Steven R Leonard


“I got a bowling ball in my stomach. I got a desert in my mouth.” Tori Amos


In September, 1994 I attended a Tori Amos concert in Boulder, Colorado. I owned her first two albums on cassette tape, so I was excited to watch her perform when she came to town. My friends mocked my interest in a female pianist/songwriter.

“Tori who?”

“Is she opening for Van Halen?”

“I didn’t know the blonde girl from Beverly Hills 90210 played in a band.”

“DON’T buy me a souvenir t-shirt!”

I went by myself and bought a scalped ticket in the parking lot. Once I found my seat, I looked around and was shocked by the one-sided demographics of her audience. Fifteen-year-old twin sisters whose mom gave them a ride to the show were next to me, and I didn’t see another guy in the entire section. I was surrounded by excitable estrogen.

I feel old and out of my element – where’s a hot dog stand when I need it?

Tori bounded onto the stage in bare feet to the tune of Son Of A Preacher Man (her father was a Methodist pastor), and the crowd squealed with delight.

“We love you Tori,” yelled nearly everyone but me.

I had never seen an artist resonate so passionately with their fans before, and I was stumped by the intensity of the connection.

Unbeknownst to me (pre-internet), she had been sexually assaulted and a couple of her songs spoke to that experience. Months earlier, she had placed the ceremonial first call to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) to champion that organization. When Tori whispered the intense lyrics to Me and a Gun the sniffles and tears in the building made me angry and sad.

During the emotional encore, the twins asked me if I was going to meet Tori after the show.

“Um, sure, I guess.”

“Then follow us.”

I obeyed their command and we hurried out of the auditorium and ran behind the building. There was a long line of fans queued up to meet Tori. Again, I was the only male in the area except for two beefy, no-neck security guys organizing the meet-and- greet session.

Every female in line held flowers, poems, or some item they wanted to give Tori or have her sign. I felt like the boorish dinner party guest who hadn’t bothered to bring a bottle of wine for the hostess. In my pockets were the keys to my battered Isuzu Rodeo, some sugar-free gum, and my wallet.

Maybe I should hand her my maxed out Visa card – she’d never use it, and I wouldn’t look so stupid.

The line moved slowly as Tori spent considerable time with each girl – hugging them and whispering in their ears.

Think, Steven, think!

As I stepped closer to Tori, her bodyguards eyed me cautiously. I knew what they were thinking: who is this out-of-place middle-aged guy doing in line? Is he a stalker?

I rehearsed different lines in my head to impress Tori, and to make her apes smile before they kneed me in the groin and called the cops.

Stay calm.

The twins handed the singer roses and the three of them hugged like old friends. I was next.

I looked Tori in the eyes, put out my hand to shake hers and stuttered like an embarrassed schoolboy in front of the principal. The bouncers inched closer, scowling at me with obvious disdain.

“I admire your artistic sensibilities and applaud your songs with my heart,” I said.

WTF are artistic sensibilities? I’m an idiot!

“Thank you very much – that’s so sweet. Are you a victim of sexual abuse?”

Is that what this line is for?

“Me? No, not that I know of. Bye – keep writing great songs!”

I turned and headed for the parking lot.

On the drive home I chided myself for such a pathetic and moronic greeting. I still admire the talented songwriter and the amount of time she spends with her adoring fans. I’ve seen her two other times in concert, but Tori Amos is the lucky one – I’ve never waited in line to meet her again.

Ciao belli lettori.

Steven Leonard

Steven R. Leonard is a writer born, raised and paroled (from his family) in Denver. He’s written a humorous and heartbreaking memoir detailing his childhood.

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