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Sunday, May 30, 2010

3rd row stage left, one last time

It was Ronnie James Dio day in Los Angeles today, according to one of LA's councilmen. For now, you'll have to take my word for it. One could not wish for a more cloud-free and warm breezed day on which to have a memorial.

The Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills lent the use of its Liberty Hall auditorium for the memorial. As the 1,000 seat capacity was sure to not hold all of the friends, family and fans in attendance, additional seats were set up on the lawn to the north of the Hall. Even with me arriving 90 minutes before the memorial, I really wanted to be outside with the fans.

The presence of the group from Westboro was negligible:

The memorial, thankfully, took place as far from the entrance as possible. Greeting most every visitor was a big outdoor screen.

The attendees were a fairly broad cross-section of people. A few were grade-school or teen-aged. Many were closer to middle age (like me) and a few were Ronnie James' age.

I've never attended something like this in my life. Memorials and funerals, as far as I was concerned, were for family, friends and the occasional co-worker. What could a heavy metal fan like me get from going to something like this?

Honestly, I have been in a funk for the last couple of weeks. All of my usual ways of dealing with bad news had escaped me. Everytime I played a song of his, tears would well up and a lot more emotion than usual got thrown out with my voice as I sang along. In the interest of being there for others and for represent
ing the LGBT fan-base at the memorial, I finally decided yesterday to be there today.

I avoided the lines for a t-shirt. It was not for the sake of saving money; it was more about saving energy so I could sit outside as long as possible during the service. I wound up leaving the outdoor sitting area twice before 2 PM to find a patch of shade under which I could cool myself before returning to the bright beaming sunlight.

The memorial started shortly after 2 PM after an unusual five-song pre-memorial, pre-recorded set, only one of which including Dio's voice. Even then, his was only one of many.

Today's master of ceremonies, naturally, was Eddie Trunk. Even with the stories shared by many of his staff, friends and his son, I managed to stay for the first two hours of the memorial only. I didn't hear or see anything that I would not have guessed based on what I knew about Ronnie James Dio. It was fitting that many of the musicians he worked with in the past were there today to sing and play acoustic version of some of his best known/loved songs.
Nearly all sitting outside with me were also conserving strength and stamina in the first two hours of the memorial, with one notable exception -- the "mysterious" figure on the far left:

Every song was cause to walk as close the the big screen as possible and pose, headbang and flash the "evil eye" sign from all possible positions of the clock (above his head, to the sides, at 10 and 2, etc.).

A few snickers drifted from some who sat nearby me every time he drifted forward. I have to give this guy respect for keeping the hood on with all of the heat and sunlight shining down and getting into the spirit of tribute and celebration which the rest of us were just too sun-stroked to shake up.

I'd like to say the group gathering in front of me in the photo to the left were a bunch of somber mourners awaiting a turn at paying final respects. Sadly, they were swarmed around a poor official who was only trying to dole out commemorative "programs" to everyone. A relatively brief 30 minutes later or so, I was able to walk up to that poor hassled employee and happily be handed a program of my own. Again, nothing all that surprising to be found in the program itself; however, it is certainly another way of commemorating the day.

So, did going to the memorial today change anything? After about 3 1/2 hours in the bright, breezy sun, I pretty much had the melancholy melted out of me. There were promises made to permit those sitting outside to come inside and pay "final respects" to Dio after the memorial was over.

Any leftover remnants of childhood mania over metal were sweated out today. I cannot say that, once recovered from today's dehydration, I'll never again get ramped up over a crazy, fast-beaten, loudly-cranked tune. I can say that, as we all grow older, that the passing of the next heavy metal icon should not come as such a shock to me.

Though I'm quite happy to keep that day as far off in the future as possible.

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