On the last weekend before the Tutuila’s final departure from Pier 2 and Norfolk, I attended a “Rock and Roll Show” at the Norfolk Municipal Auditorium. The show featured, among several others, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Bobby Fuller Four, and Billy Joe Royall. All in all, it was quite a lineup, and very entertaining for several reasons.
The auditorium was an old-style theater with a broad stage whose front edge rose about 3 feet above theater floor, with its front edge about 10 feet back from the first row of seats. The seating area then sloped sharply upward to the entrances along the back wall, and was defined by two side aisles, at the walls, and a wide center aisle.
The attendance was exceptional. The capacity crowd consisted mostly of teenage girls, each with an Instamatic Camera and an adequate supply of Flash Cubes. Perhaps thoughts of Elvis, or Beatles performances were in the minds of the local management because just before the show began we were warned quite sternly that everyone must stay in their seat, and that no one would be allowed to congregate in the center aisle or at the edge of the stage. This rule, we were told, would be rigidly enforced.
The show began, and as one erstwhile teen idol after another performed on stage, the girls were getting restless. Finally one brave girl, camera in hand, charged down the center aisle, screeched to a halt at the edge of the stage and snapped a picture. She immediately turned and bolted up the aisle and back to her seat. There was nothing at that point for security to do; the deed was done, order was restored, and all was again well.
But the precedent had been set. Shortly after, another girl charged the stage, snapped a picture and quickly returned to her seat. And then another. And then another. After a while, pictures weren’t enough. The girls — now sometimes passing each other on their way to and from the stage — were writing notes of endearment, which they balled up and tossed to the foot of whomever was their favorite.
By this time the headliners, Paul Revere and the Raiders, were performing, and as notes would roll up to their feet, Paul Revere or lead singer Mark Lindsey would, between songs, pick up one or two and read them aloud; each causing a squeal of delight from someone in the otherwise anonymous crowd.
Encouraged, one brave girl took it a step further. Like others before her, she charged the stage, but didn’t stop. A few feet short of the stage she launched herself and performed an admirable belly flop, sliding and stopping at the feet of Paul Revere himself. This time the line had clearly been crossed, bringing quick action from the security people in the stage wings. But before they could arrive at mid-stage, the girl had leapt to her feet and wrapped her arms tightly around Paul Revere. Now, as the security people arrived to drag her away, the most wonderful thing happened. Paul also wrapped his arms around her and would not let go, thus thwarting the best efforts of the brutes.
This went on for a couple of minutes before Paul Revere, seemingly reluctantly, allowed the security people to escort her to the side of the stage. To those of us in the audience she was a hero, and I’m hoping, and suspecting, that whatever consequences she paid for her actions were minimal compared with her experience. Whatever the cost, I’m sure it was worth it.
Later in the show we got a contrary lesson on the arrogance of some performers. Gary Lewis, son of the more famous Jerry Lewis, was performing when again a girl charged the stage and threw a note so well aimed that it touched his shoe before stopping. Rather than acknowledging, or reading the note, or simply just ignoring it, he glanced down and, with his toe, kicked the note away. I don’t know, but I can imagine, how this girl must’ve felt. As for me, I never again liked, or listened to, his music. Hearing it will forever remind me of that moment.
But all in all, it was a terrific afternoon. And a nice final experience in a city which, in truth, I didn’t really like all that much. But my feelings toward Norfolk no longer mattered, as early the following Tuesday morning we cast off from Pier Two for the last time; the beginning of a four-leg journey which would take us to the other side of the world.