The Radar Station That Loved Me

Our hero hits Nelly's birthday party James Bond-style

Nov 5, 2003 at 4:00 am
If there's one thing in the world cooler than a pimp, it's a secret agent. Which is why I was riding in style at Nelly's birthday party Sunday night: I was undercover. A few days before the party, I'd gotten an email from a publicity agent letting me know that press wasn't going to be allowed in; instead we'd be herded into a little corral on the side, where we'd have to hope some celebrities would come visit.

Seeing as how I'm not in the begging-for-quotes business, it was obvious I was going to have to infiltrate James Bond-style.

It wasn't too hard. I merely dressed up to code, bought a ticket and got in line. The fact that Nelly had rented out the President casino only fueled my spy fantasies. Surely, if James Bond couldn't find a baccarat table, he'd opt for a little roulette, right? So I took some of my meager funds and bet on black.

Red. My money was gone. That never happens to James Bond. Oh, well, there was plenty for an undercover brother to see. St. Louis was looking fine, dressed up to celebrate its favorite son. DJ Charlie Chan was giving the crowd a treat, spinning old-school classics from Rick James to the Geto Boys. And the celebs were beginning to show up: Chan announced that Evander Holyfield had entered the building. I didn't see him, which seems hard to believe, given that he's the size of a Coke machine. But there was more spy work to do: I needed to sneak upstairs, where the real party was.

Did I creep up there, press-ban be damned? Hell, yes. I even made it into the super-secret roped-off party by jumping ninja-style off the side of the DJ booth. And there was the guest of honor, looking like a cat in the cream. Of course, he was surrounded by ladies, so I let him be; I wanted to pester the Isley Brothers. Alas, it was not to be: A very large man with hands the size of my head asked if I had someplace else to be. It was kind of a hypothetical question: I guess in a crowd including Nelly, the Isley Brothers and Evander Holyfield, the white dude with goofy hair stands out.

No matter, Nelly was leaving the room as well, to have "Happy Birthday" sung to him by the fans who'd totally packed the casino floor. The crowd was going nuts, and who can blame them? Say what you will about pop rap, but Nelly has given a lot of people here something to be proud of. And when he, Jermaine Dupri and Murphy Lee (who was dressed like a royalty check just came in) sang "Shake Ya Tailfeather," it was, pure and simple, a good time to be in St. Louis. Enough Secret Agent Man; I had another beer and sang along.

And now I have a hangover. That never happens to James Bond.

Legendary R&B man Oliver Sain passed away October 25, leaving behind a vast legacy of music. A contemporary of Ike Turner, Chuck Berry and Albert King, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Sain worked on immortal tracks including "Don't Be Mean to Me" and "Walk Away." With his death at age 71, Sain shouldn't be mourned. Happily married, with a place in history secured and surrounded not only by a family but a by whole city that loved him, Sain went out the way we can only hope for. A life like that should only be celebrated.

J. Konkel profiled Sain for the RFT near the end of his life. You can read Konkel's story, "Sain Remains", here. Suffice, in this short space, to cut to the chase:

"All in all, it's been a good year for Sain, despite the dark shadow of cancer, which he's battled for several years. In 1997, the disease led to the removal of his bladder. Eventually the cancer went into remission, only to return a year later. Now it rests in Sain's bones, and he doesn't expect it to go away again. Nevertheless, Sain claims, he's feeling fine. 'I joke with my doctor. I say that I'm the only person I know who feels great all day every day and is still dying,' he says. 'I don't have a pain in the world.'

"Despite his health issues, Sain remains focused on his music career. 'Man, I just want to keep playing and recording as long as I can, which I hope will be a long while," he says. "Hell, that's all I know how to do.'"