He Could Eat

Rick Bedrosian’s late-innings rally gathers steam

By Steve Hopkins

Among the multitudes who have carved out an existence in the arts over the years are a rare few who have successfully avoided ever having to toil at a regular job. Even rarer are those who have played a long game: planting and cultivating multiple seedbeds in the hopes that one or more of them will yield a bumper crop of success … the sort of success that garners awards, recognition and a cushy retirement funded by fat residual checks appearing monthly in one’s mailbox. Once in a blue moon, someone is able, through luck and pluck, talent and perseverance, to break through the noise and land a seat at the table. In Rick Bedrosian’s case, that table – for today, at least – is set with fine linen and brimming with plates of delicious ethnic fare from another continent. And he is quite literally eating it up. 

We’re catching up over lunch at Le Canard Enchaine on Fair Street in Kingston, a restaurant at which Rick had just dined the evening before and wanted another crack at, presumably to make sure he hadn’t been dreaming.

“Yesterday I got the braised lamb shank over mashed potatoes, and a really nice arugula salad with endive sleeves,” says Rick, preparing to dig in once again. “That salad was fantastic. Really nice flavors and textures and colors. Today I’m gonna get the half duck. I might get a different salad. That’s the thing with these entrees. They have a starch and a protein, but you don’t get any vegetable with it. Like in most French places. Á la carte. I took pictures of everything yesterday, too, so I’m gonna make a post with yesterday’s food and today’s food, and some of the historic buildings I took pictures of. … The lamb is outstanding. Or it had been out standing, anyway. Now it’s just lying around, you know  …”

In my head I hear a rim shot and cymbal crash to go with Rick’s vignette-ending dad joke. Dining with Bedrosian, the unassuming Renaissance man behind the multi-award-winning short film series “I Could Eat,” is an experience not unlike being cast in a humorously philosophical play with a colorful New York-based character actor. Something between “My Dinner With Andre” and “Coffee and Cigarettes.” A Delmar native and a greater Hudson Valley legend, he is unfailingly thoughtful and engaging, with a natural twinkle in his eye and an obvious zest for the delights of food, drink, music, art, humor and unpretentiously intelligent conversation. He has the ability to manufacture a memorably good time out of any promising situation, be it an empty stage, a Coney Island hot dog stand, an Irish pub in Dublin, a crowded bus full of hungry tourists heading from Albany to Astoria … or a fancy French bistro in Uptown Kingston.  

The burgeoning success of “I Could Eat” is an unexpected bit of tasty dessert on the long, colorful meal of Bedrosian’s life, fully 50 years of which has been consumed with the role of a steadily working musician, performing live and in the studio thousands of times, from Albany to NYC to Nashville to L.A. and back. Only over the past five or six years has he expanded his activities into the realm of traveling food aficionado and media personality, with the world as his stage. 

“Somebody would say, ‘Are you hungry?’ and people who are foodies would say, ‘I could eat,’ which means ‘I’m not necessarily hungry, but I’m game to try something,’” says Rick, explaining the genesis of his film series. “Which is me, because when I was a kid, our parents kept us thin. They didn’t starve us or anything, but we got just enough for it to be adequate and nourishing, and that was it. I always felt that I could eat more. There were four of us, and we’d get a pizza … two slices each. I always felt that I could eat the whole pizza. I can eat two entrees at a sitting. I’m very active; I don’t sit around, I work out a lot. I play around 120 solo gigs a year. I’m always doing something. I go to New York a lot … when you’re on the subway, those stairs …”

We start with New York, and how his culinary love affair with the city has moved into a higher gear. “I started going to New York just to see the Yankees and Mets. I’d just go to the game, and come home. Once in a while I’d do other stuff. Go to the theater, whatever. But then I always thought … especially when I became a crazy, full-fledged foodie guy … I thought, I’m gonna start eating down there too. I started going down there to find restaurants … not in Midtown; I’d heard about Queens and the other boroughs. I don’t know if it’s a flaw or something good, but I try and take things that I enjoy doing and try to figure out how I can make money out of it, like music was for me. So because I like the Mets so much, and it’s right next to Flushing, and I read those Bourdain books, and he talked about the Golden Shopping Mall and Xi’an Famous Foods … it was hard to find this little hole-in-a-wall that has these hand-pulled noodles and these dumplings that are unbelievably great. So I found the place, and when I was in there this guy saw me taking pictures and he turns out to be Joe DiStefano, a big food guy down in Queens. I took a food tour with him, kind of a deeper dive into Flushing and some of the other places. Then about five or six years ago I started bringing people down there myself, like in a van. I’d rent a van and bring six or eight people with me. And that was a pain in the ass: parking and all that stuff. And then it stopped, because of the pandemic. After the pandemic I thought, I’d like to do this again, but instead of doing 6, 8, 10 of them a year, just do a couple of them a year and have a bus. A bus is expensive, it’s crazy, it’s double what it used to be, but there’s a bathroom on it, and I don’t have to drive, so if I want to have a couple of beers I can do that. So now we finish the tour at an Irish pub and I bring my stuff in and I play and it’s our last stop, and it’s a blast. People really love it. And I show documentaries on the bus. When I do my Ramones tour I show a Ramones documentary on the way down. One of the guys that’s interviewed in there, the road manager that grew up with them, he comes on the tour with me. He meets us down there. It’s cool, because I say, ‘that’s the guy we’re gonna meet in an hour and a half.’ 

While fun, running tours is complicated and costly. Still, the economics have worked so far, says Rick. “I haven’t lost money yet. I cut it off at 30 people. Everything’s gotten more expensive, and some of the restaurants have closed.” To promote the food tours, Rick started having them filmed, which led to the production of a pilot web film, which turned out to be “I Could Eat.” 

“We shot the pilot in Queens. I originally did it, not to have a TV show web series or anything like that, but to draw attention to the tours. We had two 12-to-14-minute segments that we filmed in different parts of Queens, and we put them together and I hired a company, Overit, in Albany, that does animation. He did a 15-second animation, and I have enough original music that I could put something in there. We’ve just put some more stuff together to make a second episode. It’s done, but I’m gonna keep it private for now, because with some of the bigger film festivals like Tribeca, if it’s already been exhibited to the general public, they won’t take it. And then this fall, we’re gonna shoot brand new stuff. I actually might shoot down here in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Right now I have one woman who shoots it and edits it. She’s really good. She used to work for Channel 6.” 

The “I Could Eat” story started slowly, but has taken on a second life. “I sent it out to everybody I knew,” says Rick. “I have a guy that lives down in Long Island that works in New York. He’s a financial manager for LL Cool J and Kanye West and people like that. And his wife, who passed away, went to college with me at UAlbany, in theater. I knew him from that. And he really liked it, so he said ‘I’ll show it to people.’ But the people he showed it to were, like, ‘Nah.’ So he kind of lost interest, and then I had a friend out in LA that works for CBS, who showed it to a couple of people who seemed mildly interested in it, but nothing happened, and then the pandemic came, so I kind of just dropped it. And then a little less than a year ago, I decided to enter it into these film festivals. And, holy crap! That’s turned out to be really great. I’ve won 12 so far … in like Rome and Paris, one in New York already, and then this other one in Manhattan.”

A filmmaker friend of Rick’s had told him about accessing the film festival circuit. “He lives in Massachusetts, in the Berkshires. You might know him… Sandy McKnight? He’s a musician. He just wrote a film on a shoestring. It’s a musical, but not like ‘Hello Dolly’ or something. It’s called ‘Band Boy,’ about a musician. It’s kind of autobiographical. He said I should enter my film in these film festivals. And he pointed me toward this thing: ‘Film Freeway.’ It’s like a portal, where you pay them 250 bucks and they start sending you emails about film festivals that are upcoming that they think might be a good fit for you. You upload your films onto their site so people can look at them through the site. And that’s what I started doing. I think I’ve entered 65 of them, and I’ve been officially selected to about 40 of them, and won the top prize in 12, so far. It’s funny, but the woman from the Piermont festival called me when I was driving here ’cause I didn’t see her email, and tonight or tomorrow morning is the deadline to send them some follow-up information. I already got selected to the festival … she already told me she’s going to have me on 5:00 on Sunday or whatever it is, but you need to send me this, this and this. And I’m going to do that when I get home. But she said she loved the pilot, and said: ‘You’ll definitely get a series if you don’t have one already.’ I’m not expecting anything like that; if something happened it would be great, but I’m just looking at it right now as a way to draw more attention to my travel business and my music. Because I bring people to New York on these food tours on a bus twice a year. I bring people to Ireland most years, too, for music and food tours.”

Rick (right) and Joe DiStefano chow down.

I ask Rick about potential health problems from all the eating he’s been doing. “Nothing so far. I can’t eat or drink like I used to, for sure. I have to kind of watch myself. Joe DiStefano, I think he has indigestion and he’s had some problems, because he eats a lot of spicy food. He eats a lot of that Isaan northern Thai. He lives in Elmhurst, where there’s a Thai restaurant like every two feet.” We both knock on wood, take another bite, and change the subject to music, including a bit of shared circa 1970s/’80s Capital District history.

“I always wanted to be a full-time professional musician,” says Rick. “That was my dream. After high school I watched all my friends who had similar dreams drop out, because they all got married and had kids. I didn’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think that’s more normal than what I’m doing, and probably more valuable to society. I guess I’m being sort of self-deprecating … but I never really wanted kids. I love my nephews, and now they’re having kids, and I love them. But I work now more than I ever have, so I wouldn’t even have time. Another reason I never wanted to have kids was, I was a typical teenager. My parents were saints to put up with me, with all the staying out and hanging out with all the older kids that were trouble. I started smoking pot in ’69, and the LSD, cocaine and all that. My poor parents waiting up for me ’til all hours. And I thought, man, if somebody put me through all that, I don’t know how I’d be able to handle that.” 

It turns out we have a number of musician friends and acquaintances in common from Albany in the 1970s and ’80s. Bernie Mulleda, Bert Pagano, Nick Brignola, Brubby Taylor, Himer T. Morgan, Al Quaglieri, Lisa Robilotto, George Mastrangelo, Todd Nelson, Bert Sommer, a host of others, most still alive and kicking and some unfortunately not. “I was in a band with Todd just before the Units … with Jim Fish … Henry Paul had had a band with Jim in the early ’70s,” says Rick. “That band became The Outlaws, but Jim was kind of passed over, so Jim moved back up to Slingerlands, and we started playing again, Todd, Jim and I, and we had this band, Silver Chicken. We had a lot of original music and we were starting to do really good stuff. We were managed by the same people who were managing The Cars, who were unsigned at that time; including this guy Neil Jacobson who had worked for the Don Law Agency in Boston. Then Henry left The Outlaws, and decided to start the Henry Paul Band, so he called Jim. So Jim left our band right when we were doing really well, and then Todd had had enough of playing that kind of music, too, so he was friends with Steve Cohen and all those guys so he went and started The Units and Fear of Strangers. I kind of limped along with Silver Chicken in different forms for another five or six years, before I moved to Nashville with Jeannie Smith and the Hurricanes. I also played with Donnybrook Faire, with Kevin McKrell, and I started The McKrells with Kevin, and had a band with Todd called Square One. Jim Sande was in that band, and Mark Foster. We had one called Tornado Bait … we played in Woodstock a few times. I was in The Newports with Bert Sommer, who played at Woodstock. He died in 1990. That’s crazy, right?”

It is, I agree, remembering Bert, whom I knew well. “He was a character, for sure. A woman I know that went on one of my food tours, who lives downstate, is writing a book about him. She’s interviewed me a bunch of times. I don’t know when it’s coming out, but she’s done a lot of research. Bert was completely ignored in Bethel, you know? In that museum, until very recently. And now he does have a presence there, which is really cool. But that slab, down by where the stage was? I still don’t think it has his name on it. They left a few things out … that band Quill, their name’s not on there.” 

Rick also experienced a similar brush with the musical big time as I had, which ended with the same brutal abandonment by a self-immolating late-stage record industry dominated by corporate takeovers. We share our stories between mouthfuls. 

“I lived in Nashville in the ’80s for a while,” continues Rick. “It was kind of like going to graduate school for music. I moved down with my band … we had a record deal with CBS. I got to work with Gene Clark from The Byrds and John Stewart from the Kingston Trio. Clark really liked me. I worked with him for a week. We did a show … we rehearsed all week and then played. I drove him around some. He had great stories, about the Beatles and others. And the same with John Stewart. He had toured with Bobby Kennedy, when Kennedy was going for the Democratic nomination. He went out on cabooses … they’d do these train tours and they’d get to a city and people would gather around the caboose and he would sing some Americana songs and Bobby Kennedy would give a speech. I played on one of his solo albums. Everybody’s gone now. You know?”

I know, which is why I’ve been holding Facebook at arm’s length for a couple of years. As for the vagaries of the music industry he strove for so long to get a leg up in, Rick sighs: “We were signed by CBS, and SONY bought CBS, and the guy that had signed us lost his job. And the new regime was looking at the roster of bands … and we were just finishing our album … and: ‘Nope. Who are they? Eh, no.’”

Unlike some players who grab the brass ring for a spell before being flung off the ride, Bedrosian stayed with his vocation, hunkering down for a long, occasionally lucrative haul. “I play 120 solo gigs a year, and my band just started back up. I don’t know how many gigs a year we’ll have with that, but it’s a fun band, an Irish band, Hair of the Dog. We’ve been together 30 years now. I’m the only original member, but it was always my band anyway.”

Hair of the Dog.

Hair of the Dog was Rick’s first crack at being a bandleader. “I was always a sideman in all the bands I was in, because I played bass. I supported myself for close to 50 years. I got pretty good at it, too, if I do say so myself. But being a sideman, I was always singing high harmony and playing bass and backing up everybody else. So it was tough going from that to being more in charge of what was going on musically. I just feel like some of the people I’ve played with would have preferred me to stay in the position of support. That’s OK. But it was a little difficult making that change. I had some internal problems with that, too, with some of the guys. It didn’t end well in some ways with some of those guys. Some punches were thrown.”

Managing a group of musicians is never what one could call a picnic. Most bands have a shelf life no longer or less rocky than many marriages. Rick’s experiences, although having improved with age and the wisdom that accompany it, tend to bear that out. “What was funny was, with my band, I got paid extra, because they all had full-time jobs. I’d sit home and do all the business, and that was fine. Everybody knew what was going on, it was all agreed on. Then a guy joined the band who started putting ideas in other people’s heads that were in the band, saying, ‘You know, this band is really good. We should be doing more than it’s doing.’ And the whole thing was, right from the beginning, this was not going to be a full-time band, because everybody but me had a full-time job with little kids, and I’m fine with that. I could be making a lot more money; I had to turn down a lot of opportunities that we couldn’t do. These guys couldn’t travel that much … almost zero. Once in a while we’d get on a plane and go somewhere. We could have done a lot more. I never once complained about it, but then when this one guy joined the band, he fomented all this disgruntlement and then it was presented to me that I was a shitty manager, because the band should have been traveling all over the world, and all over the country, and we should have been doing way more, and this was because of me. And I’m like, ‘Well, wait a minute. I’ve had one hand tied behind my back to accommodate all of you guys, because you guys can’t travel. And I never once complained about it, and now you’re all over me about it.’ It’s the same with every band. They all go through it. There’s different stories that are the same bunch of shit.” 

“About 70% of musicians are a**holes”, I venture.

“Bingo,” says Rick (present company excepted). “They’re not the most stable individuals. They think that just because they can play some licks, they’re something special. My friend that used to play in Hey Jude, he presented this to me, which I thought was really good: You get guys like Eric Clapton … he used him as an example … that sat there and picked apart all these blues licks from these records, and probably spent a lot of time doing that, when not a lot of other people were doing it. There’s a handful of those guys. Jeff Beck, a few others. Now, you’ve got these 10-year-olds that sound like Eric Clapton. Well, my friend said, how hard can it really be? You know? You’ve got all these a**holes that can play these licks, and one maybe with a great voice, who think they’re really extra special. Not everybody can do it, but thousands and thousands of people can do it. The other thing about me is, one time at dinner there was this potato in the dish, and I go, ‘What kind of potato is that?’ And this woman, a friend of a friend, says, ‘You don’t know what kind of potato that is? And you’re a food expert?’ And I go, ‘I don’t claim to be an expert.’ I don’t claim to be an expert on anything. I’m certainly not an expert on food, I’m not an expert on music. I’m not an expert on travel. I know how to have fun, and I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. And I that’s it. I got a good sense of humor; I got that from my father. And my mother just liked to have fun; I got that from my mom. Other than that, I’m not special. I’m just out there doing what I do. If people like me, that’s fine. If they don’t like it, that’s fine with me, I don’t care.”

As a lifelong buffer to aid in weathering the periodic storms of band drama, Bedrosian has become a multi-instrumentalist and a frequent solo entertainer at Capital region bars, restaurants, clubs and private events. These solo gigs still occupy the bulk of his energy and time. When the pandemic hit, shutting down live music everywhere, he adjusted yet again, honing his act for a year-and-a-half stretch of weekly live streaming via Facebook. “It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he admits. “I had to put a new show on every week.  I filmed it on my iPhone … it fell over a couple of times until I found a good tripod and learned how to use it, because it’s kind of unsteady. The sound was never great or anything … I could have done better, but I always thought it was gonna end in a couple of weeks. Who knew? To do it I had to learn a bunch of covers. And then I relearned all of my original songs. So my repertoire more than quadrupled. I was working every morning, seven days a week. I’d get up, have coffee and sit at the table and bang out songs. I actually used the time to my advantage. I do understand that a lot of people died, and it was a bad time and a lot of people lost their jobs, but I played for tips, and people were unbelievably generous. For 14 or 15 months, whatever that was, all I did was play on Facebook for tips. I made enough to pay my bills and keep food in my refrigerator. I will always be very grateful to all the people … some people donated once or twice, a large amount. Other people watched every week and just donated 5 or 10 bucks. Most people watched and didn’t donate anything, but that’s OK. Maybe they didn’t have any money. I figured it out … I looked at the number of views, and the number of people that donated, and it was like a few percent of the people watching donated, but that was fine. It was enough. I even had a Ramones night where I dressed like a Ramone. I had a Beatles wig. It was so much fun.”

Rick as George Harrison in the band Hey Jude.

Speaking of The Beatles, Rick also had a stint as a founding member of a well-regarded Beatles tribute show called Hey Jude, until they felt themselves aging out of the role. “I was George Harrison. I looked in the mirror one time as we were getting ready to go on, and I thought, I look like George Harrison’s freaking grandfather. That’s it; we’re done. Actually our Paul McCartney, he had the same kind of sentiment, and quit. And we were not really able to replace him with anybody that was available that was any good. We had to rehearse a lot … we never played often enough to where we didn’t need to rehearse. But I did have so much fun for a while. People would come up and ask for autographs. We made two videos that came out really well. If you go to my website and go to the Hey Jude section, you can see the two videos. One of them was shot by the woman who does all my ‘I Could Eat’ stuff; she’s really good. She’ll put a GoPro or two, stationary. She’ll flip them on, and then she’ll move around with her camera. She’s such a great editor that, while she’s filming it live, she knows how she’s going to be editing it later, so she knows just what to do for cutaways and stuff.”

Which brings Rick full circle, back to his current project, alerting me once again that this is a seasoned raconteur and a genius of self-promotion, and not someone to be trifled with. “And she’s got a drone, so when we shot down at the Bavarian Manor, a German place down near New Paltz, she got aerials of the Shawangunk mountains … really cool stuff.”

The Bavarian Manor footage is set to be part of the next film segment, much of which may be set in the Hudson Valley. “Yeah, for Tribeca I’m going to have to submit another one. The pilot’s been out too long, and too many people have seen it. And it had been seen at other festivals. Tribeca, Sundance, and the other big ones, they want it to be the first time anybody’s ever seen it except for people on the jury. You can’t even have it online, it has to be up with a pass code to see it. So I have another episode ready to go. I’m not expecting anything to come of this, but it’s gotten so many views, and so many people like it, maybe something will happen. But like I said, the fact that it’s gotten as far as it has already should help my travel business and my band business. Hair of the Dog would be the one that would really benefit from it. We just started playing again … we’ve been rehearsing for a year and a half. We don’t have a ton booked this year so far either, but we’ll see. The great thing is, for me, if nothing changes, I love my job and my life right now. I mean, what’s not to like? I’m working with people I like. I’ve been in bands over the years where I didn’t like some of the people and they didn’t like me, but that’s no longer the case, you know? So I’m like, how could I get any happier than this?”

Exactly, Rick. And besides, there’s still a lot of eating to do. “I just started checking out this area. I’ve been to The Aviary in Kinderhook, and Rhinebeck has some nice places. It seems like every city, town, small village or whatever, has to have some kind of hook, to make it unique.”

Rick continues, getting on a roll again. “I was eating at Kingston at Graziano’s Downtown Cafe; it’s Italian. Down in the Rondout, down towards the river. It’s great. Ric Orlando told me about it. It’s packed all the time. All homemade pasta the guy makes fresh every day; what he doesn’t sell he gives it away. His family’s owned restaurants in Kingston apparently for decades. I was eating in there with a friend, and there was another two-top, like right next to us. And these guys sat down right next to us and I’m looking over at the one guy, and my friend and I got talking. And I said, ‘Man, I think I know who he is,’ but I didn’t want to ask him, so I just started talking about music, and I mentioned that I was gonna be playing for Garth Hudson in a band at his nursing home, for a gig. With Larry Packer, who plays fiddle in Hair of the Dog. And the guy says, ‘Yeah, I know Larry.’ And then it came to me. I said, ‘Are you John Sebastian?’ And he’s with Harvey Citron, Cindy Cashdollar’s husband who builds the guitars. Larry the fiddle player was in ShaNaNa. Did you ever see that movie ‘Festival Express?’ It was about the train that went through Canada with the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin and The Band? Well Larry was the guitar player in ShaNaNa in that movie, and he was in ‘The Last Waltz.’ Anyway, I just got a piece of rosemary. Delicious.”

His eyes glaze over with delight.

“And you should go to Graziano’s sometime, though.” (I have, and love it.) “Tell the chef you’re a friend of mine and Ric’s. I got to know him through Ric. He’s really, really great. He’s got my solo album up on the wall. It’s right below Pet Sounds.”

Rick Bedrosian’s solo album, “Inside My Car.”

Rick Bedrosian finishes chewing the last delectable bite of rosemary. “If there was some reason to eat here tomorrow, I would eat here a third day. I’d get the fish or something.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


On your mark, get set …

Wineries, Distilleries, Breweries and other vendors prepare for The Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival! The Dutchess County Fair has just completed another spectacular August stand, and the folks at […]

Zugibe Vineyards

Celebrating the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest 2023 participating wineries In June of 2005, on the banks of Seneca Lake, Zugibe Vineyards began as 23 acres of vinifera wine […]