Fran Belkin remembers the time she got busted by Billy Joel’s tour manager.
“I seldom asked for a seat for a concert, but I was a huge Billy Joel fan,” she writes in her new book “Rock This Town!” (Fran Projects), adding that she was told that the front rows at every Joel concert are usually reserved for superfans that his road crew meets at the show and that she should keep a low profile. “When Billy came out, I jumped to my feet without thinking. The tour manager saw me there and tore Jules to pieces.”
Until he sold his Cleveland-based company Belkin Productions to the company that would become Live Nation in 2001, Fran Belkin’s husband, Jules, was one of the top concert producers in America and one of the most respected. And in her book, she writes about her behind-the-scenes experiences with some of music’s biggest stars, collecting photos and the limited-edition T-shirts and clothes the Belkins gave as gifts to the artists that played at their concerts.
“I knew the Belkins even before I met you, Kenny,” Joan Jett tells her longtime producer and songwriting partner Kenny Laguna. “There weren’t that many people who worked with The Runaways. But Jules would come and see for himself.”
Jett says over the years, she became friends with the Belkins, including Fran. “She’s very into rock and roll,” Jett says. “And she’s very easy to talk to and be comfortable with.”
Jett and Laguna aren’t the only Long Island artists that Fran Belkin has befriended. The first photo in the book is Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider pretending to choke Jules Belkin. And there’s even a photo of Joel being reunited with Beres, a member of the Nugzarov Troupe who Joel met on his historic trip to the then-Soviet Union. It was taken by Lawrence native Barry Gabel, who started out in the mail room of Belkin Productions in 1979 and is now a Live Nation senior vice president in Cleveland.
Fran Belkin says she didn’t start out trying to write a book. “It was supposed to be a picture book,” she says. “It took on a life of its own. When I asked about the pictures, I just kept hearing all these stories. It just grew and grew.”
Though most of the stories in her book take place in Cleveland, Fran Belkin says her story of rock and roll is universal.
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She says The Cutting Room owner Steve Walter invited her to do a book signing at the Manhattan venue after seeing her book. “He said, ‘I love this book. This book will sell in New York’,” says Fran Belkin, adding that she has sold several thousand copies of the book herself. “I never in a million years thought this would happen.”
WHO Fran Belkin
WHEN|WHERE 6 p.m. Friday, March 22, The Cutting Room, 44 E. 32nd St., Manhattan
INFO Free; 212-691-1900, thecuttingroomnyc.com