How Adele Broke My Heart And Put It Back Together Again

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on November 17, 2021 

Everyone in the radio business knows that one “Old White Guy Programmer” who does nothing but tell stories about the “good ole days” over and over again. There are so many hours of my life I will never get back because of those stories. Tales about how they were the first to do this, or the first to play that, or how they took down the competition, bla bla bla. Don’t get me wrong, I have my own share of great battle stories from a highly successful career as a radio programmer, but I try not to be “That guy.” However, there is one story that I always get requests for when I am with people both in the industry and out, and it typically takes a glass of wine or two for me to be able to tell it without getting extremely angry, only to be followed by tears of joy.

It seems rather timely to tell the story now since Adele just released a new single “Easy on Me” for the first time in 6 years, did a CBS concert/interview hosted by Oprah Winfrey, and is releasing her new album “30” this week. It’s a story about my “love/hate and then absolute adoration” for the woman and artist who is Adele. A story which falls into “The Bigger Picture” category.

Flashback to 2008ish, when “Chasing Pavements” was released on Adele’s debut album “19” in the US. Adele was not yet known in the states, but the single received 3 Grammy Nominations and won for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance,” but it only charted at #21 on The Billboard Hot 100in the US. Right about that time, I was programming KSCF (Sophie @103.7) in San Diego for CBS and had just picked up KMXB (Mix 94.1) in Las Vegas for my second tour with the station. I had to travel back and forth between markets. We were fortunate enough to secure an “Underground Lounge” performance with Adele on a Sunday afternoon at the brand-new Hard Rock in San Diego for KSCF. The challenge for me was that the day before was Petapalooza for Mix 94.1 in Vegas. So, I flew into Vegas on Saturday for our event, and had a flight booked back to San Diego the next morning for a lounge performance with a brand-new client and 250 listeners (all confirmed) early in the afternoon with Adele.

As I am sitting on the floor watching the “circus” that is a Sunday morning in the Vegas airport, my phone starts to ring. I look down to see that it is my local San Diego rep for Adele’s label and my stomach starts to turn. I hear the call to start boarding my plane. I stand up to get in line and hesitantly answer my phone. “Hey, What’s Up?” I ask. And I’m told we have to cancel the lounge with Adele that afternoon in San Diego. “What do you mean?” I ask? “What’s going on?” I am told that Adele is very sick, and she can’t do the lounge. Her Manager and Doctor want her to cancel everything because she can’t sing, and she may have to cancel her show at The House of Blues that evening which is originally why she was in town and available to do the lounge for us.

Imagine the panic I experienced as I slowly progressed toward the plane trying to explain to the rep that we have to find a solution, some kind of meet & greet or something. I can’t cancel a 250-person lounge with a new client three hours before it’s supposed to take place. Not to mention the fact that I am boarding a flight to get home in time to make it to that lounge. I go back and forth with the rep who’s answer every time is “She absolutely will not do it.” So, to spare my local (because he is just the messenger), I call his Boss, yelling, screaming, and trying to figure out a solution or better plan. “Can we at least tell these winners we will re-schedule?” I ask. I get nowhere, and the person at the top is all the way on the East Coast with no idea this is even happening because he is out of the loop and can’t get ahold of management.

Finally, after being scolded on the plane because I won’t get off my phone so we can take off, I text our promotions director and tell her to call in everyone and start getting on the phone to apologize to winners and cancel the event. Needless to say, I am “raging” inside. I am heartbroken, embarrassed about being canceled on last minute and stressed out about how we are going to make it up to 250 of our best listeners. Not to mention, I was a huge fan of Adele’s from the start and was so disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we experience emergencies, but something about this “She is sick” just did not sit right with me.

That night, I was so upset and pissed off, I did not go to the show, you know, the one that was most likely going to be cancelled because she was “so sick.” JT (Jeff Stewart), Sophie @ 103.7’s APD at the time did go to the show and he knew how upset I was. The next morning, when JT got into the office, he e-mailed me a picture with her from backstage the night before. And it took me a minute to notice, but when I did, I saw a stuffed monkey wrapped around her neck in the photo. Apparently, she wore it on stage as well.

Now, if you know anything about San Diego, you know the city is famous for the San Diego Zoo. When I realized what that Monkey was, I looked up and JT was standing in my doorway. Half afraid, he said, “She wasn’t sick, she went to the zoo. She talked about it on stage and how much fun she had.”

“The Zoo!?” I yelled. “The M*therf#ck*ng Zoo?????” And my head began to spin like Linda Blair on “The Exorcist.” “She went to the M*therf#ck*ng Zoo????” I yelled again. I picked up the phone to call her people, who at this point were so embarrassed because her management cancelled, her people lied about her being sick, then she wore a stuffed Monkey on stage and took pictures with it so there was no denying what actually happened. I have never been so angry about an artist in my entire career. I swore I hated her, I would never support her again, and I would never get over it.

Fast forward to 2011ish, and the release of “21.” “Rolling In the Deep” was the first single and she was touring again. And as much as I wanted to hate her and still be mad at her, “21” was so brilliant that I wasn’t stupid enough to not support her, and I had to admit I was a huge fan of the music. She had a show at the amazing Open-Air Theater on the campus of San Diego State. I would have been a fool not to go to that show, but I was still so angry that I refused to go to the meet & greet (That would teach her! HA!). But I had my pride! I was leaving for a desperately needed vacation the next day, which was also my birthday, so I may have had a few glasses of wine at the show. Most of the staff came with me to see her. Of course, she was amazing, and the set in the San Diego Open Air was so beautiful. Everyone was so emotional.

At one point, she stopped down to talk to the audience in her deep British accent with her fabulous potty mouth. “I have to apologize to you San Diego.” She started out. “Last Time I came here I had a show at the House of Blues, and I got in a bit of trouble. I was supposed to do a radio event for a bunch of winners, but I called in sick, and instead, I went to the M*therf#ck*ng Zoo.” And the audience lost it. Especially the row with our entire staff in it knowing the inside joke. She proceeded to tell the story and how she was sorry she didn’t do the event, but that she did have a wonderful time at the zoo. I had never felt more “full circle” in my life, and of course I teared up. I think JT did too. She has such a brilliant sense of humor and self-awareness. I could not have loved her more. And just a few weeks later, she did make good on an “Underground Lounge” for the station. In fact, I think it may have been one of the few lounges she’s ever done for US radio.

I was told by the label president at the time that she was blowing off a very big talk show in LA to make good on the lounge performance. Selfishly, I wasn’t sympathetic or sorry. In fact, it was one of the highlights of my career. Just to be in the same room with her musical brilliance was amazing. So, if you learn anything from this story, as it relates to the “Bigger Picture,” sometimes things don’t always go the way they are supposed to, but if you are just a little patient and forgiving, the end result will be well worth the wait.