1Matters.org Blog: Seriously John? Mellencamp Pays A Visit To C.O.T.S.
12.14.2010 - Mellencamp.com has reported in the past of John's involvement in
Toledo's Homeless Awareness Project - Tent City that sparked the 1Matters.org
the organization that raises awareness of the homeless. John has continued his
support not only for 1Matters, but all of those who have lost domestic autonomy
in our nation.
During a recent concert stop in Detroit, MI John stopped by the C.O.T.S. a
shelter close to the Fox Theater where he would perform on November 19th during
his No Better Than This Tour.
Ken Leslie's blog includes photos of John's visit on the 1Matter.org site.
“No, seriously, tell me again, why is John Mellencamp coming here? Why would
he come to a homeless shelter in the middle of downtown Detroit?” the guest
“Simply because… every 1Matters, don’t they?” I replied.
Raising his head and standing up an inch taller he said “Yes, they do, every
Good question he asked though, why would John Mellencamp stop to hang out in the
middle of the shattered remains of a town bombed out by the war on poverty?
Same answer, because every 1Matters.
About a week before John’s November 19th Detroit show, Bob Merlis, John’s
publicist told me John wanted to visit a shelter in Detroit before his show at
the Fox Theater. But it has to be just like his Toledo visit, conditioned on
absolutely NO advance publicity, period. (Do you appreciate the irony of a
publicist saying “We don’t want publicity?” lol) The media could cover it, but
no advance publicity. He just wants to hang out, not have a press event. I asked
Bob if John intended to give out tickets like he did in Toledo, and Bob said
“Probably not, ticket sales are pretty robust, might not be any left.”
I made some calls to several of my friends in Detroit to identify a short list
of shelters, and we selected C.O.T.S. (Coalition on Temporary Shelter) for the
advance site visit. They just seemed to give a rip about the people, you could
feel it, and our visit verified it.
Plans were rearranged for Team Mellencamp to fly in earlier that afternoon,
arrive at C.O.T.S. at 4, and John’s personal assistant Sarah would text me when
wheels were down. Both the residents and management of the shelter kept asking
me, “Seriously, what is john gonna do?” My answer was always the same, “Just
All went as planned with John arriving at 4:15 with Sarah, Randy Hoffman, his
personal manager and longtime Mellencamp tour manager, Harry Sandler.
After meeting Cheryl Johnson, CEO, and Sharyn Johnson, COO, and others on the
C.O.T.S. leadership team, John went into the dining hall and, well, hung out.
All alone, no staff, he went down the tables introducing himself to guests,
spending time just getting to know the people by name, hearing a little of each
persons story. That’s right, by name, individually, 1 at a time, until he had
met everyone in that room. Not like “normal” rock stars and celebrities who hold
court and people line up to shake hands. No, John Mellencamp went alone, 1 at a
time, to SHOW them, not tell them they Matter! How cool is that! Oh, but it gets
After meeting everyone he came up to me and quietly asked, “Ken, should I invite
them all to the show?”
“What are you thinking John?”
“I don’t know, 100 tickets?” he says.
“Seriously John? You think you have 100 tickets available?” I asked.
“Hell, we’ll figure it out” he replies.
John Mellencamp then turns to the dining hall and says “Hey everybody, I want
you all to come to the show tonight, we’ll get you tickets.”
Immediately heads pop up everywhere and you just knew they were thinking,
You see, the people sitting in that room, in that shelter, in downtown Detroit,
did not wake up that day thinking some rock star was just gonna pop in to just
hang out. Nor did they wake up thinking they were going to a concert by one of
America’s top Grammy winning artists. In fact, many of them had NEVER even been
to a concert, so why suspect today would be any different?
Among the heads that popped up were Randy’s and Harry’s. I am sure they are
quite used to John doing things like this, as in seriously CARING. But it is
their job to figure out how to get it done.
Both were thinking, “100 tickets? Seriously John?” Harry because he had to find
100 tickets in a hall that was probably close to sold out, and Randy because he
did the math on the value of 100 tickets at an average price of what, $100 or
so, and where he was going to reduce the budget on other items to allow this
investment in humanity.
I went back to the Fox with John and company to get the tickets. It took a
while. After the Fox people processed that John was taking 100 tickets off the
floor, (Seriously John?) it took them three tries to come up with 100 tickets.
They first brought 35 to Emilie, Harry’s daughter, who sent them back for more,
“No, John said 100.”
The second trip got the count to 65 total tickets. After an appreciable delay,
Harry got on the radio and, shall we say assisted the Fox people in getting
motivated. In all it really did take over an hour for the Fox people to get the
ticket thing done.
But during that time I not only got to hang out some with Randy going over the
big picture plan with 1Matters, but also with Harry, (Whose photography I just
loooove. harrysandler.com, check out the Iceland pix), but I got to spend some
time with Sarah who was a new addition to the tour and John’s inner circle. She
is a pretty awesome soul, I truly see why John picked her.
Check this out, after we got the tickets I asked Sarah if she wanted to come
back with me to C.O.T.S. and personally pass them out. It would give her a very
rich hands-on emotional connection to all of those people who matter, 1 at a
time. She would be giving out the joy John’s kindness brings. She did not even
hesitate, “Oh hell yah!”
The people would not have been happier if she was passing out money. There was a
grin from one ear to the other on Sarah’s face the whole time. Sarah was being 1
who mattered to those who mattered.
We all particularly bonded with a guy we met named Javonte. He was so grateful
to Sarah, something cool about the kid. When I ran into him before the show I
sat down with him for ten minutes or so and found out why. First, like several
others, this is the first concert he had ever been to. When you grow up without
even enough food to eat, such extravagance is not even considered.
But Javonte spent the whole time with me telling me not about where he was, but
about the things that HE was going to change. It was like John caring enough to
stop by, caring enough to give to people who have nothing, gave him a chance to
care for himself. In the grand Fox Theater, Javonte took off his mask, bared his
soul, and bared his problems. Not as many (housed or unhoused) do in order to
gain sympathy, but more like opening the hood to expose the problems so they
could be fixed, by him, by his hard work. THIS is what he talked about, his hard
work to make change. How cool is that.
And Sarah had a literal hand in this desire for transformation, the hand that
gave Javonte the ticket. And through Sarah’s hand Javonte has a direct
connection to John, who’s heart and soul have given to those who matter for 35
years as an artist. A gift of compassion just to let people like Javonte know
Yes, quite seriously, every 1Matters.
Happy Holidays Everyone!