The Day I Hung Out With Billy Joel

The year was 1986. The place was Long Island, New York. It was my 16th birthday and my parents were taking my friends and I to Montauk, a touristy beach town, for the weekend.

We set off, rocking our 80’s hair, thick black eyeliner, with me wearing a t-shirt four sizes too big. I grabbed all my Billy Joel CD’s (oh man, they may have actually been CASSETTES) for the drive.

Let’s talk about Billy Joel for a minute. The singer/songwriter and five-time Grammy winner, is one of the best selling artists of all time. But in the 80’s on Long Island he was absolute ROYALTY. Forget Madonna, forget Michael Jackson – there was no one bigger than Billy.

And like any self-respecting Islander, I was a diehard fan. To top it off, he was from Hicksville, where I attended school. Billy was by far our high school’s greatest claim to fame.

Ok, back to my trip to Montauk. I heard that Billy owned a boat at the local marina, and all I wanted was to see this boat of his. When we arrived, my parents took us down there and if it’s possible to be star-struck by a boat, it happened to me. Here I was, standing in front of something that Billy Joel OWNED. That he TOUCHED. That he maybe LOVED…

Fast forward through a fun weekend, and before we headed home on Sunday, I asked my parents if they could drop my friends and I off at the marina for a bit so I could go stare at Billy’s boat one last time. (remember, diehard fan) They obliged, and when we got there, we noticed that this time, the door to the cabin on the boat was open.

And get this – we could see a maintenance guy in there! I could not believe my luck at being able to get a look at Billy’s Joel’s boat helper.

So my friends and I all go strolling casually down the dock. Just as we arrived at the front of the boat, slyly trying to peer into the cabin, the maintenance man turns around in the doorway and says, “Can I help you guys?”

And, as I’m sure you have already guessed, this was no maintenance man. This was Billy Joel himself, in the flesh, alone, standing six feet in front of us, talking to ME.

At first none of us uttered a word. Then one of my friends grabbed my shoulders, and pushing me forward slightly, exclaimed, “She’s your biggest fan!”

I wish I could say I remained cool and casual. I wish I could say I at least smiled and said hello. I wish I could say I did anything but what I actually did – which was to turn bright red and run away down the dock like a bat out of hell.

My friends stayed and chatted up Billy Joel while I hyperventilated a few slips down. They came to find me a few minutes later, begging me to go back. “He’s SO nice!” “You HAVE to talk to him!” “You will NEVER forgive yourself if you don’t go!”

Mortified but knowing they were right, I headed back with them. Upon my blushing, sheepish return, BILLY JOEL HELD OUT HIS HAND TO ME and asked if we would like to come aboard his boat.

Say what now???

In total disbelief of what was happening, I grabbed his hand and we all hopped onto the “Sea Major”. He offered us seats and just started talking with all of us about Hicksville, about high school, about life in general.

He had just had a baby and proud dad that he was, asked us if we would like to see photos. So we’re sitting on his couch, flipping through his photo album and he’s like, “that’s us at the park” and “that’s my wife giving the baby a bath”. Mind you, his wife at the time was Christy Brinkley.

And my friend Steven actually had the nerve to turn to Billy Joel and say, “I have a picture of your wife on my wall.” I stared at him in horror until Billy laughed and responded, “So do I.”

The whole thing was totally surreal. My parents showed up looking for us a short time later and he invited them to join our little party as well.

I can honestly tell you that Billy Joel was truly the most genuine, most humble, most down-to-earth guy you can imagine. We hung out with him for nearly an hour and he graciously took photos with us before we left.

And I even though I know this is 35 years too late, and even though I know he’ll never read this, I just want to say thank you, Mr. Joel, for being everything I always thought you were. It was the best 16th birthday gift a kid could have hoped for.

***For more of my stories, I invite you to sign up to follow my blog!