Claim to Fame

A few years ago, one of my friends was a production assistant on the movie set of Friday Night Lights, and before that he did similar work on the set of Dawson's Creek. He escorted Billy Bob Thornton to and from his trailer, and says Katie Holmes was a very sweet girl pre-Tom.

He was my closest claim to fame until I saw a Blue October video on VH-1 this week. I looked at the lead singer and realized, Dear God, it's Justin! I never knew him personally, but he frequented one of my first jobs. In my second year of college, I worked as a hostess at Bennigan's here in Houston. My uniform was not that wretched: black pants or skirt, white button-down shirt, a tie, and black shoes. I made it my own by wearing a cute knee-length pleated skirt, various colored tights, Doc Marten Mary Janes, and one of my Dad's ties.

My first hostess partner was Amanda. She had almond-shaped eyes and walked gracefully due to her training as a dancer at HSPVA. Amanda was kinder than her waitress friend who flaunted victory in stealing my then on-again/off-again boyfriend. Amanda and I worked well together, taking turns seating customers or manning the wait station while one of us slipped to an employees-only nook to grab a drink. It was here that my love affair with coffee was birthed. I often worked the latest shift which ended at 2:00 am, followed by clean-up until at least 3:00 am before heading out to IHOP with the disgruntled wait staff. Over pancakes and more coffee we unabashedly griped and cursed rude customers, the monotonous jukebox selection, and just what we would do if we smelled one more Monte Carlo sandwich. My brother eventually joined our crew which was fun, and he was an excellent waiter (I was later promoted to a waitress, but I do not possess my brother's natural people-skills nor balance. I spilled Cokes on my parents and dropped a whole tray of food in the kitchen at least twice).

One night Amanda scurried off to the bathroom. I noticed a guy sulking in an empty section near the door where I stood with aching feet. He emitted the vibe of a Bad Boy and a brooding musician, and I soon discovered he was both. When he looked up he said, "Hey, where's Amanda?" She then walked up looking none too pleased. Decade-ago details are foggy, but let's just say they put my off-and-on-boyfriend and I to shame in terms of drama. When Justin finally left, Amanda vented all of his mistakes. I was single for the moment, so I nodded super-sympathetic, chastising the male species. Finding Justin hunched over an empty table became part of my nightly shifts, so thank God Amanda could ignore him. I soon shared her ability while she deftly whispered his latest ill-fated stunts. Another night, feeling generous, she did admit Justin was a talented lead singer of a local band, The Last Wish.

The Last Wish was my introduction to the majesty of live music. They played all over town, but I best remember their smoke-laced shows at Fitzgerald's. I recall the early 90's lineup to be Justin, a fantastic electric violinist, a guitarist, a drummer, and a bit later while working at Whole Earth Provisions Co., my co-worker Amy sang backing vocals. Justin may have been a less-than-ideal boyfriend, but he was created to be a lead singer. Great voice, he wore eye-makeup even then, and his theatrics allowed you to feel his pain, and I'm sure his angst towards Amanda. I wore out their cassette, The Rooftop Sessions, in my car; I am trying to find it in our cluttered closet!

It is a small world after all. The Last Wish dissolved and Justin moved on to Blue October. Johnny gave lessons to one of The Last Wish's early drummers. That student gave a demo to Johnny who also enjoyed their sound in the same big city before we were destined to meet. I've listened to snippets of Blue October's songs which are pretty good, but I believe The Last Wish was superior; I will always have a soft spot in my heart for raw, indie albums. The Last Wish would not be played on MTV or VH-1 today, but that is precisely why they were better, back when I wore Doc Martens.


Christine said...

Jenni, that's pretty neato! I have to admit, I do really like Blue October. I love your early 90s memories. I remember your dark pink car we used to ride around in Houston but that was as late as 1998! Oh, and my biggest claim to fame is probably stumbling over my words as I walked up to Meredith Baxter Birney (the mom on Family Ties) in the basement restaurant of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, only brave enough to mutter the words, "I just wanted you to know I think you're a really great actress..." while my friend Wendy snickered. Meredith was really sweet about my idiocy!

Jenni said...

If you like Blue October so much, I should give them another chance! I'm just nostalgic about The Last Wish, but with Justin I'm sure Blue October really is good.