“Thanks for coming, guys. As always.” Joanie hugged Bart and me before her opening set. Bart chuckled in response: “Well, I work here, so you shouldn’t thank me.” Really, though, it was Bart who often booked Joanie, despite her band’s mediocrity. It wasn’t hard to support her—she was good enough to be something big. Her voice has this folksy sincerity, this heartbreaking earnestness. But for some reason, she wasn’t taking off, despite years of trying, and a Berklee degree to boot. Thankfully, Bart could keep booking her, to the venue owner’s chagrin.
The audience filled up toward the end of her set, the people arriving for the main act. Joanie, who went by her full name (Joanie George) on stage, always picked up a new fan or two, but never saw things snowball. In the cab on the way home, she broke out into sobs. “I’m sorry to be your charity friend. You don’t have to keep coming. I should just give up.” Given her talent, her focus, and her lack of any applicable work skills, I assured her that she wasn’t wasting anyone’s time, especially not her own.
I got an email from Joanie the next day, asking about how I juggled my work persona, Eddy, with my actual self. My reply was a bit heavy: while I would like to just have one identity, being Eddy gave me a dissociative disorder, which allowed me to do things that I didn’t feel Eric would do. Mostly, Eddy had thicker skin and was a better bullshitter. He was a businessman, born and raised in New York. I worried that parts of Eric were falling away—certain Midwest charms—but Eddy was responsible for Eric’s well-being, if not also threatening to absorb it entirely. So ultimately, a balancing act.
My doorbell rang at 8am that Saturday. I spoke groggily into the intercom: “Go away, Witnesses of Jehovah.” Then, another ring. “What? Who is it?!” Joanie’s voice responded: “Eric, it’s me.” I buzzed her in. She looked drastically different: Her once long, auburn hair was now bobbed and bottle blonde. Despite the morning hour, she looked ready for a night out, with dark eye shadow and a short black cocktail dress. I still saw Joanie in there, except she seemed ten years older. Suddenly, her email inquiry made sense. “And who are you?” I asked, matter-of-fact. “Saturant,” she replied, smiling with confidence. “Okay…okay,” I said, keeping eyes locked, nodding in support.
“Joanie wants you to manage her? She’s fucking crazy.” Bart was skeptical, and assumed that I agreed with him. “Bart, she’s good enough. You know she is.” He wasn’t having it: “Is this some phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes metaphor? It looks desperate. What’s her big plan? Her band still sucks. And do you know the first thing about managing musicians? It’s a helluva lot different from actors.” “Maybe,” I replied. “But isn’t she just acting anyway? It’s a character. And I’m good enough at my job that I could learn the rules for music.” Bart didn’t buy it. I’m not so sure I bought it either.
Sam was surprisingly supportive when I asked for his blessing—I would manage Joanie in what little free time I had. He said I would have to start my own side project, and that he wasn’t going to stop me from helping my friend, especially since her work wouldn’t conflict with our clients’. “Just be mindful of the friendship,” he advised. “These things rarely end well.” He asked for a copy of her music. I sent him two songs she had recorded acoustically. He called me into his office after listening to them. “You’ve got gold here, Eddy. Let me know where I can help.”
I met Joanie at a rehearsal in Clinton Hill later that night. She was ecstatic that I would help her, and I was equally ecstatic that she trusted me. I wasn’t thrilled, however, that aside from her Saturant transformation, everything else was the same. Moments into the first number, I cut the group off: “The band needs to go.” Obviously, the band was none too pleased. “‘Scuse me bro?” said the drummer. “But who the fuck are you?” Joanie turned to me: “Is that Eddy in there?” “The band is gone,” I said, knowing this was what Sam would have done, too. The bassist spit in my face as they exited.