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Figure the members of Black Sabbath, Oasis, 10,000 Maniacs, the Harlem Boys Choir and David Copperfield have anything in common? Anything at all? How about all of them, plus Slipknot, Trisha Yearwood, REO Speedwagon, Destiny's Child, Marilyn Manson, Dolly Parton, Blink-182, Barry Manilow, and Snoop Dogg?
Aside from the basic apparatus, the heads and livers and all, could they really have any link at all? Oh, you saw it coming, of course they do, and the basic apparatus is the link, because all those stars have bodies, and the bodies require food and drink, and Eat Your Heart Out is the caterer who has provided the food and drink for all of them when they've been in the Twin Cities area. Them, plus a zillion others, from AC/DC to Tracy Chapman to Three Doors Down. Eat Your Heart Out does much of the backstage catering for the State and Orpheum Theaters, was the longtime backstage caterer for the Guthrie, does many of the outdoor festivals like X-Fest and Ozzfest, and even just started providing backstage grub for the State Fair.
So what do Marilyn Manson and Dolly Parton eat backstage? Anything they want, of course. But outdoors, a lot of grilled salmon and such; indoors, a lot of elaborate theme meals, like a Greek feast with spinach and feta pies, lemon chicken, tuna steaks, couscous, and plenty of side dishes, or a Cajun meal with blackened red snapper, Cajun-rubbed roast turkey, jalapeño cornbread, and the like.
Personally, I've never tasted Eat Your Heart Out's food, but I'm guessing it's pretty good. Kathy Hayes says she's been asked repeatedly to leave the Twin Cities and accompany bands on their tours, most recently by--actually, let's pause here, so that all readers currently possessing fruit-scented lip gloss might please sit down, and all other readers sitting near the persons possessing such lip gloss might cover their ears to block the shrieking. All right, everyone sorted? Then--the Backstreet Boys. The Backstreet Boys! This is the kind of information that will be of only marginal interest to some, but to others, will cause hysteria, swoons, trembling. It's of little interest to Kathy Hayes, who says she responded by asking: "Do you have a Lear jet?" for she has no interest in living tour life from a tour bus.
It's interesting to me, because there are probably a couple of Edina nine-year-olds who would regard this as the utter pinnacle of human achievement, and once upon a time Hayes was herself an Edina nine-year-old with a life-changing interest in a boy band. "I just remember driving around and listening to the Beatles with my mom," says Hayes. "Music was the most important thing to me. There was nothing else close. My room was plastered with Beatles posters, my life was Beatles, Beatles, Beatles."
Hayes told me this over dinner one night, a dinner to which she had brought Steve Barone, the former guitar player and keyboardist for local band Lifter Puller, current star of performance-art/comedy/rock project Mr. Hawaii Dude (www.mrhawaiidude.com), and, most important for this story, Hayes's trusted right-hand man, lieutenant, and friend. Barone took a moment in the recounting of Hayes's Edina Beatles childhood to interrupt: "Come on, weren't you just a groupie who wanted to get close to bands?"
At which point he received the best dirty look I've seen in a long time. Imagine the face of a baseball coach who goes to draw on the strength of the bench, but instead discovers the entire dugout is high and eating pizza. Like that. "No," said Hayes. "What is that going to sound like?"
But of course there seems to be a bit of truth to the notion: Hayes was once married to someone in Lamont Cranston, someone whom she says the Blues Brothers characters were later based on, and she managed to get at least enough on-tour-with-the-Rolling Stones experience to be able to recall the days when backstage dining meant as many lobsters as you could eat--in Iowa, no less. "You could have had eight lobsters if you wanted to," says Hayes. "Ice sculptures, crabs, shrimp--ridiculous!
"But 'groupie'? 'Groupie' has a bad connotation," she continues. "Did I always like music? Did I always hang out with bands? Yes. The food part came in [18 years ago] when a friend, a concert promoter, needed a deli tray for backstage. I was always the instigator and coordinator for parties. I made everything [for that first deli tray] from scratch--we still make everything from scratch--and it just turned into what it is."
What it is is an operation with a dozen employees who can turn any sort of field with a hose and some electricity into the site of three meals a day for 500 people--yes, 500 people. Think drivers, managers, dancers, tech people, security, and assorted "crew dudes" for perhaps five bands on a big touring festival. Also eating are girlfriends, and that's my flimsy excuse for working in this irresistible Backstreet Boys anecdote: Barone says the best thing he's witnessed backstage in recent years was a Boy debuting a new haircut, and the Boy's girlfriend weeping inconsolably at the sight of it. "Don't worry, baby," said the Boy, "People are going to like it. People are going to like my hair. You'll see." Embrace. Fade.
The anecdotes may be amusing, but the hours for the area's premier rock caterer are anything but. Eat Your Heart Out arrives at a big festival at maybe 6:00 a.m. to set up for breakfast for the crew dudes, fries up eggs and serves pastries for a few hours, then lunch, snacks, backstage stuff--often derived from those infamous "riders," the contracts specifying what the band gets in their dressing rooms (they catered for David Lee Roth, but the "no brown M&M's" clause Van Halen was famous for was long gone)--dinner, or a post-show dinner. Often, say Barone and Hayes, they don't leave a venue till 2:00 or 5:00 a.m.
One time, after a Kiss show, a toothless member of the Kiss army followed Barone home, suspecting he might have Gene Simmons hidden in a chafing dish. "I left my girl back at the north exit," the would-be stalker explained. "You sure he's not in there?" And then there was the time some 13-year-old brat superstar had Barone stir up some faux tar, out of chocolate syrup, because he planned on tarring and feathering his bodyguard. Or the rock star who won't let anyone on his compound eat meat, so the crew dudes all rush off to McDonald's at meal break and stack up at the gate wolfing down their meat before returning to work.
Or the other more titillating backstage anecdotes: The star who has a standby EMT guy for intravenous post-show rehydration; the one glimpsed in flagrante on a tour-bus roof; the time they found wall-size mirrors coated with coke residue; the band that replaced all the lights around the dressing-room mirrors with carrot sticks and left behind chairs wrapped up with duct tape and chicken bones.
But those are the few and far exceptions. Mostly, as it is for rock stars, so it is for any well-paid member of the upper middle class on an expense account: tuna steaks, salads, bottled water, and coffee. And fresh juice--Barone and Hayes say fresh juice is very hot right now. "But, for the most part, I call it all Evian rock," says Barone. "No one does anything interesting."
Hayes, too, has lost the fire. "If there's a band I care about, I buy a ticket, I go and sit and watch it," she says. "People really have no idea what backstage is really like. It's really like a hospital waiting room--a hospital waiting room we try to make as homey and pleasant as possible. It's not glamorous--it's schleppy. After all these years, I am so jaded. I've met Ringo Starr now like three times. He is the nicest guy you can imagine, absolutely great, really funny. The last time, somehow, this came up with my mom. She was like, 'Aren't you thrilled? There was a time you would have done anything to meet a Beatle!'" But now Hayes just shrugs. She isn't really that thrilled, and there's no way to explain it, especially to her mom.
But isn't it always that way with life? You start out a nine-year-old would-be groupie and end up an entrepreneur with a scrapbook full of superstars and people on the payroll to stay up late schlepping herbal tea, so you don't have to.
ZINFANDEL PARTY: What a happy day! The quintessential American grape is being celebrated at the quintessential American restaurant: 1940s diner charmer the Modern Cafe will be presenting a tasting of nine California zinfandels, including Hendry, Deux Amis, Rombauer, Marietta, Oliver Caldwell, Runquist, Pezzi King, Everett Ridge, and Chappellet. And there may even be a few barrel samples from Marietta, so you can taste the nearly raw wine of 2001--a full month before the other famous young wine, Beaujolais nouveau, hits our shores! "It'll be right out of the stainless-steel tanks," says Modern proprietor Jim Grell, who does the restaurant's wine list. "Most of the fermentation will be done, but there isn't a lot to a wine that young. It'll be real fruity and cloudy, but very cool to see and taste." Foodwise, your guess is as good as Grell's: "We just put some food out on the counter--who knows. We never know what we're going to serve; we'll try some of the wines that morning, then go into the basement and start brainstorming, go into the cooler and see what works." And at the very Americans-in-recession price of $18 for two or three hours of snacking and drinking, what's not to like? "That's just what we're about," says Grell. "We try to charm the pants off people, and then hopefully they'll come back." And when they come back, perhaps they'll order one of the three-bottle vertical tastings Grell is showcasing on his list. (A vertical tasting is several different vintages of the same wine, and rare to come upon unless you collect it yourself--but the Modern is collecting them so you don't have to.)
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