By Nick Patterson Herald writer
Michael Henrichsen was working as the media intern for the Everett Silvertips hockey team when he embarked on his version of the quest for the Holy Grail. Later this month his dream becomes a reality.
Two years of hard work and determination come to fruition on Oct. 26 when 80s rocker Billy Idol comes to Seattle to play a concert in honor of Henrichsen’s birthday.
And Henrichsen has dozens of people to thank for the success of his campaign at playmybirthdaybillyidol.com. Among them are Olympian Apolo Ohno, Beach Boy Mike Love, Mariner Jay Buhner, Fabio, Seahawk Marcus Trufant and comedian Kevin Nealon.
Idol announced the good news on Henrichsen’s website: “The people of the world have spoken! The dream will become a reality!”
Henrichsen, who turns 26 on Oct. 22, started his crusade in 2010. His efforts to convince Idol to play a Seattle show on or around his birthday went above and beyond anything he imagined, he said.
And while the journey was a reward in itself, the payoff is a night Henrichsen and the approximately 2,000 people who will attend the sold-out show at the Showbox SoDo will never forget.
“I’m obviously super happy and super jazzed,” Henrichsen said. “Now that we’re so close to everything the nerves are kicking in. I just hope I don’t tremble or start tripping over my words when I start talking to him.”
Henrichsen’s quest began shortly after his 24th birthday. At the time he was in a rut, working three jobs in an effort to pay off his college loans, and he was making no progress in his efforts to build a career in communications. He felt his life needed a spark.
“I really wanted to do something that had never been done before,” Henrichsen said. “I figured I had plenty of time to work three jobs the rest of my life and pay off student loans. So the thought of still having the youth to do something dramatic and silly with that energy and passion, it’s not something you have your whole life, so why not take advantage of it now?”
Then fate intervened in the form of a Billy Idol song that came across the sound system at his retail job. Henrichsen has always had an affinity for all things 80s — he was named after Michael Hutchence, the former lead singer of the band INXS — and Idol is one of his favorites. Hearing Idol over the speakers sparked the idea.
“My 24th birthday had just passed and I’d reached the age where people were growing up and moving across the country,” Henrichsen said. “Keeping in touch with them was impossible. So it dawned on me: How do I get all my friends in one place, further my professional career, and do something that everyone in my life wants to be a part of?”
Henrichsen plan was to devote the next year toward trying to get Idol to play his birthday. He wasn’t seeking an exclusive show in his backyard, complete with Idol bringing out the cake, or anything of the sort. He just wanted Idol to play a concert in the Seattle area sometime around his 25th birthday.
But how to accomplish it? How could a random fan with no funds grab Idol’s attention and convince him to play a one-time show 1,000 miles away from his Los Angeles home?
Thus came the birth of playmybirthdaybillyidol.com.
Henrichsen convinced his friend, Jim Stamper, to create a website. The idea was for the website to go viral, and perhaps Idol would notice and be impressed by the lengths Henrichsen went to to get his attention.
But for a website to go viral, it requires content. That’s where Henrichsen got creative. First came the videos of him dancing around the streets of Seattle carrying a boombox blasting Billy Idol songs.
Then came the celebrity endorsements.
“I’d be in the press box during intermissions at Silvertips games, just looking for local autograph signings of celebrities signing their books,” Henrichsen recalled.
Then Henrichsen thought bigger. Inspired by the 80s charity extravaganza Live Aid, he began putting on his own Billy Idol Aid charity events. A total of four have taken place, two at the Nectar Lounge and two at the Showbox at the Market. In total the events raised more than $13,000 for Northwest Harvest and the American Red Cross.
The more Henrichsen did, the more attention he received. He began doing podcast and radio interviews across the nation. He made television appearances on local talk shows and news broadcasts. His website received views by people in 99 different countries.
And Idol’s people took notice. Idol’s management team first contacted Henrichsen in June 2011. However, when Henrichsen’s 25th birthday came around he received a 10-second video from Idol wishing him a happy birthday — and the tease of, “Maybe next year.”
“That was when it became really tough,” Henrichsen said. “At the time it was like, I’ve connected with him, but it’s not really what I set out for. Is it really worth the effort of putting the time into it for another year and beyond? That was probably the toughest part of the whole project, keeping it relevant after a year.”
But he kept it alive, bringing in more celebrity endorsements and holding more events. He even became the lead singer of an 80s cover band that began headlining Billy Idol Aid.
Then came the moment he was waiting for.
“I was in the dark for a long time on what was happening, and as it was inching closer to October I thought for sure it wasn’t going to happen,” Henrichsen said. “But one week in July I got a call from his management staff that said the show’s happening. I just about lost it. I had to keep it hush hush, I had a fourth Idol Aid event scheduled, and they sent me a video of Billy announcing it. Once I saw the video of Billy saying he was coming it almost drove me to tears.”
Tickets to the show sold out in about a week.
Henrichsen’s band, Nite Wave, has even been recruited to serve as the opening act. And Henrichsen has become living proof that dreams can come true, provided one perseveres.
“It’s crazy how kind people can be,” Henrichsen said. “I’m grateful to the people who helped me do this. I was able to connect with people across the world and have them support this project, and without the support of my friends this would definitely not be feasible. Having their support and having them push me along when things looked bleak were absolutely essential to this becoming what it was.
“No one should ever settle in life,” Henrichsen added. “Don’t stop trying to achieve what you’re trying to achieve, as big or as small as it may be, because you just never know.”