art by: Bobby Zeik

A tribute –  on the 5th anniversary of Scott Weiland’s passing

March 2007:

I was working an entry level sales job in New York City. Four blocks up from my office was the Waldorf Astoria hotel, which happened to be hosting that year’s Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The class was not only exceptional in terms of inductees (R.E.M. Patti Smith, Van Halen, Grand Master Flash, The Ronettes), but also those who were tasked to do the inducting. You had Eddie Vedder in the house giving the speech for R.E.M., Zack de la Rocha for Patti Smith, Jay-Z for Grand Master Flash, Keith Richards for The Ronettes and Velvet Revolver inducting Van Halen.

With the release of their second album just months away, Velvet Revolver was a rock powerhouse at this time, consisting of Slash, Duff McKagen, Matt Sorum, Dave Kushner and…. Scott Weiland.

“One time a thing occurred to me
What’s real and what’s for sale
Blew a kiss and tried to take it home.”

The day after the ceremony was held, I used my lunch break to take a walk by the Waldorf Astoria. If you know Manhattan hotel layouts, you know there are no private parking lots or grand entrance ways. I stroll up past the a few hot dog carts and Nick’s famous coffee stand to see small clusters of fan gatherings spread around the different doorways of the hotel. Subdued and curious, the folks I encountered were respectful (with the exception of one hostile paparazzi) and simply wondering the same thing as me, what was the scene like? It was hard for me to grasp that just a stone’s throw from where I stomped on a computer and dialed for dollars was actually a small room that was playing host to many of my musical heroes, all together for a common cause – to celebrate great music and its eternal ripple effect.

With no intentions or expectations, I roll the corner off Park Ave and onto 50th street to the delight of a little less chaos. The first thing I see is Kid Rock sporting overalls and a cowboy hat squashing a cigarette before heading back in through the side revolving doors. In that same entrance way was de la Rocha standing with his girlfriend and some luggage waiting on their car to airport. Someone asked him if he knew where Eddie Vedder was. Ha. He gently said, “No, I haven’t seen him today.”

Suddenly, as if the slide guitar intro from Stone Temple Pilot’s “Vasoline” launched overhead, a swarm of people rushed to a black car pulling up. For some reason the car stopped at the corner, not accommodating to either entrance of the hotel. The car door opens and out pops Weiland, who was coming from a visit to a NYC record store. With a black plastic bag in hand holding purchases of what appeared to be second-hand records, Weiland was draped in tight black pants tucked into shiny black mid-leg army boots, and an oversized black fishnet shirt. His eyes were covered by dark glasses and his frame appeared much thinner than it had seemed on stage. Fans, women and men alike, approached him – unloading requests with an eagerness like they’d been waiting for him all day and, where was he? Weiland very quietly declined and asked if he could just walk the 20 yards back to the hotel entrance as he was feeling a bit somber and not in the mood. The one paparazzi I called out earlier, well, his response was to shout at him, “It’s not our fault your brother died, Scott.”

What an awful thing to say.

You see, Weiland’s younger brother had passed away suddenly a few months earlier. He was visibly shaken, and I was very taken back by such a heartless comment thrown his way. Sometimes it blows my mind – I decided to leave, distraught by what I had just witnessed. It was unsettling and sad.

As I’m walking east down 50th street, I overhear Weiland mention to whomever he was walking with (manager, tour manager, friend?), “I just want to go up to my room and write for a while.”

Think I’d be safer all alone.

At the end of that work day, I decided to walk the 40 blocks home instead of my usual subway ride. I was still feeling emotional as a result of my earlier experience. I cut through the interior walkway of the Waldorf, justifying that it would save me time, eliminating a whole city block from my trek.

I get mid-way through, “This isn’t a fuckin’ photo shoot,” I hear shouted from the lounge. It was Weiland. Still dressed in the same black attire, and still wearing the glasses.

A few fans etc found their way in and were hounding him for photos. They shook off and then Weiland, alone, walked slowly past me. I stopped for split second and just said, “Hi, Scott.” He too stopped, initiated a handshake and replied sincerely, “Hey man, how are you doing?”

It was like the opposite delivery from what I saw twice over that day. How am I doing? That was the question I had burning inside about him all day long and he asked me so politely? Maybe he just wanted a calm and friendly interaction. Maybe it helped the both of us to have someone care if just for a moment. Maybe you never know what somebody is really going through.

photo by: Michael Kravetsky

This past Saturday, I was deep in afternoon yardwork. The mood struck me where the only artist I wanted to accompany my efforts was Stone Temple Pilots. To be honest, that doesn’t happen often, but I had a rooted urge to have Weiland pipe through my headphones.

Quickly, I was reminded that Scott Weiland was a melody master. Whether it was a rare cut like “Dare if You Dare” off his last record with STP, “The Last Fight” or “Fall to Pieces” from Velvet Revolver, “Barbella” from his solo collection, or simply the way he emotes like a downflowing river in the “Vasoline” lyric, “Keep getting stuck here all the time”, the guy could take his passion, struggles and demons and turn them into a masterful wave of melody. I recall seeing him perform live and marveling on how he could so effortlessly become the song. On stage, he truly went someplace else.

And sometimes that’s a place where you find comfort in searching for the things that you can’t see.

The world lost Weiland five years ago today. I awoke that day to a news alert on my phone that he had passed. I saw Brett Scallions of Fuel confirm it on his Facebook page, saying they had the same representation and it was sadly true. I felt…. big empty. Weiland was such a talented artist who could hope for the better, while wearing his heart on his sleeve, daring to be something… daring to be real, daring to believe.

Yes, the obvious statement is true – his music lives on forever. His legacy holds its place upon the plush walls of rock n’ roll. I still wonder, what did he write that afternoon when he went back up to his hotel room in New York, feeling overwhelmed? Was it a lyric on Libertad? Or maybe “Take a Load Off”?

Regardless, I’m grateful for his gracious gift of song. I pay tribute to him today in the form of reflection, and say thank you for inspiring my expression. Somewhere in the vasoline.