The Best ‘Worst Spot Op’ Stories

by PLSN Staff • in
  • Backstage Banter
  • November 2017
• Created: November 9, 2017
The Best 'Worst Spot Op' Stories

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Over the course of the last year, PLSN has stockpiled a list of humorous spotlight tales that actually happened, for your amusement. Read down for a chuckle.

‡‡     Rick Neidig: My favorite in my home venue, I was running the light board for a “Cirque”-type show. Female, French Canadian LD (English as a second language) wanted one of the spots to pick up a mime in a very tight headshot.

The op is having a tough time finding him in the dark. The whole time she’s screaming into the com, “Come on his face! Come on his face!“ He replies, “Give me a minute to get warmed up!” It took a while for the laughter to subside.

‡‡     Phil DaCoola: Checking spots on headset just before headliner at Rock in Rio in Las Vegas. Spot 1: “Hi.” Spot 2: (muffled) “Yup.” Spot 3: “Hello!” Spot 4: “Here.” Show begins. “Spot 2, pick up the lead singer.” Nothing. “Hey spot 2!!” Still nothing, singer in dark. Spot 3 says, “He’s not here; I was just covering for him.”

‡‡     Martin Thomas: Salt-N-Pepa Slammin’ Tour 1988… Arena U.S. tour, tons of PARs and four FOH spots for three girls and walk-on guests. Midwestern city — Kansas City or St. Louis, MO — strong IA presence. One of the spots craps out, and the girl on the other end of the com can’t get it going again. A young and very egomaniacal LD (yours truly) channels his internal Arthur Max and starts going ape on the op on the disabled light — not knowing her husband is on one of the other spots. And he’s the steward.

One by one, each spot checks in with a “problem,” in and out during the performance, and by the time the show got to “Push It,” I was down to one spot. Taught me a huge lesson about how to maintain decorum during a performance, and how integral the house guys are to the production. Toughest load-out I’ve ever had — even Wookie gave me a hard time, and Tom Marzullo (tour’s PM) set me straight on the bus. Lesson learned.

‡‡     Russell Wingfield: Okay. Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2006. I want to say Pepsi Center arena, Denver. 300-plus pound spot op, I’m pretty sure was on meth all day. Right after opening act, in front of 17,000 people, attempts to climb the spot ladder. Gets about three quarters of the way up and gasses out. Can barely hang on. Clinging for his life. He wraps his arm through the ladder to get better traction and slips. Barely catches himself. At that point he completely lets go and falls about three feet before the fall arrestor catches him. The whole crowd gasps collectively. He swings out then back towards the ladder. He can’t move; no strength. Can’t go up, can’t go down.

Rigger Gabe Wood climbs up without a harness or ascender, climbs over him, and up to the truss. Ties a rope around him and pulls him up to the spot truss, puts him in the chair, and the guy spots the show. After the show, they lowered the truss and all the spots to the deck to get them all down.

‡‡     Sean M. McGrath: I was in New Orleans at the Superdome, and I had a spot op with a nasty twitch. All of a sudden, his spot would just jump and then get back on his position. Come to find out he took a nasty fall and had some damage. After the first day and being told the story, I was like, “Spot 2, stay on…. Oh never mind.”

‡‡     Chip Self: Had a work-release spot op from the local prison. He’d found some alcohol and was trashed. Gets on com halfway thru the headliner, and says “Hang on, I’m fixin’ to get creative.” He went back to jail early.

‡‡     Mike Swinford: Foreigner. Early 80’s, at the fabulous Rectum (a.k.a. Spectrum) in Philly. During the show, there is a report on headsets about water dripping down stage right within a few feet of guitar player. Everyone looks up, and truss spot operator is standing on top of trusses, peeing in a chain bucket.

‡‡     Bob Dannic: Bette Midler at the Rectum in Philly. Stops show. “Hey, Spot Five. Yeah, you. I’m ova here in the sparkly dress wid the big t*ts!”

‡‡     Blair L. Harris: Frank Stallone big band. Spot op repeatedly calls SL house phone during quiet segments. Frank loses his place in the show each and every time. Frustrated that he can’t remember the next song, even though he has a set list. I wanted to strangle the spot op, but it was so damn funny seeing Frank Stallone struggle with his mom in the audience.

‡‡     Gianfranco Di Vitto: English (and, of course no Spanish) speaking operators. So, production guys set up extra Clear-Com for one girl to translate from Spanish to Chinese … It was like: “Stand by for dancer entering stage right” …Well, the girl started to speak several words … Many words … more words … and some extra words … and the operator answers her with some kind of questions, and she spoke some more words … and I was like … “Girl! Tell him to be ready!” … and she told him some more and more words … and then I was like … “GO!” … (just one word: “Go.”) And she spoke like 15 words! And the dancer enters, stage right. And I was like, “GO GO GO GO!” And she yells to him like eight words. Finally, you can imagine, the dude lit up the spot …to his right! (stage left.) And I was like … whatever … the dancer is leaving the stage.

‡‡     Martin Thomas: Always loved doing Black Eyed Peas shows in Europe. Ten spots — six FOH, four truss. Twenty-minute face-to-face pre-show with a good headset check before house to black…. No matter how good they seemed prior, the first five minutes was always watching ten lights all pointing at the girl.

‡‡     Carter Martinette: We were doing Ron Whitehead at a casino, and I forgot to pee before I went up. About three quarters of the way into the show, I had to leave my post to pee in a water bottle. Once the water bottle filled up, I didn’t know what to do, so I started peeing in the corner. Over my headset, I heard my front of house engineer say that there was a leak coming from the ceiling, dripping on his head. I never had the balls to tell him it was me…

‡‡     Sean M. McGrath: Once again, in New
Orleans, at the Superdome. I had a spot die during the show. He moved to another spot and took his headset and belt pack with him. Good thinking, right? You would think, except he didn’t plug the ends together and he was the first one in the chain. I lost the other nine spots for 10 minutes until we could get someone up there to make the connection.

‡‡     Bruce Clayton: Bill Cosby…two spots…one falls asleep. Cosby walks across the stage. One spot doesn’t move. ”Hey…spotlight…I’m over here.”

‡‡     Nook Schoenfeld: Madonna, 1990, at the Rectum. I settle into catering for dinner before show. Urgent call from dimmers. “Dude, you gotta come back and see this.” I walk out to view a spot op climbing 60 feet of rope ladder to my FOH spot platform one handed, using his knees to hold the ladder in between his one arm, letting go and grabbing the next rung. Had no fall arresters back then. His other hand was busy holding the 12 pack of Budweiser.

‡‡     Johnathan Contini: Me: “Spot Two, stand by for blackout. And…Go.” Spot Two: “Okay, if you’re sure.” Three seconds late for blackout. Me: “Spot Two, stand by for restore.” Spot Two: “That takes a few minutes.” Me: “Excuse me?” Spot Two: “The light takes a few minutes to turn back on YOU IDIOT.” Me: “Okay Spot One, you are picking up the lead now, forget specials. Spot Two, you can just leave your light off.”

‡‡     Chris Lose: I figure I should add my own: The Voice tour, 2014. Niagara Falls converted ballroom. Instead of putting spot towers in the back, the venue installed a spot truss above the audience. That means that the spot ops had to go up before doors and stay up until after the crowd was out. My show was four hours long, including doors, first act, intermission, second act and encore. With three songs left in the second act, Spot 1 started asking, “How much longer?” Then he let me know that he hadn’t properly prepared to be up for that long. The complaining grew more consistent throughout the last two songs. During the encore, the complaining stopped suddenly and he got really quiet. He had peed himself in the solid bottom spot chair without missing a cue. He came down and skipped out on the load-out.

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