PUMPJACK – The Ozzfest 2k Diaries, Chapter 3: The Phone Call

–A short story in 12 chapters

While Kyle/Thurber and PJ had certainly upped things a notch in terms of their career, I had been completely out of music. I was still super focused on school, which I wouldn’t finish until Dec of 97, after which I went immediately to work for Harkins Theatres in Scottsdale, AZ, in their marketing department.

I was happily working away and had been with the company for 3 years (counting internship), at which point, I was offered the ability to sell screen advertising, in addition to my regular job, which was the film buyer liaison (I was the middle person between the film booker who negotiates the film $$ percentages on behalf of the theatre owners with the film studios, and the individual theatre managers at the local level).  One of my main jobs was to communicate to the theatre managers the new titles that each theatre would be receiving that coming Friday, as well as which were leaving, allowing them to make a new movie showtime schedule for the following week, as well as plan for staffing and a host of other things).

The ability to “sell” screen advertising was a coveted perk because there was almost no effort at all, and the commission was ridiculous. Only we in the marketing department could sell advertising, if you’d been with the company long enough. Basically, you were added to a round table of about 5, and received call-INs from businesses wanting to advertise on the screens before the movies. You simply answered the phone, fielded their questions, and ultimately took their payment and slides. Shooting fish in a barrel, as they say. (This was waaaaay before digital screen advertising.)  I emphasize this not to brag about any financial benefits I was incredibly fortunate to realize, but to state how important this job and career I was starting had impacted my life.

The timetable brings us now to around Nov/Dec 1999. I’d moved out of my Mom’s home, and to several different places by then. My Mom called me one day and said a letter had arrived for me at the house. Turns out the letter was from Kyle/Thurber.  It was just one page – and it said… “For the love of God and everything Holy, if this letter finds Ryan Maloney, please call me at….”   Seriously, why so dramatic, I thought…  Oh, I’d find out.

OK… I need to interject something here – so around 1994, I’d come out…as in, out of the closet, with pretty much everyone. I was living life as a proud gay man, with a monogamous partner, fully into living a couple’s life. I had even paused playing music from around 1995 through 1997, the years I was at Arizona State University finishing my bachelor’s.  Point is, I’d become a different person in more ways than one from when Kyle last knew me.  Not that I’d turned into some super flamboyant queen, but back then being an out gay person still wasn’t necessarily as accepted in mainstream society as it is now. Hang in with me here, as this point weaves in and out a few times in the story.

Again, I’m sitting there looking at “Thurber’s” letter.  So, I called him. It’d been more than a few years since we last communicated over the phone, so it was cool to be back in contact with my buddy.

But my buddy was different too…  Super throaty, the voice of a smoker, and just sounding even more redneck than I remembered, but none of that mattered.  It was awesome to be talking with him again, but what followed next knocked me off my feet.

After all the general catch-up talk, he lays it on me…  His band, Pumpjack, was doing well, they were playing cool shows, and getting help from Dime and Vinnie from Pantera (arguably the most popular heavy band on the planet at the time, next to Metallica).  He said it looked like Pantera was going to co-headline the 2000 run of the annual Ozzfest alongside Ozzy.  I said, “badass!”, to which he replied, “no, it gets cooler – the Pantera guys are using their status to try and get Pumpjack on the tour as well.”  I shout, “WHAT???  Holy crap!!”, and add, “That is insane!!!  How awesome!!!  Congrats, dude!!!”

Thurb (OK, here’s where we start referring to him officially as Thurb/Thurber) says, “but wait, that’s not all.”  He says, “Dude, for reasons I don’t want to get into right now, we had to cut ties with our drummer, so I’m reaching out to see if you might want to join Pumpjack and go on tour next summer?!?”

No freakin’ way was this really happening… I could not believe my ears.  I didn’t think this was real.  But in the same nanosecond that my mind had exploded at the possibility of this dream actually happening, I just as quickly mentally shut it all down.

I thought, no, this isn’t going to happen. They’ll eventually reunite with their drummer. It’s too far ahead, literally seven/eight months into the future at that point. Of course, they’ll figure out their issues by then.

As out of this world an opportunity it seemed, it also seemed out of reach and I wasn’t really sure. I said I had to think about it. I also had to consider…The band wasn’t going to be on the entire tour – just the second half. Pumpjack would be sharing a slot on the second stage with a band from Boston called Reveille that the band, Godsmack (another headliner), had helped get on the bill.  Reveille was going to play the first half of the tour and PJ got the second half. So, did I want to turn my life upside down for a 3-week run?

  • I was hesitant because I felt I’d left that ambition behind and I didn’t think a second chance was truly possible.
  • I was hesitant because I was doing well in my job, both in the operations aspect of what I was doing, and also financially. To quit would mean a host of things, not the least of which included messing up my resume, bailing on a job just when it was getting good, and generally heading into the void with no plan beyond joining the circus and hoping for the best.
  • I was hesitant because I didn’t look like a rocker anymore, not by a long shot.
  • I was hesitant because I was fully out of the closet and didn’t intend on going back in.  Not sure if you’ve ever been to Midland, TX, but at least back in the 90s, a beacon of liberalism, chock full of diversity, embracing those from all walks of life IT WAS NOT, or to be fair, it didn’t feel that way.
  • I was hesitant because my partner at the time did not support it at all, was upset I was even considering it, and thought I was making a mistake. Thankfully he eventually came around once he understood the magnitude of the opportunity.

But I talked to a few specific people that I trusted and those I talked to said I’d regret not taking the chance, and ultimately, I decided to go for it.  What’s all that about people on their deathbed and regrets…?    I called Thurb back… told him I was in.  Time to get practicin’…


Ryan Maloney
Ryan Maloney
Ryan Maloney is a husband, bartender, caregiver, drummer, and former online advertising professional. In addition to writing and drumming, Ryan enjoys cooking for and entertaining friends as well as going to the beach and traveling the world. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale with his main squeeze, John. Though born and raised in Chicago, Il until the age of 14, Ryan considers his true hometown to be Phoenix, AZ. Ryan spent over 30 years in Arizona, starting in 1985 at Cortez High School. From there, community college and ASU followed, but all the while, Ryan was drumming up a frenzy in local heavy metal bands. His late teens saw his main band, TYNATOR, achieve a small amount of local success, as well as release a cd to the European market. The opportunity of a lifetime came in 2000, which provided the basis for one of his writing series', PUMPJACK - The Ozzfest 2k diaries. The 12 chapter series documents the meeting of two friends, and then the events that led up to the band, PUMPJACK, heading out on the annual summer Ozzfest tour in 2000, in which the band had been invited to participate, as well as some memories of some of the individual city tour stops.After the tour, Ryan began what then became a 15 year career in online advertising. Having left the corporate world behind in 2017, Ryan now enjoys serving drinks to thirsty customers in Wilton Manors, Florida.

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