“I have wanted to perform for our troops for awhile now, and was thrilled to get the chance last week in Kitzingen. It was an honor to play for them, and even more so to meet them and their families. I can’t wait to play again for our troops, wherever it may be. They all have my deepest thanks and respect.” – Richard Marx
DAY 10 – APRIL 14TH: Definitely planned to sleep in until about 8:00 this morning and try to kick this cold. But, the body clock won’t allow it. Four hours is the max then lying there for another hour trying to go back to sleep. Now I don’t think it’s a cold afterall. I think it’s just allergies which is definitely preferable. Bebe and I figured out that we were in 8 time zones in 8 days in 8 different countries with temperatures ranging from snow and freezing cold to sunny and blistering hot. That’s pretty hard on the body. What still amazes me is the fact that Charlie Daniels is 68 years old and can run circles around all of us. I think back how many times artists I have worked with refuse to do two shows per night. They have even passed on good paying gigs because the promoter demanded two shows per night. Then Charlie gets up at 6 am, choppers for an hour and a half to the first gig, performs for over an hour in the hot sun, signs autographs for an hour and a half. Then choppers to for a half hour to the next gig, performance for over an hour again in the hot sun, signs autographs for more than an hour and choppers for 20 minutes to the next gig. This one is the full blown show for thousands of people – but again, out in the sun and he performs for 2 hours and then signs autographs for two hours. Then it’s another half hour chopper ride back to home base. Young artists today should be forced to travel with him for a week for “training”. Maybe you could tell by yesterday’s report that I was going through some pretty intense depression. It’s always that way when we leave the troops. With all their tours for the military, this was still the first time that most of his group has ever performed in a combat situation. I could tell that they were all feeling the intense letdown of having to leave the area. But, plans are already underway for a repeat visit! Oh, and while we were in Iraq, Charlie got to go see where Saddam is being held. Supposedly, they took television sets in to him just for the election! Decided that jogging might help me feel better and KNEW that I would get lost because the front desk told me to run around the wall of Old Town. The streets twist and turn and nothing is in a “straight line”. I did not disappoint myself. Was lost for over a half hour but finally found my way back. And, I definitely feel better from having exercised. Took a shower and walked back over to Old Town to buy some water and change money. When I was jogging this morning, there was a group of “winos” standing in front of the entrance to the underground shopping at the train station. I must have jogged past them 5 times when I was lost J Anyway, when I went in the train station to change money, they had two huge bottles of wine sitting out on the railing. I was only in there about 30 minutes but when I came back out, all the wine was GONE and they were singing at the top of their lungs. It’s killing me to be in such a beautiful area and not have time to sightsee or shop! Richard Marx group landed on time. Their equipment was “stuck” in NY due to a bomb scare but I got a message that it was arriving today, too. The road manager called and said he had forgotten to tell me that Richard’s manager was with them. I went downstairs to see if I could get him a room and there was more than 100 men standing in the lobby and outside on the sidewalk checking in! I didn’t think there would be any rooms available but there was. Got all their room keys ready. The hotel has upgraded Richard to a beautiful suite – two levels, baby grand piano, sunken tub – very nice! They called when they were one mile away and I went outside to meet them. I waited and waited and finally they called back –asking where I was. They had gone to the Meridian Grand Hotel and we are staying at the Maritim. We were all walking over to a restaurant in Old Town to eat when I asked if he had done his phone interview. There was some miscommunication because he was supposed to call the radio station but he thought they were calling him. So I ran back to the hotel to get the phone number for the station. I had already eaten, so just met the guys at the bus and we drove over to Kitzingen. Took about 1 ½ hours to drive with the trailer hooked to the bus. We had to hide Richard’s manager in the bathroom when we went through the gate because he isn’t on our “orders”. Venue is a HUGE tent and all the tables are decorated with American flags. My friend from Camp Summerall – Colonel Kyle – drove over from Schweinfurt to see me. So strange to see him in CIVILIAN clothes! My friends from the production company are working this gig and I haven’t seen them in years. So nice to reconnect with everyone. Sound check went fine and we arrived back at the hotel after 1 am! Night
DAY 11 – APRIL 15TH: “Slept in” until 8 am and then went jogging. Finally found a way that I could run around the outer walls of Old Town without getting lost. It was as simple as making a left turn instead of a right around the wall. Showered and worked on email until time to go to the gig. Richard and his guys are so awesome. They all have very distinct personalities and a great sense of humor. We got caught in traffic going to the venue and it took us about 2 ½ hours instead of 1 ½ hours to get there. We were late for the AFN interview, but everything was fine and back on track within a matter of minutes. I met my friend Sylvia and we talked about our last visit. I met her in the mid-90’s in Bosnia and then saw her again in Schweinfurt many years ago. I’ll be going back to Schweinfurt in two weeks with Chely. We had stayed in touch via email for quite some time but had lost touch in the last couple of years. It was great to “reconnect”. The concert began exactly on time and to say that Richard Marx was a “hit” with the crowd is a gross understatement. The front area of the stage of packed with people standing, dancing, and singing along. Not only is he an incredible performer, but he spoke from his heart when thanking the crowd for their service in the U.S. military. The production company and backstage staff seemed surprised that he was so undemanding and easy to work with. Evidently they have had some entertainers who are a bit difficult and he was a welcome “break” for them. I could tell from the audience reaction that his repertoire of hits brought back wonderful memories for many of those attending. After the 90 minute concert, the Commander went on stage and thanked Richard and his musicians and gave each of them a “coin”. I had initiated everyone by giving everyone a “Stars for Stripes” coin earlier and explaining the “history” of “coining”. Richard signed autographs for more than an hour and it was so different to see “families” in line instead of soldiers in BDU’s or DCU’s. I talked to several people in line and found out that either they or someone in their family had been stationed at Camps I have visited in the past 2 years. I still find it hard to believe that I have been going to that area for two years. The drive back to the hotel was filled with lively conversation and made for a very cheerful ending to a great tour for our troops. Richard wants to go to Afghanistan and hit some of the really remote sites where the soldiers desperately need cheering up. I met the boys at the bar for a farewell drink but got involved in settling the account with the front desk and ended up never having the drink. But, we took a group photo and gave lots of hugs all around. They will be touring Germany for the next month, opening for Joe Cocker. Hopefully, we’ll hook back up when I’m in Schweinfurt with Chely. Checked email until 3:30 am and then grabbed a couple of hours sleep.
DAY 12 – April 16th No problem checking out of the hotel and I really LOVED the staff there. Would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone visiting the area. Know Richard was delighted with his suite. Took a taxi to the airport only to learn that my “two hour prior to departure for an international flight” rule didn’t apply to the tiny Nurnberg Airport. I had to wait a full hour for the check-in counter to open. Then I learned that it was a tiny little jet from Nurnberg to Switzerland. Thankfully, the weather was good and there was no LIGHTNING. I now have yet another thing to worry about when I fly! We departed late and I knew I only had one hour for the connection which was not cut down to 30 minutes. Literally RAN from one terminal to the next and made it on the flight. I’m flying Swiss Air and really like it. Flight attendants are nice and the seats are great even though the flight is definitely full. Connecting through Chicago and hopefully back to Nashville at a “decent” hour. Nope. Flight is delayed. No aircraft! Every time I think I’m going to be home early in the afternoon, there is a flight delay. I can’t ever remember getting back into Nashvillle before 9 or 10 pm at night. Might as well just go ahead and book those late might flights. We finally boarded almost 2 hours past our departure time. It was a tiny little jet and you had too “gate check” your larger carry on bags. I have to say, I felt like I was trapped in the “Saturday Night Live Version” of “Deliverance” and “The Jeffersons” all rolled into one. Was standing in line to board when this HUGE obese woman wearing what looked like her pajamas and pushing a smaller lady in a wheelchair followed by another woman comes barreling through the line saying, “Handicapped Board First”. They were obviously from the “real backwoods of Kentucky” from their accents and mannerisms. When I got up to the gate agent, my boarding pass wouldn’t work because it had been issued by Swiss Air. Of course, she was the only one working the counter, so I had to wait until everyone else had boarded to get a new boarding pass. Made my way down the jetway and there was still a big crowd waiting to get on. There was about 6 black women standing in the jetway arguing with the ground crew. They all had huge boxes of liquor that they had purchased and were refusing to let them “gate check” it. After threatening the attendant with bodily harm, they finally boarded the flight still with enough carry on luggage to fill about 6 of the overhead bins. By the time I got to my seat (which of course they changed when they changed my boarding pass!), there was no overhead space left. I managed to cram everything under the seat and wedge myself into the seat. The large “hillbilly” woman was, of course, sitting in front of me. She weighed so much that her seat was pushed back farther than the others and I barely had room to fit my knees in. Right before take-off, the lady in the wheelchair who was sitting in the window seat next to the large lady, called the flight attendant over. They were in the bulkhead seats yet she told the flight attendant that “she could not stretch her legs out and something needed to be done”. I’ve never been in favor of flight attendants getting “smart” with the passengers, but this time it was justified. To her credit, the flight attendant was very sweet about it. She simply said, “well, mam, would you like for me to see if there is someone who can cut your legs off a little bit so that you will have more room?” The man sitting next to me whose knees were farther up in his chin than mine, tapped the lady on the shoulder and said, “Mam, I’ll be happy to change seats with you”. She suddenly became hard of hearing and did not answer. After take-off, I spied ONE seat – the very front one – empty. I was about to get up and ask the flight attendant if I could move into it when the “large lady” lumbered from her seat to dig around in the overhead. There was no way anyone could even attempt to squeeze past her. When she finished rummaging around and decided to sit back down, her huge rear end hit the lady who had been complaining right in the face and spilled her drink all over her. So the remainder of the flight was spent cleaning up that mess and moving the one with the wet seat her into “my empty seat”! Finally landed in Nashville and had to line up outside the airplane entrance to wait for our gate-checked bags. The lady in the wheelchair seemed to be walking just fine and was carrying a bag that looked like it weighed about 40 pounds. But, she got her wheelchair for the ride to baggage claim! Then all the black ladies showed up to wait for their whiskey and the largest one of them also had a wheelchair meeting her. After she sat down, one of the ladies in her group grabbed the largest bag of whiskey and said, “Here, put dis between your legs”. Her response was, “Dat ain’t what I wants between my legs, sista!” which sent all the other females in her group into hysterics. One of the airline employees started pushing her down the jetway, but there was a very slight incline. She was too heavy and he could not get her up the slope. Finally, two guys got behind the wheelchair and one lady got in front and pulled her up the slope. Baggage claim was just as entertaining. The black lady who had been wheelchair bound was running laps around the conveyor belt, grabbing 70 pound suitcases and slinging them onto a cart. She was obviously too cheap to tip a porter and obviously NOT HANDICAPPED. I asked my porter why she was allowed to use a wheelchair and he said it happens all the time because people just want to board first! Then I looked across the belt and ALL THREE of the Beverly Hillbillies were in wheelchairs. The large one was “directing” a porter on which bags were theirs. Only, every bag he pulled off and lugged about 10 feet over to the cart, she decided wasn’t really their bag after all and he had to drag it back to the belt and put it back on. You can’t buy that kind of entertainment!