St. Louis icon (and sometime object of scorn) Beatle Bob celebrates a clubgoing milestone

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One man's obsession is another man's confusion, and a quick glimpse into the curious world of Beatle Bob is proof enough. I'm not sure whether we should celebrate or call the nuthouse, but Saturday, Sept. 25, will be a landmark day in Beatle Bob World. We'll let him explain why: "As you know, I've kept a diary of every musical show I've ever gone to, but for the first time, in 1997 — and I did it again in 1998 — I've went out every night of the year at least seeing one show, if not a double- or tripleheader. At the end of '98, I knew that I'd be approaching this goal and hitting it in 1999, and so I counted up the number of days I needed, and on Sept 25, if I don't miss a show before then, that Saturday will be my 1,000th night out without missing a single show. Every night out. The last day I missed a show was December 24 — Christmas Eve — 1996."

That's right. You're wondering why the Beatle is so omnipresent in your world? Simple. He's out all the time. For 1,000 nights in a row he will have seen some sort of musical performance — be it a concert, a club date, a folk show or a gospel get-down. A thousand nights in a row away from home. A thousand nights spent avoiding existential dread. A thousand nights obsessively documenting his musical experiences. A thousand nights in a row out on the town. A thousand nights dancing, dancing, dancing.

If you're new to the area or haven't been to a show in St. Louis in, say, the past 20-odd years, and you don't know who the hell we're talking about, Beatle Bob is a guy who (duh) goes to loads of shows and dances his funny dance (next time you see him, note that he often dances in 5/4 time). He's the semiofficial human mascot of the New Orleans Jazz Fest and the grand marshal of some pop festival in LA, and he is achieving the sort of American renown reserved for the most eccentric and endearing of citizens. Many St. Louisans, of course, are annoyed by this fame — they say, off the record, that he's most famous for elbowing his way to the front of shows, carving a large spot in front of the stage by shoving and bullying dance-floor neighbors and endearing himself to bands at the expense of fellow concertgoers. To these people, we say ... well, you've got a good point.

But, still, this is quite a feat.

And if you're thinking of calling the judges for some rule-clarification, Beatle Bob has constructed his own set of rules for what constitutes a fair night out: "These are full shows. If I write it in my diary, it means I stayed for the full show. Some nights I may see one full show and then head to another club later and only catch a half-hour of a show, and I won't count that. I'll put that in italics as something I've seen, but none of that counts as seeing a full show."

Alas, Bob failed to achieve the elusive double whammy, the one that has been on the record books since the legendary Astaire Al both went out 1,000 nights in a row and danced every night. That was 1949. A different world, different times. Bedtime was 9:30 p.m., so all shows got over around 9 p.m. Bob's the first to admit that he's fallen short of that remarkable feat: "I don't dance at all the shows. I'll see something at the Focal Point, a singer/songwriter, and I'll just sit there and enjoy the melodies and words." And if anyone assumes that keeping Bob from dancing would require some sort of restraint (or restraining order), he's quick to respond when asked whether it's hard to keep from dancing: "No. People ask me that all the time, and it's not hard for me to not dance. I'll tap my foot along to the beat, but it's as easy for me to sit there and enjoy the music as it is for anyone else."

Of course, we're going to have to take Beatle Bob's word that he's on the up-and-up about this; because he's alone in these endeavors, who's to say that he didn't stay home on Monday, Feb. 3, 1997, because there was a huge snowstorm, bus service was shut down (even more miraculous is that Bob has accomplished this feat without the aid of a car) and, well, there just wasn't anything going on? Of course, no one wants to snatch the spring out of Beatle Bob's step, so we'll take him on his word that he's telling the truth about all of this.

The best show he's seen in that time? The Kaisers, at the Hi-Pointe last year. The local band he's seen most often in that time? "Either the Civiltones or Swing Set. It's not necessarily that they're my favorite St. Louis bands — though I like them both a lot. It's more that they open for a lot of bands that I have seen, so I've seen them a lot, too."

Bob will host the Hi-Pointe's Sept. 25 show in celebration. The evening will feature music by the Blue Moon Boys and the Bent Scepters. Earlier in the day, Bob will emcee the unveiling of the new Beatles Yellow Submarine postage stamp at Union Station. The festivities will feature an appearance by local Beatles cover band Ticket to the Beatles (with guest musicians Oliver Sain, Fred Friction, Connie Fairchild, Mark Deutsch and others), as well as the presence of Louise Harrison — George's sister.

All in all, a landmark day in the history of St. Louis obsessive-compulsive behavior (just kidding, Bob ... and just kidding about Astaire Al — there was no such person). Congrats, or something, Beatle Bob.

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