This is a dated reference, but it is true- any old whatshisname can be connected to Kevin Bacon by a mere six people. Even me, whose closest connection to a celebrity was bumping into Sidney from Melrose Place at an airport restaurant. I am linked through my creative soulmate, Bob.
Yes, I have a creative soulmate. Before you condemn my creative philandering, let me set the record straight.
First, my husband, Ben, is well aware of our artistic connection. Ben has never blatantly admitted it, but I’m sure he is probably thrilled to pass on duties such as discussing Bjork’s vocal range and memorizing endless Mr. Show quotes. Besides, Ben may not have an artistic mistress, but he does have an entertainment spouse- Eric. Friday night is usually movie night around our place. I’ll cuddle up to Ben to relax and enjoy the flick. If the movie proves to be particularly interesting or discussion worthy, I can feel Ben’s arm begin to twitch. He holds out for a few minutes, but then he is overcome with the urge to text Eric. The two of them pass the evening discussing Bill DeVane’s best role (yes, they call him Bill) or their top five James Coburn movies. Never a phone call, mind you, only texts or emails. A phonecall would denote too much intimacy, and Ben is careful not to cross any lines. Such is the reality of a working marriage.
Second, Bob is pretty much everyone’s creative soulmate. Given enough time, he could probably get George Bush Sr. to sit in with a jam band and bang out a few beats on the bongos (another dated reference, but when I tried to conjure up an image of a truly boring person, that’s who popped up). Bob is just one of those guys that inspires people to get over their insecurities and think “hey, I could to that.” This is kind of strange because he is fantastically talented at a lot of activities. Often gifted people can be intimidating, but Bob naturally puts people at ease. He is understated about his talents, which makes it that much more mind blowing when you see him in action.
The first time I heard Bob sing was at a karaoke bar, called Joe’s. Probably every town with a population over ten thousand people has a karaoke bar named Joe’s. This one happened to be in Colorado. I was with a mixed group of friends, acquaintences, and coworkers. Someone asked Bob if he could sing, and he said “Yeah, I can sing” and then changed the subject. I didn’t know what to expect. Many people believe they can sing, but as I was subjected to horrible renditions of “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Old Black Water” it became clear that many many people are wrong. The d.j. announced Bob’s name. He stubbed out his cigarette and took the stage.
He took off his glasses and set them on the stool behind him. My counterparts and I shrugged our shoulders, wondering what was going on. Just then, “With a Little Help from my Friends” started blasting through the speakers, and Bob started stumbling about, impersonating Joe Cocker impeccably. The lyrics kicked in, and as impressive as his impersonation had been, it was completely outshined by his voice. The Cocker rendition of that song is particularly challenging and Bob hit every note like a professional. I was stunned, overjoyed, and bewilderingly celebratory. When he finished, the entire place broke down in thunderous applause.
I have a knack for attaching myself to friends who are far more talented and fearless than I am, looking to be cool by association. Bob and I started hanging out all the time. He was that friend that I had to call five times a day or I just didn’t feel right. He knew I always dreamt of singing and painting, but that I had a crippling trepidation of being terrible at them.
He met me at a time where I appeared outwardly confident, but inwardly I was anything but. He didn’t focus on specific gifts or goals. Instead, his encouragement took the path of nurturing my personality. He was the first person who made me believe I was funny. Not like, “oh, she’s mildly entertaining, for a girl,” but truly funny. Through our conversations, I gained confidence in my musical tastes. That probably sounds very simplistic, but I hung out with a lot of musicians- the types who debated “tone” endlessly and shamed people for liking any song that didn’t involve at least twenty time changes. I kept a lot of my opinions about music to myself before I met Bob, lest I be subjected to a two hour lecture on why John Petrucci was a far superior player to Yngwie Malmsteen, even though I gave a rat’s ass about either of them.
Bob and I spent a lot of time hanging out in his home recording studio. We’d drink bottles of Boones Farm, listen to music, and talk. Sometimes, we’d make silly drunken recordings we’d play back the next day and laugh at. I really don’t remember how it happened, but as I got more comfortable around the equipment, I started to sing.
I think my singing started in his car actually, rather than the studio. We are both huge Mr. Bungle fans, and sometimes he would sing this song called “Retrovertigo.” One night, he asked me to take the backing vocal, so I did.
I know what you are waiting for- you think that once Bob heard me sing, he exclaimed “Oh my god! You have a great voice!” Not so much. I have an ok voice. I can carry a tune. But no one is going to frantically call up Clive Davis and proclaim “I’ve got the next Mariah here!” No.
That’s not the point though. It felt GOOD to sing. I loved it, I enjoyed it. It was something I had always wanted to do, but was terrified of. At one point, I actually had a life goal to sing in front of just one other person. Minuscule accomplishment for some, monumental for me.
Getting over that one fear was the break in the dam that allowed a flood of creativity to flow. I started painting, drawing, writing- you name it, I gave it a shot. Bob and I began recording music, and I eventually went on to front a band called “Katty Pants and the Jumpsuit Brigade.” In true artistic fashion, we played one live show before circumstances forced us to disband, but who fucking cares. I PLAYED A LIVE SHOW! Rather than sitting on the sidelines, sipping my rum and coke trying desperately to look cool, I got out there and made a joyous fool of myself. It was awesome.
Bob and I live in separate states, but he’s still my guru. Every few days, he emails me the name of a song to check out. I wait for a still to come over the house, plug in my headphones and listen. It’s a simple act, but taking that time to focus on the intricacies of the instruments as the music creeps into my ears, allows me to recharge and find my own creative pathway. I am forced to take a much needed break, and allow myself to get lost in something much bigger than myself.
I have no delusions that I am that person for Bob. As I said, he is one of those people that everyone feels connected to. I am just lucky that one of those tethers happens to be to me.
And if you were wondering, Bob was in a movie called Leader of the Band with Mercedes Ruehl. Who was in the The Fisher King with Robin Williams. Who was in Good Will Hunting with Minnie Driver. Who was in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.