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ZZ Top founder Billy Gibbons and the Arcada Theatre owner Ron Onesti spent a late night after the guitarist’s solo show in St. Charles.
Courtesy of Onesti Entertainment Corp.
Ron Onesti: Still the ‘Top’ look in rock ‘n’ roll
Posted May 13, 2022 6:00 AM
Legends and icons. How lucky am I to be able to host these megastars at the Arcada Theatre and now the Des Plaines Theatre, which both have helped shape popular culture, especially that of my own formative years?So many people in my industry pride themselves on NOT being star-struck, and how stars to them are really no big deal anymore. They will give you countless examples of celebs they have worked with, yawning in between the names of the groups, and say how it’s just another day at the office for them.Well I proudly proclaim that I AM star-struck! Not so much so that I grovel and stutter and trip over myself when I am in their presence, yet I am star-struck in that I completely marvel at what these entertainers have accomplished and at how much their work has been a part of my life. That’s the best part of my job because I am a true fan of the music, with a deep admiration of the entertainers’ milestones shared with their fans.I actually get caught up in it all emotionally sometimes. When I worked with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Johnny Van Zant raised a microphone stand to the heavens with his late brother Ronnie’s top hat on the mic and their band-symbolic Confederate flag tied to it (please, nothing political about this), I welled up in tears as we all remembered that fatal plane crash that killed many of the band’s members, including brother Ronnie Van Zant.There have been countless moments like these over the years, and these are the emotional trophies I have been lucky enough to hold inside my heart.Some performers just have that familiar, iconic “look” and presence that brings you back, too. I did many shows with Alice Cooper, and seeing Vince Fernier in character as “Alice” with his signature makeup really represented rock of the ’70s for me. To have Lisa Marie Presley at The Arcada was, as Fleetwood Mac has referenced countless times in “The White-Winged Dove,” as if her face was “hauntingly familiar!” To have the towering presence of Charlie Daniels in his white cowboy hat and fiddle on my stage was really cool, as was Bret Michaels’ rock ‘n’ roll cowboy hat and signature American flag jeans. His look is as large as life as his band Poison is!But speaking of cool, iconic looks, I recently knocked another milestone meeting off my extensive bucket list, and his look is about as legendary as rock music itself. I was able to score Billy Gibbons, founder and lead vocalist of the rock band ZZ Top! He was on a short national tour promoting his latest album, “Perfectamundo,” a solo effort with his “other” band, the BFGs, and the humble Arcada was lucky enough to land his Chicago appearance! WAS I EXCITED?When he arrived at the theater early in the day of his concert, a huge group of devoted fans were already congregating at our backstage door. It was a sight to see because many men (I think they were all men!) were sporting beards of various lengths similar to Billy’s long, signature style. I kinda felt under-whiskered myself!I met him in our main green room, downstairs from the theater. As I walked in I was met with a sly grin, but there he was, a legitimate, all-too-familiar, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, with a 2-foot-long beard and knitted skull cap. He was dressed in what looked like pajamas, a free-flowing cotton button down shirt and baggy pants ensemble. It was definitely surreal, as I have seen ZZ Top countless times on television and in magazines, but never on stage.

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