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— by Jennifer Vineyard

In the old days, going backstage meant the possibility of
drunken debauchery with the band, or at least being an
eyewitness to other people's walks on the wild side. But
nowadays, some bands travel with juicers and even maintain a
strict no-booze-backstage policy (Aerosmith on both counts).
Still, if you're determined to see what it's like for yourself,
you're going to need a backstage pass, or learn to act like you
have one already. Some people don't need no stinking passes
— but for the rest of us mere mortals, we sometimes have to
slip by security. Here's how to play:

Level I: Meet-
And-Greet Area

A gaggle of fans
like yourself, but
who've actually
won the chance
at getting a
handshake via a
radio contest or
family connections. If you see people gathering in a
cinderblock room with arrows pointing to it, join them. You
probably won't get a lot out of it — Madonna didn't even
bother showing up to her candlelit meet-and-greet at New
York's Madison Square Garden — but you never know. Beware,
though — Being identified as a fan here may use up one of
your extra lives and hurt your chances at a ruse elsewhere. Not
that we're suggesting you lie or anything.

Level II:
Catering Area

Sometimes you
need a raffle
ticket to get the
grub, which can
be a hot meal
worth major
health points, but
it's usually limp sandwiches, browning sliced fruits and tacky
cheese cubes, all tightly bound in plastic wrap or
unappetizingly disheveled by previous prying hands. There's
often cheap booze and not-so-fine wines (one red, one white)
with plastic cups. If any bandmembers bother to scurry by,
they'll be on their way to somewhere much cooler, and so
should you.

Level III: Press

Do yourself a
favor and get an
internship at a
local paper, radio
or TV station in
advance. That
way, you can get
a legit credential and play in (almost) God mode — if you
volunteer to assist in the assignment to cover the show. At the
very least, you'll know how to bluff your way into the press
room, where the band poses for pictures and may or may not
answer questions shouted out by noisy and nosy members of
the media (who usually wear photo ID credentials that you
won't be able to fake). Like the meet-and-greet, though, you
may have to wait, and it might be standing room only.

Level IV: Side Of
The Stage

It's a tight space,
and crew
members don't
like the fact that
they're working
while everyone
else is hanging
out — and in their way. So here's your cheat code: Get there
early and make yourself useful. No roadie can resist someone
who's willing to help lug heavy equipment, and you just might
power up and earn a coveted spot next to the onstage
speakers — the best seat in the house. Just remember, bend
from the knees.

Level V: Dressing

Down an almost-
deserted hallway,
you'll find this
get-ready room
cordoned off and
guarded by beefy
bodyguards. How to get past them? Time for role playing: You
work for the label. You're a nanny looking for a lost kid. You're
a runner delivering some goodies that were last-minute
additions to the star's rider. You can also try the most basic
line: the truth. But what's the point if your idol isn't even
there? Easter eggs — their trash is your treasure. While we're not suggesting that you dig through the garbage, or even outright steal, whatever's left behind is fair game. So Christina Aguilera's unused, shimmery perfume lotion or J. Lo's new but
unwanted Polaroid camera? Yours.

Level VI: Tour

In the parking
lot near the back
entrance or
loading dock,
you'll find this
vehicle, which
likely smells like
unwashed sweat socks, probably for good reason. If you
expect to get to this level, it helps to have "gifts" or short
skirts in your inventory, but be careful — you may find roadies
blocking your path, and roadies may not be the road you want
to take. There might be certain, um, expectations. However,
making friends with the roadies can help you skip to the next

Final Level: Hotel Room

This is the goal. But how to get there? Eavesdrop, eavesdrop, eavesdrop. Somewhere, someone will let it slip — either where the band is staying or what name it's staying under. Pay attention without being obvious and you have a shot at getting some crucial info. The band is likely unwinding and not paying attention to who walks in — but security might be. Dodge a bullet by entering at the same time as obviously invited but oblivious guests. Once inside, act like you belong, grab yourself a drink (the bar will be fully stocked with alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks alike), and chat up someone other than the guests of honor (you want to be introduced to them later). Once you meet the band, you beat the game.

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