Friday, 06 December 2013 19:24

The Big Gulp

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By 1983 it was getting harder to smuggle a camera into a rock concert. Although winter clothing provided help in concealing a 35mm for some shows, Robert Plant was coming in the middle of August and I needed to devise some way to get the whole camera in. Breaking it apart, I could shove the body down my pants, but what was I gonna do with the 200mm lens? After mulling it over I came up with what I thought was a great solution. I figured I could submerge the lens in a Big Gulp from 711 and walk right in. On the day of the show I rode with my friend Bob in his prized '72 Cutlass to Kiel Auditorium.

As we made our way across Poplar Street bridge, I still felt good. After all, I was about to see Robert Plant, “Hammer of the Gods,” Zep I, II, III, IV, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti and more. However, at the same time, uneasiness crept in concerning my scheme. Once we parked a few blocks from the auditorium, I dumped part of the beverage on the steaming asphalt, sealed the lens in two Ziploc bags and sank it in a massive cup of Coke. From there we walked to the show in the muggy air, while uneasiness turned to panic. "This ain't gonna work," became a mantra swirling in my mind.  Once inside the air-conditioned building, I tried to keep my cool, but my nerves had stolen the buzz I still had from the trip across the river. To put it mildly, I wasn't thinking clearly and that lack of focus almost kept me from seeing the show. My friend, who still had the keys to the car, went ahead of me through the turnstile. My mouth got even drier as I watched him disappear through the entrance. Things looked grim ‘cause if I was caught with the camera, I had nowhere to put it except in a bush outside the auditorium. Unfortunately I was turned away. "Sorry, no drinks are allowed in," the guy at the turnstile told me. I walked back down the ramp until I got around the corner, took a deep breath, and thought about it for a second. I realized I had one chance. I had some room at the top of the Dingo boots I was wearing for the lens. Fishing the lens out of the cup, I carefully took it out of the bags and shoved it in the top of the boot. Being almost 4 inches in diameter, the lens did not fit without taking some skin off of my leg. I hobbled back to security and tried to keep the bloody leg away from the guy doing the pat down. Fortunately he missed the boot and I strode through.

For the next two hours I photographed the show. Although I wasn't close to the stage, I managed to get a couple good pics. Although Plant was trying to put Led Zeppelin behind him, the concert was still great. The show was in support of his second solo album after the death of John Bonham and subsequent breakup of the remainder of the band. It was more than two hours of music that brushed close to Zeppelin, but still left the past behind. As he channeled middle-eastern rhythms into his music, the light show was synchronized to his movements. The strangest sight that night was watching two drummers play, with one being Phil Collins. Upon Phil's introduction, he pulled out a trumpet and blew a few notes to "Paper Late."

The days of sneaking cameras into concerts were becoming a thing of the past. Although there were only a few concerts left that I snuck that camera in, it sure as hell was the last time I tried to use a Big Gulp.