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Me and Jo Dee

Posted: Sunday, Aug 3rd, 2014

One of the fun things about this job is the opportunity I get to meet a lot of different people. I have fun talking to people, learning their stories and sharing some of them here, with you.

Not every story I hear gets into the paper, and not every person I meet wants their story told. I usually try to discern what category person I am talking to before I get the notebook out.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jo Dee Messina over the phone. If, like me, you have no idea who that is, you can do a quick Google search and learn, as I did, that she is a pretty popular country music star. Hmm. Who knew?

After working through her people, we finally arranged a suitable time for the interview. When she called the Herald, she was funny and kind, two of my favorite traits. But she did ask if I was using a made-up name. “Is that your REAL name?” We chatted about kids, life and eventually, her latest album. Before she hung up she said, “Come see me after the show.”

I imagine she says that to all the reporters.

On Saturday, I attended the Uinta County Fair concert, which featured music by “Due West” and Charlie Jenkins. After they played, my friend suggested we go meet the bands.

Wait one second. Meeting bands is not something I do. I might appear bold and brash on the outside, but inside I’m pretty shy. And I don’t just walk up to people for no good reason.

She insisted I do my job as a reporter and march down onto the fairgrounds and interview those young fellows. Hiding behind my camera and under a hat, I followed her, half expecting the local sheriff’s posse to stop us dead in our tracks.

We made it all the way to the barricade, when the friendly deputies did stop us in our tracks. And, they had the audacity to laugh when I said I wanted to interview the bands.

After their laughter died down and they wiped the tears out of their eyes, one deputy said he would find out if the band wanted to be interviewed.

A long time later, I assume after he assured them that I was “legit,” he came back and said they would do it. The only problem? I had neither a notebook nor a pen. No problem. My erstwhile friend cheerfully agreed to take notes on her phone, while I did the interview.

Once the talent came over, the guys were quite nice, and the interview went well. Except when I asked them the best use for duct tape. They looked at me quizzically. Duct tape? I explained 15-questions, the Friday feature that runs in the Herald and they quickly came up with a number of good uses for duct tape, including fixing broken refrigerator shelves, guitar cases and glasses.

By then, the main act, my new best friend, Jo Dee Messina was on the stage. She played for an enthusiastic hour, bounding across the stage like a woman half my age. I’ve only got a couple of years on her, but she sure had a lot of energy. I got tired just sitting and watching her.

Once the last number had been played, my friend looked at me. “Well?” she asked. “What are you waiting for?”

She wanted me to go through the torture of going back to the arena, and interviewing a star. A real star. With talent and everything.

“I think she’s probably tired,” I mumbled.

“Are you kidding me? Get down there and interview the main act. Isn’t that your job?”

Oh yeah. My job. With a deep sigh of resignation, I followed her back down the bleachers.

By now, it was mostly dark, and the people around us were mostly drunk. We walked over to the barricade, me half expecting to be arrested on the spot. To our surprise, there were no officers in sight. Anywhere.

We looked around, and I wondered what to do next, when my friend began climbing the gate.

Let me set the stage. It’s dark. Two women, of questionable age and intent, are climbing a barricade.

One is wearing heels. One is wearing a skirt. A short skirt. Both women reach the top of the gate, only to fall inelegantly to the other side. She lost her wallet, and I lost my dignity. What little I had left.

Fortunately, in the dark, no one saw our stealthy moves. We stood up, brushed ourselves off, and looked around.

I was expecting to be handcuffed by security at any moment. We straightened up, dusted off, and headed toward the talent.

As we rounded the giant black bus, a drunken woman was being escorted rather loudly from the area. I nearly panicked and ran away, but my friend grabbed me firmly by the arm.

I think she sensed my cowardice.

We walked boldly around the bus, and there stood Jo Dee Messina.

She wasn’t surrounded by crowds, or security, or guards; she was standing there talking to someone. We politely waited our turn, and when she looked at me quizzically I stuck my hand out and said, “I’m Deborah Demander.”

She laughed. “Oh yeah. I remember talking to you. You had the made-up name.”

And just like that, she broke the ice. The conversation focused on all the peculiarities she noticed in Evanston, and I asked about the duct tape. She immediately had an answer. Fixing diapers. Actually, that works. I’ve done it myself.

It was quite an adventure. We stood there talking for several minutes, and then she got on the bus with her sleeping babies and drove off into the dark.

And I was left standing on the wrong side of a barricade, in a skirt, in the dark, wondering how the heck to get over without being seen again.

And that is how I met Jo Dee Messina.

Namaste, friends.

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