Sundance Premiere Write Up
You would think that a Hollywood movie premiere at a prestigious festival like Sundance would be a “big deal” with decked out celebrities and limos and all the trappings of the film industry, but that couldn’t be further from what we experienced.
We arrived at the Eccles Theater early. We had been told that the doors opened at 8 for the 9:30 show. A corded off red carpet area was set up near the door, but we and all of the other lucky ticket holders were pointed in the direction of a heated tent filled with metal barriers to keep a line in order like at an amusement park. Nobody was dressed up…jeans, jackets and comfortable shoes were the norm. The line was filled with both locals and cinema buffs, all talking about what films they had screened earlier in the day. We were about 12th in line and hoped to get a good seat…just like at any other movie theater, seats for most of the 1270 people attending the show were first come, first served. At around nine, they let us in and we headed straight for where we usually watch a movie…about halfway up the theater, in the middle of the row.
There were two young men seated to our right who told us that they had inside information that the rows ahead of us would be filled with “…very special guests.” It turned out that one of their moms or friends of one of their mom’s was a volunteer and had seen the printed signs taped to the chairs with the names of the band members on them. The band would be seated two rows in front of us. On a side note, it was really cool to hear these young guys (18 or 19) talking about what their favorite Eagles’ songs were. I expected to hear them say Hotel California, or Desperado, but they mentioned “Certain Kind of Fool” and “The Last Resort”.
As we sat there, we saw the VIPs arrive and take their seats. Movie mogul Jeffry Katzenberg had to climb over a row to get where he was going. Elliot Scheiner and Richard Davis were in attendance (they both had contributed to the sound of the film). About 10 minutes before the show began, all four members of the band and Irving entered and took their seats. Timothy, Joe, Alex Gibney, Allison Ellwood and Glenn sat in one row and Don, Irving and some people from Showtime sat in the row ahead of them. People in the crowd snapped photos and Glenn got up to wave to someone. At one point, Glenn grabbed the sign on his seat and taped it to his chest, laughing. When the volunteer offered to take it from him, Glenn acted like it was a precious souvenir. I couldn’t quite see, but I think he folded it and put it in his pocket.
Right at 9:30, John Cooper, the head of the Sundance Film Festival came out to start the introductions. He spoke about how a few weeks ago, he got a call about a film.
“It’s a documentary. We want to do it Saturday night, at the Eccles.” Cooper said he was thinking, “…yeah right.” That’s a prestigious slot for the largest theater in the festival and it should be taken up by an important dramatic film starring at least one big name celebrity. Then he was told that it was a film about the Eagles. His response? “Of course”.
Cooper introduced Allison Elwood, the director and she thanked her entire production team. Then the movie began.
During the film, the crowd enthusiastically laughed and clapped. It was fascinating to watch the band members take it all in. Glenn laughed at several points and on more than one occasion, we could see him bent forward, talking in Henley’s ear and them both shaking slightly with laughter. I think that’s one of my favorite memories of the entire weekend. Glenn had to lean over Alex Gibney to talk with Joe at one point. We get the feeling that Glenn would be a very frustrating movie companion.
When it was all over and the lights came on, the audience went wild. The band members stood and slipped away out a side door. The press materials for the event said that a Q and A (Question and Answer) session with Alex Gibney and Allison Elwood would take place after the show, but stage hands were bringing out six director’s chairs. The entire band was staying to talk about the film.
We missed about the first four minutes of the exchange. Luckily, this is the only part that showed up on YouTube. So, you can watch the first bit to get a sense of the event and then read our transcription!
John Cooper wanted to bring them out right away, but nobody was ready. He was told that the band would be just a minute and when he asked what the problem was, he was informed that “…nature calls.”
After a very short time, the band and the film’s creators came out and took their seats.
John Cooper asked the first could of questions. I think we missed the first one because we were scrambling to take notes. It was something about how they went about putting the film together. Don said something to the effect of “…we did a lot of digging. We found a lot of stuff we didn’t know we had.”
The next question was something about how the partnership with Alex Gibney came about. These quotes are from my notes and are missing the many “you knows” uttered by Glenn. I may be slightly off on the exact wording, but you’ll get the essence.
Glenn Frey “I screened a lot of documentaries and honestly, I was left wanting. I didn’t see anything that was very good so I called Irving Azoff’s office back and said, “Would you just send me the reels of the guys who won the Academy Award for the best documentary…that’s what I want to see. I want a storyteller. I saw a lot of reels from talented documentary filmmakers. Alex’s reel just jumped off the screen. I couldn’t stop watching it. It was riveting. I mean, “Taxi to the Dark Side [Gibney’s film about US torture practices] and the documentary about Enron! You would think that might not correlate into making a movie about the Eagles…which we now call ‘Flat Bed Ford to the Dark Side’. We reached out to Alex and I flew to New York and took a meeting.
We talked about things and I told him how I thought the Eagles story was fairly interesting. I had written an outline for a book a long time ago and I went back to that and it looked like it was an incredible journey about overcoming obstacles and a lot of determination…it wasn’t all given to us. And it was an interesting time in the history of the music business. Southern California in particular where we were at so we talked about it and Alex said sure. And of course, Alex gave me a look that said, ‘…and we’re going to tell the truth, right?’ And so I said, ‘Yes, that’s what we want to do so we took off after that.”
Alex Gibney “You know the big thing was…I talked to Don and Glenn and said, ‘I hope you don’t mind. This is a tremendous opportunity, but I have a couple of concerns. One…that’s the one Glenn mentioned. Could we do this so that everyone would talk…could everyone who may or may not like each other have their say and we’d put that in? And they said, ‘yeah!’ And the other thing was…when you are doing a film that has to do with the past…do you have the material? I remember taking a long flight to Australia and I had been given about 5 or 6 DVDs and it had this incredible convert footage from the Hotel California tour which so happens as shot by (names we didn’t get…sorry). It looked fantastic. It just jumped off the screen. And then the Super 8 footage was so fantastic. So it was like…whoa..this is great! This is a movie. There’s a story. There’s footage. There’s people who are fantastic musicians who want to talk about it so…what more was there left to do except find the magnificent person who put it all together right here…Allison Elwood”
Allison Elwood “It really was some amazing footage that we started looking at and reading the story and doing interviews and I’ve been an Eagles’ fan for a very very long time and…
Glenn Frey “And you still are? (laughing)
Allison Elwood “I am still and Alex calls me up and says do you want to direct something about the Eagles and I said sure…figuring nothing would ever happen with this stuff…it often doesn’t and the next thing you know we’re doing it and it’s been a great ride!
John Cooper “You are all very private. Was it difficult or uncomfortable having the Eagles history come out this way?
Don Henley (mock seriously) “Yes”
John Cooper “I mean it’s very candid so…
Glenn Frey “It’s somewhat disconcerting to go visit other time periods in your life every day whether it’s in the studio…whether it’s musical or its looking at film and stuff. What was going on for us was so much bigger than individuals. You really kind of…it’s about the 500 pound gorilla called The Eagles that’s been dragging us around for 42 years.”
Joe Walsh “It’s a little big emotional to go back and see that. I mean that stuff was locked up for years and years. We never looked at it. We knew it was there and someday we’d get to it but to actually… When we started looking at it and to see us young and so passionate and maybe a little bit stoned once in a while (crowd laughs). Just to see that and kind of relive some of that. There’s some of that I don’t remember very much so it’s good that somebody else in the band does, but some of it I remember vividly so I think it was a great call for each of us to tell the story and for you people to hear all four of us. There’s a good chance you’ll get the truth.
Don Henley “My concern is that I have three teenagers and I don’t know how I’m going to be able to discipline them after they see this”
John Cooper “A word to the wise…you’re not.”
During this part (we think) someone came on stage and placed a small green water bottle next to each person. Don picked his up and examined it very intently for quite a while. Then he tried to open it. After fiddling with it for a moment or two, he put it back on the ground and didn’t touch it again.
John Cooper “What misconceptions about the band do think this film will clear up?
Glenn Frey “I think this is really a question for the people who have the misconceptions. I think its sort of like how Joe had mentioned in the documentary…it’s a little overplayed…the level of conflict and how much that happened. That was more than was actually going on. And as I said before at the beginning of the film…it really was a blast and as we started to go looking through the footage from ’74, ’75 and ’77 with Joe and all this stuff and we’re going, ‘man!’ We were a good band and we were having a really good time and we cared about our music. We were very serious about it but it was also a lot of fun. We have our serious side, but you can’t be serious all the time.
Timothy B. Schmit: Well, I learned personally…every time I see this part I keep learning some stuff from before I was in the band
Allison Elwood: Do you wish you had seen it before?
John Cooper: Would that have changed your decision?
Timothy B. Schmit I knew these guys. We all knew each other even back before Poco started before the Eagles and like the first time Don, Glenn and I hung out was on a Linda Ronstadt album. So we all knew each other but I didn’t know the fine details. It’s pretty interesting. I keep catching new things. That ‘s just about all of my input for Part 1. (note: because of his late addition to the band, Timothy is featured very briefly during Part 1)
John Cooper Before I turn it over to the audience, what’s the future?
Glenn Frey We don’t know. We kind of do things one year at a time now. Since we’ve gotten back together we find that’s a smart way to not get too far ahead of ourselves. Obviously this will be quite an event for us this upcoming year. We’re looking to go back out on the road real soon (crowd erupts with applause). Maybe incorporate a little footage along the way…keep it a little informative as well…go through our catalog but we haven’t made any specific plans about that just yet
Man yelling from audience How about coming back and playing Park City
Glenn Frey It’s hard enough to sing these songs at sea level, Pal!
Laughter and Applause
John Cooper Well, I was gonna call on them but now they’re just shouting shit so…
Audience Member: First of all, that was some of the best sound editing—sound design I’ve ever heard, so kudos to the entire sound department. Early on, how did y’all decide who was going to sing lead vocal—early on? Was it an equal opportunity or who wrote the song or…
[The guys on stage had 2 mics that they had been passing back and forth. As this question was being asked, Don had the mic. After the question was finished, without a word, Don dramatically handed the microphone over to Glenn. The audience broke out laughing]
Glenn Frey For us it as pretty obvious. Sometimes the person who started the song would be the person who would sing lead. Often times, it was a styleistic thing. If it was bluesy…if it was a torch song…that was a Don Henley number. If it was kinda a mid-temp number…maybe a little rock and roll…that would be me. There were songs that were specifically Joe or Timothy or Randy. So it was more like whose voice best fit the song that were were going to record. The nice thing was having the luxury of so many guys that could sing. That’s one of the reasons also why we are still around because things remain interesting within the Eagles. I don’t sing all of the songs. Don doesn’t sing all of the songs. We pass things back and forth…playing a lot of different styles so…we never really had much trouble deciding who was gonna sing. It was always sort of obvious to us wouldn’t you say?
[Don nodded emphatically…the audience laughed]
Glenn Frey Who says we don’t get along?
Audience Member: Hey, that was great. I learned a lot. Two questions. The concert—The Hotel California concert…I’ve been waiting for that whole concert to buy on DVD in surround sound for a long time. I hope that you do that because one thing about watching you guys play and sing…there’s not a lot of people that can actually play and sing…my generation especially [the crowd laughed and clapped while the guy said something else complimentary]
Glenn Frey Thank you. We’ve actually found that when we played in DC and [unintelligible] filmed us…we actually filmed 8 songs. We’re going to put those 8 songs together on a bonus DVD so tht you’ll have, besides Part One and Part Two, there will be a bonus – 8 complete songs from that concert that no ones ever seen before [He’s forgetting that some of this played on MTV back in 1994]
Audience Member That put a lot of meaning to a lot of your songs. Can you share a little bit about the editing? Your process?
Allison Elwood I have an amazing editing team that really helped pull all of this material together because it was a lot of archive and a lot of unfiltered and technical issues. It was the story of this amazing band and these guys that was the driving force of how we put it together. Was that what you were asking?
Audience Member More technical?
Allison Elwood More technical? You should find me after…
Audience ember: Who was in charge of the mazing segues? Because you had such great concert footage and an interview and then you’d segue into the perfect song right after that. So who is in charge of THAT part of the editing?
Alex Gibney The segue person [audience laughs]
John Cooper The Chief Operating Officer of Segues
Allison Elwood My team
Audience member What’s the plan for part 2?
Glenn Frey Part 2 is basically the story of how the Eagles got back together in 1994. It coveres briefly some of the solo work from the 14 years before we got back together. It picks up in 1994 for Hell Freezes Over and continues to the present day.
Audience Member: Is there a release date?
Alex Gibney Parts One and Two will be on Showtime in February. What about the DVD?
Don Henley April 23rd
John Cooper Excellent!
Glenn Frey Just in time for the wife to go shopping!
Don Henley Part 2 covers the experience of the reunion in 1994 up to now. Sometimes I’m surprised to learn that people don’t know that we are still performing. Every time I see my name in the press these days it refers to me as “…former drummer of the Eagles.” But, that’s the press. I think Part 2 is just as interesting as Part 1…more triumphant.
Audience Member I was just wondering how well you get along with Don Felder (paraphrase…I couldn’t hear the entire question)
Don Henley We really can’t talk about this (said in a light, joking manner(
A man in the audience stands to thank the band for years of their music and all of the joy and inspiration they’ve given over him. He loved the film and wanted to say thanks.
A woman in the balcony then said something we didn’t hear. Later, on the shuttle bus, someone informed us that she basically offered her two blonde daughters to the band and asked if she could get a 3E button.
Glenn Frey What was that?
Woman A Button!
On stage, someone tells them what she asked
Glenn Frey I thought you meant a peyote button! We’ve closed the third encore!
Audience Member I have 2 quick questions but I just wanted to interject something real quick. A couple of weeks ago…it’s very ironic because I didn’t know I was going to be seeing you guys. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine handed me these Eagles tapes and I’m like…Eagles…who are the Eagles?
[The entire audience gasps]
Anyways I was blown away by this beautiful music. Anyway—2 quick questions. What were you doing from 1980 to 1994 and secondly…what was your motivation in rigging up those hotel rooms?
Guy Next To Us Are you kidding me?
Everyone on stage is laughing in disbelief.
Don Henley We’re a football team from Philadelphia
[Howls and loud laughter from the crowd]
What we’ve been doing between what ’80 and 94, is that what you were asking?
Audience Member Yes
Don Henley [speaking slowly] We’ve all done solo albums. You might have heard one of them.
[Audience claps and hoots]
But I’m glad you could be here tonight.
[holds up a finger] One more fan
Joe Walsh About room damage, like I said in the film, Keith Moon of The Who taught me how to do all of that stuff. I don’t do that anymore, but I do know how. You know we would play these great shows and get back to the hotel as it was like, ‘where did everybody go?’ And as kind a reward to themselves they would like have a party and I took great delight in redecorating my room. I found that SuperGlue worked tremendous. One time I put my entire room on the ceiling and I don’t really know a whole lot about it.
Glenn Frey Joe is really the master of this and I remember there was a time when Don and I…we had um…other things we wanted to do after the show and we’d say (whispers) ‘you gotta be careful. We can’t get kicked out of here…you gotta do things more subtly’ For example. I had the Tonight Show on in the room and Joe says, ‘Look! Johnny looks thirsty! Nobody is gonna know you’ve done anything wrong. Watch this!’ And he took a glass of water and he poured it into the back of the television and Johnny in the screen is kind of [makes crackling sound]. But when you left the hotel, nobody really knows anything but that the T.V. didn’t work.
Joe Walsh That was a great secret
Glenn Frey And if the TV didn’t work, who cared if you threw it in the pool.
Joe Walsh You could get across the state line before the maid opened the door.
Timothy B. Schmit [acting all serious…like a reporter] I have a question. You blame Keith Moon?
Joe Walsh Well you gotta place the blame on somebody
Glenn Frey It was like Bernie said. We were all just kids out there. We were young and brave and crazy and we had a good time and nobody got hurt, Thank God.
Joe Walsh You can’t do that stuff anymore
Glenn Frey Nobody was following us around with cameras and kind of the crazy things that go on now. If they followed us home from the Troubadour and saw where we went every night…wherever it was, I’m sure it would have been boring, but those kinds of things didn’t happen. We lived in our own little world.
Audience Member It’s a question about whether or not the band was usually all in the room together to record a track.
Glenn Frey There’s a lot when you are recording a live track in the studio. It’s always better to have everybody playing. Things sort of happen. You feed off of each together. There’s peaks and valleys and dynamics that wouldn’t happen if you just cut it drums and guitar. We always tried to cut our tracks together.
Joe Walsh I think that’s the secret of playing. That’s the old analog way where you get everybody in a room and your mic it and push record. That’s how you get…everybody’s playing together. That’s different now. There’s some situations where nobody’s playing live. It’s all virtual. But if everybody’s playing at the same time, there’s the human element and the magic in the performance…it does not necessarily have to be perfect, but the magic of the performance is what we all love about all of those old records [audience claps and cheers]
John Cooper One more question. Make it a good one.
A young woman in the back starts rambling about Desperado and how it was in a Seinfeld episode. The audience turned on her, shouting, “Do you have a question?” and “Get to the point”. Finally, the moderator picked someone else for the final question.
Audience member Going back in time…I’m sure it was nostalgic…but at the same time, you have a family of prior band mates and as you look back at the evolution of the band…through the process…did it mean anything different to you today versus when you were there and they broke away? How does it make you feel today that there were 3…4…5 people not part of the Eagles today
John Cooper That’s a good question
Don Henley That’s for me?
Audience member Anyone, but you too.
Glenn Frey Just because I talk more doesn’t mean I’m smart [audience laughs]. You know, I look back at this now and I see that we were in our twenties and things were coming at us fast and furious. I like Randy Meisner. I like Bernie Leadon. Things just happened in the band. The band started growing in ways that none of us would have imagined and it was really sort of the band outgrowing some of the people who were in it. And also there’s the fact that there was a lot of pressure and to be honest it’s not easy. But I don’t have any ill will towards the other guys. I wish them only the best. What happened…happened and before we leave here I think the four of us really owe a debt of gratitude to Alison and Alex because we just sort of threw all of this in their lap. I lost my train of thought. I don’t feel bad. I just feel like these are things that happened. And as a lot of time passes, the more the feelings are warm.
Don Henley It’s difficult to look at some of this stuff, frankly, but on the other hand, as Glenn said, what happened…happened and I like to think these things happen for a reason. Bernie Leadon and I are still friends. We email one another periodically. I have no contact with Randy or the other guy [crowd laughs ] We just have contact through his lawyer. But it is what it is. As the song says, ‘Regrets…I’ve got a few..but then again…too few to mention.” So I wish all those guys well and I appreciate what they all contributed to the band while they were in it. Their contributions live on in the form of recordings. They still get their royalties…which is a good thing…and on we go….life goes on.
Glenn Frey There’s one part of the formula that the Eagles have that we stay true to. We all believe that when you get into a collective, creative project, it’s best to surround yourself with talent and we wanted to do this project which is very far removed from what we do. We made a really smart choice by getting Alison and Alex to help us tell our story. They did a great job for us.
Band waves and leaves.