Monday, July 9, 2007

Rick Springfield and me in a riot

     Call me Jessie's Girl. My love for 1980s pop star Rick Springfield goes back to my grade school days growing up in the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia. In the early 1980s, Springfield appeared as Dr. Noah Drake on the wildly popular soap opera "General Hospital." I was hooked. To heck with Luke and Laura. My 14-year-old brain knew a hunk when I saw him.

     I also knew a riot when I saw one. Or as much of a riot as pre-teenage girls can cause. I got caught in one at the Roosevelt Mall on June 30, 1981 when Springfield was supposed to sign autographs and meet fans at the Sam Goody store as part of a promotion with WIFI-FM radio. Twenty-six years later, the memory is still vivid.

  Rick Springfield appearing at "our mall" was a huge deal for my friends Karen, Anne and Patty. We just graduated from St. Timothy's grade school and were spending our summer watching "General Hospital" and hanging out at the Roosevelt Mall. We browsed at John Wanamaker's department store, poked around Marlo Books and bought clothes at Famous Maid. The mall was our second home.

     The thought of Springfield - hunky Dr. Drake - in OUR MALL was almost too much for us to bear. Springfield was supposed to show up at the Sam Goody at 11 a.m. to promote his hit single, "Jessie's Girl." Anne and I met on Magee Avenue and walked to Brous Avenue to meet Patty and Karen. Onward to the mall.

     A massive crowd awaited us. Hundreds, no THOUSANDS of pre-teen girls like us, plus teenagers too. We wove our way over to the Sam Goody store and got in the line.

     Where was Rick Springfield? We started getting antsy, hot and tired. It was time for a Coke and a pretzel. But first, we would meet our beloved Rick. I believed I WOULD get to meet him. After all, I had met the guy who played Bo Duke from the "Dukes of Hazzard" at the car show a couple months before and had the photos to prove it.

     Suddenly, the crowd starting swaying and moving towards the record store. CRASH!! The entire plate glass window in the front of the store shattered into a million pieces. We screamed.

     I don't remember if we ran from the store or just figured, "Heck, now we are closer to Rick Springfield!" But they didn't let us in the record store. Picture a crowd of teenage girls denied their idol. We were not happy. I don't remember anyone throwing anything or hitting each other, but there was pushing, whining and yelling.

     The next thing I remember is standing in the parking lot and watching a police car speed by. Inside was Springfield, his hands covering his head, which was down in his lap. They had to take him out in a police car because the cops were afraid we would maul him. And we might have, if I had known what "maul" meant when I was 12. We ran after the car for a bit, but no luck. It kept going.

     All these years later, my love for Springfield continues. In 2001, I saw him perform at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. For one brief moment, our eyes locked as he walked by me, carrying his guitar. I wanted to yell, "Rick! I helped shove in a plate glass window for you!" But I thought his memories of that incident may not be as fond as mine.

     Not long ago, I got to see him perform at the Keswick Theater in Glenside. He is in his 50s now but still has that penetrating stare and cute butt. He is still a hunk.

     Best of all, he is now back on "General Hosptial." I started watching the show again in 2005, when the character of Dr. Noah Drake returned as a way to introduce his equally-hunky son, Dr. Patrick Drake. This month, Springield is playing TWO characters on the show - Dr. Drake and rocker Eli Love. How is this possible? Who cares. It is a soap opera.

     And 26 years later, I am still a fan and would still chase Springfield through a mall parking lot. But I would probably have to stop and rest along the way.