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Todd Rundgren's Musical Revival Camp: Ten Things We Learned Besides Guitar

When experiencing something as phenomenal and unusual as Todd Rundgren's Musical Revival Camp, you learn a few things. 

After spending a spectacular late-July week at the Full Moon Resort in New York's lush Catskill Mountains, I also gained some perspective on life. The camp is all about fellowship, fun, and, well, yeah, hanging with Todd, one of the quintessential rock musicians of the past 40 years. He's a great guy, a great host, and a real hoot to boot. 

What follows are several indelible impressions of our week in the mountains that bear repeating, insights that could only be revealed as the result of spending five fantastic days in the presence of a real rock icon.

5. Rock stars are human beings too. 

Fans with differing degrees of devotion and an average age of 55 journeyed to the lovely upstate environs, spending upwards of $1,350, for the chance to get to know the "Real Man," to borrow one of the titles of his classic songs. It's a wonderful chance to allow your life to intersect with his, to trade quips, share a beverage, and enjoy a few backstage anecdotes. "Todd is very accessible," his gregarious wife Michele explained at dinner on day one. "However, chances are he's not going to remember meeting you backstage in 1973."

4. Don't try to be the star's best friend too soon. 

There are those awkward moments when one tries way too hard to come up with a good introductory line, something to ensure an initial bond. Sad to say, I blundered on my first two attempts. Recalling the first time I saw him touring with Ringo Starr some 13 years ago, I mentioned that I saw him pour something over his head, a liquid I assumed to be hydrogen peroxide given the sun-kissed effect it left on his bleached blond tresses. When Todd responded with an expression of total bewilderment, I realized I had gotten it wrong. I tried bonding again later, casually mentioning that on a trip to Kauai, where Todd has a home, our tour guide had pointed out what was supposedly his house. As it turned out, the location was wrong. Caught in another blunder, I blamed the tour guide. "No credibility there," I remarked, trying once again to put distance between me and my erroneous information.

3. Risotto, a chicken farmer from South Carolina, Peter Buck of REM, and Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson's older brother share a common bond

For one thing, they all made for memorable encounters at Todd's Musical Revival Camp. Risotto was the object of one of Todd's daily cooking lesson. The chicken farmer, whose name happened to be Dode Prickett (not "Dude," dude - that's Dode... And it happens to be his real name), assumed the role of camp clown, unofficial party planner, and a terrific singer and songwriter to boot. Peter Buck hung out and served as one of the honorary camp counselors, and yours truly got a chance to interview him. And Ian's older bro Robin? Seems he's a genuine devotee. This was the second year he made the trek from the old country to hang with the rest of the fans.

2. Bingo can be a vicious sport

Divided into competing teams -- the Blacks and the Whites (inspired by a Todd tune entitled "Black and White," natch) -- the nightly bingo competition upped the ante on intensity and even inspired some controversy. On the final night, when Todd cited a rule that declared that a Black team member who falsely declared Bingo had to forfeit the round to the White team, several Black team members showed their dissatisfaction by storming out of the room, fists raised in protest. And when Ms. Rundgren voiced her support for the rebellion, tension was further heightened. "This may be the worst altercation of our entire marriage," she sheepishly declared.

1. Being a would-be rock star isn't nearly as cool as one might imagine once you witness your performance on video. 

After watching my fellow campers show off their musical prowess and hop onstage to perform a song, I shored up my courage for the benefit of my own rock star ambitions. Not that I thought my take on the Who's "My Generation" would ever best Roger Daltrey mind you, but I did think that being of his generation -- at least in terms of a defiant attitude -- would help me glide by. That and a few alcoholic beverages that is. Consequently, I belted, crooned and stuttered my way through, unveiling some tentative stage moves in the process. The crowd offered a polite response, but I felt that perhaps a bit more rehearsal might have been called for, despite assurances to the contrary. Later, watching my performance on my wife's iPad, my worst suspicions were confirmed. I looked more than a bit askew up there on stage twitching about under the influence of bluster and bravado.

Still, I had achieved my rock star moment in the spotlight. It was a noble experiment, or so I consoled myself. At least I learned a few things about bingo and introducing myself to a rock god. 

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Lee Zimmerman

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