In 1989 I was a man with a plan! I wanted to take a production crew into a Maximum Security Prison and do a concert for the inmates.
My producer, Reggie Fisher and I went to prisons all over the state of California. We paused our search at one of the most notorious State Prisons, in the world. San Quentin State Prison is California’s oldest and best known correctional institution, which was established on the site currently known as Point San Quentin. San Quentin was and is an intimidating location, in every sense. It was old, big, bad and wonderful! The warden was interested in our idea and we went to see him and the place several times. (If you ever commit a crime, be sure that you cross a State Line, because, you do not want to be put into a “Sate Prison”)
Each time we went to the horror that is San Quentin we were required to sign a ‘Non Hostage Agreement, which stated that if taken hostage, no inmate would be released in order to spare our life! This, in itself, made our sphincters tighten! The warden gave us several tours of the facility and, I must say, familuarity did not make the place any less creepy.
During our negotiations, we saw every nook and cranny of this sprawling, dungeon of a long gone era, including Death Row! The paint was peeling, the walls seeped water which ran down to the floors in a never-ending waterfall. The inmates were dark, shadowy figures who mumbled and screamed at will! San Quentin is a noisy place and a mere visit to this frightening location could make any criminal change his ways and follow the “Straight and Narrow” I stopped driving over the speed limit! Just in case.
At one point the warden asked us how much we wanted to be paid for this concert. I wisely said nothing, wanting to avoid the paper work and scrutiny that I knew would ensue! The deal was don and we set a date for one month in the future!
We began to prepare for this adventure. A crew had to be gathered and background checks were run on everyone that would enter the facility. Trucks had to be rented, recording equipment and cameras were rented, rehearsals had to be done and as the date grew nearer we all began to wonder if we had bitten off more that we could chew! I also brought along my back up singers Lauren Adems and V. Paterson, AKA ‘The Bitches”
We arrived at San Quentin before sun up! Serious men came out and began the rigorous task of searching every crate, box, purse, pocket and sleeve! Hostage Agreement were signed and when the gate finally opened with a clank and a grown we all knew there was no turning back! We pulled onto the grounds and two sets of gates closed behind us. We were in the slammer!
We slowly rolled over to the auditorium and the crew began to load in. “The Bitches” and I were escorted to the dressing room area and got into out stage cloths. The ladies and I went over our notes. We had one shot at this and I had no intention of making even one small mistake!
When the riggers, the camera crew, and the sound engineers were ready and before our audience was escorted in, we did sound and light checks. Nothing was left to chance! The three of us went back stage and began putting the finale touches on our hair and make up. We could hear the men filing in. They were loud and talking and joking with one another and were two-thousand strong! The inmates that were on lock down like Charlie Manson were not allowed to attend. Thank God! I knew that Charlie would have tried to do something that would draw all the attention to himself and I did Not Need that!
Showtime arrived and the inmates were not to be kept waiting. This was a treat for them and one could both hear and feel the anticipation coming from them.
I sent “The Bitches” out first and they took their place, at their mic. Of course, the inmates erupted into “Cat calls and whistles. My producer and I were back stage waiting and listening for the men to settle. It took about ten minutes for this to happen. I gave Reggie the nod and he went out to begin the music for my entrance.
I stood alone in the dark of the wing waiting for the music to arrive at my walk on Que. Pecisley on the down beat I put my best foot forward and walked out. Prison guards were on the floor and lining the stage between us and the “Audience”. At this point a great calm came over me and I went into committed mode! I walked to center stage and was given a reasonable reception. I paused and waited for the men to settle again. This was “It”! When the room went down to complete silence, I said, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen!” When they heard this and realized that I was paying respect and showing some knowledge of “Life in the Joint” they exploded into chears out of returned respect for me. It was all I coild do to keep from bursting into tears!
The concert went of without a hitch and you can get the DVD at my web site at: http://www.http://kipaddotta.com/kips-cds/
I am Kip Addotta
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