A Case of Mistaken Identity

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu10/26/15
In the fall of 1971, my parents and I flew to Los Angeles to visit relatives in South California. In those days, L.A. International airport was a busy place, but nothing like the monstrosity it has become over the last two or three decades.

While waiting for our luggage, I noticed six or seven guys in their twenties walk by toward another luggage carousel. They had long hair, wore blue jeans, and exuded a “rock musician” type look, typical for the time. This alone would have held my attention, but the fact that one of the fellows, a man with a huge mane of hair, was wearing a “Chicago” t-shirt was particularly intriguing to me.

At that time, I was considering a career in music and was a big fan of the group, Chicago, which I had recently seen in concert. Perhaps that was why the thought popped into my head, Those guys might be Chicago’s road crew.

In order to investigate, I walked over to the group and approached the guy nearest me.  He was a smallish fellow with dark hair and huge sideburns. A black “Zorro” hat rested jauntily on his head. He turned to me and something very close to the following conversation ensued.

KFZ: “Excuse me, I noticed that one of your friends is wearing a “Chicago” shirt. I was wondering if you happened to be part of their road crew and might know if they were going to be in town anytime soon? I’m a big fan and saw them not so long ago.” 

Zorro:  With a laugh, turning to his friends on the other side of the carousel. “Do any of you know if Chicago has a gig coming up in L.A.?”

Rest of Group: After discussing the question among themselves. “Not that we know of.”

KFZ: A bit disappointed as it was now clear they weren’t Chicago’s road crew. “Oh, thanks anyway.”

Zorro: Seeing the disappointed look on KFZ’s face. “No problem. You know, we are also musicians and have played with Chicago a few times. We like them too.”

KFZ: Brightening up as they actually did have some connection to Chicago, as first thought. “Really? That’s cool. Who are you?”

Zorro: With a broad knowing smile.  “Three Dog Night!”

His hat notwithstanding, I did not believe Zorro and replied with a derisive, “Sure”, leaving no doubt as to my opinion regarding the veracity of his claim.

I shook my head in disgust and started to walk away when Zoro turned to his friends with an incredulous look on his face and said, “He doesn’t’ believe me!”

I walked back to my parents and our luggage arrived shortly thereafter. We then walked out to the parking lot where my uncle’s car was waiting.  Upon stowing the luggage, I was about to get into the car, when I noticed Zorro and his friends standing outside an exit door nearby. As I watched, up drove two stretch limos. The limo doors opened quickly and out jumped some people who were clearly very happy to welcome my erstwhile acquaintances.

My eyes almost popped out of my head as it hit me, that Zorro had been telling the truth. They really were THREE DOG NIGHT!!!

Self recrimination began to well up in me. What a dummy I had been. The members of one of my favorite rock bands, probably the biggest American rock band at the time, had been quite happy to speak to me. They were down-to-earth people who had given an eighteen-year-old kid more attention than anyone would believe. Idiot that I was, I spurned them when I could have had a friendly conversation with them while waiting for their luggage.  No doubt they would have been able to give me good advice on pursuing a music career. What a wasted opportunity.

I continued to look in their direction while the limos pulled away from the loading zone. As the first one drove by Zorro gave me a smile through the car window.

P.S. Once I returned home, I pulled out a “Three Dog Night” album to check who I had spoken to. It turned out to have been the bassist Joe Schermie. Almost forty five years later, I cannot recall if the fellow in the Chicago shirt was Chuck Negron, one of the lead singers, or Michael Alsup, the lead guitarist. But I can still see Schermie, standing by the luggage carousel, shocked that I did not believe him.


Kung Fu Zu is a conservative prognosticator who has traveled widely and lived outside the United States. He was last seen on the road to Shamballa. • (973 views)

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13 Responses to A Case of Mistaken Identity

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Your stories in and around airports are hilarious. You can be a cussy old sod. They must still be talking about the guy in the airport who couldn’t believe they were the real deal.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Over the years, I have run into a fair number of famous and near famous people in airports, airplanes and hotels. Nothing too important happened during any of these meetings, but they were all interesting, if only for a moment.

  2. David Ray says:

    That was a hilarious hum-dinger. Keep up the good work.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Here is a photo of “Three Dog Night” at there most famous. Note Schermie on the far left in his Zoro hat.

    http://www.rebeatmag.com/wp-content/uploads/tdn-pic-2.jpg

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    That’s closer than I’ve ever seen a musician. I’ve attended 2 concerts (one at Purdue for Blood, Sweat, and Tears, one in Louisville for the Association and the Lovin’ Spoonful), as well as attending a performance of Sunset Boulevard featuring Petula Clark. But I’ve never really met any. There certainly are plenty of Three Dog Night songs I like. (Given your skepticism, “Liar” would be an appropriate, though “Mama Told Me Not to Come” would fit in more with this website.)

    But I believe that’s Zorro, not Zoro.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Brad,

    You caught me on the road to Shamballa.

    I heard B.W. Stevenson (he of the big hair) perform this live at my college a couple of years before the Three Dog Night version came out.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I think the main alternate version of one of their songs I’m familiar with is Leo Sayre’s version of “The Show Must Go On”, though I also recall seeing “Black and White” once on Hee Haw.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I was not aware that this song was written by Daniel Moore. But I do remember it as one of Three Dog Night’s last hits. My favorites are:

      Mama Told Me
      One
      An Old Fashioned Love Song

      • Timothy Lane says:

        All fine songs. I suppose I prefer the first 2 to the third. They did a lot of nice music. Aside from those mentioned so far, two I would add are “Out in the Country” and “Celebrate”. “Joy to the World” is probably their most famous, though the ending gets repetitious (though not as bad as Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds”).

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