Years ago when I would eat lunch with some of my dearest friends in the lunchroom at Camden Yards during my time working for the Orioles, we would often play games. Sometimes we’d play a game of cards (Hearts was our favorite), sometimes we’d play word association games, and sometimes we’d play “If I could,” a game that was pretty outlandish and far-fetched, but you had to answer the question that began with those words.
One day the question was: If I could spend time with any one celebrity, who would it be and why? We’d go around the table answering the question.
My answer on that particular day was easy. If I could spend time with any one celebrity, it would be Sting, I said. All I needed was Sting, a piano, and me. I just wanted to sit and listen to him sing and play and compose. That’s it. That was the wild celebrity wish I had back in the 1990s. In fact, according to Sting’s website, he says this about his ability to write songs: “…there are no rules with songwriting. I can write a song on piano, and I can write one walking down the street or at the computer. I try to explore as many different ways to write as I can.”
You may recall that Sting was a huge heartthrob, and still is. As a teenager, I had a poster of Sting from his days in The Police hanging over my bed. Literally, every little thing he did was magic to me. (You got that reference, right?)
In 1999, a couple of years after I was married and my husband was working for a radio station in Baltimore, he called me from work with some exciting news. We were going to see Sting in concert at Constitution Hall, but I had no idea why he was calling me to say we had to leave early. What I didn’t know then was that I was in for one of the biggest treats of my life.
The two of us, along with about seven others, had been invited to attend Sting’s sound check. In that big auditorium, it was only Sting’s band and us in the room. My eyes were bugging out of my head — Sting walked out onto the stage. We sat in the seats and watched him perform several songs from his set list. Mind you, I was used to being around famous people. Working in baseball afforded me the opportunity to see and interact with many celebrities during my thirteen years there, including having President Ronald Reagan wave to me and say hello as he walked by the copier room. You get used to seeing them around when you work in sports. But this was Sting, the musician I had loved since I was a teenager. And he was singing right in front of me.
He paused and asked if anyone wanted to come up on stage with him and sing. My heart went pitter-patter and my husband urged me to go, as he long knew my affinity for Sting and his music, but I was too frightened I would scare Sting away with my voice (it’s decent, but not one worth putting a mic in front of, trust me, and my friends who have sung Karaoke with me know of what I speak). Suffice to say, I opted not to take Sting up on his offer, and instead enjoyed watching the couple of the other folks who did go up and stage and sing with him.
When the sound check was over, Sting came down from the stage and said hello to each of us. He was sweet and personable (as I expected he would be), and he chatted and sat among us in the seats. I told him my husband and I had just come back from England (“Did it rain the whole time?” he asked), that I loved his country, and he asked me where we went while we were there. We spent several minutes discussing our trip and he offered some stories of his own. When my husband asked him if he could take a photo of the two of us, he was more than happy to do so, even teasing me as we got ourselves situated. He put his arm on mine, leaned in, and said softly in my ear, “We can pretend like we’re at the movies together.” I laughed. Totally charming.
He spent about a half hour just gabbing with the group of us, signed a guitar for an auction benefitting the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and when it was time for him to leave and get ready for the concert, he shook our hands and said what a pleasure it had been to meet us. Likewise, Sting. Likewise.
I often think about how lucky I was to have met one of my favorite musicians and to have been given the opportunity to chat with him like that. Seeing him sing during the sound check reminded me of the old “Unplugged” show on MTV, except there were only a handful of us in the room, and we had the added bonus of sharing some moments of conversation with him, too.
It wasn’t just Sting, me, and a piano, but it was damn close. Pretty damn close.
* Special thanks to my husband who knew he made my day with that particular meet and greet.
Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.