Friday, June 01, 2007

My Hootie Story

(Everything in here is mostly true except the bit about the bandana.)

There was a major fuss down in Columbia last month. A guy with whom I used to occasionally drink and some of his buddies were causing the fuss, first at The Horseshoe, then a few days later at Finlay Park.
Why was it such a big deal, I wonder, since anybody can get a CD cut these days -- cheap.
What's all the fuss about Hootie and The Blowfish?
I mean, why were they a significant subplot, the subject of two to three jokes, on a very special episode of "Friends" last year? Or actually BE on Letterman, more than once?
Wait a minute. I know these guys.
Or, I knew those guys.
OK, I knew one of those guys and one of the others (the one everyone thinks is Hootie) used to date a friend for a while while I was in college.
They are my age, people. My age. In fact, older. Yet I have to go around pretending to be an adult, listening to the constant refrain of "man you're getting GRAY" from friends and family, yet they do videos and interviews where people talk about their youthful enthusiasm and fratboy charm.
Sure they're a kickin' band, and always have been. But people in South Carolina are taking undue pride in Hootie and The Blowfish.
Remember when they were being considered for the Order of the Palmetto, but that was canned because Darius Rucker, the lead singer, actually had the nerve to have a thought that DIDN'T agree with the governor's position on the Confederate Flag atop the State House?
Though it fell apart, that was the state of South Carolina trying to cash in on the group's sudden fame.
Last fall, for Homecoming activities at the USC College of Journalism and Mass Communications, a luncheon was held to honor several outstanding graduates in the journalism field. High on the list to be honored were Rucker and Mark Bryan, who both attended the broadcasting program at the J-School.
They aren't exactly in the "biz," as journalism graduates (such as me and Darius and Mark) like to call it, but they communicated volumes by saying from the get-go they wouldn't go and then didn't.
They knew the college was trying to cash in on the group's sudden fame.
It continues apace, with VH-1 recasting it's "History of Hootie" on Sunday, as well as all Hootie videos in a "rock block."
So, not to be outdone, here's my Hootie story. (A local bartender says everyone's got a Hootie story.)
I met Mark Bryan more than once. I'm pretty sure he was at a party where I was also. Details are sketchy, but quite possibly one of us was and most probably both of us were, drunk. Hey, it was college and neither of us were driving.
We were introduced by a mutual friend, who said he was "Mark of Hootie and The Blowfish.
I said "Is that the terrible band that just does cover tunes?"
Nope, my friend said, that was Tootie and the Joneses, or another of the many OOTY bands that were so popular in Columbia during the '80s.
"So this is the one that does all the frat parties?"
I was getting warmer.
Who knew?
Anyway, I saw him all the time after that, mostly waiting for the ShutleCock at the J-School.
Said "Hi. " Occasionally talked.
I now tell people that not only am I "buds" with the band, but that, heck, my mother also met them.
True story.
For some reason, I was taking my parents to eat at Yesterday's in Columbia. Looking for a parking space in Five Points is like doing open heart surgery on Pat Buchanan -- just impossible to find one.
Down the block from Yesterday's is Monterray Jack's, a great bar. The band was playing there that night, and they were unloading their gear. I recognized my drinking bud, Mark Bryan, and introduced him to my mother, because he waved at me first, so I had to.
"This is, uh, Mark, uh," I said, "He's in this band ... uh. ..."
Mark said hello, was very polite, which my mother commented on, and he let us have the space the band's van was in once it was unloaded.
He left and my mother asked "How did he hurt his head?"
(It was the bandana on his head. He's the one who always wears the bandana, which looks like ... Anyway.)
So now, with this background, I go around telling people I'm real tight with the band. At a ribbon cutting a few months back, I met a girl from Bennettsville. We were at USC at the same time. She remembered attending many Hootie concerts at "Greene Street's" a bar that was neither on Greene Street nor in existance anymore.
"I guess anyone who went to USC in the '80s can say they know Hootie and the Blowfish," she said. I nodded. But neither she nor they knows them like I know them.
That's what I meant about undue pride. It's not that the band itself shouldn't be proud of what it's done. While they won't admit it, those cashing in on it are also trying to steal a bit of the credit for Hootie's success for themselves.
I'll admit that's what I'm doing, but only after.
After I tell people I know which one is Hootie, after I tell them that I once told Mark Bryan that "the porpoises make me cry," and I want my cut.
But it's just me trying to cash in on the sudden fame of Hootie and the Blowfish.
Everybody's doing it nowadays.

Originally published in The Cheraw Chronicle June 6, 1996.)

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