Ok, I know I've got a hold of this issue like a pitbull with a rag doll. But I'm having fun with it. PLEASE TAKE WHAT I SAY WITH A GRAIN OF SALT (or sand, as is the case in Florida).
Since I've been on this site, I was re-familiarized with the term I'd come to know and love so well as a young man in Nashville back in 1988.
1. The Urban Dictionary is wrong when it says it started in 1990 at Starwood in Antioch. Funny as that may be, it's wrong.
I recall specifically that Reed Arvin introduced me to the term, back in 1988 or 1989. At the time, Reed was teaching a class at Belmont. Synthesis and Sampling. Two notable classmates of mine were in there. Blair Masters and Russ Long. By the way, both of those gentlemen's talents were quite evident to me back then. I remember in particular being blown away by the stuff that Blair was doing. Heck, nearly 20 years later, and I'm just now doing the level of stuff he was doing back then (maybe not even yet).
Anyway, Reed was kind enough to teach us all several things that had nothing to do with S&S. The first thing I remember him telling us was that as we encountered "stars" we should not ask for autographs or even really go on about how much we admired their work. Instead, he just told us it was wise to say something like this, "Chet, it's so nice to meet you. I've admired your work for many years." And then leave it alone.
Reed also suggested, as a side note, that it's annoying to pay someone a compliment, and then have them turn around and say, "Praise God, it's all him" or "oh, no, I"m not really that talented, it's God." You can leave the God parts out and it's still kinda bad. His suggestion: "Thank you, I appreciate your kind words." And then shut up. (right, take his advice, I know).
On another occasion, one of the classmates was saying how much he hated Prince's music (or at the time we called him "The artist that will eventually become known as the artist formerly known as prince and then go back to being known as prince, thus making him Prince, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as prince). Reed walks in, and says, "That's funny, I was having lunch with Prince yesterday, and he told me how much he digs your stuff." Make sense?
Consequently, I think Reed may have also coined the phrase "In a New York Minute," not Buddy Killen, as previously believed. Kidding.
Anyway, now that I've gone way off my subject, Reed's first advice, on just simply saying nice to meet you, well, he said people that go on and on and on gushing when they met someone famous was a GHERM. I don't think the proper spelling was defined as of yet. He also explained, as I recall, that GHERMS were those people that stood around in recording sessions that didn't belong there, no one knew who invited them, and they were asking too many questions and trying too hard to relate.
I think that's the real definition, "someone who tries too hard to relate." I would assume this is a result of insecurity, either systemic insecurity, or momentary insecurity. Having said this, I've been a GHERM on a number of occasions. That's probably a serious underestimate of my ability to be one.
I remember a session that Dann Huff invited me to sit in. He didn't yet live in Nashville (this would have been 1988). I was 18. Now, I have an allergy/asthma reaction to things like scented candles and perfumes. Not to mention cats. Anyway, I sat in, and it was crowded. Dan and I talked for a few minutes in the hall, and he invited me in. I sat in. I didn't know the producer. I didn't know ANYONE who was in there. I just stood in the corner quietly. Until someone came in with a serious bathing of perfume. It was a young lady, very attractive. I had no idea who she was (and I won't mention who it is now, but she's quite a well known artist now days). Anyway, I started to cough. I was too stupid to excuse myself. Thus making myself a GHERM because I was too insecure at the time to figure out I should have excused myself.
After 5 minutes, the producer (whom I didn't know at the time, but shall also remain nameless because he's still a big whig), asks me to step into the hall with him. He introduced himself kindly, and said that I was going to make his singer sick. I tried to explain that I only coughed because of an allergy, and apologized for not having excused myself. He asked who I was, and who had invited me to the session. Now, I didn't want to throw Dann under the buss (otherwise, perhaps he'd have not had the career he has now - Kidding).
So I said, "my name is John Robinson, I'm from LA. I guess I have the wrong studio, because you're not the same guy that hired me." Funny thing was that he knew the name, so he didn't flinch. John is about 10 years older than me, and looks nothing like me. Lucky guy. It's just what came to mind. I guess I lost that insecurity for a moment to come up with something that would give me something to laugh about later in life. I wonder if that particular producer will ever read this???
2. Let's talk about attitudes towards GHERMS.
Hey, we've all had a laugh at someone else's expense. I'm not ignorant enough to believe that others haven't often enjoyed a laugh at my expense. A good gherm is ok with this, and embraces this reality.
But I'd like to suggest that there should be some guidelines by which we behave as gherms, and we behave when encountering gherms.
A. BE NICE! If someone takes the time to approach you and GHERM on you. Yes, it can be annoying, but remember, it took a good bit of courage to do this, and likely, they're VERY uncomfortable doing so. That's why they act so stupid when they do it. If they're not being rude or insulting, take the time to say thank you for your kindness.
B. IF someone offers their card with their pager number on it (come on old timers, you remember those days), take it and say thank you, and that you'll keep them in mind.
C. If the GHERM goes on and on and is annoying you, perhaps we can kindly say something like this, "I appreciate you having taken the time to come speak with me. Please give me your card, and perhaps we can continue this discussion at a more appropriate time." It sends a clear message, and is kind and respectful to the GHERM. IF this does not work, snap your fingers repeatedly until the waiter comes over with the bouncers.
D. If you don't want to be GHERM'D, then don't have a successful career in music. Remember that the only reason you're being GHERM'D is because you are fortunate enough to have success in this business. Generally, people aren't jealous of you, nor do they want to take your job, but instead, they just want to enjoy some of the same or similar success to yours.
E. At some point, take the time to call the GHERM back as a courtesy. You never know, they may have tremendous talent. I've found a lot of talented people this way. I've always taken the time to listen to someone's music. I ask what they would like me to do for them. I ask them if they want me to be a paula or a simon. If I need not be either of those two, then I'm hiring them when I'm able.
Now, some rules for the GHERMS:
A. Don't approach people you don't know in settings where you'll be interrupting them, like at a restaurant. Unless it's pancake pantry. Even if they act like they don't want to be noticed, if you're eating there, you're wanting to be seen.
B. If people are obviously involved in a deep conversation either of a personal or business nature. Don't try to break in. Also, don't hang out two feet away, listening in for a break where you can introduce yourself. That's just kinda creepy. I know because I've done it and people tell me it's creepy.
C. Let's say you're out to dinner, and you see someone you do know, even if not well, dining at a table with someone famous that you'd like to know. Here's a good way to approach it. Maybe they're having a light conversation. Get up to go to the restroom, and walk their way. On the way, kinda "notice" them. Say, "hey JR, Pete Warren here, we met at Omni a few months ago. Nice to see you." Shake hands or whatever, and then quickly move on. Pause just long enough for them to make the introduction. If they don't introduce you to the person they are with, then move on. If you happen to get that introduction, simply say, "Hi, nice to meet you. I've admired your work for many years." Then move on. Don't linger for a conversation even if they take an interest.
D. The best line anyone ever told me for doing what I said to do in Line C: "It's sure nice to meet you. I don't want to interrupt your meal more than I already have, but I'd enjoy speaking more with you both some time." Wait and see what happens. IF they've paid attention to my instructions for the GHERM'D, then they'll ask for your card. Likely they won't call, but the next time I run into my friend, I'll ask if they can set up lunch sometime with the other person. Do this often enough, and you will be viewed as a polite person, not a gherm.
I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to have lunch with Michael Knox through a dear friend of mine. Or as they like to say in LA, "We took a meeting for lunch that day." Now, I'm smart enough to know that Michael is a successful guy. So there we are at lunch. Someone comes up to the table and says hi to Michael. At which point, Michael takes the time to introduce all of us. I noticed the guy is having lunch with this young lady that looks familiar to me. During lunch, I figured out who it was. It was someone I used to hang out with years ago at Rio Bravo. At the time, she was an aspiring writer/singer. Quite talented as I recall. Now, that was OVER a decade ago.
So after lunch, I go over to their table, and I say, "It took me a few minutes when your friend introduced himself, but we used to toss back margaritas at Rio Bravo together back in the day." She said, "ahh, yes, I remember you." I said, "you look well, what are you up to these days?" She says, "I just got signed at RCA and my first album will be out soon." I said, "that's great, I always admired your talent. I hope to see you on stage at the CMA's next year!." Then I excused myself. SImple enough. You know, I could have given my card, said, "if you need a player," or "I'd like to hang out some time." But I didn't. Heck, I didn't even think to do it.
Anyways, my point is....