In celebration of Thanksgiving, I want to share this chapter from my book, … And I Breathed, with you today. This is a special story for me about friendship, my mom and what it means to truly be a hero. I hope you enjoy it. Big hugs of gratitude – Jason.
Chapter 14: Enrique, The Hero, And A Dirt Road In Mexico
I woke up early. I got dressed in my concert promoter garb ―a T-shirt and jeans―and started on my way to the San Jose Arena, the new hockey arena home of the NHL Sharks.
This was my first big concert at Alvarez and Garner, the one I discussed earlier that turned our company around. Ruben and I had managed to score the biggest concert of the year, of the last several years perhaps.
Enrique Iglesias had burst onto the scene in 1995 with a Spanish album chock-full of hits. He followed it up in 1997 with VIVIR and the hits kept rolling. Now he was coming to San Jose, and I was the promoter.
I’d never promoted a big concert and I really had no idea what I was supposed to do that morning. But Ruben told me that one of us needed to be there, so, as the youngster, there I was.
It was 6:00 a.m. when I arrived and the production team was already hard at work building the stage and unloading trucks and crates. These are the behind-the-scenes heroes of the concert business, the men and women who put together the puzzle that ultimately helps the artist shine.
(Behind-the-scenes heroes, for example, like Steve, who I would meet much later in my career. He was a concert industry legend. Short and stocky with untamed red hair, he had been producing concerts for three decades. He was a storied veteran who, besides being the best at his trade, had a unique claim to fame. He had survived not one, not two, but three plane crashes with rock bands, including the well-known Lynyrd Skynyrd crash, and walked away with nothing but scarred memories and an almost myth-like status in the business.)
For the next eight hours I sat there watching the concert production assembled like a time-lapse picture, only this was in real time. Painstakingly slow.
Somewhere around 3:00 p.m. the intensity level of the venue rose and in walked the man of the hour, Enrique. Tall, lanky, and 22 years old at the time, he was three years younger than I was. I didn’t know what to expect. I would soon find out.
He did a quick sound check, ran through versions of his hits, and then headed off the stage. I figured he would leave quickly, too busy to stick around. Instead he walked over to a pair of Hispanic women who were mopping a backstage floor. He said warmly, “Hi, I am Enrique.” He shook their hands, then continued on until he had said hi to every employee on site. Eventually he ended up with me and we chatted for a minute.
I would go on to promote nearly 100 shows with Enrique over our careers. In many ways we grew up in the business together. I always admired his hard work and ability to maintain a child-like fun charisma.
Of course, in retrospect things are always funny, but at the time sometimes funny sucks.
Like the time we went to Las Vegas. On the plane ride home Enrique saw my new BlackBerry. He told me he was thinking of getting one and asked me if he could check it out. Of course I said yes and he spent the plane ride playing with it like an innocent child with a new toy … or so I thought. When we landed, he gave it back to me with a twinkle in his eye.
On my drive home I began to receive strange messages from people in the industry. Things like “What?” … “Are you OK?” … and most disturbingly, “I never knew you felt that way … .” Enrique had spent the entire flight sending love notes, sarcastic insults, and even a resignation letter to my boss. He then deleted the evidence and let me discover what he’d done, reply by excruciating reply from my surprised colleagues.
But the true story of Enrique, less fun but more telling as to his character, is this:
In the last months of my mom’s life I took my entire family on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We rented a little house at the beach and enjoyed what would be our last vacation together. It was a welcomed reprieve from hospitals and doctors and therapies. Just a mom and her family, taking in the love.
Enrique was in town performing and so one night my sister and I went to see his show. He asked why I was in town and I told him. His face melted and he told me he wanted to come see my mom. I thanked him for that and figured it was one of those nice things people tell you and then never do. Except the next day he texted me and asked for the address. He came later that day, but we were out at the beach and didn’t hear the door. The next day I took my mom and family to swim with the dolphins at a nearby park. It was a stark realization of how sick my mom was as she was unable to get in the water with her favorite animals. She sat on the side of the pool, her feet dangling in the water, enjoying the sight of her children and grandkids playing with the beautiful dolphins.
As we were nearing the end of our adventure, Enrique texted me again that he was leaving town and wanted to stop by. I called and told him we were out. I thanked him for his kindness and told him it was okay, once again trying to let him off the hook, assuming it was just a hassle for him.
He stopped me and said clearly, “Jason, I want to do this. I’m going to head to the airport and let’s meet in the middle so I can give your mom a hug.”
And we did. We stopped at a gas station on a dirt road in Mexico where my mom and Enrique Iglesias chatted and laughed and hugged. It was a special moment for my mom, whose best understanding of what I did for work was always that I was Enrique Iglesias’ promoter. And you know what? I was never prouder than that day to say this was true.
After my mom passed we encouraged friends and family to donate to the Lange Foundation in lieu of sending flowers. The program rescues animals set to be killed in Los Angeles-area shelters and gives them a second chance at life. In total we raised over $100,000, and guess who the biggest donor was?
A hero is simply a man or woman who touches the heart of another … the way @enrique305 touched the heart of my mom.
We have a skewed definition of hero in our world. We judge heroism by money or fame or sports exploits when often the hero is a simple man or woman who touches the heart of another. A person who cares enough to make a difference.
Life is full of surprises, and sometime you discover a hero is a rock star on a dirt road in Mexico.