Don't Be Eeyore, Either - Christine Kane

A few years ago, I was the opening act for the lead singer of a former rock n’ roll band. His band had been a pretty big deal, with lots of number one hits. The lead singer had since started a well-publicized solo career. I was the opener for two sold-out shows in one of those clubs that simply depresses me. I love playing music, but I can’t stand some of the places that present it. (Which is why I opt not to perform in them anymore!) And this club — a legendary place to play, the hippest of the hip — is one of my least favorites. Some clubs — the Birchmere comes to mind — bend over backwards when the performers walk in the back door. They escort you to your dressing room. They offer you water. They tell you when sound check is. This other club is the kind where you walk in and everyone looks up with an expression that can only be described as “What the hell do you want?”

My dressing room was directly above the exhaust system of the grill in the restaurant below. The air in the room was filled with a thick sharp smoke the color of Vaseline. By the time I walked out on the stage for the first show, I was dizzy, my eyes were watering, and I smelled like a burnt pork chop.

Some nights I love being an opening act, and I do it well. It’s a blast. I do five or six songs. Sometimes I get an encore. Sometimes I sell loads of CDs. This was not one of those nights. In fact, it was the worst night I’d had in years. The shiny stuff I wrote about in Shine Anyway didn’t really do it. The ego I had worked so hard to leave behind in the dressing room in this post was on a rampage. (In fact, it was in my head yelling, “RUN! GET OFF THE STAGE! THEY HATE YOU!”) But I did my thing, and at both shows I played my songs and told a few stories to a rock audience who (from my perspective on stage) hated me. No one threw anything. (When Meredith Brooks opened for the Rolling Stones, people threw bottles at her.) No one yelled anything. All that happened was my ego got clobbered by the whole experience.

The thing is a handful of the people in the crowd were my fans. They had come from all over the place since I don’t perform in this region often. (One person had flown in from her volunteer job in Costa Rica for the weekend and gotten tickets to come see me.) I didn’t want to go out and face anyone when each show was over. I wanted to hide in my dressing room. (Well, I didn’t really want to be there either on account of it was single-handedly causing global warming.)

However, I went out. I signed CD’s. I talked to the people who wanted to meet me. I ignored my bruised ego. My stomach hurt. And I fully expected someone to say, “Yea, not so much for you this evening, huh?” But no one did.

So, fast forward two years. I was facilitating one of my women’s retreats here in the mountains of western North Carolina. There were 27 women at this one. It was the first afternoon and people were talking about why they came to this retreat. One woman said, “Well, I saw you at that show opening for…” (She was at the show. The burnt pork chop show!) “..and my husband and I loved you so much that we bought tickets for the second show that night so we could see you again. I bought all your CD’s and I wanted to be here because”

My jaw dropped. I felt like a complete idiot. I’d been such a drama queen after that show. I was so convinced I sucked. (I could hear Yoda saying, “So convinced were you!”) I didn’t even want to go out and talk to anyone. And here was someone paying several hundred dollars to come to a retreat with me after seeing me that night.

This brings me to my point …

I have a few favorite blogs that I read regularly. Last week, one of those bloggers, Copyblogger posted a blog called Don’t be Cameron Diaz. In it, he gives advice to bloggers to make sure they recognize their readers (or fans) by answering comments and being present as a blogger. (Apparently Cameron Diaz doesn’t sign autographs. Ergo the title.) He mentions how George Clooney always signs autographs and “knows who butters his bread.”

Since I don’t pay much attention to Hollywood (and don’t want Cameron Diaz’s autograph anyway) I’ll take his word for it on all this stuff. Sometimes, though, I think people don’t show up because their ego is acting in reverse. They’re being Eeyore. Not Cameron Diaz. But on the outside, it might look like the same thing.

What I see more often than not in blogland (and in teacher land, and in librarian land, and in artist land, etc) is more about playing small than playing snooty.

In any arena you have the option to see yourself as one who matters or one who is insignificant. There’s always going to be someone doing better than you, someone more important than you, someone who seems to have a lot more going on. You won’t reach everyone, but you will reach some people. Those are the ones for whom you show up.

So, of course, don’t be snooty. Don’t be Cameron Diaz. But don’t be Eeyore either.

  • Shala Fleshner

    Ich möchte immer über ein gebrochenes Herz kann so einfach sein wie das folgende ein paar Schritte .. aber die nicht …: (

  • christine

    Oo. Martyr-itas. THAT’S hysterical! And so very good for the Catholic sense of humor! My favorite Eeyore quote is, “Thanks for noticin’ me.” Thanks Kathy!

  • Kathy

    Interesting that you should mention Eeyore. He’s so over the top – the epitome of self doubt – the “no one loves me everyone hates me” approach to life. David and I tease each other when one of us or someone we love is falling into this kind of behavior with one of Eeyore’s most favorite lines….”It’s not much of a tail, but I’m kind of attached to it.” It helps diffuse the situation with humor and stop the other one from the tendancy to take it on the chin and “drink those martyr-itas” as we like to put it. Something the Catholic church and our parents taught us so well how to do. (i.e. everyone else deserves the good things in life more than you so sacrifice what you want or need so someone else can have it instead.) We need to find that balance between Cameron and Eeyore. Thanks for giving this topic it’s due with your usual sense of poignancy and clarity!!

  • christine

    Thanks Susie! I always think of Marianne Williamson’s quote about how “your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” Lots of times we get challenged to live out these quotes we toss around so liberally!

  • Susie

    Thanks for another great blog I enjoy real posts/blogs that actually make me think; and in your case your blogs not only make me think, but they’re entertaining as well, so thank you!

    It’s good to hear that the “Shine Away Bar” experience turned out to be a great event in the end. I’m glad your ego didn’t chase you off the stage that night, as we all become stronger through our trials. Whenever I face a challenge or an unconfortable situation, I always remind myself of this quote: “Don’t worry about failing, worry about what you miss by not trying.” In this case, there was no failure, but what would have happened if you had decided to run off the stage that night and were unable to met fans that later came to your retreat, grew from that and are now probably helping others? Ah, what an interesting pattern life has for us all……

  • christine

    Hey Tom, Thanks for the note. It’s an interesting dilemma you present. I kind of do believe that your speaker, on some level, probably did wish he could talk to each person and share some kind of personal connection… but if he’s dealing with stadiums of people, that would be impossible. Or maybe not.

    I remember that when I was in a crowd of about a thousand people seeing Oprah give a talk, some of the people got so angry that they didn’t get to meet her. All I could think was, “Oprah just gave you this enormous gift of an amazing intimate talk about the trials of her life and how she overcame them! Isn’t that enough?” I’ve also seen performing artists get completely trashed for not signing CD’s after a show when there were literally hundreds of people swarming the tour bus. And they had just performed for 2 hours and had to be in another city so they could get some sleep and do a radio show the next day.

    My deepest belief is that it all comes back to us. No one’s a victim of anyone else. No one’s a victim of Cameron Diaz. None of the book buyers that your speaker sold to were victims of the speaker. No one told the Oprah audience they should expect a meet and greet. We are all willing participants. Getting offended is a waste of energy. (But I can imagine it was challenging being on the inside of such situations. Artist management is a tough one!)

    Brian, Thanks for stopping by…

  • Brian Clark

    Great advice!

  • Tom Vander Well

    Nice post, Christine. I appreciate your spirit. Having worked with many artists, actors, authors and musicians through the years I’ve seen many on both sides of the coin.

    There’s a third warning I’d give along with Cameron and Eeyore. I think worse than ignoring a fan is leading one on. I spent a very long year assisting/managing a well-known author/speaker. He would stand up in a stadium full of people and say things like, “I just wish I could take each one of you home, sit out on the back porch and ask how you’re doing.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. He would stand in hotel lobbies with huddles of people and give them the impression that they were his best friends. I could stand and watch it happen as they got sucked in. They would go home thinking he was their new best buddy arms full with his books & CDs and he would go home having completely forgotten them – never giving it a second thought. Then, when people did actually try to contact him or take him up on his offer – they were sluffed off on me so he wouldn’t be bothered. It was awful calling or talking personally to these people, feeling like a jerk, watching the disappointment set in and ultimately the sense of betrayal as reality set in. Oh man, I could write a book from that one year experience.

    I learned my lesson. Of course, my area of influence is relatively small, which I’m sure makes it easier. When I see people returning to a show at the community theater, when people stop me to talk after a workshop or lecture, I always try to be sincere, be grateful, and be personable.

    Thanks for being transparent, Christine!