cultural capital

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: The View From the Press Room


R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Mike Mills do their turn in the press room.Photo: Getty Images

In the Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony last night, rock journalism’s upper crust — folks like Ann Powers, Joe Levy, and, of course, Jann Wenner, all decked out in their Sunday best — dined alongside music-industry suits, long-suffering band girlfriends, and anyone else willing to spend $3,000 to eat a cheese pâté with smoked salmon in the same room as Michael Stipe. Lesser press, however, was consigned to a chandeliered conference room elsewhere in the hotel, where more than a hundred surly non-big-name writers killed time between occasional artist pop-ins by sampling the cold-cut spread and avoiding mustard stains. Oh, and watching one dude play a furious air bass to Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines.”

Flash, the Hall’s first hip-hop inductee, snapped the monotony in person, too, when he used his moment in the press room to gleefully remind a room full of critics — the same brotherhood that he said had dismissed his beloved culture as “a passing ship in the night, a fad, a flash of brilliance” — how wrong they were. A clearly elated Patti Smith, on her visit, did a delightful job of putting overaggressive photogs in their place — “Cut the shit,” she said, “I’m not a fucking movie star!” — while Keith Richards wondered aloud about the “marvels of science” that have extended his life, while his notorious swag-hound kids, Theodora and Alexandra, pillaged through the nearby Gift Lounge. Otherwise, the press room carried all the excitement of a restless fifth-period study hall; Kurt Loder looked even more bored than usual.

Of course, the induction ceremony is never particularly riveting for anyone. There’s no suspense; no rock fan needs the 600 Hall of Fame voters to point out which acts are legendary. It’s a self-congratulatory career postscript. “We were absolutely certain that this would happen,” R.E.M.’s Mike Mills said last night. “That’s why we started the band 25 years ago.” —Amos Barshad

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: The View From the Press Room