Saturday, June 13, 2009
The Week of Boyhood Dreams!
"Mr. Class" Brice Kennedy poses with "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair (April 2009).
Posing with the legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu (April 2009).
I recently met two of my childhood heroes: the greatest professional wrestler to ever lace up a pair of boots and the greatest video game composer to ever score a note: "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair and the great Nobuo Uematsu... okay, so they're still my heroes.
I first caught a flight to Grand Rapids, Michigan to see the "Distant Worlds" Final Fantasy symphony. I also have family there and had fun visiting cousins Tina, Jessi and Mark while I was in town. The music of Final Fantasy is some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard and Uematsu's music has inspired, uplifted and entertained me since the original Final Fantasy back in the late eighties. The symphony was amazing and even Tina, who wasn't familiar with the music, turned to me and said "Oh my god" upon hearing the accompanying Grand Rapids Chamber Choir.
All the great FF tracks were represented: "Aerith's Theme", "One Winged Angel", "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec", "Chocobo's Theme", "To Zanarkand" and other memorable pieces. One of the highlights was when they played a cut scene from FFVIII followed by the random battle zoom in effect and then immediately started into "Don't Be Afraid", the FFVIII battle theme! I actually called my pals Jay and Nick during a couple of tracks so they could hear... and maybe to gloat a little. They also ended the set by playing "Terra's Theme" from FFVI (which was also the end credits from the game) then rolled credits from the concerts over the original game credits. Sleek! Hearing this great music live was an unforgettable experience.
After the concert, I actually met a friend I knew only from YouTube which lent a real community feel to the event. Then, I headed upstairs to meet Nobuo Uematsu... to actually meet the guy who composed all these dozens and dozens of great tracks! While waiting in line, I met someone interesting people including a couple who came all the way from Salt Lake City. So, after waiting in line for an hour and a half, I approached the table where Uematsu-san was sitting with Arnie Roth, conductor of the tour. I was a little nervous, not so much to meet him but because I was about to say "thank you" in Japanese. While bowing, I said, "doomo arigato gozaimasu", meaning "thank you very much" which is the most respectful form of thank you. We actually spoke a bit before I stepped aside letting someone else have their turn. I told him how I'd been playing his music on piano for decades and how wonderful it was to thank him in person. He hadn't done a lot of meet and greets here in states and seemed to be genuinely overwhelmed by the turnout and enthusiasm of the fans. He was very gracious and a real class act.
My Week of Boyhood Dreams continued a few days later as my best pal Sam and I headed down to Charleston to meet THE MAN. I've followed pro wrestling since 1985 or so. Yes, I know it's fake. So is LOST, CSI: MIAMI and everything else on television. Technically, it's not fake; it's choreographed and the outcome is predetermined but... I digress. Anyway, so yeah I still watch the male soap opera as it's still great fun and there's never been anyone greater than the dirtiest player in the game... the kiss-stealin', wheelin'-dealin', limousine-ridin', jet-flying son-of-a-gun who kissed ALL the girls and made 'em cry... "Nature Boy" Ric Flair! Whooooooo!!
Sam and I got to the Charleston Town Center Mall for the autograph signing at about a quarter 'till the hour and the line inside was loooooong. Thankfully, we bought the VIP package and our line wasn't quite as long. After a while, the crowd erupted which could only mean one thing - 'Naitch was in town! We waited for about 20 minutes or so and finally it was our turn. we mapped out our strategy to take each other's pictures and, at the last minute, abandoned it entirely, probably because we were so stoked. I went first and approached Ric and what do I see? He's texting! So I'm standing there for like, 15 seconds and he has the audacity to continue texting and ignoring me. I think I know the reason. You see, I'm not just a fan of Ric's. I'm a rival. Years ago, I ran the AWL, the Arena Wrestling League where I wrestled professionally as "Mr. Class" Brice Kennedy, the AWL World Heavyweight Champion. It's obvious that through my personal home video collection of my friends and I wrestling pillows and stuffed animals, he'd gotten word of my incessant challenges to him and to this day, was continuing to duck my challenge. OR... texting some random hot chick thirty years his junior for a random hook-up was a bit more important than the 241st fan standing in front of him. One of the two.
So after immediately forgiving him this little faux pas, I approached him somewhat nervously and told him that there was nothing truly original I could say that he hadn't heard but wanted to tell you about the time I was most excited to see him in the ring. I then proceeded to tell him about a match back in 1995 (SuperBrawl V, to be specific) where he was retired and was in another wrestler's corner (Vader) in a match against Hulk Hogan. Hogan, who'd retired flair months earlier, won the match and Flair was livid. He jumped in the ring and just destroyed Hogan. Ha... I was so excited to recount this with THE MAN WHO DID IT! I even started acting it out, stomping the invisible man lying on the ground in front of me and Ric was grinning ear to ear. He chuckled and said thank you and asked me for my name as he signed an old 8x10 I used to have on my cork board back in the day. Man, it was awesome! So I waited while Sam talked to him and told him about his favorite moment, the 1991 Royal Rumble when he won the WWF title.
After the autographs, we waited off to the side for our photo ops. I took a few more cell phone pics and Ric came over for the picture. I asked him if he could deliver one of his trademarked "chops" and he said he couldn't... but then did! I was chopped by Ric Flair! The best part was the actual picture though because we both held up the four fingers and posed AS HORSEMEN. Haha... for that moment, I was one of The Four Horsemen! Holding up the four fingers has become somewhat of a trademark for me so that was a sweet added touch.
On the way home, Sam spotted this guy wearing a brown camo top and blue camo pants along the side of the road and remarked "Hey, there's Guile!" Of course, I HAD to acknowledge seeing one of favorite characters from "Street Fighter II" and the SECOND celebrity today. So I rolled down my window, yelled "Guile!" and took a picture as I yelled "Sonic boom!" Haha, Sam and I laughed for like ten minutes about it! Great times!!!!!
Over my thirty plus years, and to some degree through acting and all, I've met my fair share of celebs but this was literally the most excited I'd ever been. Finally... "Mr. Class" and "The Nature Boy"! Whooooooo!! An epic week.
Pics of meeting Ric Flair
Pics of meeting Nobuo Uematsu and the Distant Words concert
"Aerith's Theme" video (taken at the symphony)
Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy
Posted by Brice Richard Kennedy at 4:20 PM