The last time I saw Eddie Vedder was at the Bonnaroo Festival in 2008. He was trying to look cool, but it wasn't working -- he was hanging out with Mary Kate Olsen and it's hard to look cool when you've got an Olsen twin in tow. I tried to keep quiet when he walked by me, but I couldn't -- it was like I suddenly developed Tourette's. "Eddie, you fuck," I yelled. He didn't hear me; he was doing the celebrity version of a Perp Walk, avoiding eye contact and feigning a conversation with his bodyguard so that he'd look too engrossed to hear people shouting his name.
If he'd acknowledged me, I don't know what I would have said, although it would likely have been more eloquent than "Eddie, you fuck." It's not like I'd had imaginary conversations with him; there wasn't anything I'd been dying to say for years. I might have apologized for the mistake I made when I gave Rolling Stone the dirt they needed to do a cover story after Pearl Jam declined an interview, but I doubt it. In all probability, the most I would have been able to come up with would have been something along the lines of "Hey! I hear you're working on a ukelele album!" (I cooperated with Rolling Stone because I was hurt, but that's a story for the book.)
Eddie and I used to be close. When we were on the road together, we'd stay up all night and talk about music and life; when we weren't, he'd send postcards and I'd send faxes. I hooked him up with my friends in Boston and my cousin in Maui; I sent my mother to see Pearl Jam when they played one of their first arena shows. Our friendship, at one point, was real, or it looked and felt like it was.
I didn't work with Pearl Jam for that long, but it seemed like an eternity; years with Pearl Jam were like dog years, netting out at seven to one. I started working with them when their name was still Mookie Blaylock, which is considerably less stupid than Pearl Jam, and I was in London with them when they recorded Ten. I was around when they fired Dave Abbruzzese, because, after years of struggling, he had the nerve to enjoy Pearl Jam's success. I was with them at a gig in San Francisco the week that Vitalogy came out, a brutally bad week for a band that didn't want to be famous. (It set records, selling nearly a million copies in the first seven days.)
|Back when we were allowed to celebrate, we did.|
(Ellyn Solis, Beth Liebling, Me and Anne Glew At A Post-VMA party.)
It was toxic, working with Pearl Jam; we were in a constant state of panic, afraid we'd do or say something wrong. (I'd get calls from my boss' boss' boss, telling me either to get Eddie to fucking talk to MTV or to stop fucking talking to Eddie.) Fear eroded any possibility of teamwork; we were all auto-piloting in defense mode. I worked the West Coast, while Ellyn Solis, now one of my closest friends, handled the East, and saying we hated each other is a vast understatement of our animosity. Still, though, Ellyn was the only one who understood, and it was Ellyn I wanted to talk to when it got too hard. Eventually it was too hard all the time.
My final night with Pearl Jam was at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1995. I was skulking around the dressing rooms with copies of a Simpsons script. I wanted to talk them into allowing their likenesses to be used in an episode about Lollapalooza; I wanted it to be my final act as Pearl Jam's publicist. I was leaving Epic. (They said no, which was no big surprise -- Pearl Jam was not known for their sense of humor. I got in trouble once for trying to talk Eddie into posing half-naked, with a snake, for a Spin cover.)*
More than that, though, I went to the show because it would be my last official Pearl Jam gig. I expected some kind of acknowledgment; I imagined Eddie dedicating a song to me, or maybe a card, signed by everyone, thanking me for my years of service. I thought someone in the band might have been paying attention when I'd announced a few weeks previously that I was leaving Epic, and that the San Diego show would be my last, but they hadn't. When I pointed out that our journey together was over, Eddie looked at me funny and said "well, you have my phone number." (Craig, who came with me, thought the whole thing was hysterical. "They sure were broken up," he said. "They probably won't be able to carry on without you.")
I called Ellyn from the VIP area when I arrived at Bonnaroo the year that Pearl Jam played, trying to figure out whether or not I should attempt to see them, which would have required significant groveling. I gleefully called her again after I encountered Eddie and his little friend, having decided that I'd seen him more than enough.
I'm having brunch today with Dr. Sharon, another veteran of the Pearl Jam wars, and while I'm no longer friends with Eddie, I'm in touch with twenty or thirty of the people who, like me, worked with Pearl Jam and lived to tell. I spoke to Ellyn yesterday, and together we cried about Adam Yauch.
The loss of Adam Yauch is something worth crying about. The loss of my relationship with Pearl Jam, and my friendship with Eddie? Not so much.
*Sonic Youth took Pearl Jam's place in the Simpsons episode.