So, this was the show where I met Jimi for the first time--and believe me, what went up in my original Concert Tale is only a tiny fraction of everything that actually happened. The show itself was pretty much like I described at the above link, but afterward... yeah, there was more to it, LOADS more.
There were five of us who went to the band's hotel that night: Me, Denise, another woman named Carol who was also getting a meet-and-greet, Carol's husband (no recall of his name now), and Carol's 5-year-old daughter Morgan. Denise worked as a travel agent at the time, and with all the discounts she got on airfare and hotels and so on, she'd been to something like 60 or 70 Survivor shows by the time I was just getting into the fandom seriously. I mean, she knew JJ and the other guys well enough to know the aliases they registered under at hotels and stuff--and no, I never asked what those were. (Figured it wasn't any of my business...) Before I knew I'd be getting the official meet-and-greet, then, I'd pretty much asked her flat-out if she'd be willing to introduce me to JJ, just the once, and her response was that she couldn't make any promises, but she'd see what she could do if the opportunity came up. As it turned out, of course, I didn't really need her help on that point after all, though I was very glad she had a phone number for Jimi's webmaster at the time, where we ended up at the wrong hotel to begin with and everything. (Denise had asked me about the hotels near the venue before the concert started, you see, and when I mentioned a big Marriott that was across I-70 from the mall, she said that sounded like the place. But the band was actually staying at a Courtyard Marriott down off of 6th Avenue instead, which I didn't even know was there; I'd never driven up that way before.)
Anyway, once we finally got to where we were really supposed to be, we all sort of stood/sat around the hotel lobby and chatted with Chris Grove and Barry Dunaway (the keyboard and bass players of Survivor at the time) since it had taken us a bit to find our way over and Jimi had gone back up to his room in the interim. I had taken a seat on one of the lobby couches to wait--I was really nervous, and my knees felt a little too shaky to stand comfortably for any length of time. And I honestly don't remember hearing footsteps, or any of the other usual cues that might have alerted me to someone's approach, but I swear to you, my head still swivelled toward the doorway like a compass needle to magnetic north the EXACT moment Jimi walked through it. I couldn't even see that it WAS him at first because Denise was standing in my line of sight, but I didn't need to see him to know that he was there. In true clairsentient fashion, I FELT his presence, in the air and in my bones, and when he finally came around to where I COULD see him... I don't even know how to describe what I felt then. I wanted to run to him, give him the world's biggest hug, and say something completely stupid like, "Ohmigosh, you're REAL!" But of course I didn't actually do any of that; I made myself stay right where I was, and not make any more active moves than just to than smile at him until he came over of his own accord and shook my hand, etc. (Though I'll admit that even the smile probably looked pretty cheesy!)
Also, as a quick aside: Remember what I said above about how Carol had brought her young daughter Morgan along? Well, Morgan was already a big music-lover; she was taking guitar lessons, and she'd been to other 80's-type concerts with her mom (Def Leppard was the one band name I remember being mentioned) and apparently just had an absolute ball with the whole thing. I think she was every bit as excited about meeting Jimi as either I or her mom were--and watching him smile and bend down to talk to that little girl on her level for a minute or two was just about THE most adorable thing I've ever been privileged to witness. I mean, I'm not even a "kid" kind of person most of the time, but seriously, that was just off-the-charts sweet.
Anyway, when I finally got my own turn to talk to him, I'd had visions beforehand of either being all tongue-tied and unable to say anything at all, or going too far the other way and just babbling at him incoherently. But somehow I managed to keep my cool enough to hold an intelligent conversation--and no thanks to HIM, I might add. First there was the "That guy's gay!" comment that I didn't dare respond to, and then when I actually handed the poster over for him to sign, he took it to one of the little tables in the lobby, spread it out to write on, and then sort of paused and looked up at me--with a gleam of mischief in his eye that I was destined to encounter MANY other times afterward --and asked if I was married! Of course I said yes (though I'll admit to a fleeting thought along the lines of, "Dang it, Jimi, I didn't need that kind of moral dilemma!"). And then he started debating aloud with himself about several different risque messages he could write... the first was something about "thanks for last night" and the other one started with "next time, keep your clothes on." I'm telling you, I blushed hard enough to light up that whole room! He had me so flustered that all I could do was duck my head and mutter something about how my husband would probably kill me if I came home with anything like THAT written on my poster, which wasn't even true. (In fact, when I actually got home later that night and was telling Peter about what had happened, he busted up laughing and said, "You should have let him write that!" )
Anyway, after Jimi had signed the autograph for me and we'd gotten pictures taken together and so forth, I was able to talk to him for a little longer... I don't clearly remember every single word that was exchanged by any means, but I do know I had gotten my hands on a big collection of unreleased demos not long before that show, and I mentioned a couple of specific songs to him because I really wanted him to know how much I liked them. He was very nice about it, though I remember thinking that the look in his eyes then was a little odd, like he'd reacted inwardly to the compliments in some way I hadn't expected and couldn't quite make sense of. (Never did really figure it out, to be honest--the best guess I could ever make is that he was always one to be a bit of a perfectionist when it came to his music, and maybe he felt like he hadn't done a good enough job on those demos for me to be as enthusiastic about them as I was.)
Still, it really was the most wonderful experience to be able to chat with him like that, and even as the time with him started to wind down, I was feeling pretty happy with the way everything had gone. I'd been able to tell him most of what I really wanted to without embarrassing him OR myself, and I hadn't ended up with a lot of shattered illusions, either. I had put some effort into minimizing my expectations about both he himself and what might happen at the meet-and-greet beforehand, you see, because I really didn't want to go away from the whole thing disappointed. I told myself that I was just going to be open to the experience as a whole, whatever it might end up actually entailing, and try to stay grateful for the chance to go and do something that I'd daydreamed about a lot, but not expected to ever be granted in reality.
So it was both a complete shock and an utter delight to find out that Jimi wasn't really so different in person from how I had imagined him--in fact, in a lot of ways, he was BETTER than anything I could have imagined. I mean, even with all the teasing and the blushes and everything, I was still just bowled over by how friendly and good-natured he was, and how much he came across as just a regular guy, rather than a "star" or "celebrity." Oh, he might be inclined to kid around quite a bit, true, and sometimes say outrageous stuff just to see what kind of a reaction he'd get. But the thing was, I could totally tell that there was never any malice or mean-spiritedness behind any of that; it was just how his mind and his sense of humor worked. And there were plenty of serious moments, too, both while he and I were talking and when I watched him with Carol, where he would look each of us in the eye and pay close attention to whatever we were saying to him, like it really and truly mattered to him what we thought and felt.
On that night after the show, then, I somehow managed to work up the gumption to ask him if that hit had indeed been him. He said no, and that was fine--I would have been quite content to let the subject drop, thank him for his time, and make my farewells before he headed off to his room. However, I'd explained in the process of asking the question that C&S was a fansite with some content related to him and his music (in almost those exact words, incidentally--I didn't even try to go into any of the specifics) and he then proceeded to ask me for the URL so that he COULD come and have a look! Dear Gods, talk about a deer-in-the-headlights moment... this was a long time ago, of course, and Denver was only the second show I'd ever been to, so I didn't have nearly as many pictures and things up on C&S then as I do now. But my sentiments about Jimi as a person and a musician have been basically the same all along, and I certainly thought he was a total hunk right from the first. I had sworn up and down, prior to the meet-and-greet, that I would just curl up and expire of sheer embarrassment if I knew he had been and read through all the stuff I'd written about him--I mean, the very thought was mortifying. But when the moment of truth actually arrived that night, so to speak... well, it was JIMI asking, and would YOU have told him no???
So, I got out my wallet and started hunting through it for an old receipt or something I could tear a piece off of to write on. And as one more funny aside: He was standing kind of at my elbow just then, to one side and a little behind me, and when he spoke to me in that moment, in that deep, quiet, extra-male voice he had (SIGH... ) and practically right in my ear, I swear my entire body broke out in goosebumps. It was like, "Geez, Jimi, WARN a girl when you're gonna do that!" (I didn't say that to him out loud, of course, but I sure as heck THOUGHT it!) Anyway, I finally found a piece of paper to use and wrote the site address down, and as kind of a last-ditch effort to warn him of just what he was getting himself into, as I handed the note over, I said something like, "If you do come to visit, don't laugh TOO hard at me, all right?"
I don't think I could have told you, in that moment, just what kind of response I was expecting--probably that he'd make a joke of his own about it in return, or something like. And I don't know if I can really convey the effect of what DID happen in a text-based format like this, but... well. The truth is that he looked me straight in the eyes, absolutely serious, and said, "I wouldn't do that," and you could tell from his tone and his expression both that he meant every word right from the heart. I felt a bit like I'd been struck by lightning; I mean, time just STOPPED, and I don't think I could even breathe for a couple of seconds. And I've pinpointed that moment, ever since, as the one when my feelings for him made a seismic shift from simple admiration to something very much stronger--when I stopped being simply "a big fan" and became instead "a devotee for life."
As you might imagine, I don't recall a lot of what happened after that very clearly, apart from the hug he gave me as he was leaving. Which WAS delightful, by the way, but thinking back, I remember that he was more... hesitant about it, that first time, than he got to be later on. Like, he just put his arms around me very lightly at first, without exerting any real pressure with them, so there was still a little bit of space between us. And honestly, if we hadn't exchanged those words about my site just a few minutes before, I probably would have done my best not to push things, and simply returned the gesture in kind. But where the impact of that so-sincere "I wouldn't do that" was still reverberating through every fiber of my being, body and soul, I just couldn't hold myself back--when I hugged him in return, believe you me, it was a HUG. I remember feeling a little embarrassed about it afterward, and hoping I hadn't made him uncomfortable by holding on so tightly, even if it was only for a moment or two. But I couldn't really regret doing it, either--and I still don't, given that it let me convey at least a few of the things I just didn't have the words to say to him out loud... sigh.
So, he finally did leave after that, and I went out to my car and drove home. It's about a half-hour trip from the area where the mall and hotel are up to where my husband and I live, and I don't mind telling you that my memories of those thirty minutes are a bit of blur. I do know, though, that by the time I got back to the house, I was already telling myself not to read too much into what had happened, and trying to minimize my expectations all over again. In fact, I remember thinking something like, Oh, he'll probably forget about coming by C&S at all--and even if he does remember, I expect he'll just glance over a handful of pages and that'll be the end of it. Something like my site can't possibly be important enough for him to spend any amount of time on; he must have loads of much bigger fish to fry.
The next morning, though, when I got up and turned my computer on, what should be waiting in my inbox but a message from Da Man himself! And it was one of the longest such messages I've ever heard about him sending to a fan, just to note--I didn't really know this at the time, but Jimi was definitely a man of few words when it came to internet communication. Every other time he responded to me in writing, in fact, whether that was in an email or a MySpace comment or whatever, I counted myself lucky if I got a single complete sentence. But in THIS message, he said that it had been nice to meet me the previous night (awwwww! ) and also that he thought my site was "just great" and "very entertaining," and that he liked how I spoke my mind without pulling any punches. I mean, seriously, it was like, "Say WHAT???"
And that wasn't even the end of the surprises--I kind of stared at the message in disbelief for a few heartbeats, and then I immediately loaded up StatCounter and took a look at the logs. And you know what I found? Not only had he visited, he spent OVER AN HOUR browsing around! I couldn't believe he'd taken that kind of time on behalf of someone he'd scarcely even been introduced to--honestly, you could have knocked me over with a feather. And if he hadn't already been pretty much permanently enshrined in my affections by then, he sure as heck would have made it in after that!