Are We Famous Yet?: How to Know When You've Made it Big

HMXHellion is Senior Writer/Producer at Harmonix. HMXHellion is currently feeling extremely justified, having learned from the official TMNT site that the lyric is, in fact, "Raphael is cool but crude" and NOT "Raphael is cool but rude." Suck on that, wall of the ladies' bathroom at Hugo's Bar.

A month or so ago, my band VAGIANT was playing at a basement show. Okay, technically, it was a loft show, but as "loft" conjures images of rich, white people listening to Coldplay and drinking Shiraz, let's call it a basement show. There was something strange about the show -- I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but something was off. After we finished playing, I grabbed my foxy escort (1) and ran outside to let some of the sweat evaporate in the cool air and discuss the strange occurrence of the evening.

"That was weird," I confided to aforementioned escort, "There were all these people in the front row who knew all the words to all the songs? But I've never seen them before. Who were they?"

Beauhunk cocked an eyebrow in confusion. "Um," he explained, "those are called 'fans.'"

"But I don't know who they are!" I insisted, "Like, I've never seen them. And they know ALL the words to EVERYTHING."

"Right," Beauhunk continued patiently, "That's what fans are – they are people that you don't know who like your music."

This story tends to make people laugh, mostly because I am so cute and hilarious, but it continues to confuse me. Yes, I know intellectually that there are people out there who happen to be aware of my band and who for some reason purchase our records. But emotionally, every time someone orders a CD or t-shirt or pin emblazoned with our "wicked angry cupcake" logo, I feel like I should call them on the phone and personally thank them, or at least give them a half-hearted "Jersey Backseat Handshake" in return. Getting used to the idea that people other than your family and friends are aware of your existence takes time. And a lot of half-hearted HJs.

The idea of fame is a powerful motivator for aspiring musicians. It's easy to imagine throngs of screaming fans, weeping and self-flagellating and clutching at their bosoms, while you beneficently wave at them like the Pope in studded leather (2). The reality is that actual fame eludes almost everybody. You know who the Fratellis are, but would you recognize Mince Fratelli on the street (3)?

I distinctly remember the first time I ever saw someone that I didn't know wearing my band's tee shirt. I was walking down the street in Worcester, trying to find a decent breakfast spot, and saw a lanky, dreadlocked gentleman walking a beagle and wearing a tight, red VAGIANT tee. My heart began to race. Now, normally, lanky dudes in dreadlocks make me want to hornk Fruity Pebbles on the sidewalk, due to memories of patchouli stank and visions of bumper stickers that read "Phish Phan" and "DEA: Doobie Enjoyment Association." But the sight of this gentleman wearing my band's tee shirt felt to me like an obvious omen.

Here is what was going through my mind as the upstanding bohemian citizen meandered in my direction: 

"Okay. This is it. You have made it. Hmm, will Joan Jett will be okay with having Cookiepuss as the wedding cake, given that she's a strict macrobiotic vegetarian? Heh, I'm sure she would be – as long as it makes me happy, it makes her happy. And I could compromise! We could have some sort of brown rice and seaweed compote as the main entrée. I should actually start looking into reception halls now, because what with me and Joan both having crazy tour schedules, it'll probably be tough to nail down a date. Oh, unless we're touring together. VAGIANT could open for her… or, you know, the other way around. Heh, no, that's crazy. Or maybe not – I mean, I don't see any Joan Jett tee shirts on the streets of Worcester this morning…"

And so forth. Eventually the man with the laissez-faire attitude was within earshot and I smirked knowingly, ready to deliver my prepared line.

"Nice shirt," I commented, trying to muster an expression of simultaneous worldliness and modesty, awaiting the inevitable moment when he would recognize me and flip the hell out, like a supernerd meeting Peter Cullen (4).

"Oh thanks," he said, looking down at it, "I found it in the street."

F**king hippie.

Even though this encounter did not turn out exactly as I had expected (5), it still means that someone in Worcester purchased a VAGIANT shirt at some point. I can only assume he/she lost it by accident while swinging it wildly over his/her head and shouting, "Hellion is a goddess! She is hotter than Cheetara wearing a schoolgirl uniform!"

If you need any more proof that even famous people aren't really famous, my band had an interesting encounter when we played in Lakewood, OH (6). After finishing our set, we learned from the bartender that "the guitarist from Warrant" had come to see us play and wanted to meet us. Seeing as we were somewhat hopped up on adrenaline and PBR, we found this revelation tremendously exciting.

Too exciting, in fact. So exciting that we neglected to realize the facts that a) we did not really know what the guitarist from Warrant looked like, b) that we didn't even know WHICH Warrant guitarist it was, and c) that we don't even like Warrant that much (7). When I saw an attractive fellow wearing a baja poncho coming towards us smiling, I made a barely-educated guess and said, "Billy… Morris?" We carried on excitedly with him and gushed about what big fans we were (8) and then went about our merry, drunken way. Billy seemed to get a big kick out of the whole thing, and even invited us to party with him and "the boys" if they ever play in the Boston area (9).

Fame is not something that is going to come easily, so you have to enjoy whatever attention you get. Be grateful when anyone buys your CD. Be kind and considerate to the fans that come to see you play. Toss the occasional "grip 'n' grimace" to the true fanatics. And always, always know your '80s hair metal history… 'cause you never know when you will make another musician's day.

1) Escort like "date," not escort like "yo, you betta pay up FIRST, 'cause you KNOW I don't shoot nobody's Skee-ball for free. You got any Alizé up in here?"

2) Although he almost never wears it due to the need to uphold his Papal reputation, Benedict XVI looks wicked tasty in his patent leather unitard.

3) I wouldn't even recognize him if he was shouting, "I am Mince Fratelli!" and pointing at a picture of himself in a magazine. I'd be all, "Whatevs, homeslice, lay off the square mackerel."

4) Did you get that reference? HAHA, NERD! But seriously, I love you.

5) (With me tenderly banging Joan Jett in a romantic alley of love.)

6) Just outside of Cleveland, and home of a really kickass bar called the Spitfire. GG on the jukebox!

7) Except LoWreck. LoWreck f**king loves Warrant. But then again, LoWreck likes exercise and 'tushy adventures,' so her taste is questionable.

8) Which, again, was not a lie in LoWreck's case.

9) This invitation was later also extended via Myspace, but included creepy undertones about "looking forward to eating… I mean… meeting you again" so needless to say, we declined the invitation to party with "the boys." Well, everyone except LoWreck.