"What if he doesn't show? Are there enough fans for a riot?" asks a 20-something guy waiting in line at a Boca Whole Foods for Tool frontman turned winemaker Maynard James Keenan. He's in town on a promotional tour, signing bottles from his winery, Caduceus Cellars, and vineyard Merkin Vineyards. It's 1 p.m., and a line of about 40 fans snakes around the outdoor herb and pottery section directly in front of the store.
"It's too hot for a riot," responds David Chase, a 31-year-old who's smartly clad in a neutral off-white shirt and shorts. Without a cloud in the sky, the sun beats down on those in all-black, and makeup drips off in that unfortunate Crow/Joker kind of way. Although it's June, the "event requirements" say no "long coats." Who the hell would wear a trench coat in Florida in June?
I look around. No one is. But there are beanies, sweaters, black
velvet skirts, and the requisite goth-renaissance garb. The few people
to get in line at some ungodly hour in the morning are enjoying the
shade of a concrete overhang. But considering you must be 21 to
participate in the signing, the whole scene is just sort of pathetic
(someone underaged could have brought his or her legal guardian, but
there didn't seem to be too many, with the exception of a couple of kids
no older than 8 whose parents are fans).
At 15, I would've
walked ten miles in the heat to get this close to the elusive figure who
never shows his face on stage. When I was 19, I drove 14 hours to see A
Perfect Circle in New Orleans. A few days earlier, I had waited five
hours at Mizner to make sure I was front row at APC. And the shows paid
off. But now, I'd rather order the wine from my air-conditioned
bedroom. I'm 25, sweaty, and people are starting to smell. One guy
approaches me and Chase in an attempt to sell some hemp necklaces and
gather enough money to buy a bottle of wine to meet Keenan. "I'm asking
for a donation of love," he says. Although the guy is at least three feet
away from me, his smell is overwhelmingly awful. If it didn't make me
dizzy, I would have been steady enough to throw him a buck to help him
out. At this point, I'm ambivalent about this whole event. Here are fans
sweating to death to meet Keenan. Then again, he has to meet them,
smell them, and probably answer a million asinine questions about
I finally get my ticket. I'm number 31. By 3 p.m.
the crowd is doubling every 20 minutes. We stand up, we sit down, up,
down, just to get the blood flowing after hours of sitting on concrete.
An hour later, the first 20 people are allowed in, but only to buy
their bottles. Then numbers 21 to 40. The 13-year-old fan inside me
wonders if I have anything in my teeth as some manager/promoter guy
shouts, "Everyone must buy one bottle." He makes clear that if you're a
mother who took off work and had to bring your 3-year-old, your kid
better have a bottle also. If your teenager asked you to accompany him
or her, you have to buy a bottle for each of you.
lists seven options for wine. I grab the Merkin Chupacabra, partly
because it's cheap, partly because of the name, partly because its
description reads "Stare and the Chupacabra, who dwells in your heart
and not in your head, will vanish." The bottle's label looks like an
old leathery scroll complete with Da
Vinci's Vitruvian Man, whose nether regions are covered by a cluster of
purple grapes. (Fun fact: A merkin is a wig originally worn by
prostitutes after shaving their vaginal area to get rid of lice. To
avoid the stigma of a shaved vagina or to cover signs of syphilis,
they would wear merkins to cover the area.)
four people at a time enter a nondescript room. A black curtain
separates the fans from the man. Walk around the curtain, someone grabs
your bottle, and faster than you can say Chupacabra, you're out. I
wasn't expecting much, but I didn't even see Keenan, who's a lot better-looking than I thought (beautiful eyes), sign the bottle. I asked a
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question, but his partner Eric answered for the most part. It's not that
Keenan was rude; it's that the whole thing was as uneventful as bad
sex, where you work at it and work at it and then there's no payoff.
Now imagine you paid for that sex.