MY FLYAWAY TO L.A. ADVENTURE!!!
(July 10-12, 2004)
This is my story about winning the "Flyaway to L.A." contest on Josh's www.friendsofjoshgroban.com fan club site!
Where do I begin? You guys, this experience was so intense and perfect! I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful first-time Josh encounter. FoJG/Josh/WBR/Avnet Mgmt./The "Groband"/et al. ROCKS!!!! They gave me the time of my life, let me tell you! It was an incredible experience that I wish every single one of you could have had too. So, I'm going to do my very best to provide all the lovely details that I can remember. I'll share my pictures as I go along too.
I’m torn about where to start this story because I know I always like to get right to the Josh parts when I’m reading others’ experiences. However, there is so much more to the story than just the night of the concert and the actual meet and greet with Josh, so let me fill you in on the highlights.
FoJG really went out of their way to make this an enjoyable experience for my husband, Andy, and I. They flew us out to California from Dayton, Ohio, and they put us up in a very nice hotel near the venue in Santa Monica. That was so perfect because we were right by the ocean, the Santa Monica Pier, the Third Street Promenade and so much more fun stuff to do on Saturday and Sunday before the concert.
Our liaison from WBR, Brian, checked on us often to make sure everything (from flights to rental car to hotel room) was running smoothly. And he even made a trip out to our hotel on Sunday afternoon to personally deliver our concert tickets and VIP passes plus an arm-load of goodies from WBR. He couldn’t have been more attentive or generous.
Around 5:00 Sunday night we went to Barker Hangar for the concert. As we were pulling into the parking lot, I started scanning for Grobanites. We saw a van load of folks that had “the look” and sure enough, Nikki (NorCalNikki) started waving to us and saying hi. It was so terrific to see them, and they said they were so happy to see us. It was a wonderful beginning to a glorious evening.
When we got out of our car, we walked over to the big long line of people waiting. It was so fun to meet several friends from the board there! From time to time, people would call out “Lizzie” or “Cindy” and I shared smiles and hugs with several of you. It was great to put faces with names, and it really started fueling the excitement of the evening.
We saw the VIP table where we were supposed to check in, so we went over there. While I was waiting in line there to get in, Alice (JGfloat) and Kay (dkayg3) came over to us and gave me my “cheeky hugs” from Carol (cheekymonkie). When they started to let us inside for the VIP Cocktail Party before the show, several of you starting yelling out your well-wishes to me and telling me to have a great time. Thank you so much for cheering me on! You really “raised me up” as I took off on my journey into the beautiful, only-slightly-terrifying unknown.
We had to pass through several security guys to get into the VIP section, and then we were greeted by the most amazing site. We saw before us such a lush spread of food, drink and beautiful furnishings. The room was decorated so nicely and they had Sessions@AOL performances playing on two large screens as our background music. When Josh’s AOL announcement (‘Hi, this is Josh Groban and you’re watching Sessions@AOL’) came on, everyone cheered! They even had the coolest ice sculpture with the AOL ‘Running Man’ in it!
We were in a roomful of people we did not know, not a situation Andy and I are very comfortable with in general. So we made our way around the room getting something to drink and sampling some of the incredible hors d’oeuvres. My favorite was the cold sesame noodles and the strawberries with mascarpone. Actually, those were really the only two things I could eat since I’m a vegetarian. They were fantastic though. Andy had fun sampling many of the other fancy delicacies, but I think his favorite was the whimsical mini burgers. Too funny!
After awhile I saw a familiar face. Eric Holden, Josh’s bass player, walked through the room. I was having a shy moment and couldn’t get up the nerve to say anything to him or approach him. After he exited, I spent a few minutes kicking myself and vowing not to let another opportunity pass me by the rest of the night to meet and thank all the folks who have contributed to making this wonderful music with Josh for us.
Well, my next opportunity came a little quicker than I expected, and I again found myself lacking courage. Brian Avnet, Josh’s manager, came into the room and started walking straight toward our table. I leaned over to Andy, gestured in Brian’s direction and said, “There’s Brian.” Well, of course, he caught me and we made eye contact, so it was now or never. My icebreaker? “Hi! Don’t you just hate it when people you don’t know recognize you, point at you and start talking about you.” By this time I had made it to my feet and thrust out my hand. He shook my hand with such a warm and friendly demeanor and said hello. I said, “I’m Cindy (last name) and this is my husband, Andy.” He said it was nice to meet us.
As I began explaining to him that I post as “Lizzie” on the Josh forums, Brian interrupted me and said, “I know who you are!” Ack! Embarrassment, confusion, etc, etc, etc… Incredulous, I said, “That’s kind of scary! I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not!” We continued to chit-chat for a few minutes, he was very kind and gracious. When I made no move to ask for a picture even though Andy was standing there with the camera at the ready, Brian gestured toward the camera and generously asked, “Want one?” I said yes and he put his arm around me and Andy snapped a great shot! The first of my many, many wonderful encounters with Team Josh that night!
Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! You guys!!! It’s all too wonderful. As I’m writing this, it’s all just spilling out of me and the emotion of that night is washing over me again full-force. You cannot begin to imagine what a complete package this night turned out to be. Almost everything I could have wanted took place and even a few things I never imagined did too.
Well, there was just a little more sweet torture, and then they finally led us into the concert…a few at a time…stopping us at various points along the way…and ultimately showing us to our seats in the metal, stadium-style bleachers. I did begin to get concerned at this point because I have mobility problems and was walking with a cane, so I was worried about how far up I would be expected to go. Fortunately I only had to go up about five rows, and Andy as usual was right there every step of the way to help me and make sure I made it alright. We sat down on some cushions and started looking around and taking in the sights.
The stage setup was very nice, and it was so close to us. This was going to be an “intimate” concert, indeed! There were pillows on the floor in front of the stage and I noticed some children were among those seated on them. I suddenly was extremely grateful for these bleachers. You wouldn’t want to see me try to get up and down from the floor! It wouldn’t be a pretty sight, and I’d probably end up in the E.R. afterward! I kept looking around trying to spot people I might recognize from the boards. I’ve only met a handful of Josh fans in person, so I was having some difficulty especially since it was pretty dark in there. I did spot Nikki and the rest of the folks who had greeted us as we pulled into the parking lot.
The next thing I knew, Brian Avnet was on stage and speaking to us. I think maybe I missed him walking up there in my frantic search for fellow Grobanites. I was feeling way to segregated way over here in this other set of bleachers. I wanted instead to be sitting with “my people” over there! So, Brian began some opening remarks and was reviewing Josh’s remarkable career thanking all the people who were responsible for getting us to that night.
He eventually invited David Foster up to the stage. What a thrill that was to see him! Sadly, I did not encounter him any other time during the evening, so I didn’t get the opportunity to thank him for all he’s done for Josh and us. The pictures Andy took while Foster was speaking, as with almost all of our pictures during the concert portion of the evening, did not turn out well so my few pictures of him are lost as well. (Our camera got ‘confused’ since we weren’t using our flash and it kept the shutter open too long. ) It was so nice hearing him make some introductions though. He mentioned some who were in the audience including Josh’s parents and brother and others including Diarmuid Quinn (executive VP of WBR) and David Foster’s wife, Linda Thompson, who penned “To Where You Are” and many others. It was so sweet when David said the best thing about tonight was that for once he was going to be able to sit and watch Josh as a member of the audience rather than being behind-the-scenes.
I don’t quite trust my memory through this whole concert portion, so please forgive me if I get any of these details wrong. As I remember it, after David Foster finished an AOL representative came out to serve as MC/Host and she began her introduction of the actual concert itself. She acknowledged that we were here to see Josh and it was time to get to the main event. She said she did want to take a moment to talk to us about “Keep a Child Alive” organization, the charity that AOL Broadband has chosen to feature and support through these AOL Broadband Rocks concerts. After explaining how we all could help, she introduced Josh, the lights went down and it was on with the show!! And what an unbelievably phenomenal show it was!!
The show started out with Oceano. Josh was at the top of the middle set of stairs and he started out sounding very powerful and confident from the beginning. No sign of nerves as far as I could see. He must have slipped into “the zone” pretty quickly that night! I kept repeating to myself, “You’re here! You’re here! You’re seeing/hearing Josh sing live and in person!” Woo Hoo!!
The next song was Un Amore Per Sempre, and it was so beautiful. The very end of that song really gets me, it’s so packed with power and emotion. He really pulled it off excellently, and I knew he was in great form that night and it was going to be an amazing concert! As the show progressed, I kept noticing little changes in the lighting, set design, and effects, and I really loved them. This is going to look great in the outdoor venues!
There were a few people sitting around me who were first-timers and not very familiar with Josh’s music, possibly “dragged there” by someone. As a matter of fact, at some point during the show Josh even asked us, “How many of you were dragged here?” Silly! Anyway, since he started off with two Italian songs, I wondered what kind of first impression these newer guys were getting of our Josh. But then he slipped into Mi Morena and gave them a taste of another style of song in a language that they knew. It was so beautiful, and the audience really responded to it.
I had noticed from the beginning that there was another keyboard on stage that had not been there during the concerts earlier this year. Now I saw why! Josh walked over and started playing, and it sounded so cool! I didn’t recognize it, and my thoughts immediately went to Remember with it’s neat opening notes. So, my heart jumped a bit wondering if perhaps I was going to get to hear him sing that song! But after a little while, they went into the intro to Canto Alla Vita and it clicked that they had just reworked that song in order to give Josh a forum for playing the keyboards. Too cool!
It was so interesting hearing him sing this song as a solo piece. He sang his part and Andrea Corr’s part, and there was no harmony. It was really neat sounding. It was such a rocking song! As Josh’s vocals came to an end and the spotlight went off of him, this steady drum beat continued in the background, like a drum circle. I was able to watch Josh in the dark as he started heading up the right-hand set of stairs. Suddenly, it occurred to me what was happening!!! I leaned over to Andy and I said, “He’s going to play the drums!!!” Wow!!! I couldn’t believe I was going to get to witness this first-time event!
I’m sure all of you have watched/read already what that was like, but let me tell you being there first-hand was an unparalleled experience. That man just wailed on those drums and was entirely in his element. When he finished, the crowd roared and we nearly raised the roof off that hangar! It was so thrilling! This was the beginning of the fellow behind me (that I mentioned earlier) becoming a Grobanite right before my eyes (ears). He started cheering and woo hoo-ing and shouting, “Yeah!” and “Alright!” I loved it! Josh was showing the crowd that he can rock, and they were shocked and amazed and just eating it up! I was SO proud of him, words cannot express!
Josh came back down to center stage and said, “That was fun!” Sweet! He then introduced Vincent and did his usual emotional rendering of that deeply meaningful song. I am so grateful to him for bringing this classic song and its wrenching story back out into the light. What a gift to us all. Andy and I were the only Grobanites in our section, but we still turned on our blue Grobanlites during the “and when no hope was left in sight” phrase. Josh’s live delivery was so spot on that I had to at times snap myself back to attention because it felt as if I was listening to his CD. “No, Cindy, he’s right there! In front of you! Actually singing right now! He’s just that good!”
Next he went over to the piano and introduced Remember When It Rained. I’m so glad that the folks around me knew this was one of his songs. I knew he was going to knock their socks off again with this one, and I wanted them to see what a force he is: singing, playing, writing…the total package! Josh spoke a mile a minute as he does sometimes, and at one point he said, “And I’m talking way too much now!” Poor fella. It just seemed that way to you, Josh. You should talk more in between songs; it’s great! Josh was in fine voice for this song too and knocked it out of the park! When it ended, the man behind me was once again shouting his approval. You couldn’t have wiped the huge grin off of my face if you tried!
Next was a beautiful rendition of You Raise Me Up and Josh was joined by choir students from his old high school, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA). They did such a great job, and Andy and I once again joined the other Grobanites in waving our Grobanlites during the chorus. It was great letting him know that “his people” were there and sending him their love.
Next Josh started into Never Let Go and I leaned over to Andy and said, “This is going to be the clincher for these new folks! I really wish Josh had told them he had a hand in writing this one too!” Josh sang this song from the bottom of his toes, and it sounded superb. I was so happy to hear that he was in fine voice all night! It’s going to be a phenomenal summer run!
When Josh finished singing, acknowledged all the band and orchestra members and choir and said goodnight, the crowd lept to it’s feet and roared! The man behind us was a full-fledged Josh fan by then and was hooting and hollering as loud as any of us. As the rest of the band and orchestra left the stage, I overheard him say, “He’s not going to come back out. They’re all leaving.” I just stood there cheering as loudly as I could and grinning from ear-to-ear. He doesn’t know our Josh, I thought.
Sure enough, a moment later the spotlight came on at the side of the stage, Josh walked back out and the crowd went wild. It was so great! Josh sat down at the piano and began to introduce America. He said, “I don’t think we’re on AOL anymore, so it’s a party!” We all cheered at that line, then he said he was going to do a song by Paul Simon. It was so cool when he told us he had just had the privilege of meeting him a few weeks ago at the Simon & Garfunkel reunion concert and that it was so great! Josh sang the song so sweetly. At the beginning of the second verse, he started singing the lyrics to the third verse and stopped and said, “Duh!” Loved it!
When he finished and thanked us and said goodnight, we were once again on our feet. Josh had outdone himself and left the crowd breathless and wanting more. The AOL MC/Host thanked us for coming and told us to keep our seat cushions as a souvenir. When we looked at these later at our hotel, we realized they were actually tote bags with pockets for a water bottle, cell phone, etc. and the cushion opened up to provide a seat back. It was really a very nice gift! As we started filing out, I heard the man behind me talking to his buddy and saying, “Oh, yeah! This guy is major!” I passed by others making similar comments expressing their amazement and surprise at this gem that somehow had been hiding from their view until tonight. Josh gained a lot of new male fans that night, for sure!
As we left the room where the concert had been, I had no idea what I was supposed to do next. I had never met Josh before, never had any kind of backstage pass experience before, so I was totally clueless. However, since I’ve read some of your stories before about meeting Josh after the show, I at least imagined there would be some kind of person with a sign directing me to the right place, and that’s exactly what happened. There were a couple of people holding up signs that said “Josh Groban: Back Stage Pass” and we started to head toward them. On the way, we met Marolyn (SoPasgrobie) and she was kind enough to take our picture. Thanks for that, since I believe it may be the only picture of the two of us together all night!
We walked past a long line of security people blocking the entrance and were led into a holding area (actually the same room where the VIP party had been) and began the long wait to meet up with Josh. We got something to drink and looked around for familiar faces. Once again, Brian from WBR met up with us and made sure everything was going alright. It was great to see him and thank him for the phenomenal experience so far. They really had gone above and beyond my expectations for this event, and I was so grateful.
After a few minutes, Jeff Johnson approached us with a video camera and introduced himself as the one who films all the great videos for us on the FoJG site. There was a really sweet woman working with him who also had a camera, but she was a bit camera shy herself so I won’t post a picture or mention her by name. I really appreciated her though; she was great and made the rest of the stressful experiences to come that night a little easier to manage. They wanted to ask me a few questions on camera, and so I did my best to answer them. I’m not sure if any of this will end up on the FoJG site, but if it does I hope you will all be forgiving of anything dumb I may have said. I was understandably nervous, and I really am not sure what came out of my mouth!
As we looked around the room, I started to notice members of the band showing up. I told Andy I needed to force myself to go up to them and thank them for the great show. I mustered up my courage and he followed me over there with the camera ready to snap some special moments. I had met a few of the guys before at the Cincinnati meet & greet, but I had not bothered them for autographs or pictures since they were swamped by fans at the time. However, this was a much more relaxed setting and they were really just standing around chatting.
I approached Eric and told him how great I thought the show had been. I reminded him that when we had met him in Cincinnati Andy had offered to get him a drink. (Speaking of which, that’s Eric’s wine I’m holding there. I was drinking Perrier and lime all night. ) He was so friendly and welcoming. He has the greatest smile, as you all know. He was kind enough to sign something for me and take a picture with me. I thanked him and told him we would see him at Riverbend in August.
Next I got to visit with Zach a little while. He was fun to talk with and very willing to sign and do the picture. I thanked him for working with Josh and told him how much I’ve enjoyed watching him on Kulak’s live webcasts. We talked a little bit about how much they have struggled with having the funds to keep the place running, and he told me that they really appreciated all that the Josh fans had done to support Kulak’s.
Tariqh was standing nearby, so I went up to him and introduced myself. I let him know how incredible I thought he was and thanked him for the fantastic music. I said I thought it was great that he and Kristin posted on the FoJG board from time to time and that we all really appreciated hearing from them. I told him I thought it was so funny that he had to post under the board name Kristin had registered, ilovetariqh. Too funny! I got his autograph and a sweet picture, and then he introduced me to his wife, Kristin.
Now, I have always known just from reading her posts that Kristin Akoni was a sweet woman, but you guys have no idea! She is so loving and friendly and warm. We had the greatest conversation, and she said such nice things that I was almost overwhelmed. She really appreciates all of us and feels like she must read and respond to each of us, a daunting task indeed. I made sure she knew that we really appreciated her spending time with us on the boards that way, and it meant a lot for us to feel included like that.
About this time, Brian came up to me and said they were going to take me back now to meet Josh. Jeff was following along with the video camera in hand. Ack! This was going to be recorded too! On our way out of the room, they walked me past a line of folks and some of them were wearing Josh buttons! My fellow Grobies!! They started saying hi to me and “Go, Lizzie!” and “Enjoy it!” and “Say hi to Josh for us!” and all kinds of sweet and encouraging comments. It was so great to feel that you were all with me like that, and I definitely took your love to him when the moment presented itself. I can never thank you enough for letting me know at that moment that you were nothing but excited and happy for me.
As we hurried through the curtains to be led back to where Josh was, we came across Lucia standing back stage. Brian was kind enough to let us stop and have a moment with her, even though we were in a hurry. Andy and I both introduced ourselves and shook her hand. I told her how she knocked our socks off the first time we saw her perform, and that we were so grateful for the lovely music she shares. She was very sweet and soft-spoken as she thanked us. Of course, I just HAD to remark about the gorgeous dress she was wearing that night and she thanked me again. I regret not having time to get a picture and an autograph, but we really needed to get going to keep Josh’s tight schedule moving along.
We walked further back into the usually unseen areas of the venue, and Brian pointed out how exciting it is to see the behind-the-scenes setup of the show. I must admit I did notice a few interesting things here and there, but our pace was so quick and my mind was reeling so that I really didn’t take in much of it. We stopped just outside the room where Josh was and waited to be allowed to enter. They whispered to me that he would have to finish up some press before we would get to meet, and then they led us into the room.
Josh was standing on the other side of the room with a video camera trained on him, answering questions as deftly as usual and talking with two or three people. Someone was watching a replay of the AOL concert on a computer monitor just behind him. There were lots of other people in the room, but I didn’t recognize them. After a little while, Brian did point out Jimmy Johnson, Josh’s tour manager, and it was great to finally see him although I never did get the opportunity to actually meet him. He was very busy doing what he does with/for Josh.
We could see it was going to take a little while for Josh to finish up, and so I started to look around for a place to sit. There were tables and chairs nearby, so I pulled up a chair and Andy stood beside me taking it all in. By this time I was drenched in sweat. The place had been very warm all night, and I had been fighting a losing battle to stay dry and presentable. Although I had gone to the restroom to freshen up after the concert in anticipation of meeting Josh, that had been quite awhile ago now and so my hair was once again matted to my forehead and there was not much I could do about it. I must say it didn’t really matter to me since my sense of Josh’s personality is that he wouldn’t really care about such things. I really believe he loves all of us no matter our physical appearance. So I just let it go and put it out of my mind.
It was perhaps my favorite part of this whole backstage encounter, getting to sit quietly and just observe Josh “at work” and managing it all like the pro he has become. As I watched one interview end and then the taping of an EPK begin, I was struck by what a pace this man has to keep up and how well he adapts to it all. He jumped from a press interview, to greeting someone important (an author, perhaps? not quite sure), to the EPK video to meeting the winner of his fan club contest all within a matter of minutes. I cannot imagine the focus and the energy it takes to do that day after day after day and not just collapse from mental and physical exhaustion. I’m so proud of and grateful to him for taking on the task.
When he finally finished up his interviews, he turned toward me and started walking my direction. We were surrounded by people: Jeff and the other woman with the video cameras, Brian from WBR and a few others. When Josh kept looking back and forth between them and me, I mouthed to him: “Thank you for this!” Josh smiled and with that hand-over-heart look in his eyes mouthed back, “You’re welcome.” At that, one of the people with the video cameras asked, “Have they been introduced yet?” I think she was afraid we were jumping ahead of the plan, and she didn’t want to miss capturing ‘the big moment’ on tape.
A lot happened in the next two or three minutes, so if any of you who were there read this and I get some of the details wrong or out of order, I apologize in advance. Someone (Brian?) introduced me to Josh as the Flyaway to L.A. winner from the fan club, and we shook hands and exchanged greetings. Josh, being his usual kind self, next gave me the greatest gift he ever could: He looked me right in the eyes with that sweet, sincere smile of his and said, “Thank you for always being so positive and supportive on the boards.”
Now, you think I was scared/shocked/stunned/embarrassed when Brian Avnet said he knew who I was? Well, multiply that by a million and that might begin to approach how I dealt with the realization that he apparently knew who “Lizzie” was and wanted to start off this encounter by thanking me. This was all wrong! I was there to thank him. But you see, that is the kind of gracious man he is, and that is part of the reason he elicits such strong and loyal support from so many of us. As if the most stunning voice in the world is not enough, there is an equally remarkable person behind it. It was an embarrassing moment for me, and yet oh so sweet at the same time.
I immediately began thanking him for the beautiful gift of his music. I told him (even though I knew he’s heard it a million times and it must be embarrassing to him) that he has the most extraordinary voice I have ever heard in all my 43 years and I was so grateful to him for deciding to pursue this as a career so that he could share it with the world. I thanked him for putting up with whatever negative things there may be to deal with in this business in order that we could keep hearing his beautiful music. I said, “I realize, after all, that you could have gone off and become a veterinarian instead if you really wanted to, and I’m so grateful to you that you didn’t.” He chuckled at that.
I told him how much I had enjoyed the concert, and that it was so exciting to have had the chance to be there and see a preview of the shows for the summer tour. I let him know how great the changes in the lighting looked and congratulated him for getting up there and rocking out on the keyboards and the drums. I said I remembered him saying that he would regret it if he didn’t play drums at some point during the tour and asking us to keep urging him to do so. I told him that if tonight was any indication, these summer concerts were going to rock!
He laughed freely during our conversation, was very humble and appreciative during all of this gushing and thanked me a few times. He was so polite and friendly and made me feel very comfortable. I never had an awkward “he’s a star, I’m a fan” feeling, but instead felt like I was finally getting to meet one of my acquaintances from the board and tell him in person the things I had always felt about him. He has a gift of making you feel at ease and that you have his total focus. It is a fine thing since these situations are inherently stressful and rushed.
He offered to sign my things and Andy snapped a couple of pictures while he signed and we talked. I told Josh I had a gift for him. I said that in preparation for this trip I had been trying to figure out a reasonable gift to give him that wouldn’t be some large basket or something that he had to cart out of the place. He laughed at that and said they would get plenty of those on tour; they’d fill up the bus with them! I explained that in talking with my friends online about this, they had helped me to realize that I had really already been making my gift to Josh for the last three years. So, I presented him with an envelope containing an invitation to the Groban Archives. I showed him my copy of the invitation and briefly told him that it was a place online to store print media, stats, career milestones and other information chronicling his career path. He smiled and thanked me and when he signed my copy of the invitation he wrote, “Thanks so much!!”
As he was signing, I explained to him the inspiration for the Groban Archives site. I told him that I had heard him in an interview mention that because he is always traveling, he often is unable to go out and pick up copies of magazines and newspapers with articles about him. So, he relies on us to put them up on the boards for him. He always knows he can check online and find the latest interviews, articles and reviews. I said, “Well, now we’re three years in, and since we have the 20-page limit on the board we were going to start losing the 2001 articles, and that was just not acceptable.” I explained to him that it was suggested to me by fellow board members that I gather them all together on a website. Of course, this meant that I had to learn html and site design from scratch since I didn’t know the first thing about it. He said, “Thank you so much for doing all of this,” and I replied, “Well, Josh, it’s become my hobby so I’d do it any way just because I think it all needs to be pulled together and saved for myself and for fellow fans. But if it in any way benefits you, well that’s just gravy.”
Next we posed for a close up picture. Josh was so sweet, bending down a bit since I’m a shorty and putting his face (and very soft curls) right up next to mine while Andy snapped the picture. I was hoping to use this for my new avatar, but when we had our film developed the picture did not come out. This is my biggest disappointment of the evening. Ah well, I have my memories. And perhaps something was captured on the video that Jeff was making of the event. I at least have my other two pictures of Josh and I talking, and actually those kinds of candid shots are really better in a lot of ways.
I didn’t want to take any more of Josh’s time, and so I decided now was the moment for me to make my ‘speech’ on behalf of all of you who couldn’t be there with us. I told Josh that there were easily 10 to 15 thousand other fans who would have loved to have been the Flyaway winners and to have received the incredibly generous gift I had just been given. I told him that all of you were in my heart right now and that I wanted to thank him on behalf of all of us for all that he has done and shared with us. His immediate, heartfelt response to that was, “Well, you go back and thank all of them for everything that they have done for me!” What a touching moment! There is no doubt that the man genuinely loves and appreciates all of us, his most die-hard fans. I have a finely-tuned radar for false affection, and this was as genuine as it gets; it was just oozing out of his pores. He loves us! He really loves us! So consider yourselves hugged by Josh, from his heart to yours, each and every one of you.
When I won this contest, I felt an immediate sense of “winner’s guilt” knowing that each and every one of you would have wanted to (and deserved to) be in my place and to get to have this unsurpassed Josh experience. Since that was not possible, I made a pact with myself that I was going to do all I could to represent all of my fellow fans well at this event, take the love of all of you to Josh and remember every detail I possibly could to bring back to all of you. I went out and bought a journal and started writing down things as they happened every step of the way so that I wouldn’t have to trust my questionable memory to recall all the marvelous little tidbits as they happened. In this way, I hoped to at least bring the experience back to all of you so that you could in some way feel that you had been a part of it, since it was my sincere desire that we all could get to have this experience.
I know this seems like more than enough wonderfulness for one night, but believe it or not it’s not over yet. That was the end of my actual Josh encounter (he went on to the next thing, meeting and greeting more nice people). However, my adventure continued and I got to experience some treats that I never imagined would happen and really went on to make this night the most surprising and magnificent of my life.
When Brian (WBR) had first led us into the room where we would meet Josh, he had made an off-hand comment that he had hoped we would get to meet Josh’s parents and brother too. He said they had been in the room earlier, but now they were gone. What an unexpected treat that would have been on top of also getting to meet Josh himself. For so long, I have wanted to let Jack, Lindy and Chris know how vital I think they are to Josh’s life and career and how much I appreciated all they had done to help him through this maze that is the music business. Well, imagine my joy as we realized after saying goodbye to Josh that his family had returned!
This night was about to take a turn from the incredible to the sublime. As I met Lindy, and Chris shortly afterward, my mind reeled with all the things I’ve thought and felt about Josh’s family over the last few years. As our conversation progressed, it was easy to see that all the assumptions I’ve made from second-hand reports were undeniably true. Kinder, more loving, more intelligent people you are not likely to meet. Josh gets all of these character traits honestly.
Lindy smiled so sweetly as we spoke and said the most loving things. As I thanked her for all she’s obviously done to help support her son during the last few years, she remarked that the four of them had always been a close-knit family and looked out for each other. Then, just as Josh had done earlier, she gave us all the most precious gift by making an open, inclusive, warm-hearted comment that their family has just become a whole lot bigger. Her sincerity was plain to see; she really feels we are like family to them and what a privilege to be welcomed into this exceptional family! We went on to talk about several things, and I enjoyed our conversation immensely. I was struck with the absolute kindness and generosity of the woman, and I am so grateful to have had the privilege of meeting her after all this time. Thank you, Lindy, for your warmth and love. Andy and I really felt and appreciate it.
Talking with Chris was a purely joyous experience for us. He has the best sense of humor. He was so open and willing to talk and take pictures and sign something for me. He and his brother have a lot in common it seems to me, and his affection for and pride in him was readily apparent. Thanks, Chris, for treating Andy and I so great. It cracked me up when I got back to the hotel later and read what you had written: “Thanks for liking my bro.” Love it! Our pleasure! I’ll let you in on a little secret though; it’s not just your brother we like. You’re terrific!
While I was visiting with Lindy and Chris, Andy was having a nice conversation with Jack. They had something in common and so it was good they had a few minutes to chat about that. I enjoyed getting to talk to Jack so much. He was very friendly and we had a really great conversation. I was happy to have the opportunity to thank him in person too for being a support and center for Josh during this wild ride he’s been on in the last several years. It really is comforting to me to see that he is in such loving and wise care from those who are closest to him. Thank you, Jack, for taking the time to visit with me and Andy. It was a real treat for us both.
By this time the room was beginning to clear out and my “Cinderella” evening was drawing to a close. As we started to make our way to the door, I noticed David Romano. I had caught glimpses of him from across the room earlier in the night but, this had been my first opportunity to actually speak to him. It was great to tell him how wonderful his work with Josh has been and how I couldn’t believe that they were taking the most incredible voice I’d ever heard in my life and somehow continually making it better and better. He remarked that they just had to keep on training and that Josh had been in fine voice that night. I couldn’t have agreed more, and then Andy snapped a picture while I got David’s autograph.
We continued making our way out and began to realize that we had no idea where we were or how to get back to our car! We had left our car with the valet parking attendant when we arrived, and by now everyone had left the venue except for those associated with Josh and the band and the two of us. Since they had taken us back through the building to the backstage area, I wasn’t quite sure how to make it back out to the door we had entered through or even whether it would still be open or not. Tariqh noticed us and invited us to walk out the back with them. I was so grateful to him for taking us under his wing like that since I was so disoriented. Thanks a million for that, Tariqh!
On the way out the back door, I spotted Craig. I was overjoyed to see him because I had not had an opportunity to speak with him or Tim that evening. (We never did get a chance to see Tim that night, and I’ll always be disappointed that I didn’t get to thank him in person for the great concert.) Craig was nice enough to take a picture and sign something for me. We had a really enjoyable conversation on the way out of the building, and he even was kind enough to explain to us how to get through to the parking lot that held our car. Thanks for making sure we made it out of there okay, Craig. We’ll see you at Riverbend!!
Andy and I got in the car and pulled away giddy with the excitement of the night’s events. Team Josh had gone so far above and beyond what I had hoped for that I was just overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. On our way out of the airport, we drove slowly past the restaurant where I had read some fans from the board had planned to gather before and after the concert for an impromptu meet and greet. Sadly, though, it was so late by then that there were only a few people left inside and they appeared to be employees. I didn’t see anyone we knew, but we would have loved to have stopped and joined you if you had still been there. So, our adventure came to an end, but the glow surrounds us still.
In closing I just want to say that from the time this amazing adventure began, I was fully aware every step of the way what a completely unique, privileged and unparalleled experience this was, and my only thought was to fully appreciate it and bring it back to share with all of you as vividly as possible. Thank you all for going along with me on this adventure. I can never thank Josh, and everyone else who made this possible, enough for this once-in-a-lifetime moment.