Wisconsin State Journal, August 25, 1983

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Run-in doesn't ruin respect for Costello

Michael St. John

When he first appeared on the British punk/new wave scene in the late '70s looking like Buddy Holly on a bad day, Elvis Costello managed to develop a reputation as a bad apple before he had even become one of the bunch.

Just using the name Elvis was enough to perk up every ear in the music business and some felt that the name of the King was being taken in vain. Then came stories that said Costello had a chip on his shoulder the size of a giant redwood and even kept a list of people in the industry he would eventually get even with for snubbing him early on.

His manager, Jake Riviera (who makes Mr. T seem about as nasty as Politenessman), helped fuel the image.

I had one encounter with Riviera several years ago when Costello last appeared here. A rare after-show interview had been arranged, so I brought photographer and friend Tom Giles, now of Eau Claire, along for the occasion.

It turned out to be an ambush.

Riviera greeted us at the dressing room door when we arrived. In a flash, he had Giles by the shirt collar and appeared ready to relocate his nose somewhere in Western Europe.

A fairly spirited conversation ensued.

A month earlier, Creem magazine had printed a backstage photo of Costello mugging it up with Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. Riviera hadn't given permission for that shot to be released and was furious about it.

It had been taken by a Chicago-based photographer and not Giles. It just happened that the two camera men bore a striking resemblance to one another.

As we hastily explained the mix-up to Riviera, he changed his mind about rearranging Giles' face. Then he changed his mind about the interview.

None of this is going to deter me from looking forward to Costello's concert at the Coliseum Saturday night. I just hope Riviera isn't hunting for some writer who looks like me.


Wisconsin State Journal, August 25, 1983

Michael St. John recalls an encounter with Jake Riviera ahead of the Elvis Costello concert, Saturday, August 27, 1983, Dane County Coliseum, Madison, Wisconsin.


1983-08-25 Wisconsin State Journal page 4-04 clipping 01.jpg

1983-08-25 Wisconsin State Journal page 4-04.jpg
Page scan.


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