I spent the night with Elvis Costello. Well, we weren't in the room, but I was close enough to breath the very same air as the "King" himself.
The whole situation was quite unexpected. I was sitting in the Holiday Inn at Chapel Hill. N.C., calmly eating shrimp scampi. when a group of tall skinny men breezed past me. I didn't notice anything uncommon about these men until I heard them speak and, at once, I knew they were British.
They discussed the delicacies of the Holiday Inn menu and the idiosyncrasies of the Super Bowl. It wasn't until one of them babbling about guitar riffs that I began to put the pieces together. Costello, I knew, had performed at the University of North Carolina earlier that day, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect Elvis the C. to check into the world's innkeeper — a place I thought serviced mere mortals.
I began to listen more intently to the conversation, hoping that Elvis would soon be joining his cohorts. "Where was he?" I asked myself. Had he abandoned his friends to stay at the Chapel Hill Hilton? My mind was racing. The winds of fate had blown a bona fide rock star to my very feet and yet he was nowhere in sight.
Suddenly, the doors of the restaurant blew open. Yes. I was sure of it, this was Him. The doors remained ajar for a couple of seconds, then he entered. It was Elvis, schoolboy spectacles and all.
It was just too good to believe. The forerunner of new wave music walked calmly through the restaurant and I was the only one who seemed to know royalty when I saw it. The waitresses were as unaware as the elderly couple seated a table away from Elvis. I had the faint suspicion that the couple were merely a cleverly disguised pair of fans, ready to rip off their wigs and grovel at the feet of rock's last angry man.
But, I was going to careful. I'd heard Elvis was a quiet man offstage, a man who didn't like publicity. I watched him order his dinner. First he sniffed, then in a very British accent, he ordered a turkey sandwich, making sure it was real turkey and not the pressed kind.
My dinner was getting cold as my interest in meeting Costello grew stronger. "Excuse me Mr. Costello." I fantasized saying. "I know who you really are. Could I have your autograph? It's for my dog."
That wouldn't do. Maybe I could take a more sophisticated approach, "I noticed you're British. Who do you think contributed most to the development of rock 'n' roll music?"
I couldn't muster the courage. I paid the waitress and left the restaurant, all the while plotting a way to meet this musical legend, Outside in the lobby was a large group of his lackeys. They asked the clerk when the bar would open. One went so far as to say that if the bar didn't open soon, he would help things along. Physically.
Thinking only how to meet Elvis, I strolled into the parking lot and stared at his blue, star-covered bus. Maybe I could break into it.
Then, when he opened it in the morning, I could jump out and say, "Hi, I've always wanted to meet you. "
Beatlemania, it seems, has not completely bitten the dust.
I started wandering around the hotel grounds and looked for damage possibly caused by the alienated rock star's fans. There were no signs.
It was too good to be true. I always thought I'd jump at the chance to meet a musician and now I had Elvis in the same building. I had little doubt that he would approach me and couldn't gather enough guts to approach him.
I felt ashamed and frustrated that I wasted an hour in a silly debate with myself. I raced back to the restaurant. He was gone. I raced to the bar. It was closed. I begged the desk clerk to tell me his whereabouts. She refused.
Out in the parking lot, I could still see his blue bus. I knew then that I had blown the chance of a lifetime. I spent half the night trying to suitably forge the autograph of Elvis Costello.