The Who’s Pete Townshend has apologized to a seven-year-old girl and her father after he explicitly mouthed the words “f*** off” to them during a gig.
According to the Toronto Sun, longtime fan, Eric Michael Costello, 50, brought his seven-year-old daughter Janey to watch the legendary rockers play a gig at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario on February 19.
Costello, a special education teacher, says his daughter had begged him for tickets after she learned The Who would be playing locally. Costello decided to surprise Janey and spent nearly $300 on 15th row floor tickets as a birthday present.
As the gig date drew nearer, Costello says his daughter excitedly watched re-runs of old The Who concerts and saw Townshend smash his guitar numerous times. In anticipation, Janey painted a sign to bring to the show. It read “Smash Your Guitar, Pete!”
Fast forward to the gig. Towards the end of the band’s first set when they played their acclaimed Quadrophenia record, Costello put Janey on his shoulders and they walked towards the stage — carrying the sign aloft.
NME reports that it was at that point that Townshend spotted the father and daughter holding the sign, and told them:
“Go away with that sign please, just go away with it, just go away with it. Don’t bring your children and use them. I want to tell you two words but I can’t because you’ve got a child there.”
In a YouTube video of the incident, the 67-year-old guitarist can clearly be seen mouthing the words “f*** Off” and making an obscene gesture to the pair, while some in the crowd cheered and clapped.
Returning to their seats, Costello says his daughter’s heart was broken by the experience. “I expect a 70-something-year-old man to respect the fact there’s a seven-year-old girl standing in front of him,” Costello told the Toronto Sun in a phone interview.
“Whether it was directed to just me or both of us, you can’t tell, she was on my shoulders and he was looking directly at us. But nobody talks to my seven-year-old daughter like that. Nobody tells my kid to f*** off.”
As news of the episode spread in the days that followed — along with online snark directed to the Costello’s from some The Who fans who said Eric “used” his daughter to get closer to the stage — Townshend tried to make amends by getting a radio DJ friend who worked in Hamilton help him to find the Costello’s so that he could apologize.
In a written apology to the Costellos, Townshend writes [partial extract]:
“Apologies and condolences from my side, and very best wishes to you and your family,” he wrote, before asking if they could “meet and be friends and put this behind us.”
The “Won’t Get Fooled” writer said that he was “sorry the story blew up the way it did,” adding, “I am most certainly not angry. I was not angry on stage either. I was in rock star mode, the big mouth.”
The guitarist went on: “I could have handled it differently. I thought of sending someone to find you both and telling you I was not upset, but we were flying to New York straight after the show, and had no time to spare. I wish things had been different. It would have saved you from all this furor.”
“I thought your placard was fun,” Townshend continued. “I had a job to do and I didn’t want to lengthen the show by trying to deal with you directly and in detail. I was also worried that your daughter looked a little frightened as the crowd started to follow you down the aisle. The ushers should not have let you leave your seats and walk forward. All that said, you did nothing wrong.”
Since the incident, the rock legend has made arrangements to meet the father and daughter in April, Sun News Network reports.
What do you think — did Townshend blur the line between rock god and rude human being, or should a seven-year-old not be at rock gigs?