The voices and applause of 18,000 fans rose as the the lights dimmed and the band made its way to the revolving stage at centre ice. An announcer’s voice boomed across the arena, “Ladies… and… Gentlemen… The Molson Centre is proud to present… NEEEIIIILLL DIIIAAAMMONDDD!!!!!”

There I was, arms raised in triumph. Then I caught myself and quickly regained composure. For a brief shining moment I had caught an inkling of what it must be like for people who live in the public eye and have people screaming their name whenever they appear.

I normally wouldn’t have gone to a Neil Diamond concert. My tastes in music lean more towards anything between old country music for its drinkin’ and hurtin’ songs to really heavy, almost ugly music you can only enjoy at high volume in a crowded club with people bumping into each other and spilling drinks. There is some Rap music I can take, but as a friend of mine jokes to his kids, “Rap is for non-singers.”

So what brought me here at the 20th row in front of centre at the Molson Centre surrounded by a lot of bald heads was a lifetime of bad, repetitive jokes about the name I was given.

I don’t know how many times I have heard, usually in public, “Neil, sing us a song!” or, “Do you sing?” One guy, an acquaintance, had only one line which he’d deliver with a huge smile almost everytime I’d see him, “Kentucky Woman.” I don’t know if it was his favourite Neil Diamond song but after more than 50 of those you start to feel weird. One cousin will just look at me and in his most sarcastic of voices say, “Money talks.” One woman asked me to autograph an album I am sure she went out of her way and bought just for that purpose.

Sometimes you meet real fans who know the whole Diamond album catalogue, most of the song lyrics and have seen at least a dozen times Scorcese’s The Last Waltz and The Jazz Singer. The real fanatics follow the tour from city to city and have come to be called Diamondheads. After all the teasing from non-fans who knows what I’d get from those ones. It’s scary to think about so I won’t even go there.

My most ridiculous experience was at the beginning of the school year with a new teacher. She asked everyone their names. With a completely straight face honed through many years of embarrassing scenes like this, I told her my name. Her expression said it all. I was going to be this year’s class troublemaker and wise ass, and she ignored my smart answer. She moved on to another student. My friend Elvis from Eastmain. Elvis couldn’t resist. He just answered her “Elvis,” and left out his last name. I guess she wasn’t going to tolerate two troublemakers in her class this early in the year and sent us to the principal’s office for a tongue lashing. Eventually the confusion was cleared up, and The King and I were exonerated. Needless to say she was right about us in the end and we both went on to be just the troublemakers and wise asses she feared we’d be. Now I get paid for it. I’m just waiting for the big bucks. Patiently.

There was another incident similar to that one. Picture this. I’m in jail at four o’clock in the morning and there’s an Indian guy locked up in the cell beside me. We get around to talking and he asks me my name. He sort of chuckled when I answered. So I asked him what his name was. “Jim Morrison,” he said. Our laughter rang through the metal bars. The jailer must have thought we were crazy.

By the way, the show was pretty good and was worth the twenty bucks.