Arnel had confirmed that the story [below] is true. A little bit flawed from the consul's side as to who made the initial contact - Neal Schon or Arnel. Nevertheless, the story is true and confirmed. According to Noel, the people who were lining up for interview were startled when he started singing.

Forwarded by a SOMEONE who used to work the visa windows at the US embassy.

I have a nice holiday story to share: (Apologies to Snider who's now heard this 14 times, but hey, your stories aren't getting any newer.)

Months ago a band shows up at my window. It was Lemons and Oranges, or something fruity. Asked why they would play a concert in Seattle. They claimed some following there. I asked about their music; looked at their posters, CDs, etc. At the end of the interview, they were saying, "come out and see our show tonight." This invite was probably due to my withering questioning, and since they thought they were hot stuff, pride was wounded, etc. etc. It turned out that the venue is actually on the way home from the Embassy, only ten minutes away. So I says, "I can't take any free tickets yada yada yada but maybe I'll pop in."

It was a Friday. I went with two LES. We got a table, ordered some beer, fried chicken and so on. The opening band comes on. They were called "Zoo"--this I'm sure of, since I'm from Kalamazoo, the name stuck. The Zoo starts rocking out to 70/80s tunes, like Foreigner, Night Ranger, etc. But the coup de grace was indisputably when they busted out Journey. I mean, the singer was not just good--95% of all Filipinos are good singers--he was really dern good. I couldn't shut up about it. I was telling anyone who would listen, "Dude, not only does this guy have pipes, and range, he's got perfect pitch. He has only missed a few notes on some of the hardest power ballads in schlock n roll history." The LES grudgingly agreed, but they've been desensitized to the regular displays of amazing karaoke you get in Manila, so maybe they were just humoring me.

Since I'm from Michigan, I had an older brother who sported a mullet and wore softball t-shirts. His first 8-track was Styx. Ted Nugent is referred to simply as the Nuge, or Uncle Ted. The Silver Bullet invokes Bob Seger not Coors. In short, I'm qualified to judge this kind of thing. The performance was poignant for me... Images of Camaros and pegged jeans danced in my head... definitely surreal. Then.. then!... Lemons and Oranges comes on and, frankly, they were a bit of a let down. I mean, their music was Edie Brickel / Natalie Merchantesque. And that's fine --it has its place-- but let's be clear: it is a metaphysical transgression to go from Journey's "Separate Ways" into Lisa Loeb's "Stay..."

The next week I'm sitting at an NIV window next to a soon-to-be legend of an officer name Singer. Singer and I were doing FMJs and so we would trade off regular NIV applicants occassionally so that we got fair share of student visas. Singer loves the three things: the FAM, movie quotes that might cost him an EEO violation someday, and cases that make sense. Things that don't make sense, make Singer an unhappy man.

I hear Singer say, "Journey? The band Journey?" He flips through papers. He sounds unhappy.

I butt in: "What's that all about?"

He turns off his mic and looks over at me. "I don't know. This guys says he's going to try out for Journey."

I'm puzzled. "Journey? The band Journey?"

Singer goes, "That's what I just said, [EXPLETIVE]!"

"Great, another nutjob. I'll take it." Singer takes my student, I take the nutjob.

I look over his stuff and say "purpose of travel?" and all that. I start to scrutinize more carefully and realize its the guy I saw from the night before.

"Hey, does your band at Bagaberde?.. ."

He confirms and he goes on to tell me the story of how he uploaded some clips of his band that he recorded to YouTube and contacted Journey's manager, having heard they were looking for a new singer. He says they called him up and invited him to the U.S. to try out. Given the malarkey you get at a Manila NIV window, this story only got points for being original. He produced some flimsy emails and letters, etc.

So I go, in my best dubious voice, "Yeah? let's hear Wheels in the Sky!"

He belts it out for the whole waiting room and for the staff to hear (I made sure to take off my headset and let the speaker play it because what I was really doing was covering my butt).
I said, "Look sir, there isn't a person in this Embassy who would believe that story-- going to try out for Journey!-- not a soul would believe that. Except for me. I saw you sing last Friday and I couldn't shut up about how your vocals were perfect Steve Perry.

So I tell you what. I'm giving you that visa. You're going to try out. And you're going to make it...."

And the rest is rock n roll history, my friends.

(source: YouTube)


Ella del Rosario said...

This is really one inspiring life story about how dreams do come true. Imagine singing his way into a US visa. And international stardom. Mabuhay ang Pinoy videoke kings and queens. (Dyan tayo magaling)

raqgold said...

impossible dreams do come true! and i've got my revelation CD from journey playing :)