I went down to North Beach to check out the address where Vince Young wanted us to mail our rent checks. One neighbor thought it might just be a mailbox and he was right, it was a UPS store. Seemed a little fishy.
After doing my detective work, I walked up Columbus and stumbled across Bimbo’s. I was somewhat surprised it was still there given that most of the other neighborhood icons of its era were gone. I remembered Harry Fireside’s birthday party there, Brian Fedorow’s fashion show, and the book signing for Ming Vase’s Warhol book. And the music through the years: Wanda Jackson, James Brown, and my favorite, Iggy Pop.
It was 1974 and Iggy was touring to promote his Raw Power album. It had met with almost universal disdain and he was completely underappreciated at the time. The spiritual status he would attain with the punks was still a few years away. He was operating on the periphery of pop but I loved the album and the stories of his performances.
The tale that burned deepest was of him at Max’s, belly sliding across a stage that was covered with shards of glass. He then jumped up and did the whole set with blood streaming down his torso. To me it was ultimate show business, suffering for your audience. He spit it up and chewed it out and did it his way.
The night I saw him we were loaded on qualudes and whatever the trendy cocktail of the month was. The opening act was the Tubes whose simulated outrageousness included fake blood that got all over everything. Including my thin white duke, double pleated, cream-colored linen pants. After their staged theatrics, the real outrage took the stage. 60 minutes of non-stop three chord pounding. Iggy was mercurial and provocatively dressed in just army boots and tiny gold lame briefs. Tiny, but amply filled. At one point he came to the side of the stage I was clinging to and started his pelvic thrusts right in front of me. I thought, “this is Iggy Pop, anything goes” so I reached up to grab his briefs and pull them down. In an instant I felt a fist in my cheek. Iggy bent down and yelled in my face, “DON’T DO THAT!”
I was a little disappointed that I’d discovered he had limits but medicated enough that I didn’t really suffer. Afterwards someone told me that he was probably afraid of the whole Jim Morrison indecent exposure thing. The cops would love nothing more than to bust him on some trumped-up charge. So I let it go, it didn’t really matter. He hit me and it felt like a kiss.
A year or so later we were at the Haven on Polk and California where everyone went for breakfast after the bars. We found a place close to the back and as we were seated I noticed the table behind us. It was this business
student preppy guy with mousey brown hair and a very straight looking couple (as in bourgeois, not sexuality. But probably that too.) The guy looked so familiar, I kept mulling it over until I realized it was Iggy. Obsessed, I wouldn’t shut up about it at our table. He was a far cry from his bleached blonde, naked street fighter stage persona but I was positive it was him in disguise. Finally my friend asked me, “what’s his real name?”
He got up, walked over and asked “Excuse me, are you James Osterberg? “ Iggy smiled and said yes. They motioned for me to come over and I told him the Bimbo’s story. He was immediately apologetic and very gracious. He pulled out a napkin from the dispenser to write on but instead of an autograph it was a drawing. It was a heart/face with the words “I love you,” and at the bottom “don’t ever forget me.” As if.