This time of year 44 years ago I was in Chicago, hanging with a couple groupies trying to crash the Stones touring party. I think I’ve told this story before but, fuck it, I’m going to tell it again. Maybe I’ll do a better job this time.
The Stones arrived in town on a Sunday just around midnight. The rumor was that they were staying at the Playboy Mansion so I loitered with my new groupie friends on the sidewalk in front. There were less than 10 of us.
Rolling Stone had printed details of the tour including their decoy vehicle for short hauls: a pickup camper. Their anonymity was pretty much blown when it was reported they’d added an “Eat More Possum” bumper sticker in Arkansas.
When they jumped out of the possum-mobile they rushed to the gate to get inside the french brick and limestone mansion. The gate was locked, there was no one to meet them. They waited impatiently with us on the pavement. Mick and Keith were two feet from me. Mick was distracted, remote. Keith, guitar slung over his shoulder, was relaxed and amiable.
It was my first encounter with celebrity and I felt stupid. Just as I would not gawk at or pester strangers on the street I didn’t think I should treat them any differently. Even though I’d built them up in my mind, they were just people. Still, they were so close I felt I should say something.
I quietly asked Keith if he was going to a party being held for them in Old Town that night. His response was so smooth, “we’ll see, baby.” I still get goose bumps thinking how cool he was.
These memories came flooding back because last Sunday I drove up to San Francisco with Gary. I was leafing through his stash of CD’s and read liner notes written by Joan Jett. In her thank yous the first name she mentioned was Rodney Bingenheimer.
The Stones played Chicago through Thursday and that last night there were many parties going on. The main one was to be at the mansion. I’d had no luck breaking through Hef’s security and didn’t consider my chances much better closing night.
I waited with a few others by the gate then I felt a hand on my shoulder. A guy said “c’mon.” He was this peacock dandy in a satin jacket with spiky hair. He said a few words to the guard and we were through the gate. It was the furthest I’d gotten all week.
We walked into the foyer to the locked main door. The cameras were on us and a voice on the intercom started badgering us with questions. The guy I was with gave as good as he got. He was talking a mile a minute, dropping names right and left. Many I’d heard as being part of the tour, many I had never heard of at all. As the information came pouring out I realized who my benefactor was: Rodney.
I’d seen his name in the underground press a lot, he was always in attendance at hip LA events. But I wasn’t sure what he did exactly. And I still am not sure what he did other than he later became a successful DJ in LA. As good as his foyer rap was, we finally accepted defeat and walked out. Before they threw us out.
Back on the sidewalk Rodney said he knew of a party we should crash. I said I really had to pee. He asked me to go with him to the Ambassador’s East at the end of the block. Judy had sung about that hotel so I went along. Walking through the lobby I repeated how urgently I needed the restroom.
We were the only two in the elevator and as the doors closed he said, “I have to pee too.” He whipped it out and let go on the faux persian carpet. I followed suit and we relieved ourselves on the 16 floor ride up to the Pump Room.
The place was full of business types, we did a quick turn and decided it was not for us. We got out of there then parted ways on the street.
I’ve never forgetten his kindness and how funny he was. I’ve often wondered why he picked me to accompany him. Maybe because I was a visual curiosity who might have looked provocative in a publicity photo. Or perhaps he sensed I was in over my head and needed a protector. What would I have done if I’d gotten into the Stones inner-sanctum?
It was a pre-punk punk moment and we were early adopters. And I wore the Keith t-shirt years before Patti Smith made it famous.
The Last Temptation of Me
- Helping the More Fortunate
- Do They Know It’s Christmas?
- A Horse With No Name
- The Blackened Snapper Is To Die For
- Come Together
- Pilgrimage On The 75% Off Trail
- The Ancient Cohachellian Art of Cacti Arranging
- Popsicle Sheers
- Life Is Strife
- Life Is Strife: Addendum
- Casting My Net
- Where Seldom Is Heard
- Desert Sage
- Jackie’s Tears
- Cancer, and My Name Is Larry
- Me and Mr. B
- On Milkshakes
- Learning Curve
- Dunbar’s Last Stand
- Tale of Two Cows
- Barstow Barista Boys
- The Season of the Donald
- Visions of San Jacinto
- Hackneying Hockney
- On My Way to Ralphs
- Gaydom’s Gump
- Goodbye to All of That
- The Final Salvo