Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Meat Loaf will be talking seemingly ceaselessly about himself in the upcoming showcase “Rocktellz & Cocktails” at Planet Hollywood. But for the moment, someone else will talk of him.
He is Franky Perez. Curious choice? It might seem that way, except the Las Vegas-born singer-songwriter once played percussion in Meat Loaf’s band. A couple of years ago, Meat Loaf was to appear on “George Lopez Tonight” to promote the upcoming album “Hell in a Handbasket.” The band ran through a sound check in Lopez’s studio and was to hang back until the show’s taping.
In that time, Meat Loaf took note of a ping-pong table in the green room. Being one of rock’s great renaissance men, Meat Loaf is a very good ping-pong player. So is Perez.
The two began playing as part of an impromptu tournament involving all the musicians. It got serious. The clock edged toward the band’s call time to appear on the show, and Meat Loaf and Perez were still hammering ping-pong balls.
“He was holding court, and they were telling me, ‘Throw the game! He’s really competitive!’ ” Perez recalls. “I refused to do that. I gave it everything I had, but I fell prey to Meat Loaf. He handed me my ass, fair and square.”
Meat Loaf’s life is full of such tales. He’ll be peeling back his 47-year career as one of the bestselling rock artists ever. “Bat Out of Hell” is one of the top-selling albums of all time, having sold more than 40 million copies since it was released in the fall of 1977. He also is a highly capable actor (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Fight Club” among his credits) and has survived the “Celebrity Apprentice” experience, his Season 11 explosion at Gary Busey notwithstanding.
For “Rocktellz & Cocktails,” one of SPI Entertainment founder Adam Steck’s one-man-show projects, Meat Loaf will unspool his life and career and take questions from the audience. He’ll play his hits, too, in a uniquely interactive showcase Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from Sept. 26-Nov. 5. Tickets are $69, $89, $109 and $149 and available at Ticketmaster.
During an interview at Planet Hollywood showroom (where “Peepshow” is about to close), Meat Loaf began the conversation by saying the way to address him is “Meat.”
And so it was.
Wearing an all-black suit and silver necklaces, Meat says he is a “news junkie,” but winces when following current events because “it’s depressing — beyond depressing.” But he chuckled when he offered, “I was watching the local news the other day because I want to know what’s going on in Las Vegas, and I found out that on Thursday night, they have a high school football night. I’d catch a game, but I’m working Thursdays.”
Meat is smart, not just street-wise but well educated. “I wanted to teach history in high school and in college took an entire year of constitutional law,” he says. “I can debate anybody about constitutional law, including our president. I’m ready.”
Meat is brave — to a point. The show promises an unvarnished look at his career, but Meat is the one stripping the varnish.
“People get to see stuff that people have never seen me do. It’s not a concert. It’s not a film. Nobody has ever seen me do this,” he says. “There’s nothing I won’t talk about. I’ll talk about anything. I might lie about it, but I’ll talk about it (laughs). But I am known as a great storyteller. … The ability to be a great storyteller is the ability to talk about anything that you’re asked, and if you need to embellish, go for it, dude.”
The storytelling process is vital to Meat’s personal and artistic growth, still vital even as he is 65 years old and has sold more than 100 million albums and has nothing left to prove.
“To me, I won’t stop learning. … If your attitude is you’re doing the same thing over and over, you’ve stopped learning,” he says. “You’ve stopped figuring out your audience, your pacing, reading the audience — this is nothing I’ve studied, but I can feel an audience, and every audience is different. Every night is new to me.”
Meat’s wife, Leslie, advised him not to talk about his fling with “Celebrity Apprentice.” But he’ll talk about it anyway.
“Somebody is going to bring it up, and my wife said, ‘Just tell them you’re not going to talk about it.’ Well, I can’t do that,” he says. “So, I’ve got to talk about it, and about what happened with Gary Busey. I’ve known him since 1977. I have an old photo of me, Ron Wood and Gary together, and it’s a really hysterical picture. It goes perfect with the story, and we have to talk about that. … I don’t particularly want to go there, but I will.”
One of his best friends in the 1970s was John Belushi, an inspiration for his ability to captivate an audience. “The scene in ‘Animal House,’ when he is on the ladder and looks at the camera and crosses the fourth wall. We had arguments about that moment,” Meat says. “We were like brothers, arguing about that scene.”
The two met when Belushi was a member of the Lemmings comedy troupe in Chicago, before either became famous.
“Around 1972 or early in ’73, on a weekend, I helped him move from one apartment to another,” Meat says. “We were carrying this furniture down the street. Nobody blinked. Can you imagine if that were 1979? Somebody seeing me and John Belushi carrying furniture down the street?”
Onlookers would be barely able to, um, couch their excitement.
Meat is often achy, suffering from an almost-continual pain in his knee. He underwent knee-replacement surgery in November. The only accessory Meat wears that was not picked out by his wife is a copper, magnetized bracelet.
“It’s supposed to help my knee,” he says, “but it isn’t. My knee is driving me crazy. I’m still limping. I’m still moving slower than I want to. It hurts. It wakes me up, still.”
Asked who he would pay to see perform in such a show as “Rocktellz & Cocktails,” he swiftly answered, “Bette Midler.”
“I came to see her here, at Caesars, and we have known each other since Continental Baths, when Barry Manilow was her piano player,” Meat says, referring to the famed gay bathhouse in New York where Midler and Manilow used to play early in their careers. “Barry was her piano player, and Paul Shaffer was mine at the time (laughs). But I’ve seen Bette nine times, and the only other band I’ve seen that many times is Buffalo Springfield. She’s better than Buffalo Springfield (laughs). She’s very funny. … I consider myself more like Bette Midler than a rock band.”
Meat still remembers when such classics as “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” from his enduring album “Bat Out of Hell” began playing on radio stations across the country.
“I can tell you, back in the ’70s, when ‘Bat Out of Hell’ had to be sped up a quarter-tone, just a little, to go vinyl, and back then the radio stations again would speed up a record to get in more commercial time,” Meat says. “Every time ‘Two out of Three’ came on, I sounded like Alvin from Alvin and the Chipmunks (laughs). I used to turn it off. Most people want to hear themselves on the radio, but I didn’t.”
It’s a great story. Feel free to ask for embellishment or elaboration at a performance of “Rocktellz.” Our man Meat would be up for that.