#40. I met Greg Dulli and Afghan Whigs (FLA & New Orleans, 1994- 2010)

a surprisingly nice person

In six easy pieces:

  1. FLA, 1994

“We need to talk to you guys.” Our drummer knocked on the Afghan Whigs’s dressing room door after a Gainesville, FL show on the Gentleman tour. I was 22, my bandmates tracked younger, and all of us wanted to open the Whigs’ upcoming show in Tampa, no bullshit, let’s do this.

Big, sweaty bassist John Curley answered our knock. “Hi, who are you guys?”

Our drummer broke it down, “We need to talk to you all about your show in Tampa.“

“OK….” Curley did seem confused. He’d just played a big, sweaty show and probably hadn’t had a glass of icewater yet. “Um. Give us a second.”

About five minutes later, the door opened back up and the band invited in a large huddle of young men who worshiped Dulli’s music, and one or two of their girlfriends. I hadn’t visited many backstage areas, and had expected the rockstars would chat up girls, while acting rude to the fanboys. But Dulli sat in a comfy chair, mostly smiles, talking with his real fans. Sunglasses on, he seemed to have ingested more than ice water…

My band sat before Dulli and naively demanded he let us open for the Whigs in Tampa later that week. Dulli seemed charmed that we’d all come together to speak with him, a band that loved his band. He said something like, “Yeah sure, sounds good,” and pretty much agreed to let us open for him. “If it’s OK with our booking guy,” he amended. Which of course it would not be OK with the booking guy. Dulli was just being sweet.

He did put us all on the guest lists for all of the rest of the Florida Gentleman dates. We went backstage to high-five him each night. He gave us personal attention as a form of grooming, raising us into lifelong fans. That shit works; I still know him today.

2. NOLA, 2003

By the age of 30, I’d moved away from his music, but one of the few things I knew about New Orleans before moving here, was that Greg Dulli lived here. His Twilight Singers band recorded here. He’d reportedly had a sort of bad relationship with New Orleans, or at least its drugs.

A couple years after I arrived, one gorgeous New Orleans afternoon, I finally spotted Dulli on Frenchmen St. Just a block from FAB bookstore, I ran in and asked store-owner Otis for a copy of my novel The Donkey Show. I stepped back out the door and into Dulli.

“You were very kind to my band when I was about 22,” I blurted.

“When was that, last week?” All smiles, Dulli shifted his cigarette to this opposite hand, took the book, said the title aloud, and thanked me.

3. NOLA, 2006

That year after Katrina, when New Orleans remained ghostly empty, one terrible hot summer day, a friend and I spotted Dulli riding down Frenchmen on a big black beach cruiser, wearing all black, long pants, big black Jackie O sunglasses.

“Dulli!” I shouted like I knew him.

“Hey guys,” he smiled like he knew me. He pedaled across the street to stand with us and talk about Katrina, the quality of the free meals the Red Cross handed out, and the general apocalyptic landscape.

“My buddy in Marigny had a giant tree fall into his swimming pool. Totally fucked up his pool,” Dulli smiled.” I told him, ‘Whatever you do, do not complain to anyone about the pool.”

4. NOLA, 2006

When I interviewed Dulli on separate occasions for OffBeat and Gambit, he answered his phone, “What’s up, Donkey Show?

Then he found out my band’s name and henceforth called me “White Bitch.” “That’s the best band name of all time,” he enthused.

5. NOLA, 2009

For my New Orleans music guidebook, my photographer friend took a photo of Greg Dulli behind R Bar, the local bar he owns — downstairs from the Royal Street Inn, which he also owns — wearing a giant bunny head.

6. NOLA, 2010

A friend of mine drove from Alabama to New Orleans to hear Dulli kick off his solo acoustic tour at a nice, small Frenchmen Street bar. Obnoxiously drunk, I pried us backstage afterwards — or really, just into a courtyard adjacent to Frenchmen St., where Dulli and some of my musician friends cooled down.

I introduced Dulli to my Alabama friend. My friend too quickly asked to take a photo with Dulli, whose smile vanished.

“Really?” Dulli asked and I feared our good run over. “Now, man?” Dulli huffed.

“Dulli’s one of my neighbors,” I said to my visiting friend, trying to make a joke of it all, “We don’t do this to our neighbors here in New Orleans!”

But just as my embarrassed friend gave up, Dulli rallied, smiled: “OK, get in here. Let’s take a pic.”

I’ve also heard some hairy local stories about Greg Dulli. He doesn’t have the absolute best reputation here in New Orleans. I know he’s had to beat the shit out of a couple people who’ve fucked with him too much (I love those stories!). But though he’s often painted as the prince of darkness, Greg Dulli has been a gentleman to me for two decades and counting.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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