Five Hours Earlier …

This will be quick, but I’m annoyed by this ongoing phase in today’s  television.

It’s a trend on American TV that is driving me absolutely insane.  The latest was visible in Monday night’s episode of NBC’s “State of Affairs” that stars Katherine Heigl.  Viewers see the action, a terrorist operative blows herself and some building up.  Then we get the onscreen line, “FIVE  HOURS EARLIER.”  oh puleeze!

“Criminal Minds’ has been doing this a lot, too, recently, and they aren’t alone.  It seems like the powers that be all seem to think that to be dramatic a show an episode should have a teaser and then go back in time to tell the story.

Just tell the dang story and leave the punch to the end like it’s supposed to be.  It’s time for this phase to end.  It’s lost its charm

Alfie Boe’s Fleetwood, The Good and the Not-So-Good

From the moment I became Boe’d (a term created by fans to reference their admiration for British singer Alfie Boe), I knew that should some miracle happen and I ever traveled to England, I would absolutely have to take a trek to Fleetwood, the small fishing town in Lancashire where Alfie was raised.  The youngest of nine, Alfie still returns to his hometown regularly as his mother and a slew of family still live there and in surrounding areas.  Well, a miracle happened, thanks to two very kind women, and recently I did get to the UK for Alfie’s Arena Tour.  It was wonderful.

My lovely friend, Annie, another Alfie fan who chauffeured me all over the countryside as we traveled venue to venue, knew of my desire to visit Fleetwood.  She’d been there before herself and, thanks to another friend who served as our guide, so to speak, we ventured forth to the seaside town at our first opportunity.

We joked that there really should be an Alfie tour for fans (the little town might be surprised how many fans really do pop in just to take a look at some of the Alfie sites).  There were several obvious choices, including the Marine Hall and the catholic high school where Alfie had so much, cough, fun where we dropped by for a bit.  It was a hoot to stand on Alfie’s stage at the Marine Hall, for example, though I’m not sure they’d call it Alfie’s stage, but we all know that’s what it is! <G>P1000160

One of the other places we went was to the Fleetwood Beach Kiosk, a little stand off the beach run by Craig.  Among other things, he sells rock candy, delicious ice cream, and Fisherman’s Friend lozenges.  Alfie knows Craig, of course, and they’ve exchanged messages on Twitter, so we couldn’t help but bring it up when we were there.  We took pictures and Craig gave me some rock candy for Alfie and his kids.

The next concert was in Glasgow and at the meet and greet, I followed through and gave Alfie the rock candy.  He got a big smile on his face as he took possession of the treats.  Then he deduced, “So you’ve been to Fleetwood.”

Gulp.  A big smile on my face and, as I touched his arm, “Yes.  We did the Alfie pilgrimage.”  Fortunately, Alfie didn’t ask what all made up the pilgrimage.  Always observant, though, he noticed a shopping bag in my possession and noted, “You went to Blackpool, too.”  A laugh from me and a short, “Yes,” for the response.

It was fun chatting briefly with Alfie about his beloved  hometown.  I told him about our visit with Craig.  Craig really was so nice.  We took pictures and had a great time visiting with him.  He’s a happy representative of Fleetwood.P1000190cropped

Those Fisherman’s Friend cough lozenges are amazing, by the way.  I’ve seen Alfie tweeting with the company, and I’ve even had a response or two from them.  I should have bought a package at Craig’s stand and regret not doing so, but Annie did.  They came in handy toward the end of the tour when my voice was playing games with me.   They warm your throat.  The thing is I’ve sworn off cough medications in recent years.  So many studies indicate it’s pointless, that they don’t really do anything, and from my own personal experience, I agreed with those findings.  So, a few years back, I decided to save my money and let nature take its course.

What really made me a believer was when I arrived home in America.  I developed a nasty cold that was mainly a nasty cough.  Annie had given me the rest of the lozenges (she really just wanted the tin it came in) and I started taking them as instructed.  Lo and behold, they truly have eased the irritation in my throat and reduced my coughing fits.  I’ve been amazed.  Alfie says he takes these all the time, often before a show.  That’s what began my curiosity with the product, but with my own experience, I’m now a big fan of Fisherman’s Friend.  It took a long time, but I finally got my free sample last week from the US division.  I prefer the UK side of the business, though, since they are more communicative.  Maybe they can tell me how to order a package, or maybe I can somehow buy a package from Craig (want one of those tins myself as a reminder of my visit).  All I can say is that the product is the first of its kind to actually work for me in years and years, so I’m a believer.  Fellas, keep Alfie well stocked!

The only place or connection to Alfie that I was disappointed in was the North Euston Hotel.  Craig’s Fleetwood Beach Kiosk is right across the street from the hotel, by the way.  Alfie has eaten at the hotel a lot and there have been quite a few tweets done.  We actually met the man who often has his picture taken with Alfie when he goes there.  He appeared to be very nice.  Maybe we scared him off, but after saying he’d be back to take our order, he just disappeared.  We never saw him again.  Worse, no one was asking for our order.  We waited a very long time before finally approaching another staff member who ultimately took our order.  Unfortunately, it was a bit of a nightmare.  The service was horrible.  Our orders were mostly wrong and/or incomplete and it was difficult to get anyone’s attention.  When we first sat down, the place was packed.  It dwindled down to just us and one or two other tables, but the service never improved.

It’s odd what you remember, too, but one of the female workers was a plodder.  By that I mean that when she walked it was like a stomp, and I can still hear her, plodding heavily as she walked all over the room.  She seemed frustrated with the kitchen.  Maybe they were having issues with their cooks.  I don’t know, but what I do know is that I experienced nothing positive about the North Euston Hotel.  My hunch, though, is that if I were Alfie, service would have been a hundred times better.  Sadly, with our disappearing waiter, essentially no service from any staff member, and incorrect food orders, I would never recommend this hotel.  We even had to go in search of our check at the end.  It was as if they didn’t care we were there.

Fortunately, the rest of Fleetwood was awesome.  We had a lovely afternoon visiting key places (or just spots where we knew he’d been) in the Alfie experience.  For example, Strawberry Gardens.  We met the owners and had a wonderful chat with them.  Alfie’s been there and had his picture taken with Syd, one of the owners.  We suggested they should hang that picture on the wall which they thought was a good idea so maybe they will one of these days patrons will see a picture of Alfie on the wall.

For me, though, it was very important to spend some time just taking in one special part of Fleetwood.  Part of that was Alfie’s beach.  Okay, he doesn’t own the beach, but that’s how I think of it.  He’s talked a lot about that beach and being a young boy, looking out at the land in the distance, and wanting to go there.  Oops, he thought that land was America.  Er, not quite, Alfie, but it was the idea that mattered.  It was a bit overcast, so it was hard to see Alfie’s youthful idea of America, but it was out there.P1000196

I stood and looked out over that beach for a bit and then I took the short walk from the beach to Alfie’s house, or rather, his mum’s house.  That was something, just to be there, to look at it and know that is where his parents and older siblings raised this young man to be the delightful person he is today.  I have much respect for Patricia Boe.  It wasn’t easy for her to have children, let alone nine of them, but with her husband, Alfred, at her side, nine awesome Boes grew up to have awesome families of their own.  What a legacy Alfred and Pat created!

Because of the impact Alfie has had on my life, it was truly special to take in that part of Fleetwood, to visit the church that meant so much to him, where he asked God to give his ailing father peace at last, to see the family home, to look out over the thoughtful sea, and just to walk the streets, imagining the youthful Alfie as he learned who he wanted to be as an adult.  In ways, it really was a pilgrimage.

I truly wish we’d had more time to explore and get to know the little town where Alfie is a proud codhead, but for the short time we were there, it was very special.  It was so nice to see some of the places Alfie has talked about or mentioned in his memoir, “My Story,” which I highly recommend.  There were lots of friendly faces to make the short visit a delight.  Special thanks to Craig for being so nice and so much fun.

And, of course, always thanks to Alfie for being such a kind and understanding man.  I could have walked the streets of Fleetwood for hours and just relished the time of being in this precious town that helped to shape the Alfie we all know and love today.P1000223 cropped

The Quaint Wonder That is Moreton-in-Marsh

One of the places I’d hoped to visit on my recent visit to the United Kingdom, even briefly, was the Cotswolds, a beautiful part of the English countryside.  Fortunately, the opportunity presented itself as my friend Annie and I ventured from Brighton to Birmingham for the next Alfie Boe concert.  It was one of the few leisurely days we had during my time there.

The Cotswolds became known to me first through Alfie as he used to rent a home there.  The pictures shared were lovely.  I also knew of it via another favorite performer, an actress named Emma Samms who achieved fame in America for her roles as Holly Sutton Scorpio on “General Hospital” and Fallon Carrington Colby on “Dynasty” and “The Colbys.”  In her ingenue days, she was often compared to Elizabeth Taylor.  Trust me, she was born to play  La Liz and it’s a shame that opportunity never came her way.  Anyway, Emma lives in the Cotswolds now and she tweets some awesome pictures from her yard and nearby areas.  The wildlife is amazing!

Annie selected a lovely hotel for us to spend the night at called The White Hart Royal Hotel and Eatery located in Moreton-in-Marsh in the northern part of the Cotswolds.  The place is older than America!  The staff was very nice and the kicker for me was that it had the best service and was the most like what I know a hotel to be.  Hey, there was a working phone in our room!  They even delivered ice, in a bucket, to the room!  The beds were ‘normal’ and not low to the ground.  For that, I was a happy camper.

Now we did have an interesting view … from the bathroom.  LOL Seriously, that was a bit odd.  Let’s just say it would be wise to keep the curtains drawn while taking care of business!  Actually, the bathroom was in two parts with the shower/bath on one side of the room and the toilet on the other.  I admit I’ve never seen that before.

The hallway was like an amusement park in that the floor was a bit wonky.  It was like being at sea.  We just laughed and rolled with the floor!

The bar and restaurant was terrific.  They had a lovely warm fire that was awesome to relax near.  I enjoyed my favorite hot chocolate.  Annie enjoyed … hmmm … something more colorful, I believe!  :}

The town was lovely.  We went for a walk up and down the main street.  It was Christmastime so decorations were all about.  The biggest challenge was crossing the street.  To avoid being run over, you had to trust in the politeness of the British drivers.  I was more confident in that than Annie was, I believe.  We window shopped and visited a few of the shops, just enjoying the vibe.  We both enjoyed the feel of the area.

P1000283Driving toward the hotel, we imagined what area Alfie had lived in for a few years.  We didn’t really have time to explore that (to the residents of the Cotswolds, you’re welcome <G>), but we had a couple of specific guesses.  We imagined Alfie driving down the road after those forest concerts he did in 2012.  Somehow, we don’t think he was doing the speed limit.  I’m not sure why we had this image of him going pedal-to-the-metal except perhaps that there is nothing on that road to stop anyone from going an excessive speed and just knowing what we know about our favorite tenor, well, it’s easy to visualize him getting home as fast as he could.

I truly wish we had more time to enjoy the Cotswolds, but we did have a lovely drive through the area and the hotel was wonderful.  The only bad point for me were the stairs.  Stairs and I just don’t get along anymore.  It was arguably the most difficult time for me in getting around, but with Alfie for motivation, somehow, I survived.

If you’re ever in the area, check out the White Hart.  It’s an historic and beautiful place to spend a night or two.

Promoters, Ticket Sellers, Tour Managers, and Alfie Boe, Of Course!

The world of show biz can often be quite complex and intricate. Transparency is rarely part of the game and it can make dealings difficult for everyone involved, including an admiring public.  I’ve long been a participant in the celebrity world in one way or another.  My fandom goes back to childhood.  I’ve met some great folks in my time and have had some awesome memories as a result.  Most recently, I went to the United Kingdom for the entirety of the Alfie Boe Arena Tour.  Eleven dates were scheduled.  The tour was phenomenal, thanks to Alfie who puts everything he has into every song no matter what.

Many of my tickets were what they called the VIP Experience which meant some type of potential interaction with Alfie, a buffet before the concert, and a piece of merchandise or two.  The promoters for the tour were SJM Concerts.  Representing them was a man named George and his assistant, Joff.  I met them at the first concert in Newcastle and thought they were both very nice.  They explained the procedure for the event and were very pleasant.  When I found out they would be at all the events heading the VIP Experience, I let them know about a couple of issues that would be coming up, ticket wise.  Both said no problem and not to worry; everything would be fine.

Indeed, I enjoyed seeing these two at the events and found them to be very approachable and about as fair as fair could be with situations that arose.  Saying this does not mean I agree with everything that went on during the tour, but given their jobs, I think they did the best they could.  George had to coordinate between the venues, Alfie and his staff, and the fans.  It wasn’t easy.  I believe the high number of VIP attendees was in London at the O2.  There were 88 of those.  The low was in the high 30’s or low 40’s.  That’s a lot of people to satisfy, especially when everyone thinks they have a right to this or that.

When the VIP tickets first went on sale, the promotion as respects Alfie’s time was that he would come in sometime during the buffet and would be around for no more than 20 minutes.  I hated that idea.  I knew I wouldn’t eat.  I would not only be too nervous, but who wants to be mid-meal when Alfie appeared?  It would have been a nightmare in my opinion.  There was no guarantee of getting a picture with him, having him sign anything, or even having the chance to say hello.  When people spent their money on the VIP Experience, that’s what they were given: just an appearance by Alfie and nothing more.

Just before the tour began, however, emails began to go out for each venue.  Change in plans.  Now Alfie would be present before the buffet.  Everyone would have a chance for a picture and a minute to say hello or whatever.  I was thrilled and appreciative.  I became even more thankful when I learned that Alfie was coming straight from sound check to the VIP.  It was taking him out of his normal pre-show routine.  He didn’t have to do that.  I don’t know who actually made the suggestion, but ultimately, he had to agree to it, and he did.  This meant the buffet would be after everyone had a chance to talk with Alfie and get a picture and/or sometimes something signed.  It was awesome.

Then came Manchester, the sixth venue on the tour.  It really upset some folks as, in spite of the email that went out, Alfie just did a tour around the room.  We were told there would be no pictures.  He was just going to walk around the room and try to say hello to everyone.  The reason given, which feels like rubbish to me, was something about Alfie walking around and taking pictures in a room with food would be unhealthy.  Huh?  I don’t blame George for that explanation, but it never held water.  Let’s just say there was a definite lack of transparency on that night.

The good news was that very early on in his walk, a fan familiar to Alfie asked for a picture.  Folks, if you know one thing about Alfie Boe and his fans, it’s that he very rarely says no, especially to something like that.  Natch, he said yes.  Well, that started it.  When he reached my area, I shoved my camera into the expert hands of super-videographer Linda and asked Alfie for a picture.  “Of course,” came the response.  Gotta love that man!

The long and short of it is that many folks did get a picture and brief hello from Alfie that night, but not everyone did.  More importantly, he was out of that room in under ten minutes.  Mission accomplished from one side of the camp, anyway.

Here’s the thing.  We don’t really know what the true reason was for that change in the plan.  I don’t think SJM would alter something after having sent out the email.  It is quite possible, in my opinion, that the request came from Alfie’s team.  There could be many reasons for it, the top two being other demands on his time and his health (more on that later and possibly in a future blog post).

Here’s the thing, number two.  Alfie had a tour manager, a woman named Abigail or Abi for short.  I like Abi.  I found her to be approachable and quite nice.  Over the two weeks, I watched her help a number of fans in need of assistance, me included. Regardless, Abi had a job to do: protect Alfie and his schedule.  After Manchester, a few folks really raked her over the coals on Twitter and I thought that was a wrong thing to do. I understand the disappointment and maybeAbi, Murray, and John Nov 28 2014 cropped if I hadn’t gotten my picture and moment with Alfie, I would have felt more negatively.  However, I do think that the ones complaining did also get a moment, though I’m not sure.  They were regulars, though, people who see Alfie in the UK fairly frequently.  Again, I get the upset, but I don’t believe that blaming Abi was appropriate.  Abi did her job.  It’s quite possible Alfie wasn’t up for the whole thing and made the request to go to this abbreviated version. Everyone loves Alfie.  As I said, he doesn’t often say no, which means it’s Abi’s job to push him through, to make the excuses, and to safeguard him.  Abi did her job and, maybe what bothered some, was that she smiled and tried to be friendly while doing it.  Look, I didn’t like the occasional rushed quality or forcefulness either that happened here and there, but I repeat, Abi had a job to do.  Abi did her job so that Alfie could remain Mr. Nice.  That’s one reason she was there.  She takes the hits so that he doesn’t have to.  It’s a big part of how that whole thing works.

I told George about that at the next concert and we talked about the original plan.  That was another reason why I was disappointed but not angry or upset.  When the tickets were purchased, what happened in Manchester is what we had all agreed to.  The change that gave us photos and a minute with Alfie was a new twist designed to give us something more.  Alfie said yes.  Thank you, Alfie, but in Manchester, for whatever reason, they reverted to the original plan.  I just don’t think Abi deserved to be taken to the slaughter over it.

Fortunately, that scenario never occurred again.  No matter what, Alfie continued to make time for the VIP Experience, even when he had family in town and maybe even more importantly, even after he had developed a throat infection.  If ever he had an excuse to back out or just do a fly-by, that was it, but the man is a star, a human star.  He continued to meet with his fans, chatting with them and taking pictures with them.  I will say his smile was sometimes a bit more tired, but he was there, with his arm around everyone, giving it all he had in those moments.  He didn’t have to do that and that’s what folks need to remember.

My friend Annie and I talked about how people often forget to say “thank you,” to let Alfie know that we truly do value his time.  At one venue, she made a point of telling him that, to make sure he knew that we were appreciative.  “Sometimes we forget,” she said.  I always tried to remember that the time Alfie gave us was time he was under no obligation to give, but gave anyway.  He said yes and went out of his way before every gig to give back to his fans.  As I said, he’s a star human being.

The venues played a role in how the meetings with Alfie turned out, too.  They had to give a room or place where the meet and greets could occur.  Sometimes, they yanked promised rooms right out from under George, who then had to make the best of things.  All in all, I think he did the best he could do to satisfy the fans, the venue, and Alfie.  I’m not saying it was all transparent, but everyone in line had their minute and their picture, if they wanted it.  It was often rushed, but the moment was there.

I also liked how George took time at check-in to greet all the VIP Experience goers and to explain how the night would progress.  He often pointed out where we’d be going to see Alfie, how/when the buffet would take place, and where/when we’d get our free merchandise, which turned out to be a mug.  I have a collection of these mugs.  I believe this was one of the complaints from those who went to multiple VIP events.  Why not give us a program?  Why not one of the signed photos that were given to the Up Close and Personal group (a second tier of ticket buyers who were assured of good seats; they just did not get the buffet and the opportunity to meet Alfie)?  More thought and variety should have gone into this.  Perhaps a voucher for a piece of merchandise to be picked up at the official merchandise stand would have been better than asking people to lug these mugs around with them all night.  One of my mugs is in frequent use now with my hot chocolate.  The rest are still in their bags.  I had to buy a program, T-shirt, recipe towel, and key chain.  I did get the photo as I had purchased one of the second tier group tickets at the O2.  We all got a lanyard, which was nice except I have to second guess the choice of picture.  Alfie is way too photogenic for them to have used the one ‘they’ did (perhaps that is Firebrand Merchandising’s fault since they handle the official items).  The point is that SJM Concerts and whoever is responsible could have come up with a better solution than the same mug.  Maybe they didn’t realize how many people repeat, but even so, the program is the natural choice for a freebie and really should have been the merchandise presented to VIP Experience buyers.

Now my biggest arguments with SJM Concerts comes from their association with Gigs and Tours which sold the bulk of the VIP Experience tickets.  I mentioned there were 11 scheduled dates and Alfie’s throat infection.  Sadly, the December 9th concert in Brighton was postponed (or cancelled; no one really knows at this point though Alfie has recently tweeted that a new date will be announced soon).  However, there is no way I can return to the UK from America for one concert.  I called for a refund and explained why.  Gigs said I would need to return my ticket by secured mail.  You’ve got to be kidding.  All they have to do is invalidate the ticket, something easily done in today’s technological world.  I know they can do it because they did it on a ticket for another venue that I didn’t think would arrive on time but did.  I couldn’t use the original ticket; I had to pick up a replacement at the box office.  Gigs conceded they could do that, but they said SJM Concerts was demanding the tickets be returned.

Why?  What is the point in that?  Why should I have to spend $20 to send the ticket by “secure” mail when it is quite logically explained why there is no way I can attend the concert, should it happen.  Hey, if I had Alfie’s bank account, I’d keep my ticket and go in a heartbeat, but I’m at the bottom of the financial totem pole.  Believe me, I was devastated by the loss of that concert, but there was and is nothing I can do about it.  Alfie was sick, and his health always comes first.  Since Gigs was blaming SJM, I asked for their information so I could talk to them.  Gigs, however, wouldn’t give me contact information for SJM.  They told me I could find it, though, by searching the Internet.  I did, but all SJM Concerts information I found referred back to Gigs as the authorized seller of the tickets.  It was a vicious circle.  What’s more, Gigs didn’t care squat about the situation.  There was not a sympathetic tone in anyone I talked to there.  Well, easy solution for me.  For a concert that didn’t happen, a refund makes sense.  My credit card company agreed, so I have my unused ticket as a souvenir and I have already received my refund, including the service charges.  Gigs and SJM should not have made that a problem and I hold them accountable for unpleasant and sour customer service.

Many people complained about the prices for the tour.  In the UK, the price was usually 199 pounds for the VIP Experience.  Converted to the dollar in America, that worked out to about $346.  That’s a hefty charge for one concert.  No one is totally sure where the pricing came from, but it was challenging.  Clearly, though, in the end, people bought the experience.  A minute with Alfie is priceless, after all.

Putting it all together, I’m not all that fond of Gigs and Tours.  They are difficult to deal with when it comes to customer service issues.  As I prepared for my trip throughout 2014, it was always a chore to get the answer to a question from them.  I also have a pending matter with them and until that is resolved, there’s no way they are on my nice list.

SJM Concerts is a company I’m on the fence with because of the ridiculous need to have the Brighton ticket returned.  However, I’m a full supporter of George and Joff who in my estimation did try to keep everyone happy.  I know I had one really sad time at Nottingham when Annie and I didn’t get to the venue on time.  We’d left Glasgow too late and traffic was horrid.  We arrived in Nottingham just minutes after Alfie left the meet and greet.  I was sobbing, tears galore.  A couple of the staff were super kind and trying to comfort me about it.  One had said they’d see what they could do and I had the impression they were going to see if Alfie had another minute.  Ultimately, I think George vetoed that idea.  He did come and talk to us and apologized.  He said they’ d delayed the start a few minutes, knowing we were arriving late.  It was just crushing to lose that moment with him and I wish selfishly they’d asked him, but I can’t blame George for not following through with what the other officials had said.  Like Abi, he had a job to do and it’s not his fault we didn’t leave Glasgow earlier.

As for Abi, she had personality and was as friendly as she could be.  Yes, she helped to push things along, but as I’ve said, that was her job.  If she hadn’t kept the line moving, we’d still be in Newcastle, talking with Alfie.  He’s just that nice … and that’s why he needs a few folks around him to not always be that nice.  There’s a fine line between doing the job well and being rude.  In my view, Abi did her job well.

Finally, Alfie Boe was magnificent.  He did his best to give every person, even those of us who came time after time, a true minute of his time.  Listen, he had a lot riding on this concert tour.  He needed it to be successful for a number of reasons.  He’s known for being nervous before a show and I can attest from my personal observation that especially in Newcastle, he had a lot going on in his mind.  You could sense it all around him.  By the end of the tour, he was fighting his throat.  I’m not so sure he had doctor approval to continue the tour, but I think he did it anyway.  He’s such a trooper.  He was fighting it, but wow, most wouldn’t even have a clue.  That’s how good Alfie Boe is.  His sub-par is still so much higher than anyone else’s 100 percent that it’s phenomenal.  His wife told him once to just sing with what he’s got, and that’s what he has learned to do when his voice has issues.  He makes it work, goes softer here, lower there, uses alternative notes, and just does whatever he knows to do to deliver a song beautifully no matter what.  It’s just incredible to watch him work.

Alfie needs promoters and agencies to sell the tickets and I suppose the ones used on this tour and past ones he’s done are about average in the industry.  His tour manager was successful in her tasks from my view and in talking to others closer to the action, she did indeed do her job well.  As for Alfie, he is a fantastic performer and a kind soul.  Perfect?  Nah, no one is, but as respects his star status and relationship to his fans, I don’t see how anyone could do a better job than he does and not on the consistent basis that he does, too.  I’ve always said he gets it, that he understands the fan thing.  He himself is a fan.  Maybe that’s another topic for a blog.  The real point is that Alfie cares.  He may be limited in how he can show that, but he does a pretty good job at it.  He is one of the few who when you talk to him, he focuses on you, truly, and he listens.

One last silly story baAlfie Boe - Cardiff Dec 13 2014 croppedsed on my line.  As I’ve said, I’ve been wrapped up in the fan world my entire life, so we’re talking decades here.  I’ve met some greats in show biz.  Depending upon your age, you may not know them or not, but I’ve chatted with folks like Charlton Heston, Maureen O’Hara, and James Stewart.  I don’t get tongue-tied.  Yes, I get excited, but I’ve never not been able to say what I intended and have a decent conversation with whomever.  There’s something about Alfie, though.  Fans have told me this from the beginning: you can have it all planned out in your head but when the moment is at hand, you’re lucky if you remember half of it.  I think it’s his eyes.  Seriously, he focuses on you, not Abi or George or what is going on beyond you, but you.  So in Cardiff for the last time, I approached and said, “Alfie, I need to tell you something.”  I had it all planned out, in super speed mode even.  He looked at me and said, “Okay.”  I swear, it flew right out of my brain.  He was there, listening, and I was a kid who couldn’t think.  I blurted out about a third of what I intended to say and not at all how I had it planned.  Groan!  But truly, “Okay” and he focused solely on me.  My brain just stopped.  Oh well!

Alfie Boe may be a singing star, but to me, he’s much more than that: he’s a star of the heart and the soul!  I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see him again, but if that magic opportunity occurs, I’ll gladly deal with all the promoters, ticket sellers, and tour managers around.  Alfie’s worth it all!

Alfie Boe to Followers: Turn Off Your Phones

Taking a break from my observations and reviews from my UK trip to talk a bit about cell phones in today’s culture.  Today, Alfie Boe tweeted:

Who’s with me on this? Switch your phones off for Christmas Eve and Day if you can. So from all the Boe’s, a Very Merry Christmas. Xxx

The Twitter responses are generally supportive, but it all makes me wonder about our techno-filled world of today and how much we take others for granted.  Do people realize how plain rude they are now when out and about and they get a call on their phones?

A few years back, Dr. Phil did an intervention of sorts of a young woman who was constantly on her cell phone, even when she was with friends.  The friends felt unappreciated.  Mid-conversation, this young woman would interrupt their chat to answer her phone and proceed to have a conversation with the caller.  It apparently went on and on.

I see it all the time.  Go to a restaurant and look around.  Families and friends are all there, with smart phones in front of them, some people texting, some talking to others, and some just reading whatever it is they are looking at on the phone.  How much conversation, though, is going on among the people actually present at the tables?  Not a whole lot.

Whatever happened to politeness?  Whatever happened to enjoying the moment of being with friends?  What call can’t wait until later?  There are few real emergencies that require the presence of a mobile phone.  Remember, these devices are still relatively new to culture.  For decades upon decades, communication survived via landline calls, letters, and plain old fashioned word of mouth.  This instant need-to-be-in-contact addition is devastating to society in my opinion.

I see people walking with their phones attached to their ears.  They’re barely focused on where they are walking.  Remember the lady who walked straight into a pond while talking on her phone?  I won’t even get into the driving aspect.  Lives have ended because of the perceived need to talk now instead of waiting until later.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s a life-changer.

Over the last few years, I’ve listened to a lot of Alfie Boe interviews.  When it comes to vacation time and holidays, he frequently responds that all he wants to do is put on his slippers and turn off the phone.  He seems to do it, too, and so I applaud that from afar.  His tweets lessen substantially when he first returns home to his family after a separation, too.  He has far better things to do at those times than tire out his thumbs with tweets.  He’d rather enjoy being with his wife, children, and critters than communicating over some technological device that is required by his profession but not necessarily desired by the man himself.

Many years ago now, I worked for an insurance company.  I remember the day we got our first FAX machine.  Wow, was it the ‘it’ thing of the day.  It was stressed that the FAX was to be used only for special circumstances, for urgent responses and definitely never more than ten pages could be sent.  I believe that lasted about a week.  Seriously, in no time at all, the FAX became the standard means of communicating with agencies and customers.  There was never a limit on pages.  The FAX was the quickest way of disseminating and receiving information.  Forget the phone: use the FAX!

That’s what has happened with the mobile phone, especially now that it has gone from a bulky box size to a slim fits-in-your-pocket device with games, the Internet, and our favorite music on it.  Alfie uses his phone as much as anyone, I suspect, especially since he’s separated from his family so much of the time due to his career.  I’ve seen him check a call before being interviewed by a BBC presenter and once I saw him answer it mid-song during rehearsal, which was a real hoot.  He literally sang a line, answered the phone, sang the next line, and responded to the caller.  The band never missed a beat and he managed to finish the song and the conversation without much interference.  I suspect it was his wife on the phone, but I don’t really know.  It was just fun to watch.

I truly only use my phone for emergencies, but then, I’m on my own.  I don’t have others depending on me or who really need my attention at a given moment.  In that sense, I am an oddity to the world today, one where family and friends interact regularly on some type of cell phone.  Maybe if my life had been different, even financially as the mobile phone craze surged, I might be more a part of it, but that wasn’t the case.

We don’t live in a Donna Reed world anymore, not that we ever really did, but still, I truly do take note of how little attention people pay to one another anymore versus their attachment to technology.  As the saying goes, stop and smell the roses.  If it’s important, they’ll call back.  Enjoy the person you’re with.  Who knows, maybe tomorrow they won’t be there.

Case in point.  Much of my time over the last few months was spent at Sam’s Club, walking the warehouse as I try to get healthier.  As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with the tasters and tips people, the ones that hand out free samples.  There was one man, Ken, who I talked to quite a bit.  He loved country music.  He had one of those long black coats like Johnny Cash, who was his hero.  Ken was quiet much of the time, but I learned about his love for his mother as well as his music dreams.  He played the drums and the guitar.  Ken would always say to me, “I’m going to be very hurt if you don’t take at least three of these,” whatever the food sample was that he was dispensing that day.  He knew I was low income and using Sam’s for lunches much of the time and that was his way of encouraging me and helping me out.  On Thanksgiving Day this year, I departed on my dream trip of a lifetime, 2 1/2 weeks in the UK to see Alfie Boe sing.  When I came home and went back to Sam’s Club to say hello to my ‘friends’ there, I learned that Ken was dead.  He’d been hit by a car while walking on Thanksgiving, about the same time I was en route to England.  Who could have seen that coming?  He’d been encouraging about my goals and my trip to see Alfie, and now I don’t have the chance to tell him about it, not about the wonderful music or how sweet Alfie was, as usual.  The point is that you never know what the next day, or the next second, brings, so doesn’t it make sense to enjoy the moment, to truly appreciate the person/people you are with without having to tune out every two minutes to answer a call, check Twitter, or check on the latest news headline?  The phone can wait, friendships cannot.

So when Alfie tweeted his message today, I couldn’t help but issue this rant against the rudeness I witness almost every day now and this rave about his stance on the subject.  On this, Alfie and I seem to agree.

Now, if I could only get him to tweet me!  <g>

Leave the Driving to Annie!

In America, there is a commercial tagline that says, “Leave the driving to us.”  It’s by a famous busline.  During my recent trip to the UK, though, I could say I left the driving to my friend, Annie, a lovely woman who put about 2,000 miles on her car driving us all over England, Scotland, and Wales to see our favorite singer, Alfie Boe, in multiple concerts.  Boy, am I glad I never had to drive.

There is the well-known difference about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.  Our right is the British left and such.  That’s confusing enough for a first timer, but it’s actually the easiest part of the UK driving system.  Try figuring out what lane you should be in and even worse, which pair of stoplights you should be watching.  Yes, I said pair of lights.  I was overwhelmed by the number of lights present at the majority of stops.  Three lanes often equaled six lights and I never did figure out the logic to that.

It’s one thing to learn roundabouts.  Actually, America is slowly learning the benefit of roundabouts.  We have a few of them here in Sacramento, in fact, but they are far less complex than the ones in the UK.  The entire British driving infrastructure is based on these roundabouts that are designed to keep traffic moving.  Once you get down how to count exits, the roundabouts aren’t so bad.  The weirdest part is figuring out who goes when and who gets the priority.  They have a system based on being “polite,” but I’m not really sure that works.  I think maybe for the older  population, the polite thing guides them, but I’m not convinced the younger generation cares so much.

Going back to the strangeness of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, a strange element of that was making a right turn.  I always wanted to say “go” based on the US system, but of course, that wouldn’t have been a good idea.  Still, the odd part was watching drivers essentially go left first so that they could make this little arc to the right, as if going in a circle.  I don’t understand why they just don’t turn right.  Why the little drive out to the left first?  They aren’t in a roundabout and it just wastes time and gas.  I never could figure that out.

I suppose if you grew up in the UK, it all seems natural, but I shutter to think what it would be like as a high school student trying to learn this system.  Knowing which light controls your lane, choosing between so many dang lights, and just figuring out which way  your lane goes is a challenge.  I think I’ll stay in the US!

That said, there were two things I rather liked about the highway system across the pond.  First, they have a yellow light that appears with the red light that is a warning, not to stop, but to go.  You see that combination, and you can gun it.  Time to go!  I liked that; it was fun.  I just always hoped that for the cross traffic, they had long been on a solid red light, but I never knew for a fact that they were.  I just watched everyone start going a second or two before the actual green light appeared and accepted it.

Secondly, they have a nifty caution system that flashes things like “incident” or “congestion” as well as a group of appropriate speed limits to accompany it.  That’s helpful as you know the reason for the delay and what the suggested speed limit is for the situation.  These are spaced out, but not so far apart that people can ignore or forget the situation.

I doubt I’ll ever get back to the UK, but if I do, I hope to continue leaving the driving to Annie.  She understands this strange UK system.  She is British, after all.  As for me, I’m sticking to American roads where a right turn means turning right without a jet out to the left first and one stoplight does the trick.  :}

The Alfie Boe Newcastle Experience: Romance as it was Meant to Be!

Alfie Boe’s 2014 Arena Tour ended up being ten very wonderful concerts in large venues throughout England, Scotland, and Wales.  I attended all of them.  It’s difficult to pick a favorite concert; they all had something special about them and all are memorable.  Still, the very first concert held in Newcastle on November 29th holds a truly unique spot in my heart.

First of all, it was the first concert.  I’d only met Alfie twice before, both times in the United States.  The first meeting was very brief at a signing and was full of emotion (trust me, the man is a saint for his ability to interact with a completely sobbing woman so beautifully).  The second was almost surreal, a charity event during which Alfie rocked the place for about 45 minutes.  It was a treasure beyond belief as I was able to chat with him a few times and meet his lovely wife, Sarah, for whom I have the utmost respect.  Newcastle, however, was the first full-length concert performance I’d ever seen, and it didn’t disappoint.

Secondly, this was the only one of the ten concerts that was done as Alfie had promoted the tour for months before the event.  In interview after interview, he stressed how this set of performances would be unlike his previous concerts.  It would be romantic, soft and quiet, without the lights and pizazz.  Newcastle was much like that.

In fact, in his comments during the show, Alfie mentioned that he wasn’t going to be dancing and acting silly.  That said, sometime later, he found himself making one of his patented spin moves and practically stopped, smiled, and apologized with an adorable “Sorry.”  In one chat, he told a presenter that if he could, he would toss lavender petals down into the crowd to help create the mood.

Newcastle thus stands out from every concert that followed for the sheer romantic feel of the entire two-hour event.  On night two, Alfie admitted that he’d said what he had about not dancing because three of his nieces were in the Newcastle audience and they’d made him promise not to do his silly dancing.  Ah!  That explains that!  New rule: Boe nieces are prohibited from influencing their uncle’s performance choices.  :}

The first blow to the romantic theme came after Newcastle was over and done with.  Alfie told us that the concert ran ten minutes longer than it should, and he was going to have to cut two songs as a result.  Here’s where I believe his personal struggle came into play, a battle between wanting to maintain the romantic integrity of the promotion and his personal joy in performing.  The latter won out.  Of all the songs Alfie could have cut, the ones he chose were all romantic in nature, mostly from the first third of the performance.  Only on the first night did fans get to hear the brilliant “Serenata Celeste,” the fan favorite “Parlami D’Amore Mariu,” and the beautiful “Luna Malinconia” better known in America as “Blue Moon.”  That’s a hunk of romanticism that was cut and it helped to set the tone for what was to come: one rockin’ arena tour!

Concert goers toward the end of the tour were treated to a joke about a partial barricade having been built for the “Bring Him Home” segment.  That part of the set was used for part of the romantic elements of the show that had been dropped by then.  Bless his heart, as much as Alfie adores and loves singing all kinds of music, when it comes to singing in front of an audience and interacting with them, he’s a rocker and he just couldn’t help himself when it came to cutting those songs.  Promotion aside, he went with what is truest to the performer he is today, and I’m so glad he made that choice.

“Serenata Celeste” is very possibly my second favorite song from Alfie’s “Serenata” CD (his “My Heart is Yours” that he wrote the lyrics to is absolutely my favorite) and I missed it greatly from the concert, as I did the Italian “Blue Moon,” but the direction the concerts went was totally my style.  The more events that passed, the rockier they became.  That’s just who he is now, and I believe he realized that his audience was on board with him so he sang what makes him the happiest, even though he truly loves singing “Serenata Celeste” and “Luna Malinconia.”

Newcastle will forever be special and unique.  It was a magical night that I will never forget.

Alfie singing "Serenata Celeste" for the only time during his romantic 2014 UK Arena Tour.
Alfie singing “Serenata Celeste” for the only time during his romantic 2014 UK Arena Tour.