Essen Grugahalle, Germany
Its only Rock 'n' Roll but I loved it to death!!! ........
I had always thought that I had had my best Alice story, (and I have had a couple), as described on the Meeting Alice page .... but in fact, that was bollocks!
I was about to have an even better one!!
I was invited over to Essen, with the snake, to meet up with the band on their return from Greece, stay for the show, and fly home the day after. The good Lady will do all the European dates and I will get her back in London at the end of the tour.
It wasn't a problem if I couldn't make it but who am I to question Mr Mamis' judgement!!
I was definately up for the adventure!!!
Grugahalle .. here I come... !!!
I left Edinburgh at noon on June 8th 2004 for Clevedon where the band and crew buses were to leave the following day for Essen. I was to be dropped off at the hotel and the band bus would go on to pick up the band from Dusseldorf at 10.30 on the Thursday night.
Star-line put me up at the very pleasant Walton Park Hotel in Clevedon where I got the chance to spend a pleasant evening in the bar explaining the Lady's celebrity status to the locals.
Next day, at 3pm, I was collected from the hotel and taken to the band bus which had had new tyres fitted and was waiting at the motorway services.
Rob introduced me to Brian and Jane ( Mr n Mrs Zippy hereafter) and we were ready to roll. Star-line personnel had been winding Zippy up that he was looking after a snake all the way to Germany!!! An idea he didn't relish and he seemed happy to learn that she was being escorted!!
The Star-line fleet are state-of-the-art. I enjoyed air-conditioned plush leather upholstery and surround-sound dvd facilities all the way to Germany!!
The fridge was full and Zippy even had my bacon and eggs in there for brekky!!!
After enjoying dinner in the drivers restaurant on the Dover-Calais ferry, I settled down in the top lounge and watched Gladiator and Vanilla Sky while we drove through Antwerp and onto Essen.
The coffins (beds) on the new buses are very comfy and have drop-down LCD screens, headphones, a/c and lights. I settled down for a snooze around 2am as Zippy continued on the drive.
I half awoke around 5am while the bus was parking up at the Grugahalle and snoozed again til 8.30am whereupon facilities were required with some urgency!!
We found the woeful convenience inside the park behind the hall and after returning Zippy got up and started preparing the breakfast. Not £9.72 this time!!! .. lol
...and delicious it was too!!!!!
I checked into the Sheraton around 1pm and attended to the vital ablutions. It was warm and muggy all the way to Essen!!
Once freshened up and snake settled in, I went for a wander around the hotel and down into town. The main shopping was a goodly 20 min walk behind the station but I took note and returned to the hotel, dodging the rain as I went.
The band weren't arriving at the hotel until 11pm so I had time for a wee kip and then went down for dinner!
During my meal I was asked by the Service Manager if the band would require dinner on their arrival.
I had no idea!!!
Not wishing to deprive Alice of essential vitals tho, we agreed to keep one chef on til midnight...just in case!!!
Just after 11, the band bus pulled up outside the hotel. A bizarre traffic management arrangement which prevents it getting anywhere near the entrance!!
I was sitting in the lobby and watched as everybody piled in and porters ferried bags into the lift.
After getting settled Brian came down for a blether and I chatted to Eric and Toby. My flight home had been arranged and the details would be under my door in the morning.
I went to bed and tried to sleep .. but it was warm...and I was way tooo excited to get much shuteye.
Next morning I went down for breakfast just before 9am. The restaurant was quiet so I just had my bacon and eggs and on leaving, in an annexe to the dining area, sat Alice and Toby. Alice waved and I said good morning. And so...the day began!!
I was to phone Renfield around 1pm so I left for a wee wander round Essen. Essential gifts were to be purchased for Mary and I needed a bigger card for the digi camera.
Alice, Dash and Calico left the hotel before me for the obligatory shopping trip. Calico knew there was a Wallmart in town and they were to get stuff for the show.
The band were being picked up for a soundcheck at 4pm and the snake was to be on the bus at that time. Alice was doing radio interviews at 4pm from his suite and was going to the gig around 7.15pm. Toby was arranging a car to take me down around 7.30.
All was set until Brian suggested afterwards that 2 cars seemed unnecessary and he asked if I would like to go to the gig with himself and Alice in their car!!!!!!!
My blood pressure had been coping well up until then!!!
I courteously accepted the lift if it was absolutely unavoidable!!!...lol
Sadly tho.... young Mr Cooper had been in town overlong attending the hairdressers ... and missed his lift to the rehearsal at 4pm!!
Brian phoned me to tell me that due to this overstay, he would be travelling with them.
My hopes had been Dashielled!!!!
Hey!! I was doing ok!!
I got a cab down to the show about 7.30 and went to see Brian and Jane at the bus. Eric (crew bus driver) was there too. He was also doing 'spots' that show. When the rain came on (again) I took the tradesman's entrance and made my way down to the merchandise stall to purchase a few bawbles!!
Was accosted by 2 enthusiastic Ukranian fans who were determined to bleed me of Alice's hotel details in a futile attempt to justify their 5000 km journey. Somewhat fuelled by a hipflask o brandy, they persisted an onslaught of 'best' english to achieve their goal.
A father and son team, the younger member was later seen to be ejected from the barrier for attempting to rush the stage!!
Nice to meet Jutta before the show too.
Toby had granted me full-show photo access so I made my way into the pit as the stage was prepared for Alice.
Was nice to see Jill Kogliatis from the Sickbus in the front row!! Also saw Cindi from Holland and Seb and Tom on their Polish fans assault of Europe.
I was kinda disappointed with my photo efforts in Dublin but........then there was Essen!!!!!!
May I present probably some of my best shots yet!!!
The following shots are digital and are the reason I only use Fuji 800 35mm colour film!!!
After the show, I was lucky enough to talk to Alice for a while backstage. I was invited back with 2 ?German girls who talked about his radio show. I said many UK fans were saddened they couldn't hear it over here and he said moves were underway to get it on satellite in the near future. I also asked him about Sheryl's dance school anniversary thing, which he helped write and which includes 3 Alice songs. It hasn't been filmed yet but may be available later in the year. I also asked him how Dash was enjoying being in the show. He was having fun but was leaving Germany the day after the Essen show to go climb a glacier in Canada this week!
He was picked from a shortlist of 20 for a group of 10 to go from his Church. Calico has also done the trip in her earlier years. Its not for the faint-hearted and he was anticipating the challenge.
Toby had permitted me a lift back to the hotel in the bus!! After collecting the Lady in her new box I climbed onto the bottom deck. I sat with Calico beside me, then Tom, then Alice. Brian stood in the doorway (tho I did offer him a pew). Eric and Toby were sat opposite me. Ryan, Dash and Chuck were upstairs.
I resisted the glaring photo opportunity but will have THAT picture in my head for a looooooong while!!!!!
We enjoyed a tirade of abuse from Ginger (wildhearts) 'read' by, and directed at Mr Nelson. The conversation also involved altering the band intro's to include Satan's Piss ala ' from the smouldering realms of putrid death, dripping in Satan's Piss.....Tommy Clufetos!!!'
I 'think' Alice was.. joking!!
Back at the hotel , I settled the Lady down for the night and returned to the bar for a light libation.
Chuck, Tom and Calico were already there and were happy to let me join 'em as I showed off a few snaps from Dublin. Sigs secured we chatted a bit. I assured Tom that his place as tub-thumper extraordinaire was much appreciated by the UK fans who saw him in Ireland.
If you haven't seen the show yet, Tommy is a treat to behold on the double Sonor kit. A truly astonishing drummer and only 25!!!! Very Cool guy.
check out www.tommyclufetos.com and "HIT EM HARD"
Also ask Chuck for a 'The Druts' CD when you see him. Find out about that here.
The guys retired to bed and I got to speak to Calico for a goodly 45 mins before she went to bed. She spoke of her mum's dance school, fears of getting kidnapped and held to ransom, her black Volkswagon beetle and her job between tours. She also told me a story of Alice and Kane (Roberts) in a mall during a holdup!!
Kane asked Alice "Whadda we do?!?!?''
"Run" came the reply. So they took off like hares ....... under a hail of bullets!!!!
She is a sweet girl. I assured her we were watching her back!!
I wished her goodnight and chatted with the barstaff before retiring to bed myself.
Had been a great day!!
Aki from the hotel was happy to get a hold o the Lady before he went home.
Next day, Saturday, I awoke heavy of heart (well not THAT heavy). I had to go home today. Deep sorrow.
Saw all the band as they appeared for the bus and got the obligatory me and thems.
Thanks to Biggi and Bea for taking the shots.
Pickup was originally scheduled for midday but this was put back to 12.30 to allow Alice time to take Dash to Dusseldorf airport for his return trip to the States.
On the way back he was popping into Wallmart for a picnic table for the ensuing card game. ( The bus didn't have tables)
Around 12.45 Alice returned, picnic table under arm and they were ready to leave for Holland.
Alice kindly signed a few more photos for me in the seconds before departure....
'Get off the bus, Bill' said Mr. Nelson
'But the ink isn't dry'
'Get off the bus, Bill'
'But it's raining'
'Get off the bus, Bill'
'But ... Ok Brian'
I rushed back to the hotel thru the torrential downpour, clutching my spoils.
I watched the bus disappear into the distance and walked back into the hotel with a grin the felines of Cheshire can only aspire to!!!!
Later that day I was flown home via Amsterdam and arrived back in Edinburgh at 8.45pm.
I hope to see 'em all again at Hammersmith on June 27th 2004 when the Lady will end her tour of Europe.
Good story eh???
Picked up a tidy collection of sigs on some of my better shots.
My jacket now carries sigs from Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, Toby Mamis, Brian Nelson, Eric Dover, Chuck Garric, Tommy Clufetos, Ryan Roxie, Calico Cooper and Dash Cooper plus Lesley West, Corky Laing and Richie Scarlet.
The Me 'n' Them's
Myself with Mr and Mrs Zippy
with Mr Clufetos and Mr Garric
with Mr Dover
with Miss Cooper
with the Guv'nor