Margaritaville: The Cookbook
Filled with recipes that bring the flavor of island living and the spirit of Jim
Advertise With Buffettinfo.com
Put your ad in front of Thousands of Buffett fans every day. CLICK HERE NOW!
Finding Jimmy Buffett on a hot Saturday night in July means a trip deep into the beer belly of Wrigley Field.
Past Huey Lewis and the News, supportively rasping about the power of love. Through the LandShark beer garden. Under the clouds of reefer smoke parked atop the hot summer air.
Past the young, the old and the terminally-in-denial, crossing next to the tiny tiki bars sitting on peoples’ heads, slipping on ice cubes, up a staircase, under part of the bleachers, right by the loyal members of the Coral Reefer Band grazing at a tired buffet, down the middle of a spontaneous wardrobe setup in the inner sanctuary of Your Chicago Cubs. Here, the racks are heavy on aloha shirts, the official uniform of the denizens of the Margaritavilles that now rule every culturally atrophied cruise port known to the great gods of the Caribbean.
And there, deep in an inner sanctuary, guarded like the World Series trophy he adored, is the man himself.
A diminutive figure in a Cubs shirt and shorts. A 70-year-old with a bald pate and a Larry David-like quizzical demeanor. A warm dude. If a prophet, then one with a huge grin. Sitting on a crummy couch. It is like visiting the Dalai Lama (or so an ignoramous imagines) or entering the inner lair of the Wizard of Oz. And then paying attention to the man behind the curtain.
Just Jimmy, to most everyone outside.
And always “JIMMMMMMYYY!!!,” although that’s going way too light on the exclamation points, to the superfan Parrotheads he adores, who adore him right back, who have channeled the habits of their precursors with the Grateful Dead, and are, on this greatest night of their summers, already wondering just how differently Buffett will blow out “Volcano.” Depending on your point of view, here is either all that’s wrong with party-on America or about the only guy in this whole messed-up country with his head currently screwed on straight and able to talk to anybody.
Jimmy is even Jimmy to Forbes, which in 2016 estimated his net worth to be in excess of $500 million. That has flowed all these years from a mighty, canny combination of royalties, concert fees, album sales and a truly staggering empire of hakuna matata-style branding, ranging from Margaritaville happy hours to island-themed hotels in landlocked Tennessee to planned retirement centers where, presumably, medical marijuana will be poorly screened and all the clocks will say 5 o’clock, all the time.
“Hi,” he says, just like a guy who is worth $500 million, but only early in any given week.
“Wrigley Field! Isn’t this fun?”
He acts like he has hours to sit and chat, even though he is, in fact, all of about three minutes away from taking the stage in front of some 41,000 adherents. Jimmy Buffett, his visitor thinks in total amazement, must be the only pop star in the world to happily accept visitors as he heads for the stage.
And it isn’t like this is just another concert. Not the man’s first rodeo, sure. He had the Louisiana Superdome in 2010. That was a night. But Wrigley Field matters a whole lot to Buffett, who watched the 2016 World series triumph on tour in Japan. He was the first concert act to play here, back when the field was under different management, an experience he recalls with a shudder. Heck, Chicago as a whole matters more than most places, it being a port city and all, which is the first Buffett qualification for cultural legitimacy.
In a conversation later, he’ll say that he’d first tried to hone his signature sound — a pop-country-reggae-calypso fusion all his own, knock yourself out if you have a better description — listening to Bob Marley wail on Belmont Avenue long before much of his audience was born. And he adores Steve Goodman and this is his shrine. But, tonight, the Cubs have won the World Series, the upper deck is rocking, the cash is flowing, the Ricketts family organization is as smooth as a banana daiquiri. And Jimmy gets to share production costs with James Taylor, who is coming here the next night (and, for the record, will not be selling out).
All that is still needed is the official World Series after-party.
In what seems like just seconds later, the emcee of tens of thousands of dreams walks out under the scoreboard and that party most certainly begins. Work feels far, far away — not for your humble correspondent, certainly, but for the audience and for the man onstage.
Buffett comes out to “Go, Cubs, Go,” and his production team has made a bespoke video casting Buffett as a fan with the bona fides to rival a Harry Caray. There is a roar. It does not stop, but gets taken to the bar, and then another bar long past when some Lakeview residents, including this one, would prefer to be allowed to sleep.
If the producers of “Escape to Margaritaville,” the Broadway-bound (yes, that’s for sure) musical by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley that begins tryout performances in Chicago on Thursday, could have bottled that night at Wrigley Field, a sublime communion of artist, fan base, venue and moment in time, and then corked and uncorked it at will for eight shows a week at the Oriental Theatre, and thereafter at the Marquis Theatre in New York, they surely would not ever want for more.
For “Margaritaville” — “Mamma Mia!” for Parrotheads, only with more thematic ambition — is an attempt to articulate and, fair enough, cash in on what Buffett and his music means, not via some “Jersey Boys”-style, behind-the-music biography but through a fresh, fictional, romantic, narrative story that will contain all the precious gems of the formidable Buffett catalog and make sense to his hundreds of thousands of devoted fans, not to mention his millions of casual admirers who assume the mantle when in the thrall of spring-break sunsets or holding the right hand. The creative team well knows that the sweet spot will be both hosting a Broadway party and offering something deeper: articulating for the non-Parrotheads dragged to the show by the true believers the side of Buffett that has always been there but that it is easy, and maybe preferable, on nights like this one, to miss.
And what is that? You know, what’s beyond the bus, the booze and the blender?
Buffett does not struggle to articulate that. “The Caribbean can turn to hell,” he says, a few weeks later, by way of an answer, speaking just as parts of paradise were being broken and blown out into the sea.
His parts, specifically.
“I have five houses and 10 businesses right now in the wake of three hurricanes,” he says. “I’m focused on getting our people back to work, cleaning up.”
Most of the dark side of the Buffett oeuvre deals not so much with the meteorological threatening of entire communities but more personal crises. Like getting drunk and getting fired. Or treating someone badly. Or losing your lover. Or dealing with (in the words of the writer O’Malley) “the reality that people who actually live in paradise also have to go to work there, and, given what is there and not there, that means they are most likely working in the service industry.”
They may be a waitress. Or a guitar player in a bar. As was Buffett. Come to think of it, as he still is, in just a really huge series of very profitable bars.
“Jimmy’s lyrics are soaked in booze,” the director, Christopher Ashley, observes. “There is a celebratory bacchanalian quality but also a real strain of sadness in those songs. I think his songs have a real philosophical commitment to finding joy now, being as now is the only moment. But we’ve created a love story involving a woman who really wants to make a difference in the world. That’s the tension. But I do think the show comes down pretty firmly on the side of ‘find someone now.’ Don’t postpone joy. Embrace it. Grab it. I think that’s profound and a great message to send in a world as joy-challenged as this one.”
Buffett himself points to his song “Come Monday” as emblematic of the dose of lyrical realism that always awaits the partyer at his concerts. The song makes reference to “four lonely days in an LA haze” but insists that “Come Monday/ It’ll be all right/ Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight.” The way Buffett sings it that night at Wrigley Field, he instills a powerful sense of doubt in the narrative voice of the singer. We know it won’t actually be all right. She’ll be hurt. And probably gone.
“That song is there for a reason,” he says. “I had a hangover when I wrote it and my girl had left me. It was exactly the way I was feeling.” Listening to Buffett sing, it’s impossible not to be impressed with how well he plays his audiences — working their moods, becoming their best friend.
“You have to understand that my world of stage performing,” he says, shrewd cultural analyst that he is, “what you have to do sounds simple but is actually very complicated. My show runs on energy and recognition. You have to have a song like “Come Monday” because people feel like that sometimes. That is the authenticity of life itself. People understand there are hills and valleys. But then they also expect me to get them back up and throw them a cheeseburger.”
And sling it he does.
Buffett never does not play his hits. All his hits. He might play them differently, but he would never not play what his fans come to see. He scoffs at the very idea. Garcia, meanwhile, says he first thought that there would be about eight Buffett songs that he would have to work into the show. He now realizes that there are, in fact, at least 28. If not more. In they go. “Fine with me,” he says. “Fewer jokes for us to write.”
Garcia and O’Malley aren’t Tin Pan Alley wordsmiths, they’re Los Angeles TV writers, for the most part. (Garcia is the creator of “My Name is Earl”). O’Malley first met Buffett when the two worked on a pilot for a “Margaritaville” sitcom: “Parks and Rec” in Key West, you might say. It didn’t fly, but the relationship was formed. Buffett, for his part, says he was bound and determined that his show would be written by actual fans, people who know his work and, therefore, his audience.
“Margaritaville” began at the La Jolla Playhouse, the home base of the director, Ashley. Major reviews made clear this was not “A Little Night Music” but were more favorable than many expected. In the last few weeks, the show has played in New Orleans, another big Buffett market, then in Houston. And now Chicago. The last test run. Many changes have been made — but the impulse is to include more of the hits, not to take any of them away. No fools here in paradise.
Still, Ashley points out that any Broadway version of Buffett is going to bring something unfamiliar to his concert audiences: Buffett has only a small backup group, for example, whereas the show can make use of a dozen or more professional harmonizers. There’s more brass in the arrangements than you will find in the Coral Reefer Band, which has stayed very consistent over the years. And the story? Well, you are better not knowing. Then where the songs fit will be a surprise.
Suffice to say the lead character will be a recognizable type at Sloppy Joe’s or Calico Jack’s or Rick’s Cafe or the Soggy Dollar or anywhere warm where the mix includes fun followed by regret flowing into self-acceptance.
Watch -> http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/94153003-132.html