I sat in the small dressing room they had given me as the 'Star' and waited to go on-stage.
Serena had booked Myer Music Hall for her first 'New Star' Concert, and to everyone's surprise, it was a total sellout.
I was dressed in white as the 'Up and coming 'Star", and Norm who had a part too in one of the backing bands looked rather
dashing, despite his scowling face, in black. We certainly looked like the Hero and the Villain from the old Movies,
and Norm must have thought that too as he scowled even more fiercely when he saw me dressed like a prissy pansy white he looked
like the pirate.
(Mus) It took me back to my first public performance. As I listened to Chris play and sing, I remembered
standing on an outdoor stage, in front of more than a thousand spectators. I remembered the terror, when the first strains
of music began and I realized that my mind was a blank. I couldn’t remember what song we were playing, let alone the
words or the chords, but somehow I managed to fake my way through the first song. By the time we started the second song,
my nerves had calmed down enough that I could play again. The first song had been an instrumental, a fiddle tune. Nobody noticed,
I’m sure, that one of the three guitarists was faking it, but the second song was a vocal rendition and I had to sing
When the time came, I remembered my part and sang it with gusto, although I could hear the tremor in my voice. The
audience clapped when it was over and it felt good, but now it was really my turn. I was to sing the next song. It was an
old country song, called "The Auctioneer." We had worked up an opening where I sang the first part of the song alone and a-capella.
It was me and me alone. I took a deep breath and began. There was sound issuing from my lips and it was in tune, but the words,
the words were all wrong. I had always been taught that once you start a song, you never, never stop until it’s over,
so I plunged forward. The first line was a disaster, the second better, and by the time I hit the third I was on track. By
the time the rest of the band came in I had hit my stride and I was off.
When I finished, I relaxed enough to notice what was going on a round me, and I could hear voices over the music. Oh
my god, I though, the booing is starting already but then I realized that what I was hearing was cheering and applause. The
crowd had recognized my song and the were clapping in appreciation of the opening.
With a huge boost to my confidence, I plunged on, through the whole song, without a single flaw. As the final strains
of my voice faded and the music began to wind down I heard it agin. The crowd was cheering, not just clapping, but standing
and cheering. I was hooked. Applause like that is akin to a drug. Once you’ve had it you want more and more. You can
never get enough.
This was to be my debut and there were many first nights, but none like this...
I looked for that feeling again and again. Some nights it was there, while other times it wasn’t, but for
all those years, I never once tired of the sound of applause.
It’s a good thing , Tom never tired of the applause, because he was to hear it over and over again. Wherever he performed,
crowds went wild over his music. It’s often said that a performer is a flash in the pan, or a one hit wonder, but Tom
Thompson as neither of these. He was a star with staying power. Album after album and single after single went gold, until
his walls were lined with plaques proclaiming his million selling works.
That’s why everyone was so surprised
when the threats started coming in. Tom had never had any problems with fans. That in itself was strange because the term
comes from the word fanatic. By it’s very definition the word carries a connotation of craziness. Tom attributed his
wonderful and loving fan base to the hard work his former lover Selina had put into his career. Her friend Merilee had also
helped a lot, but more with financial things than with promotions.
He remembered those early days fondly. There was
no pressure, no crazies threatening his life and no body guards. It was just Selina, Merilee and Tom, with a small entourage.
Now there were body guards, bullet proof limos and off duty police officers everywhere. Never, was Tom allowed to travel anywhere
alone. The newest body guard, Gretchen, even wanted him to wear a bullet proof vest, but he drew the line at that.
Tom was very young, he had done a short stint in the army. That’s where he met Norm, the man who would later become
both his valet and his on-stage body guard. Tom and Norm were assigned to the same unit right out of boot camp. They quickly
became friends, largely because they were both interested in music. They were nearly inseparable, until Norm was chosen to
train for special forces. They parted ways, with Norm going off to be an Army Ranger, while Tom was given an honorable discharge,
after an incident involving a hand grenade and another soldier. The details were never released and whenever Tom was asked
about it he would simply say, “It’s a subject better left alone.”
Tom became serious about his music
then. He hadn’t been in the service long enough to learn a trade, or get an education, but he could play a guitar and
he could sing, so with few other options available, it seemed like a reasonable career choice. Being discovered, however,
It was when, Selina came on the scene, that Tom’s career began to take off. She somehow managed,
while staying on the sidelines, to promote him and get him the good gigs. Looking back, he thought she had done more for his
career in the short time they were together than anyone else had before, or since. He had met Selina, while he was involved
with another woman. Merilee had stepped out of the way, without any fuss, to let Selina into Tom’s bed and his life.
It was later that he learned the two women were long time friends. He still sometimes thought they had an odd sort of relationship
and wondered were they were now.
While Tom was becoming a star, Norm was becoming a hero. Without acknowledgment, or
reward, other than his own personal satisfaction, he was quietly saving his country from terrorists, and assassins. Norm quickly
rose through the ranks, until he was commanding a unit of Army Rangers. They were dispatched at a moments notice to carry
out covert operations around the globe. Norm held the distinction of never having lost a man, under his command, when he retired
from the army.
He didn’t retire because he was tired of the army, or because he was too old to do his job. He
retired, because he was forced to take the blame for a mistake, made by one of his superiors. It was a mistake that nearly
cost his unit their lives, but he and every man in his command knew that Norm had simply followed orders to a tee. They all
knew that their beloved leader had taken the fall for someone else, but he asked them to keep their mouths shut, so as Rangers
always do, they kept quiet and watched Norm take a discharge to save someone else’s reputation. The truth of the situation
was that Norm had been responsible for saving the lives of his entire unit, but that story never came out and an inept Five-Star-General’s
image was salvaged.
Norm left the service, a finely honed weapon. He was trained to be a killing machine. There were
few options open to him, so he enrolled in a police academy. He blew through the training, graduated at the top of his class,
and was hired by a large police force, but police work wasn’t Norm’s cup of tea. He soon tired of taking orders
from men with a fraction of his skills. He hated the endless paper work. When he wanted to be out fighting crime, he was tied
to a desk filling out forms in triplicate.
He spent a couple of years, as a police officer before he ran into Tom,
one night outside an arena. Tom had performed there and stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. Norm was chasing some petty
criminal, on foot, when he saw a familiar face exit the building. It was Tom. One lucky teenager got away that night, and
two friends were reunited.
Tom invited Norm into his tour bus, where they spent the next several hours reminiscing
and catching up. Norm actually did a lot more catching up than Tom, because most of Norm’s life was classified. By the
time the sun came up Tom had hired Norm to be his tour security officer, with a yearly salary that made police work look like
Selina was already gone from Tom’s life and he was tiring of the endless parade of groupies. He was
ready to have someone in his life he could confide in and have a real friendship with. He had any number of groupies for sex,
but he needed an intellectual relationship and Norm fit the bill perfectly. They were already old friends and they shard one
common interest, music.
Norm took his job seriously, he looked after the daily welfare of, not just Tom, but everyone
on tour with him. There was never a safer troupe of traveling musicians than the Tom Thompson Band, until the threatening
letters started coming.
At first they came once in a while. Both Norm and Tom disregarded them as pranks, but soon
they were arriving with more regularity. When they started coming at the rate of several each day, Norm decided that he need
ed some help. This wasn’t the sort of threat he knew how to handle. He was used to a concrete threat, a gun, a ticking
time bomb, or a physical presence. Tom needed someone who was more used to this kind of problem.
That was where Gretchen
came in. Tom’s manager had heard of a woman in the States, who had been a body guard for some very important dignitaries.
She had always done a great job of protecting her charges and had handled some very real threats with quiet efficiency. Norm
willingly stepped down as head of security, to make way for her. He was a team player and his main concern was his friend’s
The first thing Gretchen did as security chief was to insist that Tom have someone on stage with him at all
times, who could protect him. Norm was the obvious choice. He could already play and he was more than capable of taking care
of any thing that might come up on the stage, so Norm became a member of the band. He really played too. Together he and Gretchen
became a walking wall of security between Tom and his fans. Either of them would have taken a bullet for their employer. All
three were together at nearly all times.
That was how they found themselves in a square, in Sydney, surrounded by sirens
and flashing lights, with Gretchen ushering Tom into a limo amid a throng of screaming fans and Norm with a woman curled up
in a ball at his feet. Had Gretchen not done her job so efficiently Tom might have seen that it was Merilee who rolled across
the pavement, stopping against some strange leather clad legs. He might also have seen a woman sneaking away from
the overturned Porsche, who nobody else saw. Had he seen her he would have recognized her as his beautiful ex-lover Selina.