By Ray Routhier
The interview was about to end, but Eddie Money wouldn't let it.
He had talked about being back in the spotlight thanks to a quirky GEICO insurance commercial ("My wife is so (ticked) off because she wanted to be in it"), about his streak of hit records in the '70s and '80s ("I had 14 songs in the top 100, and I think that's more than Billy Joel, but I'm not sure") and about taking a smaller, quieter backing group along on his current tour ("My fans are getting older, they don't want it loud").
But then, after goodbyes had been exchanged, Money blurted out, "wait." He said he wanted to tell a joke.
His tale was about a guy who goes into a confessional and tells the priest he's had an affair. The priest asks who the other woman is, and the guy says it's his daughter's best friend, and she's 17. The guy tells the priest he's 52. Then the priest assigns him 5,000 Our Fathers and 3,000 Hail Marys as penance.
At hearing that, the guy reveals that he's not Catholic, he's Jewish.
"The priest says, 'You're not Catholic? Then why are you telling me?' " Money said. "And the guy says, 'I'm telling everybody.' "
After waiting a beat for the laughs, Money explained his compulsion to get that joke out.
"I really wanted to be a comedian, but I guess I'm stuck with being Eddie Money."
As long as he's stuck, Money will keep touring and doing what he does best. He'll bring his "Eddie Money: Unplugged" show to Portland's Asylum on Thursday.
But then again, stuck with being Eddie Money is not such a bad thing these days. Thanks to the GEICO commercial last summer, fans and booking agents are rediscovering the singer's catalog of radio-friendly, nostalgia-inducing songs such as "Baby Hold On," "Two Tickets to Paradise," "Think I'm In Love," "Shakin' " and "Take Me Home Tonight."
Everywhere he goes, people can sing his songs. And now, because of GEICO, he's constantly asked for autographs.
"I was on the plane taking a nap, and when I wake up, there's a guy with a uniform looking down at me," says Money, in an accent that gives away his Brooklyn origins. "He says to me, he's the pilot and he loves the commercial, can he have an autograph? And I say, 'Who's flying the plane?'
"I do so many autographs now, I gotta wash my hair to go to the liquor store. I gotta dress up just to go to the store to buy a couple tomatoes."
Money said he's been offered commercials over the years, but has done few. He took the GEICO one mainly because his wife, Laurie, wanted to be in it. But they filmed several versions, and she didn't make the final cut.
"If you ask my wife about that commercial, she'll say I sound pitchy," said Money.
The commercial is part of a series that states people who saved money by switching to GEICO are as happy as a body builder directing traffic, a witch in a broom factory or Eddie Money running a travel agency.
In the commercial, Money sings "Two Tickets to Paradise" a cappella as a family sits stoned-faced in front of him saying things like, "actually, it's four tickets." For a while, the ad seemed to be everywhere.
As for how he spends his time when not performing, Money lives in California and also has a house in New York City, "because my wife likes to go jogging in Central Park." He's recently started going to the gym after years of not taking great care of himself (including struggles with substance abuse), and he's taking up boxing.
As for his music, Money is not interested in breaking new ground. He mostly listens to the stuff he liked as a teenager and young man, including Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. On his current tour, he'll include all his hits, play a little sax and maybe tell a few stories. His backing band is basically two guitars and a small drum kit.
The show at Asylum actually falls on Money's 64th birthday. He doesn't have anything special planned -- although he hinted he'd accept a cake, and he thought it was somehow fitting he'd be spending his birthday in a place called Asylum.
His penchant for jokes spills over to a self-deprecating attitude about his own career and fame. He says he has to "thank the big guy upstairs" for giving him his hit records. And he jokes that he's probably never going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but is quick to point out another honor he thinks is almost as good.
"I'm in the Long Island (N.Y.) Music Hall of Fame along with Neil Diamond and KISS, so that's pretty good too," said Money.
It is. Especially for a singer who would have rather been a comedian.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: