The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI and WNYC, is public radio’s smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy – so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.
April 21st, 2015
Episode 51 of 195 episodes
It costs $50,000 to have Billy Idol appear at a private event, but in 2012, a 25-year-old working at a Seattle mall convinced the rock star and his band to play his birthday party for free. AllMichael Henrichsenhad to do was make ridiculous videos, enlist ridiculous celebrities, and throw a series of charity events in Idol's honor. Henrichsengrew up in the '90s. But his mom was obsessed with '80s bands like DuranDuran and INXS — she even named Michael after the late INXS front man, Michael Hutchence. Her fandomrubbed off on her son. “I love everything about the '80s,” he says. “The look, the feel, the fashion, the music, the movies.” After graduating college in 2008, Henrichsen hoped to work in marketing or publicity, but struggled to make inroads. In order to pay student loans, he took a job as a sales associate at a Billabong store in the Seattle suburbs. The job had one major perk: Henrichsen could pass his shifts blasting the '80s station on satellite radio. One day at work, he was lamenting the low turnout at his recent birthday party. But his mood turned when Idol’s “White Wedding” kicked in on the radio. Noticing the change in his disposition, a co-worker asked, “Why don’t you try to get Billy Idol to play at your birthday party?” Henrichsen majored in communications, so he knew a thing or two about publicizing a cause. He enlisted celebrities who were passing through Seattle to invite Billy Idol on his behalf. “I’m a nobody,” he says. “But people care about celebrities.” Soon enough, he had Fabio, Pauly Shore, Apolo Ohno, and a dozen others appealing to Billy through videos on YouTube. “Sure enough, the media thought it was hilarious enough to write a story on.” Media coverage alone wasn’t enough, so Henrichsen started a band and began holding “Billy Idol Aid” charity concerts at amusic venue in Seattle. He raised over $10,000. In the summer of 2011, with Henrichsen’s October birthday on the horizon, Idol responded with a video of his own but didn’t commit to a birthday show. “The idea was to have him play a concert,” Henrichsen says. “Not have him send a ten-second video message at a charity event.” Undeterred, the superfan decided to give the project one more year. By then, he had so impressed some Seattle music promoters that they decided to reach out to Idol's camp. On the eve of Henrichsen’s 26th birthday in 2012, Idol sent asecond videoagreeing to play an event with his band. “I completely lost it,” Henrichsensays. Throughout the two years Henrichsen worked on booking Billy, he would go online and see who was discussing his project. Commenters on Reddit would say things like, “Why doesn’t this kid get a job?” Now, thanks to all the publicity he garnered, Henrichsen is working in marketing at the University of Washington in Seattle. He says the Billy Idol project taught hima valuable life lesson: “Don’t listen to people on the internet.”