Ushering at the Janet Jackson concert—By Dwight Hobbes, Entertainment, etc.


Just great. Begged and bugged my boss to work Janet Jackson. Walk in late. Not CPT, still, tardy on the clock. Foul it, can’t get here no earlier than now. Punch in, apologize and join the usher’s meeting. That’s where you find out where you’re stationed for the show, how long it runs, whether photography’s allowed and other things.

The big one is photographs. Whether the star is going to be gracious or have a fit over it. Get squared away, relax and hang out. Shoot the breeze with my boy Wesley, say “Hey” to Ruth. For the next hour or so, it’s pretty much hurry up and wait ‘til the event happens.

At one of the busiest doors on the main floor, it’s me and Kiki. No problem. She knows what she’s doing. And I been at it so long, I’m starting to think they’re building around me. We got it covered. Bring on the noise.

You know going in it’s a see-and-be-seen thing. Shoot, Janet Jackson? Playing the Orpheum Theater instead of an airplane hangar arena? Everybody who bought a ticket is gon’ come stylin’ and profilin’, furs and jewelry out the pawn shop, the whole nine.

So much for what I know. For one, it’s August. So, no fur. For another, as the crowd streams in, there’s no pretentious glitz. Outside rings and watches, nothing shining, much less gleaming. People hardly dressed up. Regular, non-descript, light fabric. A lot in tee-shirts and shorts. Common sense, summery stuff.

Even ladies who opt to doll up go with understated, eye-catching class. Most of the guys must have figured, “Look, I’m shelling out serious ducats to bring her to see Janet Jackson. On top of parking, drinks and dinner? She need to be thankful I ain’t come in my nice, comfortable pj.’s.”

Surprise. Nobody’s late. No one I saw, anyway. At Black shows, I’m sorry, but some stereotypes fit; you can count on stragglers constantly trickling in.

Nope, not tonight. Evidently, JJ fans don’t sleep a wink on their girl. Another surprise.

Detractors call President Barack Obama many things — none of them “stupid”. When homeboy caught the backs of same-sex marriage advocates, he knew what he was doing. He might’ve had scouts at Janet Jackson concerts. Nine attendees out of 10 here are upscale (you can, God bless ‘em, spot those who went into hock to buy tickets). Give or take only half the crowd’s Black, a whole bunch White, and easily one-quarter gentlemen strolling in with gentlemen, women escorting ladies. All these folk vote.

Jackson hits the stage. Pandemonium isn’t the word, but, it’ll do. The place erupts in a deafening — damned near cataclysmic — roar: people leaping to their feet like they sat on a tack. Clapping, yelling, screaming, arms waving like windmills. In short, everybody has lost they damned mind.

I look around, make sure I’ve taken care of my station. Tell Kiki, “I’m in.” She nods.

Strolling down toward the stage, scanning this absolutely crazed audience, have a job to do. Keep my aisle reasonably clear. Stop people trying to tape the show. Coordinate with the security guards. Fine. That done. Get fairly close to the front and catch a hellacious experience.

This was supposed to simply be about solving my curiosity to see the icon in the flesh. In short order, slack-jaws, knees watery, I’m lucky not to have a personal accident.

Okay, everybody knows Janet Jackson’s mug is camera friendly. Went and got that surgically narrowed nose and whatever else facial work to be White-girl pretty as possible.

Well, I got news for you. From the waist down, there’s no disguising her, eh, heritage. The child is triple thick. And swings her hips around serious enough to break down a brick wall.

I’m dazed, happy as a hog in slop.

But, have to get back to work (life’s full of little tragedies). Stay there long enough to see her strut back and forth a few more times. And sing like a siren.

Works for me. Finish my life a very happy man.

The whole place starts emptying out. I people watch. What the hell else you gonna do? Spot a fetching, full-figured sistah, pulling her microscopic hem down over a shapefully vast expanse. She had to have been tugging at that thing all night long. How in God’s name did she sit down?

A cat strolls past, the original Dapper Dan. One of them brothas who can pull off that old-style; beige leisure suit topped off with a snap brim. Doesn’t hurt that he’s slim, muscle-trimmed.

Time to get the hell out of here and go hit my bed so hard it hits me back. My favorite retort to patrons who whine, “Oh, you mean we have to go home?” is, “No. But, you got to leave.” Generally gets a good chuckle. Theatre rule of thumb: leave ’em laughing. So they want to come back and spend some more money.

Hit the street. Catch the bus home. What can I say? Life’s exciting.


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