local Vietnamese take out for the band’s dinner. I did a lot of running that day come to think of it.
In between operating the bar (another hat I wore on the night) I watched some of the show. LMP reminded me of Stevie Nicks: diminutive, pixie-like, floating around the stage (I read that sometimes she performs bare footed) with her tress of long freshly preened hair down to her waist. For one song she morphed into a snare drum playing devotee, being a self-confessed wannabe drummer.
LMP was a hot topic in the Australian press in the lead up to her tour to this outpost of the world. I learnt that she was given ‘some horses’ (how many is that?) by her current husband Michael Longwood for Christmas, that she now has four children – her 20 something year old first two (a boy then a girl) have been bookended by 5 year old twins (girls), that she lives in a village in England and they like the quiet life there, that her drummer –a fair bit older than the rest of the band – had a heart attack and was in a coma for 6 months and then told he was never able to play the drums again.
Longwood is one of the guitarists in the band. He towered over her, long limbed, reminiscent of a praying mantis in stature. I thought how it must be to live and work together at that level. When introducing the members – she did a lot of talking in between songs, in her sultry alto voice – she referred to him as her best friend.
The band rocked it up – the PA was incredibly loud (one attendee commented that she couldn’t hear any of the words) – and they played it up and down. Soulful, bluesy, rocky. I had half hoped that she perform her song ‘Idiot’. I listened to it the night before on Spotify https://www.spotify.com which had been downloaded by 36,000 people. But it didn’t make it into her song list on our night.
Longwood wore round dark glasses in the style of John Lennon and a kooky top hat festooned with coloured paper, not unlike the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. One musician changed instruments constantly – slide guitar, violin, banjo and mandolin. There were five people in the band. I counted just as many again darting on and off the stage, half hunched over (trying not to look obvious), dressed in dark attire, fixing microphones and changing guitars and leads. Longwood alone swapped instruments at least half a dozen times (a guitar company was one of their sponsors).
LMP was quoted as saying that she doesn’t make any revenue from touring. I can see why from my close up vantage point. There are a lot of names on the payroll. She prefers to perform to a smaller, intimate crowd. We had 400 devotees on the night.
Fans were advised that they would be turned away if they came dressed as Michael Jackson or Elvis. I wondered how difficult it must be for her to live in their shadows. Some of the show goers expected her to sing one of her dad’s songs as a tribute. Really? She is her own person, a performer in her own right. Elvis was another place, another time.
LMP is a sponsor of World Vision International http://www.wvi.org/ . Their staff had a stand set up at the rear of the auditorium next to the merchandise. Sadly no new sponsorships had been struck by the time I checked in with them at show’s end. This was despite special mention by the star herself, commenting that it only costs the same as a cup of coffee a day to rescue a child from poverty.
The juggernaut rolled out in the same order that it rolled in, only in reverse. It was the cleaners turn to deal with the mess that remained, in the small hours. They were just finishing up when I arrived the next morning for a regular work day. It had taken them seven hours, not the usual four.
Another business day over. Makes for an interesting job.