|By JANET MORRISSEY, For The Associated Press
Axl Rose hasn't cut a new album in 10 years, but his name still draws crowds — even without the man himself. That was the case Friday night at Coyotes, a small club in Cartersville, Ga., about 40 miles outside of Atlanta.
Contrary to all evidence, Coyotes insisted that the Guns N' Roses frontman would emerge from his self-imposed seclusion to play a gig with former bandmate Izzy Stradlin on its humble stage.
The strange story began a few weeks ago, when Atlanta radio station 96Rock started advertising the show. The Associated Press called GNR's manager, who said Rose would not be performing. The station pulled the ads, but the club promised the show would go on, producing a contract apparently signed by someone other than Rose.
In the days before the show, club manager Pete Grim was a bit nervous as word spread about past riots by disgruntled GNR fans. So Grim removed all the club's chairs and tables, replaced glass bottles with plastic cups, hired about 30 bouncers and dropped the cover charge from $20 to $15.
He also handed out photocopies of a three-page contract with booking agency Bryant Entertainment and copies of what he said was a $1,500 certified check sent to the agency as a down payment.
Along came Friday night. About 400 people showed up at Coyotes, some from as far as Florida and Tennessee. The bar's beer prices magically doubled.
Coyotes stuck to its story until the eleventh hour — which in this case was shortly after 11 p.m., when Grim took the stage to give customers the not-so-unexpected news.
"I pretty much knew they weren't going to show up," said Michael Mustin, 25 — who nonetheless came more than 100 miles from Hayesville, N.C.
Grim said the booking agent, John Bryant, had promised as recently as Thursday night that Rose would be there, "and he was going to expect his money whether I advertised it or not."
All three telephone numbers listed on the contract for Bryant Entertainment were out of service. A fourth number, which Grim said he used to reach Bryant on Thursday night, had a recording saying the subscriber was no longer receiving calls. The contract listed the company's offices at addresses in Winter Park, Fla., and Chicago Ridge, Ill. But cross-checking these addresses found the Florida address to be home to a chemical company and the one in Chicago a private residence.
Craig Serritella, 28, from nearby Canton. Ga., said he was skeptical from the get-go, but the chance to see his favorite band was too tempting to resist. "I mean why would they come to Cartersville, Ga., of all places," he said.
The fans, disappointed but not surprised, left in peace.
"No confrontations. No altercations. No arrests," said Cartersville Police Lieutenant T. Ellis.
And no Axl.