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Politics in a nutshell…

Watching this reminded me of a show I played about 20 years ago in Toledo.

Here’s the setup: I was playing in a real good, tight bar band. One winter, a couple of guys, brothers, hired us to back them at a series of Amway functions. These were deals where members of an “Amway family” would gather for a weekend. They were arena sized events with crowds ranging between 2,500 to 18,000 in the audience…lots of motivational speakers and seminars. Our role was to come in, play positive themed, sometimes Christian themed energetic music and pep up the audience when there was a lull. To give an example, we did a medley of “Jesus Is Just Alright” and “Takin’ It To The Streets” while this brother act sang and jumped around to get the place pumped. The medley was designed to hit two key points: Jesus and get out there and sell!

It was pretty hokey shit but, for our little funky band, instead of our regular club gig, we got to fly somewhere, stay in first class hotels, be escorted in limos, get meals comped in nice restaurants, backstage buffets and work with top line sound companies that were there to satisfy our whims. Also, we were hanging with the actual millionaires of Amway, the “Diamonds”. So one would have the opportunity to network if they desired.

We had done about a half dozen of these things before the one in Toledo and it had become fairly routine. But, this time there was to be an extra perk. On the Saturday night of this event there was to be a pizza party! It was decided that, instead of backing the brother act, our band would get to play a whole set with our singer out front…with of course a pre-approved song list to insure we wouldn’t hit the multi level marketers with something inappropriate. The rest of the guys in the band were all exited about “a chance to do our own thing!”

As it turned out, the pizza party was a reward to those in the crowd that were top sellers in the previous month. We were standing backstage watching a truly bizarre scene as the crowd was winnowed from around eight thousand to a couple of hundred. There was a group of red shirted Amway authoritarians lined up in front of the stage and members had to get in line in front of one of those guys and show their last month’s paperwork to see if they qualified for pizza and dancing. There was a lot of arguing and fighting over individual sales numbers…a bunch of people had to be escorted out by security…a lot of bad blood.

Finally, after about an hour, the chosen few were left from the fray. Then a group of guys wheeled out carts stacked with Dominos pizza…that’s right Dominos. It was announced over the sound system that these big winners were allowed two slices each. And that was our cue to hit the stage running to add some energy to the frenzied mob grappling to get their just reward.

I stood guitar in hand, appalled and full of self loathing for being a part of the fiasco.

To top it all off, after the crowd was ordered out of the arena, there were stacks of pies left over and the pizza police cheerily offered to let us take whatever we wanted back to our rooms. We declined.