Strange but true: A meeting at a St. Lawrence University hockey game in the 1970s led to a gig at the holiday bash of "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice" creator David E. Kelley for a Rochester-based band.
The band is Nik and the Nice Guys, which began at St. Lawrence and was profiled in a recent story from The Buffalo News distributed on the Associated Press newswire. Here it is:
By Lauri Githens, News Staff Reporter
Most area bands glance up in mid-set to see a half-dozen burly guys holding their beers, and the rest of the crowd intently watching a Sabres game on the corner TV.
Tonight, when Nik and the Nice Guys look up, they'll probably see Michelle Pfeiffer go-go dancing giddily with her husband, David E. Kelley.
And Lucy Liu (Ling on "Ally McBeal") mamboing madly with Dylan MacDermott (Bobby on "The Practice.")
For when the Rochester-based party band gets together with the cast and crew of Kelley's two smash hit shows for a let-your-hair-down, no-press-no-cameras-no-microphones -allowed Hollywood party, "anything can happen," says band
manager Gary Webb.
"And we're just the band to make sure it does."
How did Webb hook up with the award-winning Kelley? And how did a Rochester band wind up playing Hollywood's hottest holiday bash of the year?
The story reads like a classic Kelley script.
One winter in the mid-'70s, the Princeton hockey team showed up in freezing Canton to play the St. Lawrence University hockey team. A shaggy-haired Kelley wound up opposite an equally shaggy-haired Webb.
"We hated each other," Webb says. "Instantly."
Numerous body-checks and loosened teeth later, Webb became a CPA, settled in Rochester in the early '80s, formed Nik and the Nice Guys -- a high energy "jock and roll" outfit known equally for its outrageous on-stage stunts and its music -- and in 1990 saw it become the house band for ESPN's irreverent "The Lighter Side of Sports."
Kelley, meanwhile, became a lawyer, moved to L.A. and built a name for himself as the hot young writer for NBC's irreverent "L.A. Law."
When both men wound up on the Hollywood All-Star Hockey Team a few years later and faced each other on the ice once again, now 20 years since their first confrontation in Canton, they laughed.
Kelley, says Webb, wound up coming to all the post-game parties to watch the band "pull all this totally crazed, out-there, nutso stuff, which is exactly what David is all about."
He didn't forget them, either, when fame finally arrived. When Kelley held wrap-up parties, years later, for his first critically acclaimed shows, "Picket Fences" and "Chicago Hope," Nik and the Nice Guys were his first choice.
They played both gigs.
And they got an eyeful of how A-list Hollywood parties, says lead singer Terry Buchwald.
"It's one thing to see these people on your TV, but when you get to look up and see them up close, dancing and partying to your music, it's really weird."
Tonight, then, should be the ultimate weird-out for Buchwald.
Kelley -- who last September became the first writer in TV history to simultaneously win the Best Comedy and Best Drama Emmys for "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice" -- plans to celebrate both the season and his double-Emmy win.
So he's booked the posh Hollywood Athletic Club for a cast-and-crew only, catered, ultra-private affair.
Private, as in 500 to 550 people, with roughly a third of them major stars.
"Security is already a nightmare," says Webb. "They've done sweep after sweep. You wouldn't believe how small cameras and electronic equipment have become, and what some of these tabloids go through to try and get into these parties."
Because, Webb says, the gossip sheets know that when Hollywood stars are assured of a bash that is totally private and safe from prying eyes and ears, "they really like to cut loose. They get incredibly psyched to let loose some steam."
At the wrap party for "Picket Fences," for example, Webb stood agog at the soundboard as Lauren Holly broke into a spirited go-go and frug, and Pfeiffer and Kelley, then newlyweds, shimmied and shook "from one end of the room to the other" during the band's rendition of the soul classic "Shama-Lama-Ding-Dong."
"They were totally into it. It was like no one else was in the room. That song must mean something to them. It was wild."
And this year should provide more of the same, Webb guesses.
"David's asked us to think in terms of edge. He wants it crazy. He asked us to provide a real-life Dancing Baby (the fictive, boogying baby only Ally McBeal saw in last season's episodes) and we're also providing a Killing Nun (the key figure in the final episodes of "The Practice" last season). So we have one guy all set to go with the diaper and the dance moves. And actually, I believe I'm dressing up as the nun."
"It should be interesting."