Bill and I decided to take a break from our nonstop work schedule to go see Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band in Raleigh Thursday. The name of the tour is "Workin' and Playin', and we took that as a directive from Jimmy, the king of Margaritaville. It was time for some playin.'
We got settled on the lawn in time to hear the opening act: Huey Lewis and The News. I immediately was transported back 32 years, to Jan. 31, 1984. That's the day I met Huey Lewis and had one of my most memorable experiences as a journalist. It happened just over a month after I had graduated from journalism school and started working full time at The Daily Reflector.
Because I was the youngster on the newspaper staff, I was assigned to interview Huey the morning of the band's Greenville show. They were touring in support of their new album, "Sports" and already had three hits with videos playing in heavy rotation on MTV.
The concert location was The Greenleaf, a converted warehouse north of the river across from the runway of the Pitt-Greenville Airport. (By the way, I also saw legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band Double Trouble almost literally raise the roof of that same venue.)
Anyway, back to Huey Lewis.
He shows up at The Greenleaf freshly showered and bleary eyed but pleasant. After shaking my hand, he asks the venue manager if he can have a cup of coffee. There isn't a coffee pot. Oh, no. I am nervous now. The man needs some coffee and there isn't any.
So Huey asks his tour manager if he can have the keys to the bus so he and I can go get some coffee. The answer? A laugh.
So Huey turns his handsome face to me, a 23-year-old recent college graduate from a small town in North Carolina, bats his eyes and says coyly, "Jane ... would you rescue me and take me a get a cup of coffee?"
Now what was I supposed to say?
We walk out to my four-door Buick in the parking lot and Huey Lewis gets in the passenger seat. Of MY car. Panic ensues. What if I have a wreck with Huey Lewis in the car and he gets injured and has to go to the hospital and he can't make it to the show that night and it's front page news that I was responsible for hurting Huey Lewis? I sit there with my keys in my hand.
Obviously sensing my trepidation, Huey reaches over, places his hand (comfortingly?) on my thigh and says words I will never forget. "It's OK, Jane. I trust you." And he pats my leg.
OMG. Huey Lewis trusts me to drive off alone with him. Why? And he's patting my thigh. OMG.
Somehow I start my car. I drive north on Memorial Drive, turn onto Airport Road and stop at the nearest convenience store near Greene Street. I park (thankfully I don't run into the curb) and he gets out. "You coming with me?" he asks. I shake my head no. I know as a journalist I should have stuck to him like glue, taking notes all the while. But truthfully, my legs were shaking so badly I was afraid I would fall down.
So Huey goes into the store and I try to calm myself. I take deep breaths. I am feeling better. I can do this. But Huey doesn't come out of the store. Why hasn't he come out with his cup of coffee yet? How long has he been inside? Surely long enough to get a cup of coffee. Maybe they needed to brew a fresh pot. Surely that's it. How long does it take a brew a fresh pot of coffee? What if something has happened to Huey? What if he walked into the store in the middle of a hold-up? What if he gets shot trying to be a hero, and it's front page news that Huey Lewis was shot in a convenience store in Greenville, North Carolina, because a dumb young reporter took him to get a cup of coffee? Should I go into the convenience store to get him? Will I look even stupider if I do? Oh no, I am panicking again.
And out of the store walks Huey Lewis with a smile on his face, a cup of coffee in one hand and a bag of freshly popped popcorn in the other. Whew.
"Sorry that took so long," he says as he slides back into the front seat of my car. "I got my cup of coffee, but then they started making some popcorn and it smelled so good I just had to wait until it finished popping so I could get some."
Well, I don't blame him. I would have done the same thing.
As I drive the block back to the concert venue, Huey chats with me about the locals he met in the convenience store who recognized him and wanted to shake his hand. It's a great anecdote for the story I write for The Daily Reflector.
And that's what I remember as I watch Huey perform with The News Thursday night.
We both have aged a lot of the past 32 years, but we're both still workin' for a livin.'
And I will forever be grateful to him for trusting me when I wasn't sure I could be trusted.