Once again the local, legendary rock band Metallica is in the news. Last year they made headlines in their lawsuit against Napster. This time they’re in the media because one of their members, James Hetfield, has returned to the band after a year off for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Whenever I see the Metallica name in print I read the article, but not because I’m a big fan of Metallica. In fact, I’m not a fan at all. But reading about them brings back one of my fondest life memories; thoughts of someone who was and is just as legendary as Mr. Hetfield. When I read about Metallica I remember my neighbor and friend, Mrs. Scott.
You see, years ago Mrs. Scott and I attended a Metallica concert by mistake. We went to the performance because Mrs. Cooper, Mrs. Scott’s landlady, is a security guard for the San Francisco Symphony. Whenever she gets free tickets, she shares them with her friends. Mrs. Scott and I didn’t know the symphony was going to perform jointly with Metallica when we arrived at the Berkeley Community Center with our complimentary symphony tickets.
Mrs. Scott had dressed for the concert as she did for everything else: she was aglow in rhinestones, sequins and gold lamé. But we immediately noticed something was not right with the crowd that had gathered on the center’s front steps. Everyone was clad in black, tattooed and pierced. Mrs. Scott was the only attendee in a full-length mink coat.
We stood in line as security checked tickets. I was nervous when I saw that concert-goers were being frisked at the entrance. I knew Mrs. Scott always carried for protection a large kitchen knife in her enormous black pocketbook. But she reassured me. “Don’t worry. They won’t dare touch me.”
She was right. We glided through security and proceeded majestically down the aisle.
We had seats right in front. “Lord,” said Mrs. Scott, as she looked around the concert hall. “This don’t look like the symphony to me.”
It was only then, when I opened the program, that I realized we were attending a Metallica concert. The entire performance was being recorded and filmed for a CD and MTV.
“Do you want to leave?” I asked.
“And waste good tickets?” she replied. “What’s wrong with you?”
Slowly the lights dimmed. The crowd roared. Everyone rose to their feet, except for Mrs. Scott and me. The band members stalked on stage like feral animals, then went into a guitar riff that set my ears vibrating. The lights began to change. It felt as if we were swirling around inside a lava lamp. The musicians emitted the squeals of pigs being slaughtered. Mrs. Scott looked at me and rolled her eyes. “This ain’t the symphony,” her lips seemed to be saying, but I could not hear her.
I tore off the corners of my program and stuffed them into my ears. Someone handed Mrs. Scott earplugs. The kids around us jumped onto their seats and thrust their fists into the air. Mrs. Scott moved her head ever so slightly to the beat. She tapped her cane against the floor.
Without warning a young man in the seat across from us threw off his T-shirt, hopped onto the stage and did a back flip into the audience. Security guards hauled him away. Mrs. Scott seemed unimpressed. She thumped her cane harder.
Suddenly, the bass player hurled a guitar pick in our direction. Kids swarmed over seats and crawled on hands and knees underneath us. A pale girl in black polyester tried to worm her way between Mrs. Scott’s legs. Mrs. Scott whacked her on the head with her cane.
When the concert finally ended we waited until the audience departed. Then we hobbled up the aisle and out the door. “So what did you think?” I asked my glittering friend.
“Well,” said Mrs. Scott, pausing to remove the earplugs. “You know I like to try new things. But baby, let’s not do that again. I like to dress up and get down and funky, but not for trash. Those boys need their butts whipped, way they be talkin’. Come on now, girl, go get the car. My ears are ringin’ and my feet are all swelled up.”
Susan Parker is an Oakland resident. Her best friend, Mrs. Gerstine Scott, passed away on Sept. 6, 2001. Metallica performs locally August 10 at Candlestick Park.