By RICH FOLEY
I seem to have another birthday bearing down on me, which means the lie I tell when people ask my age will soon increase by an additional year. But if I could pull off the trick a Seattle man did to celebrate his own birthday last October, it might actually be worth telling the truth.
Michael Henrichsen did the nearly impossible in convincing rock star Billy Idol to come to Seattle and play for his birthday. The singer’s appearance was the final result of two years of planning, scheming and fund-raising.
Henrichsen, whose three jobs at the beginning of his quest included being an employee at a shopping mall clothing store, got his inspiration the day the store’s stereo played Idol’s hit “White Wedding.” Henrichsen immediately turned to a coworker and asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we got Billy Idol to play at my birthday party”
The more Henrichsen thought about it, the better the idea sounded to him. A friend designed a website to promote the idea. To drive traffic to the website, Henrichsen posted a video online of him dancing in an empty shopping mall while carrying a boom box playing Idol hit “Mony Mony.” He and some of his friends held banners over local Interstate overpasses. Then he started getting celebrity endorsements.
First, comedian Kevin Nealon let Henrichsen shoot a short video in which he tells Idol he should come to Seattle to play for Henrichsen’s birthday. Other semi-celebs followed, including singer Rick Springfield, retired Seattle Mariner Jay Buhner and adult film actor Ron Jeremy.
I can’t help but wonder how Springfield felt when Henrichsen asked him for help in attracting another singer to town. Sure, Rick hasn’t done much lately, but most people would happily settle for him as birthday entertainment.
Eventually, news of Henrichsen’s dream made it to Idol’s management. They called him and said while they liked his campaign, they weren’t making any promises.
Henrichsen kicked things up another notch and formed his own 80s cover band, which began playing for charity in a string of concerts he called Billy Idol Aid. Eventually, he raised over $10,000 for local food banks and the American Red Cross.
When Henrichsen’s birthday rolled around in 2011, Idol sent a video apologizing for his absence, but holding out hope for 2012. Some of Henrichsen’s friends and family were getting tired of all the hoopla, but he decided to press on.
He stayed in touch with Idol’s people and last August, they called him during Billy’s tour of Japan to announce that Idol and his band would make it to Henrichsen’s 2012 birthday celebration. Idol’s manager said Henrichsen’s “persistence and resourcefulness” had won Billy over.
When the big night finally arrived, Idol allowed Henrichsen’s band to be his opening act. Once Idol and his own band took the stage, guitar player Steve Stevens played Henrichsen “Happy Birthday” in the middle of a guitar solo. Later, Idol called Henrichsen on stage to sing him the song.
That sounds like a pretty memorable birthday celebration. I wouldn’t mind having one like that, but I suspect Billy Idol won’t be doing any more free concerts for fans anytime soon. Of course, there are a lot of singers out there to choose from, especially since I’ve got a year to plan for my next birthday.
Unfortunately, Warren Zevon and Waylon Jennings passed away years ago, so two of my all-time favorites are out. I’ve joked about bringing The Knack to Fayette before, but lead singer Doug Fieger’s passing eliminates that idea. After all, would anyone want to hear me sing lead on “My Sharona?”
Joe Ely is still with us, but his birthday is the same day as mine and I wouldn’t ask him to leave Texas and freeze in Ohio when he could party at home. But another Texan might be a possibility.
Readers of this column know that Meat Loaf is another of my favorite singers and he could even stop by my apartment for a Meat Loaf VHS film festival before the concert. I’ve got tapes of several of Meat’s finest film appearances including Black Dog, Crazy in Alabama and Roadie.
In fact I even happen to have a set of Shiner Beer glasses in case he’d like a beverage. In his starring role in Roadie, he was a Shiner Beer truck driver. He almost has to like that.
How about it, Meat? Add Fayette, Ohio, to your schedule on February 9, 2014. Don’t make me call Rick Springfield.