PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For more than 40 years, concert promoter Rich Engler has been bringing some of the biggest entertainers in the world to Pittsburgh.
Along the way, there’s been more than a few backstage antics.
For the first time, Engler is telling those stories in a new tell-all book.
KDKA’s Paul Martino was the first reporter in town to sit down with Engler and hear the tales of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
It’s clear upon meeting Engler, that he’s someone who’s rubbed elbows with many of rock’s great legends.
“This is a guitar signed by Keith Richards, one of the Rolling Stones shows,” he says.
And everywhere Engler goes, people want to hear the dirt about what those rock legends were are really like.
“’Hey tell me a story,’” Engler says he would be asked. “’Tell me some of that stuff that goes on back stage,’ and then I’d tell them a story and they’d say, ‘You gotta write a book, you have to do it.’”
And so he finally did.
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“Behind The Stage Door,” tells the story of his 40 years of putting on huge rock ‘n’ roll shows in Pittsburgh.
One of the most glorious nights came in February 1990: Paul McCartney at the Civic Arena. The sound check alone was awesome.
“Starts playing ‘Hey Jude,’” Engler recalls. “The hair on the back of my neck goes up. I’m like right off stage, nobody was in the arena at this point. He’s there himself.”
But this glorious moment soon turned sour when McCartney’s agent approached Engler.
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“’Rich, I don’t think he can play,’” the agent told him. “I go wait a minute, I just heard one of the greatest things I ever heard – the sound check. He said, ‘it may be to you, but Paul, his voice is not what he really wants it to be.’”
Engler scrambled to find three doctors to tend to McCartney’s sore throat and the show went on.
There would be other nights of great anxiety, like the time a drunken Joe Cocker committed a grotesque act on stage. It’s so gross we can’t tell you about it, but it’s in the book.
Then there was the night a very high Eric Clapton insisted it was his birthday. He demanded a party and a cake – Engler came through.
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“He goes, ‘Where’s my blankin’ cake?’” Engler said. “And I said, over there.”
“He picks it up, waiter style,” he continued, “he starts walkin.’ He turns around and he goes, ‘toodeloo,’ and then bolts out the door.”
Throughout his career, Engler’s lovely and charming wife Cindy has been at his side. But at one Kiss concert, bass player Gene Simmons got a little too friendly with Cindy.
“She goes, ‘Well, he said I want to man handle you,’” he said. “I said OK.”
“I said, Gene,” he continued, “I said, listen, you play the bass, I’ll do the man handling – get it? He goes, OK.”
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There were some sad nights in Engler’s storied career. Like the time he booked John Lennon at the Syria Mosque. A couple of months before the show, we learned we’d never hear from him again.
“Breaking news,” he said, “John Lennon had been shot. That was it … that’s one of the saddest music days of my life.”
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But most of the time, Engler’s career was full of joy – joy for him and joy for Pittsburgh music fans.
“I was out to change the world through music,” he said. “Hopefully I touched somebody along the way.”
That’s just scratching the surface of the amazing stories of rock ‘n’ roll antics in Engler’s book. It’s available at Giant Eagle, Crazy Mocha and eventually Barnes and Noble.