Backstage in South Florida: Punched at a Judy Collins Show

Lee, your jaw looks awfully swollen!
Music vet and

New Times

scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week, Lee gets wired, but it's definitely a bringdown


I may be the only person in the history of mankind to ever get decked at a Judy Collins concert. Decked, as in clobbered, knocked off my feet, and humiliated. On the other hand, I also have to admit that the decking actually saved me from financial ruin. And I have both Ms. Collins and an ex-wife to thank for it.

Admittedly, 1987 wasn't the best year for me. I had recently been sacked from my promotion gig with Capitol Records, the victim of the latest round of downsizing that swept through the music business then and hasn't stopped since. It claimed me and nearly the entire promotion staff, including folks who had been with the label for more than 20 years. Needless to say, it hit me pretty hard. It was the first time I'd been laid off (not counting the time I was fired from my camp counseling job at age 16 because the parents didn't consider me an adequate role model). For the previous ten years, all I had known was the record biz, and the prospect of venturing into the job market as a "civilian" was a daunting one. I eventually got work at a local public relations firm as a way of ensuring an income while also attempting to manage my own retail record store.

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So here's lesson number one: Never open your own record store. Within a

year of trying to get it off the ground, the store crashed and burned.

And mind you, this was in the days before internet shopping and prior to

the advent of MP3s, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and all the other

advances that have made physical music all but obsolete. There's nothing

quite so depressing as sitting behind the counter in your empty store

and watching helplessly as people walk by on the sidewalk and all but

ignore you. It's a mighty temptation to run outside and grab them by the

collar and shriek," Get your sorry ass into my store and don't leave

until you buy the latest Metallica album!" If only... Ah, but I digress.


ex and I attended several concerts at Miami Metro Zoo (now known as Zoo

Miami) when it would feature live music on a sprawling field within

the zoo's parameters. And frankly, a Judy Collins performance seemed an

ideal way to chill out on an otherwise uneventful Sunday. Unfortunately,

the afternoon wouldn't remain uneventful for long. We had secured great

seats near the front of the crowd, but throughout the concert, a woman

kept wedging her way in front of us in an attempt to take pictures. My

ex-wife was never long on either patience or tolerance -- perhaps one

reason she's now my ex -- and she repeatedly asked this would-be

photographer to please move out of the way and not obscure our view. The

woman refused, and before long, she and my ex were squabbling. Tempers

flared, so that by the time the show ended, our intruder had stomped

off, cursing my ex under her breath.

As we were exiting the

concert a few minutes later, it happened. A big, burly guy approached me,

and as he began to pass me on my left side, he suddenly turned and

sucker-punched me, knocking me to the ground. Not knowing what hit me, I

quickly jumped to my feet. Flush with adrenalin, I was about to put

myself in the guy's place when security intervened, most likely saving

me from being flattened again. My aggressor was questioned and then

released, while I was given first aid, bandaged, and sent to South Miami

Hospital. There, I was informed that my jaw had been broken in two


(It seems that this disgruntled woman had returned to where

her boyfriend was seated and complained about this other woman who had

given her grief. Somehow, Mr. Burly Guy thought I was the cause of the

conflict and opted to take revenge on me. Nice. Just one more example of

how my ex succeeded in making my life miserable.)

Two days later, I returned to the

hospital and had my jaw wired, a predicament that would cripple me for

the next six weeks. Since I was working for a PR firm at the time,

suffice it to say that the inability to speak didn't exactly help my

career prospects. And despite my attorney's attempt to subpoena Mr.

Burly Guy, we were never able to track him down. Apparently, he resided

on the border of Broward and Palm Beach counties, and when you live on

the border of Broward and Palm Beach counties, each county's law

enforcement is inclined to leave it to the other to serve the offender.

Justice not served was justice denied.

To make matters worse, having

my jaw wired meant I couldn't eat solid food, and consequently the only

nourishment I could force into my body was of the liquid variety. I can

definitely attest to the fact that after a week or so of protein shakes,

they do get mighty boring. Merely watching a Burger King commercial can

incite the kind of cravings that a junkie feels when going cold turkey.

It would get to the point that when I'd go to a movie, I'd try to fit

kernels of popcorn between my wired teeth just to taste the flavor. I

yearned for solid food, but it would be weeks before I could savor that

first Whopper.

Still, this saga had a happy ending. My

attorney sent out letters to the concert's corporate sponsors informing

them that we were considering legal action, and in return he got a

settlement offer that allowed me to pay back the debt on my faltering

record store and recoup the monies I had invested. Was it worth a broken

jaw and Whopper deprivation? Hmmm, tough call.

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