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Sunday, May 05, 2002

My friend Kelly Link started it. "Since you're at B.E.A.," she said, "Why don't you come with me and Gavin and Claudia and Chelsey to see the Rock Bottom Remainders?"

So I said okay.

And after the Harper Collins cocktail party thing, at which I discovered the best thing about wearing a name tag is that when the waitresses (whose names were Kat and Jessica) figured out who I was, being Sandman and Death fans, I got the coolest most personal service and extra plates of fist-sized strawberries dipped in chocolate just in case I needed them. And I did them a drawing each on their waitress pads, and Jessica, who had wanted a Death, got lucky and got a really cool Death drawing (my Sandman sketches are mostly good, but it's a 50/50 sort of thing with Death and me. Sometimes the sketches are good, and sometimes they, er, suck badly).

And then, with my agent Merrilee in tow, on to Webster Hall to see the Rock Bottom Remainders. Merrilee had seen them before, on many occasions, at Book Fairs across America, and while she didn't really see any reason why she needed to see their Tenth Anniversary gig, was willing to accompany me.

The Rock Bottom Remainders were great. I mean, they weren't great great. They were people having much too much fun great, which is a completely different kind of great, ranging as it does from bar-band to Langley Schools Music Project. But there were about 700 people in there having fun watching them.

"By the way. They want to know if you'll go up on stage with them for the final number," said Merrilee, who had Spoken To Someone.

"No," I said. "Absolutely not. Nope. Uh-uh. Won't happen."

"They said they'd call you up from the audience for Gloria. I said you'd be delighted."

"No! Never! No! Argh!"

Merrilee will tell you that this conversation is not true and that I did say yes when she asked me, eventually. Who are you going to believe? An agent you've never even met? Or me?

Exactly. So I kind of said yes, eventually, and Merrilee didn't say to the people "Well, he kind of said yes, eventually, but I think he'd rather have his toenails gnawed off by weasels" which would have been what I pay her the big bucks for, no, she said "Oh he'd love to. He'd be delighted. Nothing could give him greater pleasure."

I think I thought they'd forget about me, but at the end of the gig, after Amy Tan had done "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and flogged people, and after they'd put on the Tinsel Halos for Steve King to sing "Teen Angel" someone shouted "And will Neil Gaiman get on up here," and so I walked up on the stage.

("I'm wearing shades," I thought, possibly insanely. "No-one will ever know it's me.")

We sang "Gloria". It's spelled G-L-O-R-I-A, in case you were wondering. That being the final song we got off stage. The crowd stomped and yelled for more.

"Louie Louie!" shouted Dave Barry or Steve King or somebody, "Go!" and we hurried back onto the stage.

This time I grabbed a kazoo. As the Rock Bottom Remainders thundered into "Louie Louie", it was pretty obvious to me that the whole of the audience was thinking the exact same thing. This being: "Gee, for a guy who was having difficulty spelling Gloria correctly only a couple of minutes ago, that new guy in the leather jacket has pretty much figured out which end of the kazoo you hum the bass part of "Louie Louie" into."

The end, tumultuous applause. As I had thought, it was the much "too much fun" kind of great.

I suspect that this may have been my last hurrah as a rock and roll idol, but just in case I pocketed the kazoo. Well, you never know.



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