By Trent Rentsch
As I’m plunging 210 feet I remember that I’m afraid of heights. This might explain why I recognize one of the screaming voices as my own. At 73 miles an hour there really isn’t much time to ponder the girlish timbre of my shriek, as we pull up from the dive and climb again, nearly as high, nearly as fast. Surely that was the tallest one… OH MY GOD!! I might be more comfortable with my situation if my butt was actually on the seat, but I seem to be free falling with no visible means of support. Luckily, I do land back in the chair rather than on my face. I consider screaming for mercy, or my Mommy, but I know it will do no good. By some insane quirk of fancy I am speeding along the back of a steel beast, a journey that, once taken, must be endured to the end. For the next several minutes I hold on tight, pray, go hoarse, and wish I hadn’t eaten an hour before. Then, just as my wits and bodily functions are about to go completely, the nightmare ends as suddenly as it begins. Hoping that he is still strapped beside me, I turn my head to my stepson. “Did you feel those G’s,” he says. “Man, I saw purple dots in front of my eyes! Let’s do it again!” I look back at the 4,882 feet of twisting turning steel that is Apollo’s Chariot. “Sure!” I smile. “Why not?”
Yes, in the Italian section of Busch Gardens, we did as the Romans might do and rode Apollo’s Chariot. We also spun around the double loops of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, and “skied” Alpengeist in Germany. Oh yes, and after dark we sped through the woods on the shoulders of the Big Bad Wolf. Every ride a new experience in terror, every breathtaking minute a recipe for cardiac arrest. And I loved it. God help me, I loved it!
To explain why, I would have to understand it myself. If you’re into coasters, you understand what I’m talking about. If you’re not, well, you’d be like my wife. Luckily, there was an abundance of tamer fare for Lori while I deserted her for another hit of G-force induced adrenaline. That’s right, distract the wimps while those of us wearing Cry Babies Don’t Ride hats get down to business! Only kidding, Honey! Honest! Sort of. I really should be nice. After all, just 2 days after my coaster fix, my wife managed a last-second dream come true.
I am a child of Beatlemania. I still have The Beatles Second Album and A Hard Days Night LPs that my parents bought me when I was three. At five I was wowing the audience at my Aunt’s piano recital with an unexpected rendition of Twist & Shout. While other kids got eggs, the Easter Bunny delivered the Beatles single that had Strawberry Fields Forever on one side and Penny Lane on the other. I stood by my Beatles through the rocky “Honeymoon’s Over” period that was John’s marriage to Yoko. I remained faithful to each of them after the break-up, collecting all of their solo efforts, good or bad… yes, even Ringo’s! While my friends moved on to the polyester-coated disco era, I maintained that disco sucked… at least until Paul released Goodnight Tonight. Then, the unthinkable happened. John was gone. The fantasy of a reunion was gone. The Beatles weren’t forever. All I could do was hope that I might sometime see one of the surviving members in concert. It took awhile. Until last night, to be exact.
When George passed away a few months ago, I knew that time was slipping away. One night I dreamed that Paul had died, and Ringo was my last chance. I woke up in a cold sweat. That same morning, McCartney’s concert in Raleigh was announced. Whew! But then I read the ticket prices… WHEW!!! Why I didn’t just go ahead and bite the bullet is a mystery to me too, but I didn’t. And by yesterday I was really regretting it. Leave it to my wife to be my Angel of Mercy. Late yesterday afternoon, just when I was feeling the most sorry for myself, she emailed me salvation. We had two seats in her company’s suite for the concert! Did he live up to my expectations? Duh!
Roller Coasters and Paul McCartney have more in common than an obsessive middle-aged geek. Like a good ride designer, McCartney knows his audience. Years of writing, recording and performing have taught him what works and what doesn’t. He also understands that you can’t do the same thing, the same way, over and over. Reading some of the message boards revealed that he has made changes to the show since this tour began, constantly tweaking and improving the production. And just as a coaster engineer knows, McCartney understands that he has to keep adding new spins on even the old favorites, to keep the audience interested and coming back. Yes, there is a science to designing a coaster, but like a successful concert tour, it’s not really rocket science. The keys are understanding your audience, giving them what they want, and keeping it fresh. It’s a set of keys that all Creatives should keep in their pocket.
Too many times I hear screaming, flame-throwing, hard rocking ads on Country music stations. I have also heard monotone, voice only spots droning on for what seems like hours on Classic Rockers. Beavis and Butthead drops land smack in the middle of sweepers for oldies stations, while bad Elvis impersonators mumble why they listen to the local alternative station every time they are out buying jelly donuts. Who is the audience? Where is the focus? Until the first question is answered, the second won’t be… and obviously isn’t in some cases.
In the past few days, both Busch Gardens and Paul McCartney have made me a very happy boy, because they knew what I wanted and gave it to me. Of course if my wife didn’t know her husband, the McCartney concert wouldn’t have happened. I really must quit kidding her for being a chicken about coasters. Nah…