By JOSEPH TINTLE
Several years ago I took my son, Patrick, to see Todd Rundgren at the Community Theater in Morristown, New Jersey. Rundgren had always been one of my favorite singer-musicians and I often played “Hello It’s Me” and “Bang on the Drum All Day” for Pat and his brother, Kieran. This concert would definitely give Pat a greater appreciation for this artist and continue to inspire his own guitar playing.
Rundgren played for two and a half hours and earned a standing ovation. Afterward, I told Pat I’d introduce him to the famous musician but my son was more than skeptical.’
“How are you going to do that, Dad?”
“I’m a former journalist. I know all the moves. Don’t worry.”
I had already scoped out the theater and I knew where the band most likely would leave after the show. And damn, I was right! Band member after band member trooped out to the Elm Street side of the theater to have a smoke or check out their equipment. We got to speak with all of them. All of them except Todd Rundgren.
“Where’s Todd?” I asked Kasim Sultan, the bassist who played and sang with Rundgren in Utopia during the 1980s.
“Oh, he went out the other side. If you’re going to catch him better do it now.”
We thanked Kasim and hoofed it around the building. Too late.
“Great, Dad,” Pat said.
There was one more option. Earlier in the evening as Pat and I were on the ticket line, I overheard someone saying that Rundgren was staying at the Best Western a half mile away. I told Pat we’d head there and head him off.
“Dad, this is a school night. It’s 11:30. I should be in bed. You’re a teacher; you should know better. Let’s go home.”
“Dude, this is Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’m going to introduce you to Todd as promised.”
We drove to the Best Western but Pat balked about coming in. He was 16 and worried I’d do something embarrassing, of course.
“I’m staying in the car,” he told me. “I know what you’ll do: you’ll go banging on the hotel doors until you find him.”
“Have it your way.”
I walked in and all I could hear were two low voices talking on the other side of a divider. I recognized Rundgren’s voice and waited for the conversation to end. Then he came around and stood in front of me.
“Hi, Todd,” I said. “Great show.”
“Oh, you were there? Thanks.”
We chatted briefly and I told him that I had seen him five times over the years. But the most interesting concert was his show at the Valley Forge Music Fair in Devon, Pennsylvania, on November 23, 1974. I went on to explain that on the way driving there, some drunk had slammed into my car at 45 miles per hour and bashed in my driver’s side door.
“Was anybody hurt?” Rundgren wanted to know.
“None of us,” I said. “But the guy who hit me bounded from his car and issued all kinds of threats. He said he was a member of the Mafia and that if I reported the accident he’d have me killed.”
Rundgren’s eyes lit up. “What? So what did you do?”
“I reported him to police. Turns out the guy was telling the truth about the Mafia. He was even driving a stolen car.”
“Then what?” Rundgren asked.
“We hopped in my car and got to your concert with 10 minutes to spare.”
“You did all that for me and my music?”
The story I told him was absolutely true, but I realized that I had him where I wanted him.
“Todd, would you do me a favor?”
“If I can.”
My son, Pat, is sitting in our car in the hotel parking lot. He’s a bit reticent about meeting you. He’s only 16. But he plays guitar and I’m sure he’d appreciate it if you said hello to him.”
“Absolutely, let’s go.”
Rundgren and I headed out of the hotel and sneaked up on Pat who had pushed the front seat into a reclining position. His eyes were closed. As I approached the window, Rundgren ducked behind me.
“Pat, open the door, please.”
As he did I said, “Pat, I’d like you to meet Mr. Todd Rundgren.”
I moved and Rundgren stepped forward. Pat sprung from the car, got to his feet, and extended Rundgren a hearty handshake. We spoke about music for the next 20 minutes and Rundgren could not have been nicer to my son.