IF YOU KNEW BILLY . . . YOU'D BE ROOTING FOR BILLY
I have to preface this article by first saying this . . . I'm not a Pumpkins guy. The truth is, that throughout the time that I found occupancy in the wrestling bubble I really didn't listen to much music at all---especially new music played by new artists. During that period in my life, I was so hypnotized by the notion of being the absolute best that I could be, that I rarely enjoyed ANYTHING---let alone music. I swear to you, my gap in following new artists feels like it goes from Elvis Costello all the way through to Rihanna with nobody in between. The rest of my catalogue is filled by those who made a name for themselves in the music business before I went away to college at age 18.
That has much to do with why I really didn't care to go see Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins when JB, Jeremy Borash, called me about seven years ago asking me if I'd like to meet up with Billy and then go and see him play while he came through town in Denver. Despite JB's gracious offer, I told him at the time that I really didn't feel like going, but asked him if he would pick up my two sons, Will and VJ, and bring them because they were HUGE fans of the band. With that, JB said, "Vince, you have to come, he REALLY wants to meet YOU."
I have to tell you, at the time I was really taken back. Even though I wasn't a fan of his music, Billy Corgan was indeed a rock legend. And, although I couldn't recite his musical catalogue like both my boys could, I clearly realized his musical accomplishments throughout the years. So I agreed to accept JB's offer, and he told me the hotel and room number where Billy was staying, and asked me to meet him there. My words here cannot capture the true excitement of my sons. Music had become a blue print of both their lives, and this was the artist who almost single-handedly sketched the foundation that molded them from teenagers to young adults.
I know I don't remember many things at this point in my life, but I vividly remember watching the faces of both Will and VJ when we walked up to that hotel room and knocked. This would have been the equivalent of me meeting Gene Simmons when I was totally obsessed by him at the age of 17. After JB's formal introductions, we entered the room and my sons had a personal Q & A with their musical hero. My younger son VJ couldn't even look Billy in the eye, as he asked him about his guitar playing and what inspired him as an artist. Man, this was their moment, and as their dad I just sat back and let them enjoy it. It meant everything to me that I was fortunate enough to be able to do this for them.
So I sat . . . and I listened . . . and, I listened some more. It was only within the first 15 minutes of the conversation that I could see that this human being was just on a "different level". The things he said, the way he said them . . . I had just never heard anybody express themselves the way that Billy so eloquently spoke that night. It was only a matter of time that I realized how special this was because I was in the presence of a true artist and clearly a true genius. I didn't have to know the music to understand the man. He was just on a much, much different playing feel as I suddenly became nothing more than just a sponge attempting to soak in every word of wisdom he spoke to my kids.
After that memorable night, Billy and I would keep in touch over the phone, with maybe 5 conversations over the years. Everyone was a memorable one to me, not because of WHO he was, but because of WHAT he was. There was a spiritual side there, part of him that just seemed to reach out and engage my very soul. Man, this was a guy that was truly SOMEBODY, but yet whenever we spoke it never seemed to be about him, but rather he was more interested in me. And, I have to tell you---I just wasn't used to feeling that way--in my job especially--by those who I worked with and was even employed by.
So last night, at Red Rocks, I brought the entire Russo clan to see Billy play, and perhaps say a few words to him before the show. My boys, with their girlfriends, and me and Amy, were treated to a VIP set of three acoustic songs and some more "Billy wisdom". as he answered questions from his beloved fans in attendance. When the session ended, Billy called me over. I met him with a hug and thanked him for allowing me and my family to come see him play. At that point I introduced Billy to my wife, and re-introduced him to Will and VJ. Knowing he had to get ready for the show, I was literally on the verge of saying goodbye when Billy told us all to follow him.
He escorted us outside to a van that was waiting for him, and we all hopped in and went on a short ride to his dressing room. Once inside, Billy told us all to make ourselves comfortable, and then he sat down and started to talk with us as if we were his own family. Feeling much more comfortable now that they had met him before, the boys started firing away at Billy. But this time, after they had "their turn", I was having "mine". For a good 90 minutes I attempted to get into Billy's head---man, just give me 1 percent of that wisdom to take home and it will last me the next two decades---but, the more I tried to pick the intellect---the more his heart and soul stole the show. Once again, Billy spoke to me about ME, and about my personal struggles. He brought up spirituality and a force that was "out there and bigger than us". Suddenly I felt as if it were just the two of us alone in that room, and this was indeed an angel sent by God himself to remind me of what "was", and what "is". In the corner of my eye I could see Amy looking at me as if to say, "Are you getting this?", and yes, Amy---I was---every, single word.
As it was getting close to show time I told Billy that we were going to leave so he could get ready. Once again I gave him a hug, thanked him and wished him luck. Billy looked at me and said, " Aren't you coming back after the show?" This is Billy man---this is just Billy. Needless to say, he had dozens of people waiting for him after the show, but he sent a crew member out to coral the Russo family and bring them in to see him first. We all thanked Billy for what was going to be a memorable night, and I asked him to please keep in touch. Billy rolled his eyes at me as if to say, "Are you kidding?"
As I'm now sitting here, I'm just pausing at my keyboard. The relationship that I have established with Billy during my journey in this life is just something that is so special to me that I cannot even express in words. I feel as if it's perhaps not even of this world, but maybe this man was placed in my life for a true reason that at this point I can't even verbalize . . . or even understand. . . and perhaps I'm not supposed to. But, I do know this . . . for who he is . . . I love him. he has clearly made a difference in my life on so many levels that even he doesn't realized.
I wish you could all know Billy. If you knew him . . . you'd be rooting for him.
I know I am.