Falls native and band assistant donates VIP tickets to Fleetwood Mac concert to help local charity; raffle raises $10,000 for anti-drug effort
By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer
By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer
Cuyahoga Falls native Robert Heeman isn’t a rock star, but he lives like one.
As the personal assistant for Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, he stays in five-star hotels, rides on private jets and recently bought a million-dollar house in Maui not far from where his boss lives.
Heeman, though, has always wanted to give back to his hometown. He saw an opportunity with Fleetwood Mac’s show Feb. 18 in Cleveland and reached out to Falls Mayor Don Walters, with whom he grew up, to offer VIP concert passes.
Walters jumped at the offer and turned it into an opportunity to raise money for the city’s Not Me, I’m Drug Free program. The city teamed up with I-ROK, which is taking over the concert series in the Falls this summer, and sold $10 raffle tickets for a chance to win one of three pairs of tickets. The raffle raised about $3,000.
Heeman talked Fleetwood Mac into buying any remaining tickets, which will mean a $10,000 donation to the anti-drug program.
“I’ve always had a sense of giving back,” Heeman said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon from New York City, where the band was staying before playing a show in Newark, N.J. that night. “That’s what this charity thing was all about.”
Mick Fleetwood said he and the other band members, who have reunited for the band’s world tour, were happy to help Heeman.
“I thought it was a great idea that the band could get behind,” he said in a phone interview.
Heeman, 49, who grew up in Cuyahoga Falls and graduated from high school in 1984, took a bumpy route to get to where he is today. He lived in Utah, Texas and Arizona, working different jobs, including as a UPS driver and a project manager for a flooring company. He got married and had two children, then divorced.
In 2005, Heeman was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, which he described as a wake-up call. He stopped drinking and hasn’t had a drop since, he said. He later returned to the jail where he had been incarcerated and donated new carpeting.
“I told them, ‘You need new carpet, and I would like to say, ‘Thank you,’ ” he said. “They couldn’t believe it.”
Heeman moved to Texas and worked for a company that set up resorts across the country until he decided he didn’t want to do that anymore. He sold his house in 2012 and took the equity he had in it — enough to live off of for a year — back with him to Utah. A friend who owned a resort told Heeman he had a customer looking for someone to go on hikes and work out with him. The customer: Mick Fleetwood.
Heeman and Fleetwood, who was in training to get ready for the band’s 2013 tour, met three days a week and went on hikes. One day, Heeman, who is 6 foot, 4 inches tall, asked Fleetwood if he had a body guard who went on tour with him.
Fleetwood replied that he didn’t but that he had an assistant.
“Who’s that?” Heeman asked.
“You’d be perfect,” Fleetwood answered.
Fleetwood said some people thought he was crazy for hiring an assistant who had no experience in the music business.
“I told them, ‘No, you’re wrong. He can do this,’ ” Fleetwood recalled. “It’s always been about friendship. That’s where I usually start.”
Fleetwood described touring as a “crazy circus,” but said Heeman has excelled under pressure.
“He’s always looking out for me and anyone in the entourage,” he said.
Heeman has accompanied Fleetwood around the world once, with the band’s 2013 tour, and is taking another round with a tour that started in 2014 and will continue until the end of this year. Heeman predicts at least one more tour.
He said his job is to do whatever Fleetwood needs.
“I make sure when he goes up on stage, he is healthy, he’s rested and he’s on time, of course,” he said. “I keep his schedule. I take all the thinking out of it for him.”
Heeman said Fleetwood likes his clothes and shoes and brings 17 pieces of luggage on tour. The band members and their assistants travel in style, flying on personal jets and staying in ritzy hotels. The other night, they took a helicopter from New York City to Connecticut, where the band performed.
“It’s pretty cool,” Heeman said.
Unlike Fleetwood’s buoyant on-stage personality, Heeman described him as a kind man who is more of an “English- gentleman type.” Fleetwood called Heeman “the pillar of my life” and a “fine man.”
The band will play in Des Moines, Iowa; Milwaukee, Wis; Rosemont, Ill.; and Louisville, Ky.; before heading to Cleveland next week.
Cuyahoga Falls held a drawing Sunday to pick the raffle winners, who will get a meet-and-greet with Mick Fleetwood, the chance to pick out band merchandise, a trip to Fleetwood’s dressing room, a catered dinner, a Rumours album autographed by the band members and concert tickets in the first five rows at Quicken Loans Arena. A ticket for just a meet-and-greet with Mick Fleetwood normally runs about $800.
Walters appreciates Heeman’s generosity and said the proceeds will be a great boost to the anti-drug program, which encourages Falls fifth-graders to sign a card pledging not to use drugs. The students can take the cards to participating local businesses for discounts and giveaways.
“It’s wonderful he wanted to take care of his hometown,” Walters said of Heeman.
The raffle winners were Dave Waller and Diane Sheridan, both of Cuyahoga Falls, and Jake Will of Canton.
“I was born and raised on Fleetwood Mac,” said Waller, 44, who plans to take his girlfriend to the concert. “I’m excited!”