We were on our way to a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game, having a bite to eat in a Hollywood diner before heading out.
“Now listen,” said Craig Modderno, a freelance journalist who, I had learned from sometimes head-shaking experience, could get me into the craziest situations at the most unexpected times. “We’ve got to wait a few more minutes.”
“Why?” I demanded, suspicious of what Modderno might be up to.
“We may have a guest coming to the game with us,” Modderno replied. “I don’t know if he’s gonna show up. But let’s wait a few more minutes and see.”
Greg Henry, the blond-haired, square-jawed actor who was a favorite of director Brian DePalma (Body Double, Scarface, Casualties of War) and I grumbled a bit but we agreed to wait.
A few minutes later in walked Modderno’s guest, Marvin Lee Aday, better known to the world and the fourteen million people who had bought his iconic Bat out of Hell album, as Meat Loaf.
Meat Loaf, in town for a movie, turned out to be a huge baseball fan. He couldn’t resist an evening at Dodger Stadium even if it was with three strangers. He sat down with us for a few minutes, very much at ease considering he had just met us (Modderno had interviewed him in the afternoon).
He wanted to take his car out to Elysium Fields in South Central Los Angeles. It was agreed that I would ride along with him. He was behind the wheel of a big rental sedan as we headed south, chatting away about some awful film experience he had recently endured while I’m thinking to myself, What do I call a guy named Meat Loaf? Meat? Loaf? So I asked him.
“Call me Meat,” he said with a grin.
And Meat it was, although I still fumbled self-consciously every time I said it.
Driving to the stadium, I prattled on about the irony of meeting him. I told him I’d just driven across the country from Toronto. On the way, I’d cranked up Bat Out of Hell, squinting hard, hoping to see paradise by the dashboard light, fighting off the demons I thought I’d left behind but soon realized had snuck into my Mustang and were travelling with me.
Bat Out of Hell, I told him, had helped keep them at bay.
To his credit, Meat took my babble in stride and did a great job pretending he hadn’t heard variations on this a few thousand times since the release of the album.
For a singer and actor often described as larger than life, Meat was surprisingly lowkey. He was big, no question, but certainly not overwhelming, and when we got to the stadium, he went largely unrecognized. Only the stadium manager, when Modderno introduced us, seemed to know who he was.
The four of us sat in the bleachers, doing what you do at a baseball game, drinking beer, eating hot dogs, shooting the breeze, and, oh yeah, occasionally watching the game. I don’t recall much of what we talked about, but hearing of Meat Loaf’s death at the far-too-young age of 74, I remembered the ease and the laughter, four guys together on a warm Los Angeles evening, enjoying the simple pleasure of each other’s company.
Three die-hard baseball fans and a Canadian, sitting beside the guy who had kept away the demons chasing him across the country, working to get his head around calling him Meat.