Ego tours: rock and roles

by James Hebert | Jun 19, 2001
Ego tours: rock and roles Kevin Bacon has a band. Keanu Reeves has a band. Russell Crowe has a band.

Cut!

Quaid says with a snicker. "It`s an ego trip."

Oh ... Dennis Quaid has a band, too.

What?

One movie star`s exercise in self-glorification, apparently, is another`s therapy, creative outlet and opportunity to do a little public bon-bon shaking.

Quaid, the A-list actor seen most recently in "Traffic," is the latest in a parade of Hollywood types who have grabbed guitars or mikes and made like rock stars. Some have been passable. Many have been bad. (What "Star Trek`s" William Shatner did to the Beatles may be the very definition of bad.)

But Quaid, to his credit, does not pretend his stardom makes the Sharks too cool for the room.

"It`s a benefit, in that people will book the band unseen, basically," the lead singer and rhythm guitarist says of the cachet his name brings. "But the drawback (can be), you`re not any good! That would be a definite drawback."

Quaid, 47, is no newcomer to music. Although most people connect him with rock through his role as Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1989 film "Great Balls of Fire!," in the late 1980s he led a real band called the Eclectics.

"Did you ever see that movie `The Commitments`?" he asks, name-dropping the 1992 film about a fictional, short-lived Irish soul act. "It ended just like that. Right when everything came together, it all blew up.

"We got a record deal, and the record company set up a concert for us. We played that night (at Los Angeles` China Club).

"I was in rehab the next day."

HEARTBREAK HOTEL

Quaid makes no secret of his past struggles with cocaine.

"I was loaded back then," he says, speaking from the Texas set of the film "The Rookie."

But if the Eclectics ended because of Quaid`s personal troubles, the Sharks essentially started because of them.

Late last year, Quaid famously split up with his wife of a decade, actress Meg Ryan.

"I don`t think I would have even gone out (if the split hadn`t happened)," he says. "My relationship breaking up kind of set me out there again."

He began frequenting gigs by the Harry Dean Stanton Band at the Mint club in Los Angeles. Soon he was joining his longtime friend (and fellow actor) Stanton onstage.

Eventually, Quaid and guitarist Jamie James - who leads the Kingbees and also performed with Stanton - formed the Sharks as a side project. Quaid`s piano-playing son, Jack, contributed the name.

And here`s one for the armchair therapists: Quaid`s marital meltdown happened after Ryan was seen making music with Russell Crowe - that actor with the rock band, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts.

Quaid won`t cop to trying to one-up his romantic rival by starting the Sharks. When he talks about the "terrible" actor-led acts he`s heard, he declines to name any names. But there was, it seems, a kind of rebound effect at work.

"It`s just like going back to an old girlfriend you always loved, but hadn`t seen in a long time," he says of his return to music.

Quaid, says band mate James, is "the real thing. I know he`ll get compared to a lot of other actors who are doing music. But he`s a real musician."

Onstage, the Sharks play good-time standbys like War`s "Spill the Wine" and Buddy Holly`s "Not Fade Away," with about half the show devoted to Quaid and James` original songs.

"Being onstage with a group of great musicians, I don`t think there`s any greater joy than that, when it`s really workin` and you feel a real synergy going on with the audience," Quaid says.

"That`s something I don`t get in acting. Even in a play, you don`t get that, because there`s always that `fourth wall.` In music, it`s very direct with the audience, and very immediate. I love it."

But not so much that he`d switch careers.

"I don`t think so. For one thing, the music business, I`m not really fond of. I love acting, I love doing movies. I`ve done pretty well at it. It`s a great day job."

Quaid has no illusions about how his new project might be perceived.

"I understand that people will say, `Oh, here`s another actor with a band.` "

The skeptics are free to scoff. Quaid is free to get up and make noise.

"I think the more you are willing to show of yourself, your real self, the more people can relate to that," he says. "That`s the same way it is for me in acting, really; even though I`m hiding behind a character, it`s still me.

"At the bottom of it, though, I think it comes from a sense of joy. That`s what I want it to come from."

Dennis Quaid is just the latest movie star to dabble in stage work - concert stage work, that is. Here are a few other prominent actors with rock `n` roll on their resumes:

KEANU REEVES

James Brown may have a lock on that hardest-working-man-in-showbiz thing, but Keanu Reeves has to be the hardest-working actor in the music biz. The bass-playing "Matrix" star`s band, Dogstar, has been performing and recording regularly for about 10 years.

In a 1994 concert review , the San Diego Union-Tribune observed: "Dogstar is not a particularly talented ensemble. They slaughtered The Jam`s `The Modern World.` The original Reeves-penned tunes ranged from simplistic - I don`t want to go to camp / The other kids don`t understand / That`s not the way to be a man - to ridiculous."

At show`s end, a hyperventilating female fan was heard to exclaim: "Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh Jesus ... Keanu is such a babe!" Then she fainted.

RUSSELL CROWE

The Australian actor, infamous for his dalliance with former Quaid mate Meg Ryan, has been playing in bands since the mid-1980s. His present outfit is the, shall we say, distinctively named Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts. (Since you asked: The name comes from a sound-effect request on a post-production script for the movie "Virtuosity.")

Crowe, an Oscar winner for "Gladiator," writes the lyrics and sings. The band released an album, "Bastard Life or Clarity," a few months ago, but performs live only sporadically, and Crowe is loath to market the music.

"I just don`t bother with the thing, because I don`t want it marketed at the corporate level, and I don`t want to be packaging it to please someone else," Crowe told the Union-Tribune during interviews for "The Insider."

KEVIN BACON

Despite the marquee name in the lineup, the Bacon Brothers are no prefab Partridge Family. Kevin`s older brother, Michael, has been a professional musician since the 1970s, performing in the folk-rock group the Good News and, more recently, writing scores for TV programs.

The brothers, who are both songwriters, formed the band about six years ago. Their first album, "Forosoco," took its name from their preferred style(s) of music: folk, rock, soul and country. Their latest album is 1999`s "Getting There."

(c) Copley News Service at www.copleynews.com.

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Author: James Hebert

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