The fame and wealth that often comes to those less talented, ironically, serves to validate their abilities – especially to themselves
There were always a number of hangers – on around the stage and backstage. On this occasion I was one – sort of, left ‘adrift’.
Within a few feet of me was a kindred spirit. There is some incongruity to a beautiful Eurasian goddess – tan, dressed in white, to accent her rich caramel color. Have I said tan – also, set adrift.
It is not easy for me to approach someone like this. Once, in Florida, we were performing at an after-hours club. A midnight start-time.
The clientele was almost all people of the night; musicians, bartenders, hookers, dealers, addicts.
Often the hookers were drug dealers. Often the bartenders were hookers. Often the…well, you get it.
At that time, I chanced a conversation with a tall hooker / coke abuser. She responded derisively with
“Are you an asshole?”
“I’m the sax player, so yes, I very well could be an asshole.”
My humor was lost in her coke haze and I awkwardly crept away.
“When is the band going on ?” I ventured to the goddess.
I already knew. I was just thinking of having her appear connected. She seemed grateful for a way to pass the time.
It makes no sense, I thought, for someone like this to be standing alone. There should always be someone near, basking in her Olympian fragrance. Jesus, I am an asshole !
“They’re scheduled to go at 7. A late start with this promoter incurs a $10,000.00 penalty.”
“I wonder if they have ever been penalized”, I mused to my shoes.
“Maybe when Dennis was still alive”, she guessed.
Dennis really gave the act a bad name. They were just not thought of as respectable with him inviting the audience to come to the hotel rooms to get high ! The other principals could only shudder at this, and what he was likely to say next.
The parade of under-age girls did not help the situation; although, there were some aspects Mike did not mind. He often made careful additions to his ‘book’.
Dennis’ antics also deflected attention, temporarily from Mike’s 6 marriages. There would be one more in the near future.
Alimony to 6 wives would nearly cripple him. Getting older by the day, he would soon need a back brace, and Chiropractor 24 / 7.
The Eurasian girl would turn out to be his personal ‘masseuse’.
I did not know this at the time of our encounter. We chatted aimlessly, sprinkled with some giggling from her, some wry but amusing, comments from me.
The shadowy third person had sidled up and stood, not greeting us or speaking. He must have seen us from a distance, felt threatened somehow, and decided to make his International presence known to me.
Waiting for us to finish our conversation, was not a courtesy, but a quiet, bullying intimidation.
Why would someone act in this manner. Normally, the person would join the conversation – he knew one of the two intimately, I assume. And, He knew who I was. Why not move in with a greeting ?
Hey, How goes it ? Or, How Ya doin’ ? But No…
I got the situation instantly. I’m not an idiot ! Well… I’ve done idiotic things, but I’m not retarded ! Well…I’ve acted retarded, but I’m not a moron ! Well…Please stop me.
This was a duo of super-heros and I was a pair of “brown shoes.” I could not conceive of a universe where the 3 of us was possible for more than a minute. I excused myself.
I think quite a few men would think of themselves as the better choice. If only she would spend some time with me, she would know that.
We could have her children…Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Ares, Hebe. maybe those would be enough. I drifted off there…
He was, after all, an old man…An old bald guy, slowly growing a paunch on his front, and a hump high on his back.
I was reminded of driving through an upscale Las Vegas neighborhood and seeing this old guy out running the mower on his extensive lawn.
He was iconically unattractive in shorts, with an incredible paunch, no teeth, and bald head in the July, 110º sun !
He worked for years in Vegas, collecting his weekly $25,000. in a brown, paper bag – the better to beat the government – with the aim of owning his signature Country Club.
When he realized his dream, he still charged his bandmates a fee, albeit discounted. Some of the guys had been with him 40 years !
At night, for the act, he had to prepare for hours like the transvestite with a heavy beard, and hairy arms and legs. The Trans-gender guy needed hours to become the woman he imagined.
The big man had to be strapped into a corset like it was the year 1890. He had to be fitted with special teeth and a custom toupee. Only after attendants pried him into his Versace tux did he become Louis Prima.
This is to be the future of the International masseuse renter.
The title of these accounts originated as part of a discussion about groups and singers who, less than competent, end up with a quality – often iconic – product, resulting from proximity to a gifted engineer, producer, $5,000.00 mics, $10,000.00 processors, and etc.
Lou Reed, Rod Stewart, Cher, The Rolling Stones, Grace Slick, The Grateful Dead, Gwen Stefani, Kanye.
Not everyone can be expected to appreciate the performance level of McCartney, Lennon, James Taylor, Sinatra, Ella, Celine Dion, K.D. Laing, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Mel Torme…all with spot on pitch and pristine phrasing.
Or, the creativity of McCartney, Lennon, Billy Strayhorn (Satin Doll, Take the ‘A’ Train, Lush Life, Chelsea Bridge),
Matt Dennis (I Bought You Violets For Your Furs, Why Try To Change Me Now, Angel Eyes),
The Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields (Way you Look tonight, Sunny Side of the Street, Mood for Love, Big Spender, Fine Romance), Hoagy, Irving Berlin, Larry Hart, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller
The Principals, The Beach Boys, did not really ‘hang’ with the band. Oh, they were cordial, and, in the case of Carl – careful to insure the band had everything the Principals had.
The Principals each were limoed, alone, to and from the jobs. God forbid, they should find themselves in a limo with their ‘Founding Friends’. They had, over the thirty-some years, litigated their brains out ! Hanging, even with each other, was out of the question.
One rare limo ride included Bruce and a number of band guys. Somehow the subject of singers came up and the band boys were having some fun at the expense of the latest Pop “flavor….”
We moved on to Rod Stewart, who we were trying to distinguish as a ’stylist’, not a singer – like Sinatra, Celine Dion, etc.
This is where Bruce became offended. He did not defend Rod as a singer, but as a friend of his. He was, in other words, warning us…not adding to the discussion.
Ironically, Bruce is probably one of the good Beach Boys singers, after Al and Carl. Bruce is responsible for being able to sing some of those beautiful Brian ‘inside’ harmony parts.
Again, a few examples singers and stylists…Stylists: Neil Diamond, Carol King, Cher.
Singers: Andy Williams, K. D. Laing, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Barry Manilow, Streisand, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Jo Stafford, Ella, Sarah, etc.
On one occasion I was checking out of the Ritz Carlton after the previous night’s gig. We would be on our way to the next city.
I was paying my room charges; $7.50 for phone calls. Next to me, Bruce Johnson was settling his charges. $750.00 for phone calls !