After two years of petitioning and promotion, a Seattle man will finally get what he’s always dreamed of — for Billy Idol to play his birthday party in his hometown.
Even better, when Idol takes the stage Friday night in Seattle, the birthday boy will be opening for his icon with his 80s cover band.
The only caveat? No Billy Idol songs until the main act.
Michael Henrichsen, who turned 26 on Monday, came up with the idea for Billy Idol to play his party back in 2010 when he was working three jobs to pay off his student loans. He graduated from college in 2008, but was having trouble kick-starting his career.
“I was kind of at a point where I was 24, and I still didn’t have a full-time job in public relations and communications,” Henrichsen said. “I kept doing interviews for jobs, but nothing was happening.”
When Idol’s “White Wedding” came on over the loudspeaker while working a shift at his retail job, a crazy idea popped into his head.
“I sort of joked with my co-worker, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if Billy Idol could play at my birthday party?’” he said. “We kind of laughed about it and that was it.”
But Henrichsen wasn’t ready to move on so fast.
“I needed to take life by the reins and do something not only to get my name out, but I had friends growing up and moving across the country and I wanted an excuse to have them in the same place at the same time,” he said.
In November 2010, he worked with a friend to develop a website, playmybirthdaybillyidol.com, to launch his campaign to get Idol to come to Seattle for his 25th birthday. Thanks to attention from local media, Henrichsen’s site gained a following.
“The fact that it was so ridiculous helped get people behind it,” Henrichsen said of the website. “It was sort of a comfort in knowing this guy isn’t taking himself too seriously, even though we were seriously trying to get him here.”
It was June 2011, just four months before his 25th birthday, when Henrichsen first heard from Idol’s manager, Tony Dimitriades. Henrichsen said Dimitriades was non-committal about getting Idol to Seattle, and told him the star would be busy in the coming year.
This didn’t deter Henrichsen. In the meantime, he ramped up his publicity efforts, putting on charity concerts in the vein of Live Aid with his band, and raised over $13,000 for the American Red Cross and local food bank Northwest Harvest.
He also went to book signings and comedy shows around Seattle and videotaped celebrities like Apollo Anton Ohno, Duff Kagan of Guns N’Roses, and Fabio asking Billy Idol to play Seattle for his birthday to put up on his website.
“He’s always been the kind of person that when he sets his mind to something, there’s really no stopping him,” said his mother, Doreen Henrichsen.
Henrichsen finally heard from Idol for the first time in October 2011. His manager sent Henrichsen a video to play during one of his charity concerts. In the video, Idol wished Henrichsen a happy birthday and apologized for not making it to Seattle in time for his birthday, but alluded to the possibility of next year.
This past July, Henrichsen finally got the birthday present he’d been waiting for nearly two years later.
“[Dimitriades] said, ‘Alright, you definitely earned it, we’re going to bring a full Billy Idol concert to Seattle,” Henrichsen said. “I flipped my lid.”
He also got the go-ahead to open for Idol for his birthday concert with his 80s cover band, Nite Wave. Henrichsen’s mother said that in all the Billy Idol concerts she and her son have been to, he’s never had an opening act.
On the band’s set list? ”Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran-Duran, “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, and “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls.
Henrichsen said that the Showbox, the AEG-owned Seattle venue that hosted his Billy Idol Live Aid events helped make his dreams a reality.
“It will probably be the most nerve-wracking half hour of my life, playing before 2,000 people and Billy Idol,” he said of Friday’s sold-out show. “It’s pretty surreal.”