There's a Bruce Springsteen concert in Oakland on Friday, and my wife, Diane, and I will be there. Of course. Where else in the world would we be?
Since being blown away by Bruce as college students in 1981, we've been rabid devotees, never missing one of his tours. When he comes, we go. That's our rule. No questions asked. Springsteen shows are as woven into our relationship as dinner time chats and good-night kisses.
Over 30-plus years, I've lost track of how many concerts we've seen in the Bay Area and beyond. Diane and I joke that we're putting Bruce's kids through college, that he's practically family. And yet, we've never met the guy.
That's somewhat ironic, considering how much of my life has been spent interviewing celebrities, first as a sports writer, then as someone who covers TV and pop culture. I've come face-to-face with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Britney Spears, Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry and Tom Hanks. But I haven't had a chance to shake the hand of the man who, essentially, has provided the soundtrack of my life.
Oh, we've been close, for sure. During the "Born in the USA" tour in '85, Diane and I were lucky enough to nab third-row seats, from where we both swore that Bruce made eye contact with us. And then there was that summer in Hawaii when we unwittingly walked into a cafe where employees were still abuzz because he had been there only moments earlier.
Close, but no Boss.
The lack of personal contact probably wouldn't bother me as much if I didn't know several people who actually have met Bruce. A college pal of mine who works at the L.A. Times once spent an entire afternoon driving him around for a photo shoot. (Oh, the unfairness of it all!). Also, Peter Ames Carlin, a one-time fellow TV critic, had several chats with Springsteen while writing his highly enjoyable biography of the rock star. ("Bruce," Simon & Schuster).
And I just recently discovered that a current co-worker once interviewed Springsteen way back when. Am I jealous? Insanely.
But to be honest, I'm of two minds about the whole thing. While I am certainly intrigued by the idea of spending some quality time with Springsteen, there's another part of me who thinks that maybe it's best we keep our distance. Why? I fear that either I'd turn into a tongue-tied, babbling doofus, or the get-together would fail to live up to my sky-high expectations.
I've certainly been let down by celebrities before. In 1987, I was covering spring training when I had a chance to speak with Reggie Jackson. He was one of my major boyhood idols -- someone I had pledged my undying allegiance to during the glory days of the Swinging A's. But when it came time for our interview, the bubble completely burst. Jackson was bristly, inattentive and off-putting. Basically, he was a jerk.
Maybe that's why I haven't gone out of my way to meet Bruce. I've never even tried to reach out for an interview. Nor have I done the stalker thing -- loitering behind arenas or in hotel lobbies. I'm not that kind of fan.
No, the meeting I envision would be a quiet one-on-one conversation, maybe over beers. What would I say, if I got the chance?
I'd probably start by telling him how his music was introduced to me by my late college roommate and how I spoke of our strong Springsteen bond while delivering the eulogy at his funeral. And how I can't attend a Bruce show these days without thinking of my friend and getting all misty-eyed.
Then, too, I'd want to tell him that, as someone who wrestles with words for a living, I greatly admire how he can tell complex, personal stories with an incredible economy of lines and still get straight to the heart of the matter. And if we had time, I'd try to convey how inspired I am by the passion, integrity and idealism that he brings not only to his craft, but to his high-minded vision for what we should aspire to as a nation.
Naturally, I'd also try to touch upon the incredible amount of joy he has brought into our lives: How Diane and I danced to his songs at our wedding reception and how we used to beam with pride during vacation car trips when our two little boys would sing every word of "Thunder Road" at the top of their lungs.
I'd recount, too, how, when our sons got older, they'd join us at concerts where we'd rock out and punch the air together in cathartic celebration. And I'd make sure to tell him how no other performer I've ever come across can speak to me on such a visceral level, or has such a knack for cheering me up when I truly need it.
Mostly, though, I guess I'd just want to say, "Thanks for being there."
Contact Chuck Barney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his TV blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/tv, and follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney, and at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney.