Chuck Garric: Paradoxical Steelers Fan, Well-Established Rock Star - By Neal Coolong
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Perhaps it was the paradox of personality for young San Francisco native Chuck Garric. He had the rock 'n roll bug, but there was something about blue collar football that was also enticing. He's the bass player for Alice Cooper today, having recorded two albums with him. And rock's diplomat to the Super Bowl XL champions.
Perhaps it was the persona of the working class Steelers teams of the 1970s being in stark contrast of the socially liberal Bay Area that drew his attention.
Maybe he knew as a young kid watching the Steelers beat his hometown 49ers ("I forget which year," he said) that he would eventually be a rocker through his being - tattoos covering both arms, a ripping bass talent, modern Elvis hairstyle with sharp sideburns.
But even with that hardcore exterior, the nostalgic part in Garric still supports the Steelers due to an equally conservative principle. "They just look like football players and how (the game) should be played," he said. "Tommy Lee looks like a rocker, the Steelers look like football players."
Both of those ideals have changed during Garric' generation of rock and football style. Toothless and intimidating Jack Lambert is less common than smooth-shaven trash-talking Joey Porter. The bushy mop-top of Jimmy Page is replaced by the short and damp look of Dave Navarro.
Not that the rock 'n roll hair is out of the NFL. It's not quite 1974, but SS Troy Polamalu's long hair is a modern spin on an era of less selfl consciousness. On the field, The Tazmanian Devil is pure rock 'n roll - get the job done through any means (Garric compares his daughter, Alisha, to Polamalu on a soccer pitch). But it's done with an air of intensity and showmanship. It's the same mentality of the trends of two decades ago, combined with a progressive look.
That's just like Garric. That's why he's a Steelers fan.
He's rocking 70s classic hits ("School's Out", "I'm Eighteen"), while Polamalu is the face behind a modern-aged Steel Curtain. Taking just a look at either of them, "blue collar" wouldn't be the first description to come to mind, but very few epitomize "throw-back" better.
The Steelers' hard-nosed (and chinned) coach employs a dedicated run-game and a relentless run defense. Dick Butkus's mangled hands don't scream 70s football as much as those characteristics do.
Touring with Alice Cooper, having thousands of fans screaming on every chord, leaving amid a large crowd on a tour bus with black mirrored windows. That's rock 'n roll. Garric and the Steelers fit together beautifully.
He might as well have been wearing a Lambert jersey. But don't think he couldn't pull off Polamalu's No. 43.
I caught up with Garric at the Taste of Minnesota Fesitval in St. Paul on a paint-melting-hot evening in June. The festival area was jammed with Alice Cooper fans, all sweating, all excited. I got a hold of Garric via his cell phone, and met him at the gate. Without pretense, he was one of the nicest people I have ever met. After being harassed by amateur security guards over my credentials and intentions, Garric brought me back to the backstage area through a group of fans clearly past their primes.
The football-savvy Garric and I sat at a picnic table under an umbrella as Gary Wright played on the stage behind us. He offered me a beer, and sat back in his chair in a very approachable manner. He was California-laid-back, and was much cooler than the 96 degree temperature would suggest.
He gave his thoughts on Ben's accident ("My first thought was hoping he was ok. I'm a rocker, I'm not going to fault someone for not wearing a helmet, but when you have that many people depending on you, you gotta consider your health"), Cincinnati fans and the team in general ("...All just a bunch of whiners. Shut up, already")
We both withstood a brief anti-Steelers offensive by drummer Eric Singer - a Browns fan. After throwing around a few good-natured jokes over the subject of star players, motorcycles and injuries, Singer admitted to the Steelers' superiority.
"Just wait, though," he said. "we're up and coming."
Similar sentiments were no doubt echoed in Garric's childhood. With his family working for the 49ers - the organization that supplanted Pittsburgh's dominance over the NFL with four titles in the 1980s - he saw a familiar adversary.
"People around me always hated the Cowboys," he said. "That worked out well, because I did too."
But Garric feels rivalries are much more of a one-way street when you advertise your loyalty to the three rivers.
"So many teams have something against the Steelers," he said. "I think they're just jealous. I couldn't imagine being a fan of another team. Ownership changes, moving teams in the middle of the night, things like that.
"Most of (the fans of other teams) are just sore losers. Whiners. Any time the Steelers lose a game, it's because they were beaten. With everyone else, it was because the refs gave it to Pittsburgh, or because this guy was hurt, or some excuse."
The show that night was as much a theatrical event as a rock concert. Despite the guy standing behind me with no social grace screaming "Alice Cooper!" every 40 seconds, it was a memorable experience. Garric didn't wave his Terrible Towel around like I requested, largely because even a causal observer could see every movement on stage was orchestrated like a nickel blitz.
Alice's daughter was involved with a portion of the show, and walked around the trailer afterward singing "Locomotion" with Singer. Her voice completely blew his away - and probably those of most American Idol participants.
Garric met up with myself and two friends in the trailer after the show. His politeness was still as strong as it had been when he met me, and we thanked him profusely for taking the time to meet us. I had met Alice earlier, but my friends weren't there yet. He popped his head out of a back room in the trailer once, inquiring as to the identity of a certain comedian who "does the thing about the hot pockets."
That's probably the last thing I would have expected to hear from Alice Cooper, but definitely enough to make the four of us break out laughing.
Despite fans crowding around the gates enclosing the backstage area, Garric was very engaging with us as we talked about golf, music, touring and football. You couldn't ask for a better interview subject.
As the Steelers prepare to begin their defense of their championship, Garric has no plans of slowing down. Along with touring throughout the year (and golfing with Alice every morning, both are sponsored by Calloway), Garric and his wife run Voice Trax West, a full-service recording studio specializing in recording voice-over, voice-to-picture, ISDN, TV Tags and radio spots in Los Angeles (www.voicetraxwest.com or www.chuckgarric.com).
"I always needed a day job so I learned to engineer and worked at VoiceTrax West when Alice was off tour," he said. "My wife and I took over ownership in March 2006."
One month after the Steelers took ownership of the NFL. A very fitting symbol of the perfect paradoxical fan.