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Maryland Public Television (US, TV)
March 21, 1997
When Tori Comes Marching Home
My Experiences with Tori Amos
By Scott Hileman, reporter and producer of a feature on Tori for Maryland Public TV in 1996.
It was the first day of Autumn, 1996. I was not looking forward to the start of another winter in Baltimore. Not in the best of spirits, I tooled around the beltway on my way to the office. I "button-pushed" my way to radio station WHFS, where I came in on the tail end of a TicketMaster commercial. My ears perked up and my day instantly improved when I learned that Tori was coming to town. Having admired her work since "Little Earthquakes," I decided to order tickets to her performance -- an action I'd only taken for one other artist in all my twenty-four years.
I arrived at my Owings Mills office where I beat tracks to my phone to order two tickets; this was my chance to see Tori up close and in person. The reality and extent of Tori's popularity hit me like a ton of cornflakes when I learned that only upper left balcony seats remained for the second of her two nights in Baltimore. It seemed I would not be as "up close" as I'd hoped but, as the cliche goes, "beggars can't be choosers." So I pulled out the card I don't leave home without and charged my seats in the "nosebleed" section.
I work as a producer/reporter for Maryland Public Television and I often get the chance to work on feature news stories of interest to Marylanders. I said to myself, "what do people like more than a 'local girl does good' story." With a Thomas Edison having just gone off in my head, I was back on the phone, digging up information on Tori Amos. It didn't take me long to get through to her publicist.
I'm not one to take "no" for an answer -- at least not the first "no." So the disappointment of hearing "Tori's not conducting press interviews this tour" didn't stop me from calling Atlantic Records (Tori's label) and asking someone else. After playing the phone tag that inevitably happens when I need an answer quickly, I finally spoke with Donna Jaffee of Atlantic Records Publicity. I gave her details of what I wanted, she made a few calls and in short order had given me the thumbs up and told me that Tori, herself, was looking forward to the interview. I took that as schmoozing only -- and didn't really think Tori knew at that point that she was to meet me -- but I didn't care. I was going to talk with Tori Amos!
A mere week after first hearing the influential radio commercial, the day had come for me to conduct my interview. I arrived at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore at 6:00 p.m., about a half hour early for my appointment. (If Tori was ahead of schedule, I was not going to miss her). Joining me was my videographer, Tim Pugh, and a dear friend, and mega Tori fan, who had volunteered to be the "water boy" on this musical expedition. (I could not then and cannot to this day resist his persuasive smile). At 6:30 p.m., the three of us were ushered into the concert hall, where we set up our recording equipment and waited for the first glimpse of our star. I was really getting excited now. I have met quite a few celebrities in my short career, no other provoking such a reaction.
Also, in the hall that night were a two-man crew from another local TV station, a few newspaper photographers and members of Tori's crew. With her fiery red-orange hair aglow under the lights, Tori entered to a smattering of applause. She sat behind her Baldwin Baby Grand and without saying a word began playing the best version of "Pretty Good Year" I've ever heard. As Tori played for our small group, I found my eyes in a tennis match between the stage and the expression on my friends face. (He still owes me big time for this one).
The stage lights intensified and speakers vibrated a bit more than anyone expected as Tori hit the loud and high energy notes in the middle of the song. With a cunning little smile, she turned to the camera and uttered a helpless, "Oh well." After banging her last note, the petite one stood up, shaded her eyes from the houselights and beckoned my direction, "Guys, TV guys. You're not going to use all that, are you?" I answered her then and say again today, "No Tori. I didn't use all that."
Tori exited stage left, descended a narrow staircase, and waited in her dressing room for her next entrance. My group was escorted downstairs to a room which we would set up for our interview. After giving the word to her tour manager, Tori entered the readied room wearing a pair of short, denim overalls, a white cotton tee-shirt, a pair of white stockings, and the most impressive pair of green suede pumps this reporter has ever seen -- straight out of Vogue, I tell you!
Tori extended her hand to me as her gruff tour manager introduced us as "the people from Public Television." She sat down, smiling, and with her head tilted slightly to the left, Tim made final adjustments to the camera. In an instant, her attention was mine. Like a good local reporter, I asked her about her experiences growing up in this area before moving on to questions to which I'd always wanted answers -- like "what goes on in your mind when you hear your own music?" And "have you met your own definition of success?" (Hear answers to those questions in a program I'll tell you about at the end of this article).
A half hour later, my time with Tori was over -- or so I thought. She thanked me and my crew for wanting to talk to her. (It was at this point that my friend got to touch his diva). Before leaving, she asked me if I was staying for the concert. After telling her that my tickets were for the following evening, she insisted, "Call Atlantic Records tomorrow morning and tell them I want your seats upgraded." The next morning I did call and apparently she was in contact as well because the following evening when I arrived at the box office to pick up my new and improved tickets, Tori had included back stage passes.
My friend joined me that night and was in even more disbelief when I showed him the passes then he had been the night before. The concert was wonderful but the memory of the party after is one that would stay with me until this day. "Hi guys," Tori said. "Thanks so much for yesterday and for being here tonight." Wanting a physical reminder of the evening, I broke a sacred reporters' rule by asking her to autograph my program. (She did so right over the cow). She gave us each a kiss on the cheek and we made our way out. That evening, much like I imagine a 1960's teenage girl would have reacted to having been touched by Ringo Starr, I considered not washing my face that night. (I probably wouldn't have if not to remove the make up I'd applied to go on camera).
On this, the first day of Spring, 1997, I never imagined the interview I conducted almost half a year ago, would still be affecting my life. I must admit. I was extremely flattered to be contacted by Richard Handal and to know that someone out there is watching what we do here at Maryland Public Television. I have included my interview with Tori Amos in "MARYLAND DAY: AN INSIDE MARYLAND SPECIAL." The program airs throughout the state next Tuesday, March 25, at 9:00 p.m. There is new material added to the piece so I hope everyone can tune in and enjoy. Originally I was asked If I could sell the story. Of course, because we're dealing with copyrighted material, I cannot. But now you know when it's airing so set your VCRs. I have so much more material from my interview with Tori that I did not have enough time to include in my original story. I'm looking for a new opportunity to produce a longer version of my day with Tori Amos. So stay tuned... and thanks for watching!
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