On May 17, 2013 I walked into the Amway Arena in Orlando, FL thinking it was just another gig. Yes, it was former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney, (knighted by the Queen of England) but I wasn’t nervous or fully prepared for the effect this career defining moment in time, would have on my life. I worked for Paul once before, during the last time he performed in Orlando, in May of 1993. I was run of the mill local crew, with no access to anything of epic value or historical significance. I do own a Beatles album, it was my former stepfather’s attempt to educate me in something other than Heavy Metal as a teen. I almost blew this gig off to go on a cruise with my friend Alice, what a mistake that would have been! On this day, that was all about to change.
I reported to the wardrobe department, which can vary in location from show to show. I walked in and realized there were no dancers and no back up singers, which usually amounted to a ton of clothing to deal with, so I was relieved. Instead I find myself face to face with clothing I would later learn, is of significant historic value.
I went about my day, as usual, setting up the steamer and began steaming clothing for Paul’s band. The usual black uniform of pants, shirts and jackets with a colorful assortment of ties and neckwear. As I steam each garment, I check the pockets to make sure there isn’t any candy, gum or stuff inside that would ruin the garment when steam was applied. (notes to self from previous mishaps!) I check the buttons, to make sure they aren’t loose, check the zipper to make sure it works and then move on to the crotch and other seams to make sure nothing is coming apart. The band had some amazing jackets by John Varvatos, I have only seen in Look Books, some vintage western style shirts and Robert Graham, a favorite designer of mine. There were jackets and some custom made clothing from Paris, Italy, Los Angeles and other locations that had labels stating the garments were specially made for that guy in the band. I pulled a few things out that needed to be repaired and continued steaming until I had gone through two entire racks of stagewear.
While I finished the band’s clothing, Liz was hard at work pressing all of Paul’s shirts. Usually on a show like this, the main artist has a person like Liz, who personally handles all of the star wardrobe themselves. I about fell on the floor, when she asked me to steam the rest of Paul’s wardrobe for her! Carefully, I rolled it into the room where I was working. As I began with Paul’s first jacket I noticed something odd. The wooden hanger was numbered and a tag was hanging from it. As I read the tag, I realized this was no ordinary rack of clothes. Each jacket had a history of when, where and how it was worn, with Paul’s coordinating shirts, which were lettered A-Z. Holy Freakin WOW! As I carefully work my way through the epic collection, being the fashionista that I am, I notice impeccable tailoring, hand stitched details and pink thread on the bottom button hole of each jacket sleeve, a trademark of his London Tailor. The hang tags document his White House performance, his appearance on Saturday Night Live, Charity Events and Concert dates from 2010 to present. Liz later told me all of these details are kept because his clothes often wind up in Museums and Charity Auctions and that just about everything he wears for public appearances becomes instantly valuable. In addition to all of his London Tailor made jackets, I also discovered his Daughter, Fashion Designer, Stella McCartney has also made jackets for him, beautiful, amazing jackets. It was all I could do to contain myself and NOT put one on and dance around the room in it!! This is the type of stuff I go to museums and places like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to see, not hold in my very hands! It was a very humbling and awe inspiring experience, which I will never forget. If I quit doing what I do, in that moment, I didn’t think I could ever ‘top” it, but wait, it gets better…
As I finished up my epic assignment of work in the touring closet of Sir Paul McCartney, I reported back to Liz. I stitched a few things that needed repair, then Liz turned me over to Colette. Colette has been touring with Paul for several years, she knows him well. Even with a recent hip replacement surgery, I struggled to keep up with her! Colette snatched me up and off we go, headed into Paul’s dressing room. When I arrived on the scene, I find the guys I work with setting up furniture, mirrors, a dressing table, pipe and drape, hanging decorative tapestries, setting up the TV and essentially transforming the freezing cold, sterile locker room of the Orlando Magic, into a homey, cozy, decorated, well appointed living area, dressing room and media interview room that was looking like a room transformation scene from HGTV.
Once the boys left, it was my job to help Colette bring in all of Paul’s personal items, toiletries and cleaning supplies in to finish the job. Jo was there from catering, with all of her British flair, setting up vegetarian snacks of fruit, nuts, Raisinettes, wine, lemon, ginger, tea and other beverages in a bar area. Paul is famous for his vegetarian tour catering, his late wife Linda turned him on to her strict belief of never eating anything that used to have a face. The food on this tour, I must say was delicious. You can often find vegetarian choices on tours such as this, but not to this level of perfection.
On this day, Paul was scheduled to arrive for a rehearsal. The arena stage was built, his stagewear had been rolled into place and Colette and I worked on a long list of things Paul expected. First order of business was to get housekeeping back into Paul’s dressing room to vacuum up all the remains of the days activity. Next, was to thoroughly reclean the bathroom to Paul’s higher than Magic Player standard. Paul travels with his own supply of bathroom mats which are secured to the floor with double stick tape in front of one sink and one toilet. This will be the only sink and toilet he will use despite the public restroom layout. I cleaned all of the local roadie finger prints off his large custom built dressing table mirror, a large full length floor mirror, wiped down his vanity make up mirror, plugged in his tea pot, made sure all of his trash cans were empty and got the heck out of there as he was about to arrive. Just prior to Paul taking the stage I was dismissed for the day and asked to return at 4 pm the next day. As I was leaving I left my business card and cell phone number with Liz and encouraged her to call me if they needed me anytime sooner.
As I headed home, I took inventory of my day. If I died on the way home, it would be with knowing I have lived my life to the fullest, everything I have done in my life, lead me to that day. After years of sewing, working concert production and building my reputation in the industry for the last two years as an A List Seamstress, I had arrived and was working for Rock Royalty. When I arrived home, I was exhausted, my feet hurt and my fragile back and neck were screaming for the bed. As soon as I started to settle down, I received a cell phone call from Liz, asking me if I could be back at 10 am to set up some rooms for Paul. “Sure, no problem, see you in the morning!”
Day 2, as I arrived at 10 am, the venue was buzzing with activity, Colette and I met up and I whipped out my iPhone to take a thousand notes on all the things we had to do that day.
- Gerber daisies would be arriving at 3 pm, put them in vases and distribute them to Paul, Band and the Mercedes Dinning room
- set up TWO Meet and Greet rooms off of the Mercedes Dining Room, just in case Paul needs them for guests
- get the heaters from road cases and get the temperature in the dressing room up to 78 degrees because Nancy, Paul’s wife was freezing in there the night before
- call housekeeping, who never made it into Paul’s dressing room to vacuum yesterday
- I alone was trusted to escort cleaning staff through both Paul and the Band’s dressing rooms to make sure nothing is disturbed or photo graphed, I was charged with ensuring the level of clean would meet Paul’s high standard
- steam out the Sari’s used to decorate the two Meet and Greet Rooms
- have the runner get black fabric to cover the high top tables
- keep a list of things the runner needs to get from all over town
- change the batteries in the candles for the Meet and Greet and Mercedes Dinning room
- coordinate with Michael and Terry to help me decorate and do all the things on the list
- call building maintenance 20x to get them to change the light bulb in the bands bathroom
- help Colette clean Paul’s bathroom floor with Swiffer Wet to get all the foot prints off the floor ( I had to go back in there several times and kept a towel close by to put on my feet, so my converse sneakers wouldn’t leave tracks!!)
- change 4 black chairs for 4 wooden chairs in the band’s dressing room
- wipe down everybody’s Yoga mats with wet wipes
- make sure the Band’s tea and coffee pot gets turned on about 3 pm
- sit in the dining room with an iPhone thermostat app for a few hours to make sure the temperature gets up to 78 degrees after having to repeatedly persuading the building super that it is absolutely necessary
- eat at some point
- make sure the back entrance to Paul’s dressing room gets locked
- have the guys clean the broken candle glass out of the hamper bin in the backstage hallway
- get the correct TV guide programs and channels for Nancy
- print out the wi fi passwords for everybody’s dressing rooms
- get 30 black and 300 white towels from Operations
- cut all the tags off the black towels
- lay out 2 towels on each band guy’s dressing room chair
- put 2 towels next to each sink basin
- get an extension cord for the foot massager in the bands dressing room
- hang a red drape outside the band dressing room door so they know which room is theirs
- call ops 20 more times to get them to change the light bulb in the bands dressing room because it hasn’t been done yet
- fix the loose phone cord on Paul’s dressing room telephone
- wipe the dirt out of the band and Paul’s fridge coolers
- drape and tape a black towel over the cooler’s backlit logo because its too bright
- change the tape on the bathroom mat in Paul’s dressing room because the other tape didn’t stick
- wrap the plants in Paul’s dressing room with black fabric because the plastic nursery pots are ugly
- steam the fold marks out of the wool blanket for Nancy to use and drape it nicely on the sofa in Paul’s dressing room
- check the temperature in Paul’s dressing room, make sure the heaters stay on until it reaches 78 degrees (use iPhone app to ck temp)
- get all of this done by 3 pm before Paul arrives
Paul arrives, allegedly kisses his female staff on the cheek and waves to local crew, saying he’d kiss them too if he knew them better. I sew a pair of pants for someone on the crew because the original thread is too itchy. Wait around for the temporary tour bus to arrive so I can set up a dressing room inside. The bus arrives, it does not need a dressing room, I am dismissed about 7 pm.
I go home, crash and burn till my friends wake me up with a call at 11:30 pm, wondering why the heck I am not down at the bar with them!! So I get up and head out to see my friends’ band, Control Freak play at the Green Parrot. When I walk in the door about 20 people come over to me wanting to hear all about my adventures with Paul McCartney! Holy Smokes, I feel like a celebrity! I opt not to drink that night, then head over to Candace and Willie’s house with Ron for the night.
In the morning I get a phone call from Liz asking me if I can come in as soon as possible, instead of 4 pm. “Sure!”, up, dressed and off I go, in by 1 pm. Giant crowds have gathered outside the back door to the arena each day. People bearing signs, carrying memorabilia, wearing fashion tributes to Paul, they see me coming and they ask… What do you do? Is Paul inside? How do I get your job? Did you meet him? What’s he like? I work my way through the fans and check in for work. Now the people I work with, who know I have been in and out of Paul’s dressing room and working wardrobe ask the same…. have you met him? What’s he like? Keep Calm and Carry On!
Day 3 duties include replacing wilted daisies, finding out the black towels were new and unwashed and left fuzz all over everybody, the rooms we heated were still too cold, we repeat the drills of the previous day. This time I am staying through the show and load out. Media people and reporters are mulling about taking photos, Paul’s stepson, a student at Rollins College is entertaining friends in the rooms we set up, glad somebody got to use them! Showtime is getting closer as we are heading out of the wardrobe room I can hear Paul and his band coming up the hall way singing a Beatles song, I creep toward the doorway as not to disrupt the procession. As I peek out of the room into the hall way, here comes a cameraman walking backwards filming Paul and his crew. As he passes by singing merrily he acknowledges Liz, Colette and I standing in the doorway. Then Paul spots some travel size Colgate tooth paste in a road case to his right. He stops singing, reaches in and asks Colette if he can have some! Colette replies and advises she will leave him some in his dressing room. Happily he realizes the cameraman has gotten ahead of him, so he runs up to the guy walking backwards and playfully almost knocks him over! Carrying on, they proceed to the stage to put on their show.
While Paul performs his 3 hour set, I am getting text messages from my friends Jenny and David, in attendance of the concert, giving me the blow by blow. I work with my guys to tear down all the styled rooms and return the touring decorations back to the wardrobe bins to be sorted out and secured for the journey to Austin, TX.
The show winds down and wardrobe cases are packed and rolled into the hallway. As Paul leaves the stage he is handed a huge bouquet of exotic flowers, which ended up being given to me. Out There, Mr. McCartney is the best way to describe this adventure. Thank you for indulging me in one of the most epic tales of my life. A fan for life.