The Von Cello Sign
by Aaron Minsky
aka Von Cello
The first time I saw the Von Cello Sign I was performing with The Plasmatics. This was a band that became famous for their pyrotechnic stage show. They would chainsaw chairs, sledge hammer televisions, and for their grande finate, they would blow up a car, yes, a real car, on stage! For some reason they decided they needed to add a string quartet to the madness, and guess who they hired to put the quartet together? The only proviso was that we had to stand while playing and wear butcher coats and goggles!
We were on stage playing along with their song, "Monkey Suit". I was furiously scratching out the chords with my bow when a crazed fan, with long wavy hair and a bare chest came running up to the stage just below me. He lifted both arms to his shoulders and started to air-bow an imaginary cello. His left arm pretended to hold the cello as his right hand bowed very quickly over imaginary strings. He did that for a few seconds and then made a fist with his right hand and raised it over his head. He did it several times and then ran back to the mosh pit. Every few minutes he would run up to me and do it again.
The other string players were amazed that this guy singled me out. They asked me why he was doing this. Did he know me? I said he must sense that I'm really into it and he thinks rock cello is cool. He would show up to every show and do the same routine. Then a few more people started doing it. I started calling it: "The Von Cello Sign"!
I told some friends about it and when the Von Cello Band started playing out they would make the Von Cello Sign. But years later, a very famous cellist did it! What happened was... I was performing with a group of 20 violinists for the Carnegie Hall Opening Gala. The honored guest was Yo-Yo Ma. The musicians were all joking with me that I better play well. At one point I took a solo on a beautiful melody. I shut my eyes and played my heart out. When I opened my eyes there was Yo-Yo at the foot of the stage broadly smiling and looking up at me making the Von Cello Sign! I don't think he knew it was the Von Cello Sign but it was his way of giving me his own sign of approval ... something I will never forget!