Last week, I wrote an article about some of the worst seats in the place. One person wrote and accused it of being a "puff piece." I considered writing back and challenging whether the article had actually risen to that level, but I thought better of it and let it go.
Several people shared absolutely hilarious stories of seats they had had to occupy at one time or another. Chris Wuench, who covers sports for The Explorer, told me that when he was taking journalism classes at the University of Arizona, there was a 30-chair room in the old Franklin Building that had restricted-view seats. Another guy told me that he went to a show in a crowded club in Europe where he had to sit in a chair that was bolted to the floor and faced away from the stage. And he couldn't stand up because everybody else was seated.
I once went to see jazz performer Blue Mitchell at a little club in California. Mitchell had played with John Mayall during the British blues master's flirtation with jazz.
So, I go to this club, where you have to pay to get in and then buy two grotesquely overpriced drinks. The place is full, so they throw in an extra table right down front. My friend and I sat down and I ordered a soda. Mitchell comes out and starts playing. Our table was right next to him and all I could think was, "Please don't clean your spit valve. I paid five bucks for this soda."
All of a sudden, he stops and asks why I'm "eyeballin'" him. Being the consummate ghetto tough, I replied, "I beg your pardon."
He told me to stop eyeballin' him when he played and then he made fun of me for drinking soda. He told me that I couldn't eyeball him the rest of the night.
Ever since I was a teenager, I've always carried a book with me everywhere I go. Not the same book; that would be lame. Anyway, I took out the book and started reading. He hits the ceiling. "What, now you're going to ignore me in my own place?!" (It wasn't his place.)
I told him that I was no longer eyeballin' him. By now, the crowd is getting ugly, what with all the overpriced alcohol flowing. He rags some more and then I, getting ready to leave, said, "Dude, acting like Miles Davis ain't gonna' make you play like Miles Davis."
He busted out laughing and went back to playing. To this day, I think that it just must have been the drugs kicking in. Jazz players are freaks. I stared at his shoes the rest of the night.
That was the concert story I was thinking of telling in the article. But then I spoke to these two teenage girls and they told me a funny story about what happened to them at a concert. They got there early so they could stand down front near the stage and soon realized that they might have been more comfortable elsewhere. The concert just happened to be at the legendary Rialto downtown. It could have been anywhere and I probably could have told the story without ever mentioning the Rialto. (Maybe I should have.)
I got at least a dozen e-mails from people who all basically said, "Been there!" They all told funny stories of being in the wrong place at concerts. It's a universal thing.
But then I got an e-mail from Curtis McCrary, who basically runs the Rialto. He said that the piece made him and his place look bad. I was stunned.
You have to understand, the Weekly and the Rialto are boys. Not boys, as in yet-to-be-grown men, but ... you know, boys. (I'm doing my best to resist putting a "z" at the end of the word.)
Oh sure, we might have awkward moments, like that time your friend got a girlfriend and the two of them showed up in public wearing matching shirts.
Anyway, Curtis felt the piece was negative and I assured him that certainly was not my intent. I love the Rialto. Everybody I know loves that place.
Curtis was upset with the pull-quote in which one of the girls said it was the "most uncomfortable experience of my life." But she had smiled the entire time she told me the story, and when I asked her about after the article came out, she said it was "really fun, just, you know, in an uncomfortable way."
It was indeed hot that summer night, but the Rialto now has a new air-conditioning system. Curtis was also concerned that my writing and the accompanying photo might make some parents think that it's (and I love this wording) "some kind of feral hellhole that's unsafe and uncomfortable for their kids." Nothing is further from the truth. I know lots of kids (and their parents) who go to the Rialto all the time and they never have anything but a good, safe time.
Curtis and everybody else at the Rialto have worked hard to upgrade everything and it shows. I hope they accept my apology if even one reader of that article came away with a negative view of the Rialto, which is a special place.