Memories of TINA by Timmy Capello
The first time I met Tina she was in a bathrobe, a rag around her head, no makeup, but her uniqueness and power couldn’t have impressed me more. It was the summer of ’84, she was opening for Lionel Ritchie at the Forum in Los Angeles and she was in her dressing room after the performance. I remember feeling bad for Lionel, she was a tough act to follow. A mutual friend of her manager Roger Davies and mine recommended me for the band. I had played for a couple of pretty famous singers but I was still quite nervous to meet this legend and, of course, as a red blooded young man, excited to meet the sex goddess. If I had any illusions about this, it was set straight immediately. Although very nice and polite, something in her manner said, “I know what you’re thinking, everybody thinks I’m wild, but what I am, if you’re lucky, is your boss”. She told me later that when I left, she said, “ he’s going to be trouble.”
The next time we met we didn’t really meet, she got word to me at a small gig (she played SMALL gigs then) that I was to play a sax solo on ‘Help’ from off stage and that would be my audition. Tina has a very honest, no BS way about her and after the tune, she said to the audience something like, “The sax you heard was a guy we’re auditioning. He sounded pretty good, maybe we’ll keep him”. She did, and I started rehearsing with her and the band. The details of the first rehearsal escape me except for one extraordinary thing, she cooked home made soup for the entire band and crew.
This was such a lucky time for me to join because ‘Private Dancer’ had just been released, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ was climbing the charts and in a matter of a couple of months, she went from McDonald’s conventions and small casino gigs to selling out all the major coliseums in Europe and the US. The thing that stays with me the most is after seeing minor success totally screw up a couple of singers, she appeared to take it all totally in stride and didn’t seem to change one bit, with the exception of the soup, I guess that takes a little more time than she had then. As I recall, it was very good.
After 15 years of playing for Tina, my impression of her character is a strong combination of earthiness and spirituality. Although I have no proof of this and it’s purely intuition on my part, there were a couple of times sitting or standing next to her when she would lean in to me slightly. I never felt this to be affectionate but had the distinct feeling of being ‘read’ as if she could discern a deeper level of someone’s personality by vibration. Again, this could be total fantasy on my part. One thing that definitely isn’t fantasy is her unique way with words. Some may call it blunt but to me it speaks of a childlike lack of fear that I really respect. A good example of this is on the ‘Wildest Dreams’ tour. As many people who’ve seen the show over the years know, when I first joined the group I was very much into bodybuilding but then I lost interest in it and went on a strict vegetarian diet so I lost quite a bit of weight.
In ’96 I felt like getting back in shape and when Tina first saw me she yelled across a crowded room, “Hey Roger, Timmy looks good again.”
One thing that I’m sure all of her fans know is her incredible commitment to her show. Tina is definitely not a drinker, but at the close of the ‘93 tour in New Zealand we had a big party where all of the band dressed in drag and lip-synced songs for her. Everybody had a great time and was quite boisterous and Tina, the only time in 15 years I’ve ever seen it, had one too many glasses of champagne. The next day, the last gig, she was quite ill and didn’t seem able to sit up, much less perform. And to make matters worse, the show was outside and it was raining extremely hard, almost horizontally, all the equipment was covered up, and it was bitterly cold. The rain all over the stage made it very slippery and the wind was still whipping. I had Doc Martins on and I was worried about falling. She gave a great performance that night, danced beautifully, went out from under the tent and got very wet with all her fans. My mouth was wide open, I was amazed, it was approaching superhuman.
I’m going to relate one last story because it sums up Tina to me. At the end of the Foreign Affair tour in 1990, Tina was very generous and gave everybody in the band a Rolex watch. It was especially touching to me because although I never wore jewelry, she somehow knew that I preferred silver to gold and gave me the only silver watch. I was so proud of this gift, it had lots of symbolism to me of the rewards of hard work.
On tour in ‘96, I was lying in the grass at a show, moved to stay in the sun, and when I went back to get my clothes, the watch had been stolen. I was devastated and moped quite a bit. A couple of weeks later on a plane, Tina sent for me and I, of course, thought I was going to get balled out ( I guess I did turn out to be trouble from time to time) but when I got there she had gotten me another Rolex, silver just like I like. I was speechless and just sat there for a moment taking her generosity and understanding in. It became a little too much for me and I started to cry. She immediately snapped, “get out of here if you’re going to do that”. To me that’s Tina to a ‘T’