11. Cast of Characters
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
——As You Like It, II.vii
At this point in my journey I met a lot of new people who will figure in my story. So I'll just introduce them all at once instead of doing it as I go along.
Youth in Action
The other tenants at Athens Christian Center were Youth in Action, a group of high school kids from San Diego, along with their adult sponsors, who had come to Athens to do street-mime ministry. Sponsored by an organization called Action Ministry, they had no connection with our bands other than staying at the same place. Reportedly these kids got a lot of grief from the Greeks: the police and security guards often shut down their performances, and audiences threw cigarette butts and beer cans at them.
I've already mentioned Haris, the youth minister at Athens Christian Center. He was in charge of the place, because Stavros, the senior pastor, was on vacation. But when he was around, he was in the office taking care of church business. He had no time to look after us. So Q. apparently decided that he would supervise everyone staying there, including Youth in Action. Which, I guess, didn't sit too well with their adult leaders.
A (now-defunct) female Christian hard-rock trio from Michigan: Rebekah, Rhonda, and Tracy (and Tracy's husband, Jon, who was serving as their road manager). Tracy had a connection with Greeks for Christ International, a U.S.-based evangelical ministry that was also supporting Q.'s Olympic outreach. Through this connection Qedem had gotten hooked up with Q., who had offered to book them some concerts. They didn't stay regularly at Athens Christian Center, but they played a lot of events with us.
Qedem got shafted even more egregiously than Loudmouth did:
- When rock bands travel by plane—unless they have a tremendous equipment budget—they routinely rely on the promoter to provide "backline": guitar amps, drums, and other equipment too cumbersome or sensitive to check in an airplane's luggage hold. Seems no one thought to obtain any backline for Qedem, so they arrived in Greece with no amps. Ergo, they had no way to produce the distorted electric guitar sounds that are the backbone of their music. Rhonda eventually bought a distortion pedal to put between her guitar and the sound board, but not before the girls got stuck playing a few acoustic sets. They did so cheerfully, but their music wasn't well served that way. (More later about backline.) Qedem wrote a relentlessly positive online journal about their Athens experience, but even so, they couldn't help including this line:
There have been complications with what "we have all you need for your shows" really means.There's understatement for you.
- Sarah talked to the Qedem girls more than I did. They told her they'd ended up paying about $9,000 out of their own pockets for their travel expenses (at $2,250 per person, that's a good chunk more than the $1,352 I paid for Sarah), because Q. and E. allegedly* changed their itinerary after booking their tickets, and then required them to pay the airline's fees for the change.
One of our volunteer roadies recruited through Q.'s Web site. Christian is a free-spirited world traveler, and coming to Greece was not the least bit of a stretch for him. (I think he was already in Europe anyway—he went to Italy and then to Poland after the Olympics.) He was, however, a bit surprised to find himself serving as our sound tech, which allegedly happened because he was the only volunteer with experience running a board. He did an admirable job, especially given that it was a responsibility he never expected to have.
There's always the possibility that I misunderstood Christian, but the way he explained the process made me wonder: Had Q. really left it up to chance that he would get a volunteer with sound-tech skills? If so, then what if there had been no such volunteer?
Our other volunteer roadie. What a guy. Gilbert was from L.A. He had been in a bad car accident and had a disability that made it hard for him to walk. Despite which, he never complained, and merely wanted to be treated like everyone else.
Which is why my blood still boils at something he told me: Before the bands arrived, Q. sent Gilbert and Christian around Athens to the various Olympic concert venues to try to obtain bookings. (Mind you, these were the venues Q. had professed to already have booked.) Naturally, all the venues were full. The Olympics had already started. But Q. instructed Gilbert and Christian to offer our bands as last-minute replacements if anyone canceled. And he allegedly told Gilbert to do "whatever it takes" to get bookings—including trying to use his disability to engender sympathy.
In his book Surgery Speaks to China, medical missionary Paul Adolph describes a mendicant Chinese boy whom he was treating for an ulcer on the leg. (This would have been in the 1940s or thereabouts.) It seems that the ulcer was the boy's meal ticket, so once it started to heal, he left the clinic. Adolph later saw him back on the street, "proudly displaying his ulcer and asking for alms." If you've been to Asia or Europe, you've probably seen people doing that with one disability or another. (Heck, you may have seen it in the United States—I can think of some disabled panhandlers in Seattle—but some of the ones in Europe tend to be more aggressive about it.) So, dear reader, you will understand that according to Gilbert, Q. had essentially instructed him to behave like a beggar—asking for concert bookings instead of money. Gilbert refused.**
As far as I've been able to determine, Q.'s request doesn't actually violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's just monumentally insensitive. I wasn't there to witness this, but I'll tell you what I did witness. Gilbert's other job was gatekeeper: he hung out in the courtyard at Athens Christian Center and let people in and out of the locked gate all day. (Haris had given Q. two keys; Q. kept one and gave the other to Gilbert.) This meant Gilbert slept in the courtyard every night. One night, well after midnight, with my own eyes, I saw Q. enter the courtyard and wake a sleeping Gilbert by yelling at him and kicking his air mattress. He didn't seem to have anything urgent to tell Gilbert—just felt like waking him up, I guess.
Cory and the Russians
These folks were part of our team, but I think they were also with another organization, although I'm not sure which one. They were an impressive bunch. Cory, the leader, was a South African man in his late 30s. The other 4 or 5 team members were teenagers from former Soviet countries: Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan—and one was from Germany. They did a lot of heavy-duty evangelical street witnessing and counseling, helped out as roadies, and did chores no one else seemed inclined to do, like cleaning the toilets and scrubbing the floors at Athens Christian Center.
The King's Kids
There were two King's Kids teams in Athens: one from France and another from Germany. They didn't stay with us, but often performed with us. Some of these kids were as young as 12; they were doing mime and interpretive dance, similar to what Youth in Action did (but without the greasepaint). I have to say that in terms of being well rehearsed and having compelling material, both King's Kids and Youth in Action kicked Loudmouth's butt. I don't know if you've ever been shown up by a bunch of French preteens, but it's kind of a humbling experience.
Elias, Philemon, and Eva
Elias is a Greek evangelist. Out of a basement ministry center in downtown Athens, he runs Passage to Life, an outreach to prostitutes, drug addicts, and anyone who needs the Gospel. Elias doesn't speak a whole lot of English, so much of our contact with him was through his son, Philemon. His daughter, Eva, also interpreted for him. Elias turned out to be our major concert sponsor in Athens; most of the events we played were outreaches at which he preached.
There's a law against proselytization (Law No. 1363/38, Section 4, to be exact) in Greece, where the Orthodox Church enjoys a near-monopoly on religious expression.