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DIVA ACROSS AMERICA, PART I


ARIGON STARR PROVIDES A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT LIFE ON THE ROAD, DIVA-STYLE!

We started out late on a Thursday night. The van was delivered from our friends at Budget Beverly Hills...and it was time to pack the darn thing. It was a lovely V-8, 350 Ford Van...with air-con and a tape player. We picked up bass player Johnny B at his home in East LA -- very late. We practically woke up every dog on the street. There's nothing like totally blocking the road in the middle of the night trying to figure out the best way to pack a huge Peavey amp. It's not to be missed!

In the van were drummer Nicholas Peters, bass player Johnny B, backing vocalist and flute player Gay Wahpecome and band manager, Janet Miner. Of course...I was there too...AAAY! I packed my Ovation Acoustic guitar, the Strat, Roland VG-8 and a tiny, vintage 1980's MusicMan 50-watt amp. More ammo for you equipment freaks -- just in case someone is writing a book later.....AAAY!Elwood Pouts

While we're on the subject of gear, Johnny B plays a custom bass. He's left-handed, just like Paul McCartney! Nick plays a vintage four-piece Ludwig kit, just like Ringo. Gay plays a metal flute, just like Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull...AAAY! She also has an assortment of percussion gadgets she uses like Davy Jones from the Monkees. Don't you dare call her Tracy Partridge! She's a professional!

Leaving pets and loved ones behind was tough. Elwood (the ginger tabby) tried to pack himself in with the gear, while Jake (the tuxedo cat) actively POUTED. Did you know that cats can Arigon & Wilma MankillerPOUT? Nick left behind all of his furry friends, and well we don't know how Gay's cat Blackie felt about the whole affair. I had previously made a trip to Borders to get a armload of attention diverting reading materials, including "In Style" and "Movieline" magazines. Nothing like reading about Hollywood when you're not living it everyday! I mean, what is that hairstyle called? Why does Courtney Love inflict herself on Hollywood premieres night after night? What drove Brad Pitt to don a dress? Hmm.....Gay busied herself with Soap Opera magazines and Country Weekly. Gotta keep up with Garth and Faith Hill! Nick is a big fan of celebrity biographies and had a big stack of them with him. Johnny powered up the CD player with the latest hits from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz and Sevendust.

Once packed in the van, it was pedal-to-the-metal in order to get to Tahlequah, Oklahoma in time for a Friday evening gig at Ford's Alley. The lovely Linda Turnbull-Lewis, recently a major part of the successful Chad Smith for Principal Chief Campaign, had been connecting with people all over Tahlequah to let everyone know we were coming.The Band At Ford's Alley

Labor Day weekend has been traditionally been host of the Cherokee National Homecoming for many, many years! The Homecoming includes a pow-wow, exhibitions at the Cherokee Heritage Center and a big parade through downtown Tahlequah. This was my second trip there -- and I was really looking forward to seeing relatives and old friends.

After many stops on the I-40 for coffee, Starbucks Frappucinos, Coke and bathroom stops, we made it to Tahlequah at around 4:00 AM. We found an all night restaurant and waited to check in with Linda. Boy, those biscuits were sure good! AAAY! When I finally got in contact with Linda, she told me that a bunch of folks had already called Ford's Alley to reserve tables -- something they hadn't experienced lately. "Are you sitting down," Linda asked me. "Wilma Mankiller has reserved an entire TABLE for the show. So has Chad Smith." Chad had just won the title of Principal Chief in the recent elections and was going to be plenty Robert & Evelyn Conleybusy over the holidays. "I also arranged for you to stay with my friend, Cherokee author and historian Robert Conley. They'll meet you over at the Restaurant of the Cherokees and direct you to their home," said Linda. I was SO excited and tired at the same time! I had been a Wilma Mankiller fan for many years -- and I had heard about Robert Conley from my friends Terrie Restivo and Kay Cope.

The Conley home was sprawling -- but very comfortable. There was enough room for the whole band, plus some folks we'd met at the Native Music festival at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. We rested then headed over to Ford's Alley for the show.

Joel & Niecey, the proprietors of Ford's Alley, had put the word out. The room was full of familiar faces of friends from California, relatives and the Cherokee elite (AAAAY), including actor Wes Studi and his wife Maura, Chad Smith and Wilma Mankiller. Although it was hot, we played well and it was a thrill to see the concentration and attention paid to us by the audience. I'll say it a million Arigon & Wes "The Sphinx" Studitimes -- meeting Wilma Mankiller was like meeting a Beatle. She was gracious, charming and it was SO difficult to not be nervous while playing for her. We had fun altering the lyrics to "Apache A-Go Go" singing "Chad Smith A-Go Go" and really making him smile. We stayed until Joel and Niecey kicked us out -- which was rather late in the evening.

The next day presented a missed opportunity -- we didn't get into the Homecoming Parade on time. Certain sleepyheads (you know who you are) delayed us getting into town. Yet, we still had a good time. Reporter Leta Rector spent a long time interviewing the band and wrote a great article (Indian Country Today, September 1999) about us. We had fun at the Conleys, meeting their other friends, catching up with old friends like Bob Hicks -- then heading over to the pow-wow. Gay, Nick and Johnny spent the evening with Robert, who regaled them with a reading from his book, BRASS. We later watched the tape from the inauguration of Berniece!!!!Chad Smith -- which moved Robert to tears. It was a beautiful moment, watching the proud faces both Robert & Evelyn, who worked tirelessly to help Chad get elected. From the sublime, we went to the ridiculous -- watching Tim Burton's epic, "Ed Wood."

Sadly, it was time to move on. Nick said goodbye to the Conley's pigs and their big dog, Berniece. With the van packed and loaded, it was off to Lincoln, Nebraska.




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