Nation Other News 16 Apr 2017 Starlight or Smoke?
Ajit Saldanha has a finger in the pie, and another on the political pulse. And when he writes, he cooks up a storm.

Starlight or Smoke?

Published Apr 16, 2017, 5:36 am IST
Updated Apr 16, 2017, 5:37 am IST
Rock stars overlook minor discomforts in the dressing room because onstage they get to bask in that surreal, heady atmosphere of devotion.
 Michael Jackson watched his own DVD’s to make reality bite a little less painfully but we all know how that story ended.
  Michael Jackson watched his own DVD’s to make reality bite a little less painfully but we all know how that story ended.

Last week, I was like, totally embarrassed at a party, thanks to the generational divide, which is roughly equal to the spiritual distance between Yogi Adityanath and Ambarish. This pony-tailed twenty-something was holding forth on the fascinating subject of his career choice. In my defence, all I can say is that the music was loud and Gen Y tends to mumble:  running their words together almost as if they're speaking in SMS-ese. Anyway, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. The guy was telling us about his start-up in the Valley (pronounced Vialley) and I mistakenly assumed he was a Rolling Stones fan.

 “Awesome, you like Jagger," I gushed and though I blush to admit it, I may have even played a little air guitar. “Don't make a grown man cry, my hands are greasy, she's a mean, mean machine, Start it up,” I warbled, while the bystanders giggled. Ponytail looked at me with the horror reserved for someone who had projectile-vomited shrikhand onto his Armani jacket, saying “Uncle, I have no clue who this Jagger is”, while shaking his plait from side to side in pain. I asked a passing waiter to bring him a Jaegerbomb, but he, like me, seemed hard of hearing.

 

Psychotherapists have a theory about the perils of fame and time spent in the limelight: talented individuals share a self-destructive streak. This manifests itself in boozing, dope, screaming at one's near and dear and at innocent bystanders and other forms of what is termed 'socially unacceptable behaviour.' My friend, James Marsala, is perhaps uniquely positioned to study both sides of the coin. Jim, as he is known, works days as a key grip in Hollywood and plays Ringo Starr in a Beatles tribute band at night. Key grip is a fancy name for coolie and the job includes fetching, lifting and catering to the whims and fancies of sultry starlets and disgruntled directors.

 

Consequently, Jim is pretty stressed out, as in addition to the physical hard work, he has to deal with tantrums and hissy fits. He has a fund of anecdotes about rising stars, falling stars, has- been's, wannabes and never-will-be’s, which will cause ‘your knotted and combined locks to separate and stand on end like quills upon the fretful porcupine.’ Given the popularity of movies like, ‘A Star is Born’, starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand and ‘Sunset Boulevard’, based on the life of Gloria Swanson, the theme of fleeting stardom, laced with sex, drugs and rock and roll, is one that resonates with Hollywood.

 

What goes up must come down and the adrenaline rush of thousands of fans and groupies screaming themselves hoarse gives rockers an intense onstage rush with the downward spiral kicking in the moment they reach the dressing- room. Michael Jackson watched his own DVD’s to make reality bite a little less painfully but we all know how that story ended. Day-to-day life seems so dull in comparison to show-time that uppers, booze and kinky sex seem the only palliatives. Rock stars overlook minor discomforts in the dressing room because onstage they get to bask in that surreal, heady atmosphere of devotion.

 

‘I met up with Clint one time after a shoot and we’re sinking a few wifebeaters, (beer with bourbon chasers) and we went out for a fancy steak dinner,” says Jim. ‘He says going back to that empty hotel room or that big old mansion back in Beverly Hills, is a bummer, man. It got me thinking if I could figure a way to bottle up that stage vibe, that awesome rush that surges through every fibre of your being and makes your nerve ends tingle, I’d be a *$^King billionaire, man. No drug can give you that high.” Jim’s magic formula carried the unmistakable flavour of truth, despite feasibility issues.

 

To make up for my Rolling Stones gaffe, I looked around for ponytail to share Jim’s business plan with him. “Dude, I said, “I’ve got a totally kick**s idea for a start-up and I am giving it to you free.” He eyed me warily before saying, “Ok, let’s hear it.” “Ok, so here’s what you do,” I said, “you distil the most heady, golden, delirious, sweaty moments from a live stage performance of the top rockers, you bottle it with musk gland or vetiver, whatever…and you go in for a multimedia campaign, Facebook.” Sadly, young people today have no manners; before I could elaborate on the press release, I saw him striding briskly towards the exit. I didn’t even get to tell him the brand name: Starlight or Smoke, which sounds better?

 

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