big man talking.

Clarence Clemons is making appearances & doing book signing in support of his memoir, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales. Despite running on 3 1/2 hours of sleep (from being down in Philly last night and then working a full day today), I headed uptown to see if I could participate in the freak show. You waited in line, you bought a book, you waited in line again, then you were escorted into a room to wait some more.

I will be honest and say that Clarence was far more lucid and articulate than I was led to believe his current condition left him in. His eyesight was fine, his hearing a little wobbly – which is of course to be expected. He was funny, he was engaged, he was happy to be there. I have to tell you, given the prevailing rumors out there, I was expecting him to be more frail.

Clarence is appearing at these events with his co-author, Don Reo. While I appreciate that Mr. Reo is a celebrity in his own right and a friend of Clarence’s, frankly, I don’t care. I do appreciate that he (mostly) got out of the way and let Clarence talk. I will leave it at that, except to say that we do not need yet another person representing the position that every E Street Band show is the BEST SHOW EVER PERFORMED. It is possible to love every minute of being at a show and still be objective. History would be better served by the latter. They then took questions from the audience.

The Big Man was gracious and gave answers that were not always the PC version. Good questions were, “What sign would you bring?” (Consensus seemed to be “Paradise by the C”) and his favorite song (again, “Paradise”). Which album was his favorite to perform? Born To Run. (This is where Don Reo noted that he didn’t think the BITUSA songs ‘worked in the middle of the show'”. Funny, they seemed to work just fine in the middle of the show in 1985.) A good question about his specific musical influences. I will spare you the stupid questions. My companion asked – when we were getting our books signed – how he felt about having Curt Ramm around. Clarence said that he didn’t like it, that he “wasn’t one of the family yet”. (Although earlier the smile on his face when talking about “Higher and Higher” from Philly seemed to be the opposite emotion.)

My question: One of my favorite parts of the Rising tour was the instrumental break during “City of Ruins,” when Bruce and Clarence would do that little soul shuffle. And you probably noticed, every night, when they did it, they were having a conversation. It wasn’t just ‘Hey, dude, what up,” it was a pretty involved conversation that went the length of the break. I always wondered what they talked about during the break. My sister also did, and her theory was that it was just, “Hey, what you doing after the show? What are you having for dinner?” – which Clarence claimed was exactly what they were talking about. (I told him that was what we thought they were doing, so he wasn’t shattering any illusions.)

Instead of reviewing the event, I will offer you hints and tips as to how to get the most out of it:
1) Think of a question before you get there, and have another in your back pocket in case someone asks a similar question.
2) Put your hand up as soon as they ask if there are any questions. Get your question in quickly, get over any nervousness you have, the sooner you ask it, the better chance you have at being called upon. Once one or two questions are asked, people that don’t really have questions decide they do and raise their hand, and then they start asking stupid questions, which will start to try Clarence’s patience.
3) Do not ask about specific shows unless they happened recently. Do not go and ask about your favorite show from 1978 – he will tell you that there have been so many and he doesn’t remember it. Do not go expecting to have an E Street Band member validate your personal opinion that Show X was the most transcendent version of X song, ever.
4) Speak loudly and clearly and make your question brief and to the point. See note above about his hearing.
5) If you don’t have a question but just want to proclaim your love for the E Street Band, save that for the signing, you will get at least a few moments to convey that information. Do not, however, take up valuable public time to make sure we know you are the biggest and best fan in the world and have seen hundreds of shows over 30 years. You are boring.
6) If your child cannot sit quietly, DO NOT BRING YOUR CHILD. It is unfair to everyone else to have a fussy, loud toddler squirming during the questioning.
7) Do not ask questions about what happens after the tour, when the next album is coming out, when the next tour is, what Bruce is doing – even if he knew that Bruce asked them all to keep their calendars open for the next 9 months, HE CAN’T TELL YOU. Don’t waste the question.

As for the book — I have seen some good reviews of this book on the internet, but they make me feel like I got a different book than they did. On the other hand, there *are* good stories and good information in there, I just would have like to have seen a higher tone taken with the actual writing in the book. It is worth a read if you are a Springsteen fan, and at a minimum, the photos worth thumbing through at your local bookstore on a rainy day. I would suggest you peruse the book’s contents before making a decision as to whether a purchase at full list price is warranted. But it goes without saying, if you have an opportunity to spend an hour in the same room with the Big Man, you should go.