The year was 1995. My daughter, Sophia was about a year old, and, like many new dads, I was looking for new and fun ways to hang out with my baby girl. I learned about Kindergym, which was basically a place to have organized play time with your young child. It was in the basement of a church, I believe, just a stone’s throw from the Claremont hotel. It had little play structures, and circle games, and your kid could interact with kids their same age. Predictably, I was the only dad in there. We’d meet once a week: Me, my daughter, and a bunch of other moms and their kids.
One day, this young guy comes in with his little boy, and he’s a stark contrast to all the upscale moms in the room. He’s got eyeliner on, he’s rocking torn jeans and an inside-out concert tee. He looks like he hasn’t slept. The eye-rolling going on was nearly audible. But, I know something these moms don’t know. As a DJ, I have to keep up on new music, and a local band had recently released what had been their breakout smash album. They were in heavy rotation on MTV, which amazingly used to play these things called “music videos.” I recognized Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day right away; the other moms did not.
I was instantly struck by how “normal” he was. He was just a young guy with his young son… just like everyone else in the room. He was looking for some bonding time, which probably wasn’t easy back then given his touring schedule. I knew right away that I wasn’t go to tell anyone who he was; it wasn’t my business, and I figured if he wanted others to know, he’d tell them. I did find it amusing that all those snobby moms were looking down their noses at him, although he was probably earning more than all of them and their husbands combined.
Some years later, I received a call from a friend. She was planning a party for a buddy of hers whose sister was about to graduate from college. The event was going to be interesting, in that I’d be splitting time with several bands that would be performing. Her buddy was “in music” and he wanted to possibly produce some new bands, so they’d be performing that night. Obviously being a fan of music, I asked if I’d know any of her buddy’s music. She swore me to secrecy, and told me… it was Billie Joe Armstrong! After boring her with my now-worn-out Kindergym story, we nailed down the details.
The party couldn’t have been more fascinating. First, I was told to not play any Green Day. Aside from that, I was given no real music requests, which I’m fine with – it’s fun to play it by ear, if you will. Second, in a room full of people excited to hear live music, I was a little nervous that no one would even bother to get into whatever I’d be doing. As it turns out, the bands were cool, but no one danced to their music. Instead, they waited for the DJ to crank it up. Given the clientele, I was thinking I’d need to play some alternative stuff; the last thing they’d want to hear was the standard party favorites. I could not have been more wrong. One highlight of the evening was watching Billie Joe cut loose during Y.M.C.A. This applies to lesson learned repeatedly over the years… pre-judging a group of people before the dancing starts is an often inaccurate method of figuring out what to play. There was no way I would have predicted party staples like Shout would have been requested, but there you go.
Ah, but the story doesn’t end there, unfortunately. Although we wouldn’t cross paths again for some time, I did hear through the grapevine that Billie Joe’s son, that same son that had once done Kindergym with my daughter, was attending the same high school I went to. I had the opportunity to attend one of their football games with my daughter and some friends, and, wouldn’t you know it, Billie Joe’s son was on the team, so he was there. He sat sort of separate from the other parents; perhaps they were respecting his privacy as I had done nearly 20 years before.
For some unknown reason, I had enjoyed a couple of adult beverages prior to game time, so I was feeling free and easy. After spotting Billie Joe, I grabbed my daughter and said we should go say “hi.” “We’ll tell him the Kindergym story – he’ll think it’s cute!” My daughter, wise beyond her years, thought it was a horrible idea. I waited for a break in the action, and then I dragged her over to him anyway. I saddled up next to him and began my tale. My daughter immediately backtracked away, leaving me to die alone.
Have you ever started a conversation with someone, and that someone seemed to be really trying to be polite… only you can tell that they’re in serious physical pain? Pain that you, and your story, are causing? I knew three seconds in that I’d made a horrible mistake, and yet, on and on I went, desperately trying to salvage some dignity. It was not to be. I hadn’t been some drunken fool, seeing a celebrity and gushing over him. I thought we had this connection, that he’d appreciate the bond we had. Perhaps, under different circumstances, he would have. But, I’d forgotten. He was just a dad with a son. I apologized, and slinked away, embarrassed. I’ve been embarrassed ever since. While I take zero credit for contributing to his career in any way, I can’t help thinking that, after that interaction, American Idiot wasn’t in some small way a song about me!