Glenn Frey Was Nice to Me

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When Glenn Frey—singer, songwriter and original member of the multimillion-selling California rock band the Eagles—died this past Monday, I was saddened. But for me, as it surely was for many music fans who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s, Frey’s death was overshadowed by David Bowie’s passing eight days before. Bowie was always a hard act to follow. 

Growing up, I listened to both: the Eagles while partying in friends’ backyards (a beer in hand, parents absent) during high school in Houston; Bowie while alone in my room, headphones on, late at night. As an introvert, I related to Bowie’s strange outsiderness more than I did the Eagles’ good-time vibes, but while Bowie may have taught me more about myself, singing along to the Eagles (with another beer in hand) kept me in touch with the rest of the world. Definitely a good thing.

After the Eagles split, in 1980, Frey popped up on TV (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges) and on soundtracks (Ghostbusters II, Beverly Hills Cop). He also made the Billboard Top 40 album chart with his 1980s solo records. But by the early 1990s, the former Eagle hadn’t soared to a hit in a while. Around 1994, a college friend of mine took a job in Los Angeles as Frey’s assistant. He did many things for Frey. Once, he told me, he picked up his boss at the airport and experienced firsthand his rock-royalty ego: Fearing that fans would mob him, Frey donned a hat and sunglasses in a self-conscious effort to be unrecognizable, precautions my friend and Frey’s wife found fanciful and amusing. He clearly wanted to be the kind of star who needed a disguise.

The Eagles, 1994 (Everett Collection)
The Eagles, 1994 (Everett Collection)

In spring 1995, my friend was still working for Frey, and from what I could discern, he was still wary of his boss’s ego and eccentricities. When would he get to take advantage of Frey’s rock god status? When would he collect on his labor and enjoy what was rightfully his—the cast-off spoils of L.A.’s music biz?

When I flew into town that April for a visit, I really wanted to meet this slightly over-the-hill rock star who still wanted to be a big deal. So when my friend was summoned to a small Santa Monica house Frey owned, to help move a few boxes of belongings into storage, I jumped at the chance to tag along. As luck would have it, Frey was there, supervising the activities.

As we shuttled boxes from the driveway into a detached building on the property, Frey announced he had tickets to that evening’s Lakers game, season tickets he didn’t need that night. Did anyone want them? Worried about the unpredictable strings that could be attached if he accepted, my friend said nothing. But I didn’t hesitate: “I’ll take them, Mr. Frey!” I said. He seemed pleased, if a bit chagrined that my friend was not at the receiving end of his graciousness. When he handed me the two tickets, I saw the price on each was $500. Rock and roll, finally!

Glenn Frey, 1977. (Photoshot/Everett Collection)
Glenn Frey, 1977 (Photoshot/Everett Collection)

Frey’s seats were the best in the house: first row, right in the middle of the court. Directly across from us was Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers, also sitting courtside. If Jack Nicholson was there too, we missed him. The Lakers lost to the San Antonio Spurs, however; Dennis Rodman and his crazy hair beat them 101 to 87. But we didn’t care. We were guests of Glenn Frey, sitting alongside the L.A. rich and famous.

I don’t believe Frey ever offered my friend Lakers tickets again, though he did give him a Glenn Frey Limited Edition Rickenbacker guitar upon his retirement—a narcissist’s gift if there ever was one. Frey and the Eagles got back together, of course, and made an additional bundle of money performing their songs about livin’ hard and livin’ easy. I’d say I glimpsed both hard and easy in my brief encounter with Frey. He was a businessman, always looking out for his angle and his needs, and a songwriter whose work captured the openness and generosity of the 1970s California vibe.

Glenn Frey was nice to me, and that’s what I’m going to remember.

Feature Photo: Fredrik von Erichsen/Photoshot/Everett Collection