In the Mix #8 Picture yourself in an elevator going high (Grapefruit 1968) with Jane Risdon

In the Mix #8
Picture yourself in an elevator going high (Grapefruit 1968)
Jane Risdon
New York City is an amazing place full of energy and excitement and there’s always something to watch or hear – you probably already know that. However, for those who’ve never travelled to such a place before it can be quite mind blowing.
Put yourself in the shoes of a (rock) group of 18 and 20 year old lads who’ve recently signed a 10 album deal with one of the world’s largest and hippest record labels, suddenly finding themselves in the Big Apple with everything they’ve ever dreamed of achieving, musically, landing right in front of them. The photo shoots, the video recording, not to mention the endless rounds of interviews and radio (live) shows with DJ’s falling over themselves to get the low down on the ‘next big thing.’ It can be overwhelming.
Imagine being booked into an expensive hotel where every guest you encounter is ‘someone,’ if only you could remember who. Imagine being ‘recognised’ yourself and causing pandemonium in the lobby every time you step out of the elevator; the young girls clamouring to get near you, the music fans who want to discuss which strings you use on your bass and why – exciting, but totally mind-blowing if you’ve come from a small English town and have not even experienced London that often, other than to gig and meet record company executives and the music press. As they’d tell everyone they met, it was ‘mega.’
It cannot but go to their heads you think, and you’d be right. Over-excited, over-sexed (I’ll leave that until another time) and yes, over there. All so new with every whim catered for and, as a result, spoiled rotten by fawning record executives who saw the band as a notch on their CV helping them up the greasy pole to fame fortune and success – the next Clive Davis or Rick Rubens of the day.
With such an air of excitement and expectation it is always good to remember that you might take the green kid out of their small town but you cannot take the small town out of the kid. Such adventures we had in New York City on their first trip that year. More on their adventures another time.
Now, most of us get into an elevator (lift) without a second thought or perhaps with a little trepidation if movement and heights are not your bag. I never used to give them a thought – until…
Billeted on the 17th floor of the hotel the only way down was via elevator and we went up and down in them a dozen times a day for the 6 weeks we were in the city. Each time we got in and as soon as the movement up or down began, the band would all jump up and down in unison – experiencing a sort of ‘weightlessness,’ they said. It scared me silly as I could hears the tension creaks and groans of the cables getting worse each day, but listen to me, the band would not.
On our last Sunday in the hotel we left our suites and got into the elevator with all our luggage plus a record company executive, on the way to the airport for our flight a little later, to Los Angeles where we’d do everything – PR etc., all over again for the band.
As soon as the elevator began to descend the band – and the record executive – all began to jump up and down, but this time the cables really weren’t too pleased.
At about the 15th floor there was a snapping sound followed by a rush downwards at speed and a ferocious rocking of the elevator sending us all flying into one another. Then the elevator stopped. It rocked gently from side to side and the cables groaned and we found we were pitched at a peculiar angle. Silence. Then they all began to babble hysterically as I tried to call for help on the intercom.
After an age it was determined, by whomever I spoke with, that we were stuck between floors 12 and 11 at a precarious angle and the hotel were trying to find an engineer to come out – on a Sunday – to fix it and rescue us. Meantime we had to sit still and wait. They were going to try to bring a service elevator alongside us if it was possible, depending upon what the engineer had to say.
The record company executive – about 24 years of age, maximum – suffered from claustrophobia and had a panic attack. You can never find a brown paper bag when you need one. He was almost unconscious with fear after about 10 minutes. It was hot and stuffy and very cramped inside and two of the band began to panic about all sorts of imagined disasters which might befall us all. Not liking heights I wasn’t too enthralled either, but being the adult, I had to set an example. Calm down lads.
Five and a half hours later they managed to bring another elevator almost alongside of us. Actually when they cut through to us the 10 floors below were clearly visible as was the huge gap and step down to the service elevator. Terrified yes, but as I said, being the adult I had to set an example. After discussions which didn’t include me, the band decided I should step across and down on to the service elevator first, to test it was safe!
Eventually we were all back in the lobby with our luggage. We’d missed our flight and had to remain at the hotel another night. It took all my patience to control the band who were intent on telling the mystified hotel manager what had happened to cause it to crash down so many floors. I didn’t want a law suit because of their behaviour and the hotel was terrified we’d sue them for all sorts of things including trauma and possible back injuries. It was a relief when the hotel decided to wipe off the whole bill for the last week of our stay and I agreed horridly as we checked out the next day and rushed off to catch our flight to Los Angeles, hoping they’d not realised what had caused the rapid decent.
I always learned from these encounters, though I doubt the band did. I’ve learned never to take a band of lads in an elevator wherever it might be located. They’d get in one and I either wait for another or get the elevator next to theirs. We were like Royalty – never taking the same plane in-case of accidents.
More from ‘In the Mix’ soon….

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