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  LOOPY'S WORLD: PART NINETEEN - FORT LAUDERDALE AND HOME

Steve 'Loopy' Newhouse

steve newhouse



loopyworld

Having spent six weeks in freezing Jersey, then eight weeks in baking Nassau, we arrived in moderate Fort Lauderdale for another eight week stint of pre production rehearsals.

But first we had to wait for the bands gear to turn up.

And we waited.

Then we waited some more.

Finally, after three days, the gear turned up in a broken down truck, which we had to push the last 100 yards to the venue that would be the band's home for the next two months. Not that the place had a name. It was a disused club, and very small.

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We managed to set the band's gear up snugly, and if they were happy with it, then so were we.

The only thing missing at this point was one of our crew, Marcus Cowe.

He was the guy who took one of the hire cars in Nassau and banged his head in a crash on the Island. He missed the flight to Miami and there was obviously some concern.

We found out the day after we landed at Miami that Marcus was found dead on his bedroom floor due to a brain haemorrhage.

Whether this was related to the accident in Nassau I have no idea but it was a very sad moment. To see fully grown men cry is not something I enjoy. I didn't know Marcus that well and I seemed to be the one picking up the pieces.

The following morning a few of us were taking a drive along the seafront and admiring the view, you know, half naked babes everywhere, when we ran into the back of the car in front of us. At 20mph, there was no real damage but after the Marcus thing we all became a lot more aware.

It didn't stop some of the band hiring top of the range cars though. Harry had a Porsche, Bruce had only just passed his test but hired a Camaro, and there were a few other sports cars in the basement car park under the hotel.

The rehearsals themselves went smoothly, if the band could be bothered. In fact, they hardly rehearsed at all from what I remember. But we did spend a lot of time in the bar next door, so I guess that counts.

My budget was somewhat limited so John Harte, Maiden's security guy who just happened to live locally, got his wife to make me up a few food parcels, and it was always a treat to get some home cooked stuff to warm in the microwave, when it wasn't infested with roaches.

I woke up one morning to find one on my toothbrush, but made the mistake of complaining about it to reception.

The following day I had to vacate my room while the exterminators went in. Apart from the daily trip to the local HoJo's (Howard Johnson's for those that don't know) I had nothing better to do, so I sat by the pool and watched three fat Americans run in and out my room like they had a problem with an alligator.

The benefits of working for a well known band become obvious after a while.

We had our name on the door of every local club or bar and that usually allowed us free entry, or free drinks depending on which club. I wish my memory was better, as there was one club that offered free entry and drinks, especially on Tuesday, naked female mud wrestling night.

We only got to see this once, but the image lasts forever.

About two weeks into our stay in Fort Lauderdale, I got a message from our Tour Mananger, Tony Wiggens. He wanted to see me.

I knew what was coming, but made light of it. After my behaviour in Nassau, I'm surprised they even took me to Fort Lauderdale.

I knocked on Tony's door and was told to "come in", which is much nicer than "ENTER".

"Enter" is like being at school, waiting outside the headmaster's office, knowing you'd done something wrong.

Tony was good about it, and just said: "We're going to have to let you go." My reply was as short as I could make it. "Well at least I made it to two weeks this time." Tony laughed.

When Maiden fired me the last time, I had only been in the States for a week. This time it was two, and Tony had been the man given the job on both occasions.

He told me I had a choice. I could stay on full pay, but they would expect me to carry on doing what I was there to do. Or he would book me on the first available flight home.

The choice wasn't really that difficult, so I stayed. But in the next six weeks I got to do and see a lot that I would have missed if I had gone home early.

A friend of Nicko's, a guy called Bruce Beckel, worked for NASA. Bruce lived in Orlando and invited all of us to watch a Shuttle launch at Cape Kennedy. The offer also included an afternoon at DisneyWorld.

How could I refuse?

So, early one Saturday morning, having been to HoJo's for breakfast, eggs over easy, a whole bunch of us piled into a minibus for the forty minute journey to Miami Airport.

Myself, Steve, Adrian, Dave and his partner Tamar, Nicko, Steve Altman, Bill Barclay, Steve Gadd, John Harte, and if I've forgotten anyone I apologise now, caught the one hour flight to Orlando, and were met at the other end by Bruce and his wife.

We were ferried to our hotel, and told to wait there for a couple of hours until we were picked up by Bruce and driven to Disney World. By the time we got there, it was closing in on 1.00pm, so we knew we didn't have a lot of time to go exploring. We had to meet up again at 5.00pm to head back to Bruce's place for food.

But I was there. I was actually at Disney World. And Mickey Mouse is a big fucker. I'd only ever seen him on TV. But here he was standing in front of me.

The downside of the whole experience was not having a decent camera at the time. All I had was a little Kodak disc camera. Fifteen shots and that was it. And the pics were never that clear either.

We had enough time to do both runs on Space Mountain, having queued for an eternity for both, which was fun.

We did go on a few other rides, but time was running out, and we met up at the agreed meeting point for our trip back to Bruce's place. Knowing that we had a long night in front of us, as the Shuttle was due to launch around 6.00am, we really should get some sleep.

With a party in full flow, and Mr Columbia making a big appearance, that just didn't happen. I remember Nicko phoning home, and Gaddsy and Bill Barclay were fucking about a lot.

Then it was time to head out to the Cape, so we piled into the mini bus and made our way to the spectator area at the Kennedy Space Launch Centre.

Bruce parked the mini bus at a spot where he thought we would get a decent view of the launch, although I imagine everybody else had the same idea. There were vehicles and bodies everywhere.

The launch pad was about three miles away to the south, and between us and the pad was a vast expanse of water, but not a lake, no no, don't be fooled by what you have seen on NASA TV.

Most of the surrounding area is partly swamp and marsh land, but the huge pool of water in front of us has an inlet/outlet to the sea. The only reason I mention this is, about an hour before the launch, I just happened to be looking toward the Shuttle, brightly lit by what I can only assume are air raid lights when the water rippled in front of me and when I took a closer look I saw two dolphins swimming past.

In my excitement I pointed it out to whoever was awake but all I got was "Fuck off Loopy" or "He's had too much".

I caught the thing on my camera and although the light wasn't brilliant, the image definitely showed a fin and it wasn't a shark, not in Florida, surely.

I spoke to Bruce about it, and he confirmed that a particular breed of dolphin were known to use that inlet at certain times of the year.

All of a sudden, everyone else was interested, but by then the dolphins had moved on.

While all this was going on, Space Shuttle Discovery had been fuelled, the crew were strapped into their seats and everything was ready for launch.

The clock passed the ten minute mark, but if you know how the system works at NASA, then you know there is a built in hold on T minus nine mintues.

Without trying to sound like a geek, each manned launch has a built in hold on nine minutes. It gives the ground crew time to get away from the pad, and there's time to run the shuttle diagnostics one final time to make sure everything is perfect.

Unfortunately, this time round, it wasn't perfect. Even in July, so much ice had built up around the fuel pipes, that NASA decided to abort the launch.

So we went back to Bruce's place, a little disgruntled.

Some of the guys carried on partying, but a few decided to get an earlier flight back to Miami. I carried on partying, like the trooper I was. But sooner or later, the remaining few had to make the journey back to our makeshift home in Fort Lauderdale.

It was a shame we had to leave Orlando so soon, having only spent 48 hours there, but we were here for a reason, although I was beginning to think that we were only here to party and relax.

Not that that was a problem or anything.

We got a cab to Orlando Airport and caught a flight heading back to Miami. What should have been a 50 minute flight started to take a little longer, so John Harte asked the stewardess what was going on. It turned out that a huge storm had come in over the Atlantic and all flights into Miami were being diverted.

Fortunately, our flight was diverted to Fort Lauderdale and we landed before the storm hit the ground.

John spoke to the stewardess once again and explained that this is where we wanted to be. The stewardess then spoke to the captain who happily agreed to let us off his plane.

We were about 200 yards from the terminal building and had to walk across the runway to reach it but once there and following the instructions we were given we went through a few doors, all back stage and behind the scenes etc. etc, and came out of a door in front of the taxi rank. John hailed the first cab, and fifteen minutes later we were back at the hotel.

The whole weekend was just a bizarre episode, but I didn't regret a thing.

Two weeks later, Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched, and I managed to see that little speck of light heading toward the heavens from my hotel window. That's the closest I would ever get.

This, my friends, is what it's like working for a huge Heavy Metal band who have contacts.

The rest of my time in Fort Lauderdale was taken up by doing the band's laundry, shopping and just being the go to guy if they needed something.

Harry had to fly home to watch the birth of Lauren, but he was only gone for ten days. Most of that time was spent eating at HoJo's, on the beach, or at a bar watching wet t-shirt contests.

It was then time to go back to Blighty and I felt down. I realised that I had blown a good opportunity to enjoy the good life. But there was an upside.

In Jersey I met a young lady called Jo Millar, and we stayed in touch.

Jo's neighbour, a young lady called Karen, became my wife about a year later. And most of the band came to the reception, so I still had friends amongst them.

*****************************

A parcel arrived at Steve's London abode in mid-December 2014. It was from Steve Harris and contained an inscribed gold disc of the debut Iron Maiden album.

iron maiden

iron maiden


Click here for the Loopyworld index, including Steve's tribute to Clive Burr...




22.12.14









 


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