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Hot Dogs, Regrets and the Price We Pay

By Ace Baker / March 10, 2015

BY TOBY FRANCIS

In my trying to understand and accept ML’s passing I can’t help but think about the price we pay to do this job. 

ML gave his life to this craft. He lived at work. He lived to work. I had a great personal relationship with him but it was, as with most of us, based on work. We accomplished so much together over the years, huge tours, huge profits for everyone involved, HUGE! 

He would find out about some tours even before some of the band members knew, he was that plugged in. Work was the main goal and every success was followed by a celebration in the form of a huge meal. He so loved to eat. He once called me at home in LA from his home in Dallas to have me go to Pink’s hot dog stand before they closed to have his favorite hot dog and call him and tell him about how good it was. That’s a true story, 

I didn’t go. It was 1 AM and I was in bed. He tried for a half hour to convince me to go. He was funny like that.

But about six years ago, something changed in the man. He became less focused and more troubled. I tried to reach him many times, but he was reluctant to share what it was. 

As my marriage to Jenny started to fail—mostly because of me not being there for her as my career came first, too—ML reached out to me. He said he knew I needed help and offered himself for whatever I needed. Through the many long talks we had at that time, I came to know what had happened to him. It was the same thing that most of us suffer from in this business, the price we pay to be be here.

The missed family events. The goodnight kisses from our children. The day-to-day contact that is so needed for the people we love. The highs and the lows of family life with us being both present and involved. Putting an artist’s needs before our children’s and spouse’s can and will cause lasting problems for all involved. 

And we find out how steep the price was after the damage is done and there is little that can be done and we live our lives in regret. All the people I have seen drop out of this profession to be with their families I applaud you, as you were and are the wise ones.

Jenny and ML’s wife Debbie were both diagnosed with cancer the same week. Jenny and I had already split, but it hit me just as hard as if we were together. ML and I talked daily throughout the ordeal. 

Jenny survived and, as many of you know, Debbie did not. The last time I spoke to Debbie was just days before she died, and she was so angry. Angry at everyone and everything.

That anger hurt ML so very much. He knew it was like a balloon payment attached to the price they had paid over the years. Debbie would not be there for the rewards after his career had ended. And he felt so much guilt for not being there more and living more for her and the kids and less for his career. 

And it was too late for them. Debbie gave up and ML blamed himself. 

So, as Pooch said, he wasted away and became a shell of his former self. We all tried to reach him and so many—including his competitors—tried to help. 

My last conversation with him was not good, I had disappointed him with something I had done and he wanted me to answer for it which I did and I took the opportunity to once again try and reach him and it got very heated. 

But he did open up and we did talk. And it was the price he paid that was the root of it all. The price was too high and the resulting regrets too many to bear.

ML I love you, I miss you, I will always miss you and I will not pay the price you paid. I have learned from the best teacher of all. 

And I really wish I had gone to Pink’s for you that night, it was the least I could have done, I’m sorry I let you down.

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Ace Baker

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