LaDonna Adrian Gaines (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012)
Disco was not my first choice of music genre but it earned me a living and was popular.
Donna had a strange attraction to the gay male audience. Donna was far from gay but it worked for her and the audience bought her records and came to her concerts. I'm not sure Donna knew why she attracted the gay audience either?
Donna could be difficult to work with but in retrospect compared to other artists she was pretty easy going in reality. The hardest part was working with her manager Susan, now she most definitely had her days, but again she could be predicted and hence foreseen.
My position on Donna's crew of three, myself, Keith, and Brian. We were all from England and I knew Keith from back home. Keith and Brian were bud from way back in England so I was the new boy. Keith was the road manager, while Brian and I were the real crew. I never quite figured what Brian did except give me grief as I put the staging together, which was all the risers and staging for the orchestra, I also put together the keyboards and guitars... so what did Brain do!
The up side of working with Donna was that she performed in Las Vegas several times a year and that meant we would basically have a paid week off.
They say that in every group there is a comedian... well we certainly had ours... the Piano player (sorry do not remember his name). I remember that on more than one occasion, the Hollywood Bowl for example he came on stage and did the entire show dressed as a woman with makeup, wig, dress, and attitude. It was half way through the show before Donna noticed, for the rest of the show she couldn't turn around or she would break out in laughter. Brian was not one to miss an opportunity to try and turn Donna, if I remember correctly he came out on stage dressed in a full gorilla suite on roller skates and skated around behind Donna and was off the stage before she knew what was going on... but the audience got a good laugh.
I made friends with Mike Warren, Donnas musical director and guitar player. He had been working for a different bad a few years before and was in a plane accident where the passenger, a musician friend of his , was decapitated. He had a serious flying issue, so we all looked out for him as he would have a cocktail of pills that put him out for the flight and wake him up on arrival at the planes destination. Unfortunately there was one occasion when whoever was supposed to watch Mike forgot and sad to say we left him sleeping on a bench in Tokyo airport on our way back to the USA. When Mike was woken up by an airport worker and some exchange of explanation they put him on the next flight to Los Angeles. Now you have to remember the travel agent who went everywhere with us probably had not just Mikes ticket but his passport too. Back then touring bands would have a dedicated travel agent with them to take care of hotel, airline and baggage so we didn't have to worry. So Mike was able to explain his way onto a flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles without a ticket or passport, exceptional for someone who was out of it on drugs too! Try that today and see how far you get.
While in Japan I remember we were taking the bullet train to someplace as a treat, and out travel agent gave us the speech before we left the hotel that the train stops in exactly the spot where the doors are marked on the ground each door is numbered as is out tickets numbered with not only the door but seat assignment. Oh, and that the train only stops at Tokyo station for 3 minutes so do not be late or you will get left behind. Guess who was late, no not Mike this time, it was Donna and her family who were late because they decided to buy bicycles for some strange reason. Yes you guessed it Donna and her family were the ones left standing on the station as the train pulled away. She had to wait for the next train and buy more tickets. I never saw the bicycles again!
One of the original "Divas" sadly Donna is no longer with us but her songs and voice live on in her music.