The TS Story, told from the inside
This is the TS story told by Crew Member Mike Altini. You won’t get stories like these anywhere but here.
PART 1: INTRODUCTIONS
Now to introduce you to the crew at this time.
Hillary Heide was the drum tech. Kevin Kennelly was monitor man. He took care of all of Dee’s needs. He had to have boiling hot tea with lemon and honey on the side of the stage in a thermos. This kept Dee’s pipes loose and you all seen what the caffeine does to him. Charlie Barrecca was the sound man and boss of the crew. He was a fun guy but very disciplined. Everything (and I mean everything) had to be perfect or he wouldn’t stop nagging till it was right. I cant tell you how many arguments he would get in with club owners and personnel if he couldn’t get what he needed.
Elmo Nitrate was the light man. I was amazed and how such a big guy could hang off the rafters like an ape. hanging lights with one arm and holding on to the ceiling with another. He was very particular about his gels. Gels are like covers you put in front of the cans (lights) to make colors. He always wanted colors that no one else had. IN a way he was like a mad scientist. mixing and matching. Elmo also introduced the band every night with a funny rhyme and a loud scream. You can see the smiles and the chuckles of the crowd. He also kept everyone laughing. His sense of humor was second to none. He was also disgusting in many ways. Elmo invented the bar shot. he would take a bar mop, wipe down the bar and squeeze the dirty nasty liquid into a glass and drink it. There might be a filthy pretzel on the floor and he would eat it. The best was him going into the bathroom and taking those soap things out of the urinal putting one on each eye and doing a fly imataiton.Saying HELP ME, help me like in the movies. In later columns I will tell more Elmo stories.
People would come and go in the crew as time past. There would be Mike “Moto” Malvazio , Rocco , Bobby Thompson, Marty “Yollie” Gothenburg, Frank Rubino, Paul from Brooklyn. Roger and Scott Aufner and Sal Valvo, all security. Security wasn’t an issue in the beginning. The crew would take care of that but as the crowds got larger and the shows got bigger, there was a need for that.
Now you have met the crew and i will be referring to them in my future columns.
PART 2: ANIMAL AT EMIT’S
Twisted Sister was huge in Long Island but no where else. Outside of the Island, no one really heard of them. A friend of mine persuaded me to go out and see them. When Dee came out and the lights went on, I was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ After I gave it a chance, I thought, ‘Hey they are pretty good.’ I started talking to Fatty and Hillary in between sets and they became good acquaintances.
I would bullshit with Fatty more than anyone else because we had the same sense of humor and a lot in common. He became my mentor as far as rock and roll goes. I had a strong desire to learn what went into setting up the stage. Kev showed me a few things here and there. John Russo was the guitar tech at the time, he also showed me a few things. So little by little, I was taking it all in.
Now we are getting into the winter of 1978-79. Twisted Sister starts their assault on the suburbs. John Russo leaves and Mark Mendoza takes over guitar duties. One of the first shows Mark works is Emit’s Inn in Jamesburg, New Jersey. I think there was about 30 people in the audience. Dee was trying everything to get them motivated. Nothing was working (send in the nuns), so he got down off the stage, stayed behind the police barriers they had everywhere they went, and started working the “crowd” in his own special way. Well, one of the hillbillies didn’t like it at spit at Dee. Dee flipped out and took a swing at the jackass. Out of no where comes this giant fuzz ball of hair. Mendoza picks the guy up by the throat, escorts him out the door and animalizes him a tad.
Well, the show’s over and the feeling was this guy was gonna come back with some mountain folk. It was time for Altini to give a hand to pack up and get the fuck out of there.
PART 3: MIKE’S BIG GUITAR DEBUT
You don’t realize how much equipment there is until you start breaking down a stage and putting the stuff away and then packing it into a U-Haul truck. There was a lot of heavy, bulky, back breaking equipment and tons of duct tape. If duct tape wasn’t invented, there would be no rock and roll shows.
The band loved Marshalls. The heads were the old tube ones. They tried the newer ones but didn’t like the sound. The bottoms were also Marshalls. I thought they were heavy until they tried these new ones called Crate. I hated them and thank God they hated them also. They weighed twice as much as Marshalls and the sound just wasn’t right.
When setting up the stage, you would put one bottom on top of another and then put the head on that. I always thought that it was shaky and would crash to the floor but everyone said don’t worry about it. I would take duct tape and put it in between the head and bottom just in case. I think Mr.French used to enjoy seeing me worry all the time. During one of the songs he would go to the stacks put his hand on the top and rock it back and forth. In my mind I could see them falling and me panicking. Thank God, it never happened.
I am still an apprentice learning from every show. One day at a club called Zaffy’s in Piscataway, N.J. (Was someone pissing on a cat and decided, ‘Hey, I got a great name for this town?’) The band comes out and there is no Kenny. There is a new really sick looking individual on bass. Ladies and Gentlemen, kids of all ages, please welcome Mark “The Animal” Mendoza. I think but I am not sure, that Kenny just said back stage that night that he was done with rock and roll and mark got drafted in. The show must go on. It’s a little fuzzy but this is what I think happened. I think this is the first show I did guitars solo. They didn’t get a replacement yet.
So now I am shitting in my pants. I want everything to go right. Not. During “Fool For The City”, Dee would pick up a guitar and join in at the end of the song. He picks it up and starts playing and looks over at me and starts making faces and pointing. I thought he was being funny. Not, again. Altini didn’t turn on his stack nor the volume. Nada. Not a good start to my career. You can be rest assured that every time after that, I double and tripled checked everything. Once again Kevin (Fatty) came to my rescue.
The night’s over, the show is a success, we go outside to get the truck. Some bastard punctured the tires with a knife. Didn’t get out of there till 6:00am. To this day, I think it was that guy from Emits.
PART 4: YOU’RE YELLING IN MY EAR…
It’s 1979 and the band starts making some moves on their own because nothing is happening with the record companies. Bob Thompson joins the crew. He plays guitar so he becomes the guitar man and I am his assistant and all around stagehand. I will learn lots of stuff from Bobby and I helped him learn the show. At times you would need 2 guys for the guitars. If a sting breaks and Jay Jay decides to kick over the mic stands, etc. You know what I mean.
There is also a need for changing the set up on the stage. Mark was stage right (if you’re looking at the audience from the stage, that’s the direction) Eddie was stage left. I think Mark needed to be closer to Tony to keep the rhythm section tight. It was much easier to hear Tony in the new spot. Personally, I was extremely happy for Mark’s move. he was making me deaf in my left ear. Plus it felt like you were getting punched with the vibrations that came out of the speakers. You guys in the audience thought it was loud out there, it was fuckin murder on the stage. With Eddie on my side, it was a hell of a lot more comfortable for us. But I think the girls in the front row had a dilemma. Now they didn’t know who to stand in front of. It was easier before for the JJ/Mark fans because they were together on stage. Now Dee stood between them and now they had to make a choice. You could see them shuffling around for the first couple of shows before they made their choice.
I gotta tell you folks, Eddie was the easiest guy to work with. His guitar rarely went out of tune and seldomly broke a string. If there was a need to change his guitar, he let you know and it was a 1,2,3 transition. When French needed a change, holy shit. he would crouch down like a quarterback, wave at you with his right hand like ‘c’mon c’mon’.You would have to run out, turn down the head volume, switch and turn back the volume and run.
I cant remember Mark really ever needing anything except when he got something in his eye. His contacts always tortured him. when he got sweat or a hair in his eye, he never asked for it but you ran to his aid. Usually he would say, “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME” but you knew you had to stay with him till he was OK. The running joke was mark looking like he needed something. You would run over and go “what’s wrong?” He would get right in your ear and scream at the top of his lungs “FREEZE FRAME,” from the J.Geils band song. well, I would jump and say fuck you and go back to work. But every time he would call you over, you knew it was going to happen but you never knew for sure if he needed help or not. Eddie gets in on it. Only he was a lot smoother. He would lean towards you and wave you close and point to the guitar. When you got close he would yell in a southern drawl “Negroes.”
Like I said it was 1979. A new guy is with Jay. He is wearing clogs, has toe nail polish on. I think he had nail polish on too. Jay Jay introduces him to us. It’s Joe Atlantis. French tells us he is the new road manager. Jay used to do everything but he had to start delegating some responsibility to other people.
Joe was a very accommodating guy. He also took an awful verbal beating from everyone in the beginning. But over time he became very respected. He showed he had what it takes plus he lost the clogs and got rid of the polish.(LOL)
Something wasn’t right in the air………..
PART 5: PEACEKEEPERS, SECURITY AND EDDIE KRAMER
Joe Atlantis had his hands full for a while. Some members of the crew wouldn’t cooperate no way no how with him. To prove himself, he stepped up to the plate and did a couple of break downs (break down the stage and load the truck) with us. He also had a little problem with the band. Every family has their arguments but Dee and Tony was a real problem for him. Tony threw a boot at Dee and cracked him in the head. I think that was the last straw and Tony had to use his own dressing room. So Joe has this problem now, keeping the peace.
Speaking of peace keepers, I forgot to mention previously about Scott and Roger Aufner (forgive the spelling). Roger stayed with Dee and Suzette. They described him as their son. They took care of him and he took care of their security needs. Dee would stick out like a sore thumb where ever he went. Especially back then because everyone was sort of discoed out and he looks the way he does. Roger controlled the back area. He also had a little army of his students with him to observe. Imagine being a kid 13 or so, getting to hang out in a bar and watch twisted sister from the side lines. What a fuckin treat.
Jay Jay tells us that the project of doing their own record is going forward. I start to notice this guy coming down lately. An older gentlemen with a neatly trimmed beard. I get introduced to him. His name is Eddie Kramer. He is the man responsible for the great sound on “Kiss Alive ” and Jimi Hendrix amongst other things. I would get into lengthy conversations with him about Kiss. I was a huge Kiss fan. He told me the inside stories and I loved them so much. In a way, it’s one of the reasons why I agreed to do this column. Fans love to hear the inside scoop. You just need someone with objectivity to give it to you.
We are told to report to Electric Lady Land studios in the Village to bring in the equipment. First, we couldn’t find the place. There was only a small sign on this little sort of entrance thing.(hard to describe) next to a movie theater. We get buzzed in and wow. the place is big. But from the outside you would never know it. we take the equipment off the truck, into an elevator and down to the studio. There is a mural on the wall. The employees tell us Hendrix painted it. I am pretty much in awe. This is walking the halls of rock and roll history. I am sitting on the bowl saying to myself, This is where Hendrix took a dump.
I come out of the bathroom and we have to have a meeting. We are told all of us are going to be singing on the record. The road crew and friends of the band were going to sing the background for “I’LL never grow up.” HOLY SHIT, THIS DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER. We had 2 groups. One group was with Mark and the other with Dee. We got around a big mic and on cue, with the music in the background, sang I’ll never grow up, I’ll never grow up, I’ll never grow up, now. We did it about 10 times. then Eddie mixed it all together and it sounded like a huge arena of people.
We had to go back to Electric lady a few more times for recordings but that was just to bring in the stuff. Then there was a change of studio. We had to bring the stuff to Radio City Music Hall. I had no idea, there was a recording studio in there. This one SUCKED. We had to carry all the shit up several flights of stairs. The stairwell was dark and creepy. On the way down, I saw a rat. Elmo was cracking up because he said it was a mouse. Either way, I hate those fucking disgusting vermin shits. I fuckin hate them. I freeze and Elmo puts his end down and then tries to catch the goddam thing and make it his pet. To tell you the truth that bastard would have put it in his mouth if he caught it just to make me throw up. So we finally got out of there and not a moment too soon. Where there is one there is another.
Me, Elmo, Fatty and Moto. It hit us outside Radio City. That we are going to be part of something huge. It dawned on us that Twisted Sister is going in a new direction. This just might be rock and roll history unfolding before our eyes…
PART 6: NEVER BUY LO MEIN FROM A BAIT STORE
So, we are back in the clubs and more popular than ever. It didn’t matter what day of the week, all houses were packed. I knew Tony’s’ days were coming to an end. At some shows, this guy would be showing up with his friends. I think his name was Michael and I think he wore braces. I asked Fatty who this guy was. I rarely spoke to any one new who was hanging around until I was introduced. He said he was the ex-drummer from Alice Cooper. After talking to him for a bit, I really didn’t like him too much. he was this kind of know it all type, snobby prick. It turns out later that the band also didn’t think he was going to work out. The quest continues.
I remember we were going to do our annual jaunt out to the Hamptons. Each summer Twisted added The Mad Hatter of East Quogue onto the schedule. I had to pick up Dee and Roger at Dee’s’ apartment in Manhattan. All the way out there, Roger was busting our balls about why he shouldn’t snort heroin. We know he was kidding now but then we weren’t sure. Dee was trying to talk sense into him and started to get pissed because he really thought Roger wanted to try it. Then finally we realized he was pulling our legs and then we were busting jokes all the way out, but that’s not all that was busting. The night before I ate at McDonalds and it gave me the wind something fierce. I started letting loose. First I blamed Roger. Then it was raw sewage from outside. Finally Dee screams, “ALTINI, YOU FILTHY ANIMAL!” Do you know how funny it looks, to have Dee with shades on and muscle-bound Roger hanging out the back windows of a thunderbird going down the Montawk Highway at about 75 miles an hour screaming that if I didn’t’ stop farting, they were going to kick the shit out of me. When we got there Dee swore he would never get in a car with me again.
We would play there all weekend, so we had to stay in a hotel. We also had a lot of free time on our hands and that’s a dangerous thing for a road crew like ours. Don’t get me wrong, we were the most professional and well respected crew on the circuit but we did do some f’d up things. A couple of us went to the beach after a Friday show. Of course we were all jerked up. Well, Elmo went to lay out for a bit and fell asleep. About 4 hours later some old guy was poking him with a stick. I think the guy thought he was a corpse or a sea monster. Elmo jumped up and the guy nearly shit in his pants. It turns out the guy was trying to get him up because he was redder than those hot tamale candies. He didn’t have the greatest weekend after that.
The dressing room was on the second floor of the club. There was a big fan in the ceiling on the bar Floor. So all the hot air from the club was forced up into the dressing room. So it’s 90 degrees outside with 80% humidity and now the fans are making it 30 degrees hotter. The guys were having trouble with the make up that day. The other problem with the fan was it was over the girls bathroom. You can’t believe what goes on in a girls bathroom before a show. It was a 50 50 split on whipping. It’s amazing what sticks out in your mind from a long time ago.
Saturday’s show is over and we have to find our hotel. It was foggy as hell and it wasn’t easy finding it. most of us got lost and we lost each other. Me and Fatty found what we thought was a road side deli. It seemed everything was closed Sunday morning. We go in and there is a Chinese guy behind the counter. There was a giant jar of pickles on the counter and small bags of ships and a lot of fishing stuff. I was like, what kind of deli is this, they don’t have sandwiches or nothing. so I got 3 pickles and a cup of lo mein. We get settled in our room and I am starving. After 1 pickle you really had enough so I go for the lo mein.
I showed it to Fatty and he starts screaming, What the fuck is it. Lets go back and kick that fuck’s ass in. I had no idea what he is talking about. I look in the cup and the lo mein is moving. So now I think we are both hallucinating when I picked some up, I realized my lo mein was fuckin’ worms. We weren’t in a deli, we were in a bait store. So now everyone is outside and no one can sleep. Charlie was no where to be found. so I found out what room he was in and marked his room with a pickle. I jammed that bastard in the door and it stuck out like a penis with a gonorrhea drip. He wasn’t too happy about that one. Then we went looking for Big Sal. We found out what room he was in, and about 10 of us went through the grounds like commandos crouched down. Just as we were about to beat in the door, he comes flying out, half dressed, swinging his machete telling us how he is going to kill us if we don’t leave him alone. By the way, Elmo and his friends didn’t get there yet. We found out the next day he went into a ditch and when the cops came they found contraband and put them in a lock up until the owner of the bag fessed up. Anyway, the owners of the hotel were getting pissed at us but Sal went in and persuaded him to go to bed.
I found a brick in the middle of the lawn that had Nassau written on it. This became our mascot for the day. I would hold it on my crotch and say its so hard, a cat couldn’t scratch it and proceeded to knock on doors with it. Then we discover the pool. with all the excitement, Sal decided to join us. All the other guests were hiding in their room. No one would come out. So in the fog and rain, we would take the pool furniture and attempt to place it all at the bottom of the pool, like Jacques Cousteau on crack. The funniest thing was watching Sal jump off the diving board with a patio umbrella like Mary Poppins on steroids. With nothing left to do, we finally crashed and got out of there as soon as we woke up. We didn’t want to over stay our welcome.
PART 7: GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK
So here we are. The biggest band in the tri-state area. You know in high school how people would say, Kiss is better than Queen and shit like that. Now it’s Twisted Sister is better than White Tiger or vice versa.
The promoters knew. If a national act was playing and they had trouble selling seats, put T. S. on the bill as a special guest and you will sell out. Such as the case with Judas Priest. They were scheduled to play Convention Hall in Asbury park, NJ They couldn’t sell shit. So John Scher put T. S. on the bill. SOLD OUT!
We get there in the mid afternoon to load in. My fist impression of Asbury Park is, what the fuck. Here it is, the middle of the summer, no one on the beach. it looked like a MOAB hit this town. It was like Newark by the ocean. Elmo backs the Uhaul up to the door but we have another problem. The door is about 3ft higher than the floor of the truck. So we have to take the equipment off like people in a fire brigade. 2 guys would grab and pass to the next 2 and ally oop to the guys at the stage door. What a horror. All the stuff is in and we are waiting for Priest to get done with the sound check. Me and Fatty go exploring. There had to be 20 dressing rooms in this place. All run down of coarse but still you can feel the history in this hall. We went up to the roof and the view was amazing but the hell with that. We need food! Whenever you do a big show, the promoter is supposed to feed you. now the headliner gets to go first and you get what’s left over. Me and fatty found the catered goods. It was a fuckin BBQ that Fred Sanford would have in his junk yard with a cooler with no ice in it and raw hamburger. I think the guy in charge of cooking was named Sal Minella, so we passed.
Twisted’s time for sound check. I was by the guitars fiddling with things and over comes Rob Halford. I thought it was strange for any one in the headliner to come over and chat, especially a singer. They are usually the ones that go to the dressing room and stay there until show time.
So I am thinking, he’s English, maybe they are different or something. So we talk a bit and he says maybe I will see you later. Well, the guitar tech for Priest comes over and says, ‘hey, he likes you.’ I go, ‘What’s not to like?’ ‘No,’ he says, ‘he really likes you.’ I go, ‘Get the fuck out of here.’ I thought this guy was busting my balls; No one was gay in the 80’s metal scene! Then I thought about it. Halford looked like those bikers you would see if you went up the West side of Manhattan at night. Now I am thinking, what the fuck. Big Sal is laughing his ass off when he sees my face. Sound check goes well and now I am hiding till show time.
T. S. hits the stage and the place goes nuts. I think the audience even got to Dee. They were having such a good time playing and the audience was so cool, Dee jumps off the stage and runs into the audience. We have a panic attack cause no one can get out there fast enough to make sure nothing happens. Dee doesn’t give a shit. he is out there running up and down the aisles, singing and putting the mic in fans faces, letting them sing. He finally gets back to the stage with a big smirk on his face. I guess it was another rock and roll first. First, I really think they invented speed metal and second jumping into the audience and being at the mercy of your fans. It was a test of sorts. If you love em, nothing will happen.
T. S. kicked major ass and Priest really had to work for their money that night. They had to be on their game or Twisted would have showed them up. The fans always make out when the opener rocks.
After the show, Halford comes up to me, puts his arm around me and says ‘You want to come on the bus?’ I told him, no way, I like chicks and took off. Well, Sal, to this day, still breaks my chops about that.
The anti-climatic thing about playing that show is the next night, we played a club down the block from there called Park Place. Nice club but last night we played to couple of thousand people. Before the Park Place show, Tony Petri took some of us out to get a cheese steak. I am from New York. I don’t eat a thing called Cheese steak. It sounds fuckin disgusting. He persuades me to try it and it aint so bad. Now I am addicted to them.
PART 8: HITO! HIATA! IT IS….GARBAGE-RA!!
I am sitting on my couch with a big grin on my face, thinking back to the club days. I have to tell you, it was one of the best parts of my life. To this day, it was the only job that I loved to go to. It doesn’t make sense. The hours sucked. You really had no life, outside the band. It was hard labor and unglamorous but you got a sense of accomplishment. To have all this equipment working. All the band had to do is walk in and play. Knowing that by doing your job, the show goes on, the band plays great and the fans are happy, it’s a great feeling.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was after the equipment was all packed away, you had a cold one while the sun was coming up and getting ready for the ride home. We were in the back of Hammerheads, a club in Long Island. The parking lot was empty and it was a beautiful, quiet summer morning. There were more people than usual hanging out with us. I believe this is the first time that I actually talked to Little Donna. I used to see her all the time in the front row but never met her.
So, the whole crew is there and a few fans just chatting and all of a sudden this loud crash comes out of no where. It sounded like a hundred bottles breaking. I tell you, people jumped off the ground. We were like, what the hell was that. Then it happened again. It was coming from the dumpster. Then we hear this rolling sound. Something in there like a wild animal, was trapped in the dumpster. I am thinking, giant rat. I want to get the hell out of there. I HATE RATS!
Moto wants me to go with him to the dumpster to see what it is. I know I am going to be sorry. This bastard rodent is gonna fly out of there and bite my neck. So we sneak closer and closer…. and closer. Moto hits the side of the dumpster and Elmo rockets to his feet, with his face staring at the sky, his tongue out of his mouth, letting out a horrendous noise. Then he dives back into the dumpster and stands up again. This time making the noise but tearing off his shirt like The Hulk and making the noise of Godzilla. Now everyone is rattled, confused and laughing. I ask him “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Elmo says in his broken Japanese , “I am Garbage-ra” “I am new Japanese monster.” Then he balances himself on the side of the dumpster, let’s out a scream and jumps back in. Everyone was crying. You just kept laughing because who the hell would think of something like this.
Time to go home and get a good night sleep.
PART 9: GOODBYE, TONY, HELLO, JOEY… GOODBYE, JOEY, HELLO, RICHIE…
I don’t quite remember when Tony’s last show was. It was either at Speaks or Detroit. It was a pretty awkward night. Moto had to tape the cymbal stands down to the stage. He hit them so hard during the first song that they were falling over. No one knew how to act. We were told that the guy that had been coming down to the past couple of shows was taking over. He was Joey Brighton. When I first met him, he was a real nice guy. I was thinking, that he had some big shoes to fill and he didn’t seem as tough as the rest of the band. Tough meaning that the band has been around. They had “road rage” in their hearts. I think that’s what made them play harder. To satisfy every customer, to win over new ones and silence the “rock critic.” Joey didn’t have this quality. he was like the kid that went to his local high school and left home to go away to college. Bad Boy University.
The first sound check was pretty amazing. This is the first time T. S. had double bass to add to the mix. Well, Joey got up to check out his kit and we went “HOLY SHIT.” This guy is unreal. Elmo dubbed him octofoot. It sounded like he had 4 sets of arms or 4 sets of feet.
Instead of doing a T.S. song they did “Armed and Ready” by the Michael Shenker group.
Moto’s jaw dropped, Elmo had a smile on his a face like he just got some. Fatty, stone face and unemotional (as usual) said, “eh, he’s O.K.” So he was in the band, but not a band member yet. With T. S. you have to pay your dues. You just can’t walk in on something they have been busting their asses for years. You have to prove your worth. Only time will tell.
The first couple of shows were a bit difficult. It seemed Joey was having trouble keeping the beat. Everyone thought it was just the whole getting used to everything routine. The fans new it was a little off and that bothered Jay Jay a whole lot. He wanted this thing fixed pronto. Mark would go over during songs and try to help him calm down and get back into the T. S. groove. Dee did his best with clapping the cadence and when he got it he would go back to the audience. But it was happening more often than it should have. By no means am I Joey bashing but this is what was happening. The front row chicks really liked Joey. He was a very nice person to all the fans and when he would get a compliment, you could tell he was blushing. I think he was taking all the fan stuff in and not taking his T. S. situation serious enough.
I really liked Joey and I didn’t want to see him go but I knew if things didn’t straighten out, he would be gone.
We were playing the famous Factory on Staten Island. My friend A.J. Pero was in town. He really liked Twisted Sister but he had his own thing going on. He was out in California with his band. He thought Joey was good but we both knew A. J. was better. I told him that I didn’t think Joey was going to be around much longer but I didn’t know for sure. He didn’t think he was going to be in California much longer and, when he got back to LA he would have to make some tough decisions. I told him if and when he gets back to give me a ring so we could catch up. When looking back at that time, I realize that everything does happen for a reason. He just happened to pop in to say hello to me but the ground work was being laid down for future stardom.
T. S. was going to be playing the Palladium shortly, so they had extra rehearsals to get things right. Joey was complaining that he could not hear out of his monitor, that’s why he was screwing up. I talked to Jay Jay about it but he said even if that was true, a professional could overcome that. He was right. Many times a members monitor would go on the blink and they stuck with it.
The Palladium was a beautiful place. You stand up on the stage when no one is in the house and you say, ‘this place ain’t so big.’ When the audience arrives and the sound of people fill the air, it really gets big and the energy is like the air feels just before a lightning storm. After hanging out in the dressing room for a while, I went out behind the curtains with Jay to take a peek out in the audience. There was a big banner hanging from the balcony saying “where’s Tony” that kinda put a damper on things. It bothered jay but he shook it off.
Show time! Show was going very well, but Joey started to loose it around the 4th song. I went behind the stacks to try to help Joey. I was joined by Joe Atlantis. Joe was counting off for him and I was doing the air cymbals and drums. It helped but not as much as we would have liked it.
Maybe a week or so later I think we were playing Rockaways, and Jay told me that Joey was going to be leaving. It was sad news because he was such a nice guy. It was a business decision. He said although he was a talented drummer, he wasn’t right for the band and the fans pay and expect a Twisted Sister show. He felt he was letting down his people.
Jay Jay said that a friend of Mark’s will be joining us soon. It was Richie Teeter, an ex Dictator.
PART 10: THE GEMINI, BIG SAL, AND ALTINI’S FAN CLUB
Hey Ya, haven’t written in a while. I wanted to clear up something that I wrote about.
It was Petri, Teeter, Brighton, Pero. Now that I think about it, Richie Teeter did the band a favor to fill in whilst they looked for a permanent drummer. Rich was a great guy, easy going and had a great personality. he did the famous Barinelli jeans commercial. remember, ‘Barinelli barinelli, oooo, Barinelli.’ I still could hear him sing it. He really wanted them to find someone quick, he wanted out in a bad way. I guess because he had other projects or it just wasn’t his bag.
That’s the only corrections I have for now but I can bet my bottom dollar, it won’t be my last!
As Mr. French put it, “What’s the matter, having a senior moment?” I had to laugh at that because it is so true. you remember something. Then you write about it. Then you post it. Then you go, I f’d up, it happened like this. then you say, God, the fans must think I am on vitamin Q or something.
I used to like it when we would play The Gemini in Yorktown Heights, New York. It had a good stage, the dressing room wasn’t too small and the crowd was just great. The band would usually come in individually. Like the rest of us, everyone had to drive to all the clubs. When Dee got there, he would go straight to the video games. he was like a video maniac. I think the games were Asteroids and Invader or something like that. He would pump $10.00 at a clip and I think a little kid named Danny Stanton would play him every now and then but don’t quote me on that.
At The Gemini I found out something I thought was unusual (at the time) for a guy in a band. I am talking to Jay Jay and he says, ‘Altini, did you know you look like Luke on General Hospital?’ Eddie chimes in and agrees with Jay Jay in his raspy voice. I asked how they knew about G. H. and they said they watch it. I am like, huh? But it made sense. You work all night. You get home at 5 or 6Am. You get up at 1 and there were only 7 t.v. stations on back then. Regular people are at work. You get hooked on the soaps.
I wasn’t as outgoing then as I am today. I would get nervous going on the stage. One of my jobs was to get a piece of duct tape, roll it like a long skinny joint and put it on the mic stands. then stick the pics on that. Half the time my knees were shaking. So it was to my great displeasure that when it came time for Mr. French to do his ‘buy a T-shirt rap.’ He would call me on stage to model the T-shirt du jour and mention that I look like Luke to the audience. Every time we played there after that, whenever I walked out on stage at the Gemini, these bunch of maniacs in the front row would yell out ‘Luke, Luke, Luke’ with their fists in the air. They were loving dubbed ‘Altinis’ fan club.’
The Twisted Sister fan is really like no other. They get into the show as much as the band did. The fans would leave the clubs soaked in sweat and exhausted. One night we realized that the regular bouncers weren’t working at the Gemini. I think they just hired a new crew and the crew wasn’t prepared for a T. S. show or the fans that come to see them. During the show, the band noticed that some people in the crowd were being man handled and thrown out by these guys. Dee and Mark waved Big Sal over to their side of the stage. After a short talk, Sal came back over to Eddies’ side. He told me that they wanted the bouncers to cool out and leave our people alone. I saw Sal go over and stop one of the bouncers from beating on one of the fans and the guy started getting pumped up. Sal came back and said ‘Make sure the guitars are out of the way, something is brewing.’ I remember Little Roger and I think Glenn Golden (Scott Aufner’s boys) were with me and I told them to stay behind me. One bouncer came over and took a swing at Sal. Sal grabbed his arm and threw him to the ground. Then a bunch of others came over. Sal went into the corner and kicked and punched his way through them. He literally beat the shit out of the whole squad and the band didn’t miss a note. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it for myself.
Afterwards, the club apologized and I guess everything was OK. I don’t know how many more times we played that place, if it all but I do know one thing. Someone videoed part of a show we did there because I saw this tape recently. Video was in its infancy and the quality was so so. I particularly like it because Dee had a blow up doll and threw it off stage. After the song was over he was asking were I was. I wasn’t at my station, I was indisposed. So he goes ‘Where’s Altini, where the fuck is Altini?’, shrugs his shoulders and says ‘He’s probably fucking the blowup doll in the back.’ So that’s my claim to fame if the tape ever goes public.
That’s it for today folks.
PART 11: ‘WHERE’S MY CORNED BEEF SANDWICH??’
With St.Patrick’s Day around the corner, It is time to tell the story that has been in the crew for 2 decades now. Some of you old time fans have seen the limited edition shirts – ‘Thanks, Kryme’ – and wondered What the hell it meant. Well, now I will tell you but first I am sure some of you are wondering how Donna fits into the scheme of things. I gonna tell you a little about Donna first.
Now station was always on stage right. That means if you are looking at the stage, I am on the left side. I started to notice this little girl a whole lot, in the front row. At first I thought she was a kid that snuck in. The stages were usually pretty high up from the audience. I mean every where we played,she was there. The reason why I noticed her so much is that she had crutches. I was speaking to Elmo one night and I mentioned the girl with the crutches. he says, ‘Oh, that’s Donna from Connecticut.’ Probably the only person who would tell you if the guys were on or off that night, without hesitation. I would go down in between sets and meet the troops. I started to talk to Donna and realized that she was a shy person, around my age and was pleasant to talk to. Jay saw me talking to her one night and asked about her. I told him her story, the crutches,the traveling and her devotion to the band. He was very impressed and wanted to meet her. I remember the day he came down to the side of the stage and sent me to go get her. I think she almost died that day. After a lengthy conversation he went back and she returned to “her” spot. From that day on, Jay made sure Donna had room in the front. End of story. What Donna wants, Donna gets.
Once again it’s time to play Emit’s Inn in Jamesburg, New Jersey. It’s St. Patty’s day and the bar is advertising Corned beef sandwiches, green beer and Twisted Sister. I am saying great, we can have something to eat after set up because this was a hill billy town back then and no where to get a bite. I started immediately after set up, where is the corned beef. They said, it aint ready yet. ok, I will wait. The band shows up for sound check but they made a new dressing room. WITHOUT A BATHROOM. The band isn’t to happy about this. They use the public facilities until the bar opens. Lets face it. These guys can’t use the public bathroom, the way they looked and the shit they say up on stage. Might cause a bit of a problem. Dee comes out of the girls’ bathroom and says ‘You can’t believe the shit these girls write in the bathroom.’ If guys think they are fucked up, nothing compares to the filth of the girls bathroom. The girls win hands down with the graffiti. This guy has a big one, I am going fuck that guy, this one is a lousy lay. Dee was laughing his ass off with some of the shit he was reading.
The doors open and when you got to go you got to go. So they peed in cups and left them neatly around the dressing room wall. I ask again, where is the corned beef? Not ready yet. I am like, what the fuck, I am starving along with everybody else.
The show goes well, no real problems except for the club owner. He gets loaded for any reason. It’s St. Patty’s day, good reason to get loaded. To get paid, Jay has to sit down with him and do shots or else they weren’t getting paid. This pissed him off but he would trick the owner into thinking he drank and finally got paid. We are almost done with the breakdown and there is a screaming lunatic in the dressing room. It is one of the bouncers who had to clean the dressing room. He was like psycho. ‘I am not cleaning that fucking room! There are piss glasses all over the place! You people make me sick!,’ he expounds. ‘I ain’t doin’ it.’ Then the other bouncers get involved. A lot of screaming and yelling and it was going to get violent. I figured let me try to change the subject and get people calmed down. I screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘Where the FUCK IS MY CORNED BEEF SANDWICH?’ I think the bar owner’s name was Garvey. He comes up slurring, ‘You don’t get a sandwich till you clean up the piss.’ I know someone else stepped in and said they would do the dirty job and everyone was happy except me. No sandwich. So when you guys see some one wearing an old T.S. shirt that says on the front, ‘What is St. Pattys day without corned beef?’ and on the back it says, ‘You can’t have a sandwich till you clean up the piss’ You will know what it means.
Tears are coming out of my eyes now, and those of you who were there know how funny that episode was in real life.
All the best,