Thursday, March 13, 2014

Big George, our Gentle Giant

     I had planned a totally different blog for today, but something happened  that I just felt I needed to address. I am a HUGE Celtic Thunder fan. I discovered them on a PBS special seven years ago and have been a big fan ever since. Every year I would say I wish I could go to a concert, but their local concert was invariably over Thanksgiving weekend when I was down on Long Island visiting my family. Then, like magic, they picked a different weekend and I asked my hubby if for my birthday and Christmas (both in the same month) I could buy a ticket to see them in person. He said yes and like a teenybopper, I went to camp out at the box office so I could get a good seat - and I did - first row! Not long after, we made plans to visit my daughter in Kansas a month or so before my concert in NY. Then, surprise, surprise, Celtic Thunder changed the venue for a new DVD they were filming from PA to Kansas City - only 40 minutes from my daughter AND in the same week I was going to visit her! I called her and said, "Remember when you offered to buy me a ticket to see Billy Joel for my birthday/Christmas/Mother's Day gift and I said no"? Well, I think if its possible, I have a concert I would like to go to while we are visiting. She laughed and said OK and I ordered my ticket for the filming. I was going to be 25 rows back, but I was happy as a clam because it was being filmed and would be a cool way to see them for the first time.

      I got to the venue in Kansas City and met Kathy, another fan I had gotten to know on their facebook page. She and I got there early hoping to meet them before the show, but they were doing interviews all day, so we just sat in her car playing their cd's and getting to know each other. Finally, we went to dinner and then the show. I was so excited! I had a great time looking at all the loot for sale and listening to the chatter of all the fans who had come. I made my way to my seat and got ready...they did not disappoint. Even though they were far away, their energy was contagious. All of them sang so well and were so engaging and I really hoped I could meet them.

     After the concert, I went to the backstage door feeling a little silly at 60 to be hanging out at a stage door. I had done tons of that as a teen, but as an adult it was a little strange. However, the lads (we don't call them guys) all came out more than happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Here is the one I had with George that night.
     Now, it was time for the concert I had the first row tickets for. I had started following them on twitter and Facebook and learned George was a huge Harry Chapin fan. I am too, and had all his albums - yes, the vinyl kind, not CD's.  I haven't played them in years and actually had bought new CD's, so I thought maybe George might like a copy of the first album which had a wonderful insert with pictures of Harry.
      Once again, I got to the venue early. This time, I was in luck. Because it was not an arena, the tour buses were parked right on the street next to the theater. I met  Ryan and had a nice little chat, and then Neil. I asked Neil if he could get George as I had this gift for him and he said, sure he would go backstage and get him. He also kept saying "You're so kind." which I thought was kind of cute. In fact after the show he came out to where I was standing in line with other fans and remembered my name and said, "Linda - did you like the show?" I was touched he remembered my name and several girls pounced on me after he left wanting to know how he knew my name!. But I digress. Shortly after Neil went inside, George came out looking for me. I raised my hand and he came over to where I was standing. I gave him the album and he was really touched. He said it would hang in pride of place in his house. We talked about Harry for a while and then other singer-songwriters that we liked and I encouraged him to look into Randy Newman and a few others he hadn't heard of. Then he asked if I had his personal CD and I said no, I hadn't gotten it yet. He said "Wait right here," and ran back into the theater. A few moments later, he reappeared with a copy of his CD. He asked if I would like it signed, and of course I said yes. He asked if I would listen to it and report back to him letting him know which songs I liked and what my review of the whole album would be. He said "Promise?" and I said "Promise." Then he said, don't tell anyone I did this, I don't usually do this!

     We spent a good half hour chatting and I was really touched by the time he spent with me and the fact that he felt my opinions were valuable. He was a really stand up kind of guy.
During the show he looked at me during one of his solos and winked. Then while taking bows, he came right up to where I was sitting and pretended to tip his hat to me. Afterwards, while I waiting on line to meet the others, he came by and said thanks again.

     Fast forward to the next year where I saw them at two different venues. When they were in Schenectady,  I was poking around and ended up inside the theater during their sound check. I sat in the bleacher section and just observed. Then I thought, I really shouldn't be here, but didn't know how to leave without being found out. So I hunkered down till it was over. It was interesting to see the guys when they weren't expecting anyone else to be around. There was a lot of joking and slagging going on and at one point, George whipped out his cell phone and said loud and clear, "How do you spell Emmet is a dick!" I almost laughed out loud! I have to admit, that is a special memory for me as silly as it is. In Poughkeepsie I ran into George and chatted and had another picture taken - this would be my last taken with him.
     We fans had been waiting a long time - close to an hour - to see the "lads" and say hi - and yes, I was by now a "Thunderhead," seeing 2 shows a year. As usual George was one of the first ones out and ran by us with his suitcase saying "Just let me get this settled on the bus and I'll be out." Sure enough, less than 10 minutes later, he hopped off the bus and signed everyone's programs or t-shirts

     This past fall, I saw the show twice. The first show I saw George near the venue and he shouted hi. The next night, he was in the lobby signing autographs and I had him sign my Thunderhead t-shirt. I took a picture of him, but sadly it turned out blurry.
     Last month, I bit the bullet and bought a ticket to go on the Celtic Thunder cruise. I had heard stories of the previous cruise where everyone had a wonderful time and how much fun they had running into all the lads on the boat and how gracious they were - even going down long hallways and signing people's posters that were on their doors. I heard lots of sweet stories about George.

     Today, as I write this, I am in shock. George had a massive heart attack at his home in Glasgow last night and passed away. He was only 46. His fellow performers in Celtic Thunder are reeling under this news and my heart goes out to them and his lovely wife and daughter. He was a huge family man and adored his wife Carrie and daughter Sarah who is only 13. Normally he would be touring doing PBS promos for the fall tour, but for some reason, he did not go.  How wonderful he spent his last days with the people he loved most. His last tweet, which was last night was this:

Mar 12
Harry Potter night tonight again with Sarah. There's nothing like it………. The movies are ok.

We will all miss him, his friendly demeanor and his wonderful sense of humor.

As George would say, NNGB - night night and God bless.


1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written tribute, Linda. Thanks for sharing it, & the pictures, as well. God Bless !
    K Dunn