That Girl Belongs to Yesterday

And today.

I woke up this morning to find my laptop playing Youtube roulette. Based upon cookies (probably my deliciously moist ginger snaps) it decided I should watch a Mick Jagger bio.

In a documentary of oft-repeated clichés there was the one of Mick and Keith locked in the kitchen in 1962 by their manager. They were told they wouldn’t be freed until they learned how to write a hit song. They came up with That Girl Belongs to Yesterday and gave it to Gene Pitney to record.

I, of course, knew that. But I also realized I’d never heard it. So I dug it up on Youtube and listened. Pitney’s tortuous vocal searches for drama while the bridge and chorus are pretty weak. Every line of verse, however, is answered with this quirky “dee dee dee-dee, da-da-dunh” riff that lingers. Shapes of things to come.

I moved on to scan the day’s headlines while waiting for my private secretary to arrive. I noticed Megan Mullally had hosted the SAG Awards the night before. I don’t have a TV so I didn’t watch. I was curious though because I loved her on Will and Grace 20 years ago.

Her character Karen was never without a cocktail. When she had trouble copping a buzz she’d supplement her drinking with opiates and barbiturates. Miraculously, she never appeared to get drunk. It’s one of the best fantasies Hollywood ever created.

But good character acting doesn’t always translate into good hostessing. I watched the replay of her monologue with some trepidation. I love her Karen so much I feel protective and don’t want her to fail in other roles.

I needn’t have worried. The moment she walked on stage she honored the history of film by doing a snippet of Elizabeth Taylor’s Bust Projection Dance from Virginia Woolf. She then launched a brief series of pointed jokes that were spot on in addressing the inequality mess. She was the perfect hostess.

It was in stark contrast to the Academy’s quixotic search for a host this year that got nowhere. Their obvious solution would be to hire Ms. Mullally which will never happen. The Board of Governors issued an edict recently that if you are featured in any of the other awards shows you will not be allowed to appear on their broadcast. Why be reasonable when you can be vindictive? It’s what makes American alpha-male enterprises so great.

The current state of the Oscars finds them doing catch up for 90 years of neglect. They are bending over backwards to pad the stats for posterity. Which is not to detract from the excellent contribution minorities make today. It’s just they were also making them 50 years ago too.

One prejudice has merely been substituted for another because it’s good for business. Their Excellencies, the distinguished board of the august Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, are handing out statues that are about as meaningful as the UAE Gender Equality honors.

In 1972 when I was grouping the Stones with Lamumba and Cynthia Plastercaster in Chicago, there were a handful of brief encounters. One was at 4 in the morning on our way home from the bar. We noticed the french doors on the second floor of the Playboy Mansion were open so we joined a few others on the sidewalk and waited to see what would happen.

It was only a few minutes before a very drunk Mick appeared supported by eight Playboy bunnies. They were like a bunch of giggling schoolgirls guiding him on to the balcony, nothing like the hardened hussies they portrayed in their spreads. He could barely stand up.

Unsure of what to say, I took off my denim jacket to show him the appliqued sequined tongue and offered it to him.

In his drunken haze he remained articulate. He thanked me, then said “but you should keep it and wear it. You’re much more beautiful than me.”

Jim Jordan’s analysis of that incident was I hadn’t been so much flattered by Mick’s compliment as I had been impressed by his graciousness while shit faced. Jim said it was one of the values I held highest.

With that in mind, everyone should raise their glass and toast Megan Mullally for a job well done. As I’ve been doing since about 6:00 this morning.

 

Contact High

As I approach senility, I’ve managed to outgrow most of my childhood heroes.

Lucille Ball was the first and easiest one to get over. By the age of 10 I’d memorized every line of dialogue of I Love Lucy. Even though I knew what was going to happen when I watched an episode for the 100th time, how Lucy did it kept it in the now.

I was one of the last rats to leave the sinking ship in the post-Desi 1960’s. I willed myself to love her subsequent sitcoms but intense loyalty could not make them funny. When I learned about her John Wayne politics I soured.

As an adult, I watched her on talk shows and was surprised by the effort she had put into her craft. The diligence and intense concentration that created joy for millions of people did not provoke the same feelings in her. It was just a job to Miss Ball which, in the end, made her seem like a very sad person.

My Jackie worship started as transference through my Mother. As documented in this blog, it began as pure idolatry that moved on to a fascination for her perverse imagery. Then the tackiness of her as a collectible commodity gave me a hobby. I ended up liking her but with some reservations.

As for Mick, I think I’m over him but I’m never quite sure. It helped last summer when I was in Bloomington and was reunited with Susan after 40 years. She seemed annoyed when she remembered, “you were always trying to be like Jagger.” Then she added, “I thought you were limiting yourself.”

I first saw Ike & Tina Turner on American Bandstand in the mid-60’s. The Ikettes were doing their mini-hit, Peaches ‘n Cream. Dick Clark lavished praise on Tina during the interview and called her shows legendary. I’d never heard of her.

Tina didn’t perform that day and barely spoke. But she was so self-possessed and confident, I was beguiled and instantly obsessed.

My favorite Ike & Tina album back then was called In Person and was a live recording of their performance at Basin Street West in San Francisco. It was on MINIT Records and available for 99 cents in the Rexall discount bin. I wore out about 10 copies.

It’s mostly covers of popular hits but there are two medleys where she talks extensively. During one 17 minute recitative she stops and starts the band repeatedly to wax on about love and hurt. Like a Baptist Preacher, she varies her volume and cadence for dramatic effect. The album was released at the height of the soul music trend and there’s nothing more soulful than a Sunday sermon from a southern pulpit. Which is basically what Tina delivered. Very effectively.

There was always a manufactured and meaningless rivalry back then between Tina and Aretha. They were really quite different and I loved them both.

Aretha had the better voice and was more musically talented. But she was what opera queens call park and bark, a diva who plants herself on stage and lets the voice be the show.

Tina had a great voice too with a more limited range. But she danced exceptionally well and, incredibly, sang and danced simultaneously. She constantly worked on creating new dance moves and on staging to highlight the movement. She wore long falls because she said they had “action.” As did the fringe on her costumes. Hers was one of the first acts to use strobes and fog machines.

Show business cognoscenti took note. I remember hearing Diana Ross say with astonishment “oh my god, she’s so bad.” (Back when that phrase was first used as praise.) In 1969 Dick Cavett asked Janis Joplin who she admired as a performer. She immediately responded, “Tina Turner.” And Lena Horne was quoted as saying she wanted to be reincarnated as Tina.

Listening to one of the Turner’s albums was always hit and miss, gems surrounded by mediocrity. Ike was a musical control freak and notorious for stealing from other acts. Even the “rough” part of Proud Mary was nicked from Fort Wayne’s own Checkmates. It was Phil Spector’s majestic uptempo production of the Checkmates version that made Ike’s recording.

He also controlled most of the stage act. Tina later admitted being embarrassed by things Ike made her do like the lewd, kabuki-esque fellatio she performed on the microphone. Or singing lyrics with heavy drug references (“she reached in her bag and she pulled out some coke!”) She may have been reluctant to do them but, again, it was so good because she was so convincing.

Make-up’s a little scary but the fringe flew.

I completely internalized her music and always played it when I needed a lift. In college I drank prodigious amounts of coffee and mimiced the way she splayed her thighs, sat her butt down in it and gyrated across the stage to get that fringe moving.

Later when I did her on stage I was never an impersonator. She was sui generis and impossible to recreate. But she inspired me as I tried to perform with her spirit and attitude. And I loved doing her songs because they were full of energy and so sexually provocative.

David Bowie said that being on stage next to Tina was the hottest place in the universe.  Rock ‘n Roll gods melted in her presence. A YouTube clip that has since been taken down showed Mick and Tina in Tokyo doing Brown Sugar. When he drops to his knees in a corny gesture she dismisses him with a look: “not on my stage.”

(Note bene 11/28/18: a friend and devoted reader found the clip. What I wrote was on memory. Who knows what they were actually thinking. But at approximately 2:00 the look is there. Thank you Mimi.)

There is a video of Keith Richards in a group jam of Keep A Knockin’. He takes his vocal turn and nervously sings two lines. He’s palpably relieved and shows such affection when Tina steps up to rescue the verse.

And when Paul McCartney does Get Back with Charles and Diana in the audience, his look of anticipation as Tina makes her entrance and the thrill in his eyes as they harmonize are unmistakable ardor.

My generation grew up with a Bill Murray sneer for show business. We mocked every gimmick and show biz cliche there was. I kid you not. But the happiness Tina exhibited on stage was impossible to deride. There was joy in every performance she gave.

On New Years Eve 1982 she was gearing up for her return to the lime light. No one knew it was in the works but I thought at the time her stunning visual presence needed to be captured in the new medium of music video. Although she was technically still down-and-out in this appearance on Johnny Carson, watching it again she obviously was not going to be denied a comeback. And with a piano player like she had I’d be attempting one too.

Happy Birthday Tina.

Regina, Start the Show

Cover art of the era that I preferred to Sgt Peppers.

Since its release, Their Satanic Majesty’s Request has been criticized as nothing but a Beatles’ rip off.  While Sgt. Peppers’ is hailed as the one of the most influential albums ever it seems if you’re one of those who was influenced by it you’ve committed a crime. What the sine qua non?

I loved the Beatles but was obsessed with the Stones. The Beatles wanted to hold your hand but the Stones aimed for a more intimate portion of the anatomy. The manroot of it all may be in Keith’s observation to Paul: “yours was a songwriters’ group, ours was a musicians’.”

When you strip away the lonely hearts veneer from Satanic Majesty’s, there are some excellent songs. Citadel alone is worth the price of admission. Its great riff highlighted by Charley’s shimmering cymbals is one of the Stones’ best ever. The curious break after the second chorus is nothing but reverb. A reviewer at the time said those five seconds summed up “the entire history of The Who.”

When it was released I wondered who they were singing about in the chorus, “Candy and Taffy, hope you both are well.” Twenty five years later I discovered that, while I was a gawky teenager in Grandmother’s kitchen, humming The Old Rugged Cross and baking Sugar Cream pies, Mick was in Manhattan hanging out with Candy Darling.

She’s A Rainbow and 2000 Light Years from Home were the most popular songs and have stood the test of time. And even The Lantern remains interesting with Nicky Hopkins’ piano playing.

Satanic Majesty’s is not the catastrophe it’s been made out to be. It was the product of an experimental time when being innovative meant more than to just produce good music. You couldn’t get too weird for the 60’s.

Candy was a trailblazer in the use of silicone for breasts. Unfortunately the substance was injected into the body and not implanted in bags. She was dead from cancer within 10 years.

There is footage from that period of Yoko Ono in the Beatles recording studio asking for her own microphone. (I’m not sure if this was before or after she demanded a bed be placed in there too.) The band members are non-confrontational and let her have the mic. Then they just ignore her.

As they work out a credible version of Get Back, she intermittently screams onto the recording “John!…..John!……John!” It’s annoying and makes no sense. The scene exemplifies the Petri Dish that was Swinging London and may explain where Gomper came from.

After decades of listening, 2000 Man has become my favorite track on the album. It starts off as a jaunty, acoustic folk song. Then the chorus adds a jaw dropping (but only on a good sound system) rhythm section with some astrological lyrics: “Oh Daddy, be proud of your planet, Oh Mummy, be proud of your sun.” A sarcastic clue that maybe they weren’t into the psychedelia thing as much as they were putting on.

Sheer terror at the Rococo. Waiting to go on.

In the Joan Rivers documentary, A Piece of Work, she’s booked into a seedy dive in the Bronx. To maintain her edge and polish her craft, she felt the need to work a live audience often. And she didn’t care where it was. In this case she finds herself in a backstage area that gave every indication of being just inches away from the city’s sewers. She was as comfortable there as she was in her own Upper East Side Penthouse with its ormolu and furs.

Backstages in night clubs are the great equalizers. It doesn’t matter how exalted you feel on stage, you enter from and exit through a dressing room that’s a gas station toilet. Maybe it’s an economy move by management to maximize profits. Or it could be a way to remind the talent they are the continuation of a centuries-old lineage of carnival folk engaged in an ignoble profession.

Grandmother enjoyed theater but would never have considered associating with those kind of people. You’re going to befriend someone whose professional skill set is based on deceit? That would have been only one of her many objections to my act.

Whenever I found myself in one of those shitholes, surroundings were the last thing on my mind. I was so consumed with fear, so terrorized about being in front of an audience, I would sit in stony silence and plot ways to bolt from the club without being seen. It always seemed like a viable option. I’d end up going on anyway but performing happened on such a primal level. I was riding a wave of blind faith.

The last cut on Satanic Majesty’s is On With the Show. It’s a mash-up of ambient lounge chatter, Brecht like melodies, dissonant piano and Jagger’s vaudeville banter. His phony concern is mixed with uninspired strip show spiel. Then, in a moment that is anything but majestic, Mick herds the girls onto the stage with a tawdry aside, “Regina, start the show.” One can only imagine the magic they created.

Not only does Their Satanic Majesty’s Request give us The Who in a nutshell but it also captures, in one phrase, the essence of Show Business.

With Pearl Harbor thinking of the nearest emergency exit. The Rococo Lounge, 1995.

Mama Was a Rollin’ Stone, Part Two

207 E. Second Street. My first apartment was in this duplex in the Fall of 1970. The following Spring I decided to throw a party here.

The few gay parties I’d attended seem to be divided by sect. The older, draggier queens threw the biggest parties and played nothing but the Supremes. With a dash of Freda Payne’s Band of Gold every now and then.

The younger, druggier gay parties were smaller with less drinking and more counter-culture. The older queens were not necessarily made to feel welcome at these affairs and didn’t attend.

In the middle were the bourgeois gays who were too closeted to ever throw their own parties. But they were are at every other party they could get into.

Mine would be open to everyone and only have dance music. I especially wanted the more radical element there and knew if I could get Dale to come the rest would follow.

I first saw him at a Gay Liberation meeting in April. It was a procedural bore until he spoke. Out of the blue he talked about the necessity of educating ourselves on feminist issues and how the same sexual stereotypes and prejudices that oppressed women also oppressed gays. Our objectives might be different but his point was any gay political movement should have a feminist perspective as well.

Most faces at the meeting had a rather glazed look on them, wondering what time to head to the bar. But Dale had my rapt attention. The authors he mentioned I’d read and his conclusions were ones I had arrived at on my own. I felt validated. I was not alone. I was determined to make this person my friend and, 46 years later, I’m still working on it.

Dale had been out longer than me and was more seasoned. He took me aside at one party and explained what dingleberries were. He was always calling me tart (which I took to mean sharp-tongued) but in an admiring way. As we fantasized about our drag myths he advised me never to admit I worked for Paramount, MGM was the only game in town.

He’d lived in Manhattan in a run down apartment where a rat once popped through the floor boards. There were also Lou Reed sightings when he came to see his boyfriend who lived in the same building.

Dale was at the Stonewall riots in 1969. He said the only violence or looting was when the drag queens broke the window of a wig shop and stole all the Eva Gabors.  Alice put an end to that (Alice was Manhattan camp for the cops.)

Dale showed up for my event with his entourage. The rest is history.

The Stones’ new single, Brown Sugar, was released the day before. I had the only copy in town. It was played repeatedly. The drunken choruses of “yeah, yeah, yeah, whew!” echoed into the night as the hardwood floor sprung like a trampoline. When the police came and told us to turn it down, I planted my 118 pound frame squarely in the front yard and went mano a mano. I assured them everything was under control.

My name was made that night. In the wee hours as he left, Dale stopped to thank me and gave me his blessing: “It’s the sign of a good party if Alice comes.”

330 South Dunn. My first drag was here in the summer of 1971. Mr. Sarah pin curled my hair then teased it out into a huge blonde afro. The silk voile 1930s dress I wore was almost transparent. Underneath were nude panties that concealed nothing. I wasn’t trying to fool anyone. I was trying to look good.

In my maiden excitement I was ready hours before the party started. With nothing to do I volunteered to go with others on a beer run. As we walked into the liquor store I wondered what kind of act or affectation to assume. Since I couldn’t really see myself and since nothing had changed inside me, I decided it was an issue for others not for me. I acted the way I normally would. It was just this androgynous thing with a basso profundo voice buying a couple cases of quarts.

On the ride back it felt like just another trip to the store. Except there was an additional sense of relief that I hadn’t been beaten to a pulp.

Islands in the stream, uhn-huh. In front of the Dunn Street house was the split between Dunn and Atwater Streets. It was a major thoroughfare, especially busy at rush hour. Larry Borders and I would drop acid then sit in the point watching the cars whiz by. They had to veer one way or the other. One hoped.

Me and Susie Had So Much Fun

There’s got to be a morning after. Susan with her friend Richie, mid-70’s.

As I worked with the gilded faux crocodile hide on the bathroom door, the Elton John song kept repeating in my head. His attempt at rocking out really was just a fluff piece of pop, When it was released it made me realize what cheap sentiment nostalgia was. And, how effective it could be. I would listen to the song in bed and cry.

It was December 1972 and my college chums were starting to leave campus. There would never be another time where I would become so close to so many people so quickly. Almost all of them ended up life-long friends. At the time, I wondered if I’d ever see them again.

To compound the anxiety, I was having my first serious relationship. What started out as a notch on the belt escalated into a torrid four-month affair.

Buzz was the hottest number to hit Bloomington’s insular gay community in ages. Everybody wanted him but he wanted me. Being with him was an excuse to delay decisions about where to move or what to do. He would go to work in the mornings leaving me alone listening to Crocodile Rock.

In 2008 I had a new boss. Susan. She was so open with and had such an enveloping smile. From the moment I met her she spoke to me as if she’d known me forever. I didn’t trust her for a second.

I thought this was the latest in management techniques, kill them with kindness before stabbing them in the back. My instincts were partially correct. Surprise lay-offs followed in January 2009. Susan had been privy to the preparations but resigned in October after only eight months on the job. She wanted no part of the blood-letting.

I wanted to remain friends after we left the firm but it’s hard translating workplace friendships into real ones. The office environment forces close connections with coworkers to make the work day palatable.  It feels artificial. Outside work, there’s often little common ground once the topic switches from year-end projections.

This was not the case with Susan. Intimate details of her life flowed freely. She told me things my oldest friends never share. And she did it in such a calm, non-dramatic way.

The memory evoking reptilian hide.
The memory evoking reptilian hide.

She helped me start this blog. When I was mulling over how to begin, Susan quietly got out her iphone and pulled up WordPress. Instantly she created an account and posted an item. Her unspoken words were “now get on with it” as she seemed a little perturbed with the person who was once in charge of her department’s technology.

Unlike many megalomaniac queens I know, her name-dropping CV does not come locked and loaded ready to explode in your face. It seeps out in dribs and drabs.

I told her about standing behind a man at O’Hare who was wearing this gorgeous black suit. The fabric was so exquisite I wanted to touch it. When he turned around it was Anderson Cooper.

She told a story about an awards ceremony honoring her brother where she was seated next to Anderson for the evening. She was matter of fact, it could have been morning traffic on the 101 she was talking about.

When rock was young we’d been on parallel tracks of fanaticism, liking the same music, seeing the same bands. I could mention Richard Hell and the Voidoids and she wouldn’t flinch. Love comes in spurts. Sometimes it hurts.

I told her about the Stones ’72 tour dates at Madison Square Garden. There’d been a New York Times ad announcing a random ticket draw so I submitted 200 postcards. 40 cards each under five different names.

Hi-Tech was just a gleam in Bill Hewlitt’s eye back then. I thought if a computer did the selection it could key on zip codes. Most entries would come from New York, Bloomington’s 47401 might get me a ticket.

All five of my names won. Non-photo IDs were still accepted so I took my friends’ drivers licenses to Manhattan and stood in line to buy the maximum four tickets per name. After completing the sale for one, I went to the back of a different line to use the next ID. I saw every show. Scalping the surplus tickets funded the trip.

Life is a pop of the cherry. Me at the St. Regis trying to crash Mick’s Birthday, July 1972.

Susan liked my story but, being a native New Yorker, had one that trumped mine. Although we’ve never been competitive, I listened intently while lingering over my steak tartare. Susan is a vegetarian.

As a dare she told a college friend she’d get him a meeting with his idol, Jerry Garcia. She began calling the Dead’s record label saying she was a CREEM Magazine reporter. Over a period of months they received concert tickets, backstage passes, and finally clearance to interview Jerry.

When they went to meet him, her friend posed as a photographer with his professional looking but non-functioning Nikon. He was supposed to do the talking but froze in the presence of his hero. Susan had to wing it.

Noticing a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book on the table, she began a conversation with Jerry on South American novelists. This led to a discussion of post-war German filmmakers, the bizarre lay-out of Washington DC and various other topics. Music was never mentioned. As they parted Jerry said it was the most intelligent conversation he’d had in some time. Susan answered, “if that’s true, I feel sorry for you!”

Her entrée with Jerry led to subsequent meetings when the group was in town. She hung out with the original Saturday Night Live cast when the Dead were on the show; there were week-long stays at the New York Hilton with the band; and, she watched their Garden concerts from onstage behind Jerry’s amps.

Susan had to psyche herself up for the occasional consorting part. She channeled Margaret Mead exploring some lost tribe. She was a punk rocking kid after all. Jerry at 35 was an ancient hippie.

I was amazed. What would corporate think? I loved the story though I’ve never cared for the Grateful Dead’s music. I couldn’t imagine she would either. When I questioned her about it she was blunt: “it’s some of the most tedious music ever made.”

Susan is leaving tonight on a plane (oh Jesus, enough John already). Actually she’s moving to New York to be with her family. If I’ve learned nothing else since that Bloomington winter it’s you don’t need to live in close proximity to remain good friends.

Gimme

Anita Pallenberg’s camel toe. Today the look is usually unintentional and considered a faux pas. Back then, Ms. Pallenberg knew exactly what she was doing.

I learned to play piano on an upright my Mother’s Aunt gave her. It had the same honky-tonk tone as the one in my Grandmother’s country church.

At their Sunday services, the song leader would stand to announce the number of the hymn while the pianist played a couple of bars in the background. Then, in a futile attempt to motivate a congregation of languid farmers, she’d cheerfully call out, “Y’all sing!”

I studied classical music but it didn’t stop me from trying to play along with Stones records. Their chord sequences were too complicated, I couldn’t keep up.  So I just picked at the bass line which was pretty easy to follow.

The bass on Gimme Shelter was odd because during the verses it seemed to hammer away on only one note, C#. Then in the chorus the line moved.

But C#? Nobody wrote in that key except Rachmaninoff. I thought it was probably a C or a D and that my old piano was way out of tune.

Forty years later in Keith’s autobiography he talks about writing Gimme Shelter. He says “the funny thing is it’s in C# which is really a piano key, not guitar.” The upright didn’t need tuning after all.

I'm a flea bit peanut monkey, all my friends are junkies, that's not really true!
I’m a flea bit peanut monkey, all my friends are junkies, that’s not really true!

When the song was released I was in college and listened to it daily. Several times.

In one course I watched a video of Leonard Bernstein on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He highlighted the confusing opening of the first movement. The music is all over the place as the orchestra searches for a motif. Bernstein said Ludwig was just toying with the audience, creating a little tension.  The theme soon becomes readily apparent.

I thought the same about the intro to Gimme Shelter. Keith seems to be plucking randomly, meandering to find the right notes for his song. Then Wham! The downbeat hits and the riff comes full force.

Again, his autobiography clarifies. It was raining as he wrote, the intro is nothing more than the patter of the drops. Talk about over analyzing.

Performance problems: it's just a kiss away.
Performance problems: it’s just a kiss away

Despite the inclimate weather, the real storm was in his personal life. His girlfriend Anita was filming Performance with Mick Jagger and it had sex scenes that were not simulated. Nor were the ones that happened after the filming stopped.

Keith knew from the outset his relationship with Anita would not be monogamous. She could not be contained sexually. But it stung that she was carrying on with his best friend and business partner. He felt betrayed and uncertain. It took him 20 minutes to write Gimme Shelter.

Anita was always an enigma. There was a frightening quality to her, she seemed capable of doing anything for fun or mischief. And this was before she became a junkie. The callous life of fixating on the next rig made her one tough cookie.

But you don’t attain the inner sanctum of the Rolling Stones by being a milquetoast. Her profound effect on the group and the way people spoke of her in such awe was intriguing.

With Brian: giving as good as she got.

Her first Stones boyfriend, Brian Jones, was physically abusive though Anita was no victim. She fought back and Brian was often the worse of the two after one of their rows.

On a motor trip to Morocco, Brian was dropped off at a hospital in Spain. Keith and Anita boinked in the backseat of the Bentley the rest of the way

In an interview with Keith at their villa in the south of France, a journalist described the exotic surroundings and mentioned how Anita let their toddler son, Marlon, frolic naked on the grass while they talked. As necessary, urine flowed and poop plopped on the garden lawn. No one paid any heed.

Mom.

In the late sixties I was obsessed with Keith’s gender bending look. The shark’s tooth earring, the pastel pants, the kohl on his eyes, and, in particular, the jeweled red bolero sweater.

It’s hard to imagine a band hitting the market today without being focus grouped and stylized to death. Under Anita’s influence, he just took whatever looked good from the communal pile of clothing at the foot of the bed.

Ten years ago there was a profile piece about her life in Manhattan. The writer accompanied Anita on her daily rounds which included hopping on and off city buses. She knew the drivers by name and chatted them up during the ride. She never paid the fare.

My friend Dale loathed the Stones in college as much as he loathes them today. Their crass commercialism, the ridiculous pop idolatry, and the sexist hedonism offended him. He’s right, but to me their music is too good to let major concerns like that get in the way.

Once in Bloomington at an overcrowded, sweltering summer party we were dancing to Gimme Shelter. The music was blaring and Dale yelled in my ear, “this song is perfect.”

All from an afternoon of anguishing over Anita.

Be it a Bentley or a bus, she got around.
Be it a Bentley or a bus, she got around.

Hitler Youth

Fashion forward
Fashion forward

Gary gave me the Stones DVD of their 2013 Hyde Park concert.  It commemorated the 44th anniversary of their free concert for Brian Jones in the same venue. To honor him that day they released thousands of butterflies into the air. Only a fraction took flight, the rest suffocated from being boxed up in the hot July sun. Obviously pre-PETA.

I watched it today and they sounded great. No matter how many times they play the same songs they always make them different. Sometimes a number that was so-so in the studio can be stellar played live. Like It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll. Likewise a perfect song in the studio like Gimme Shelter just can’t be captured in person.

My favorite moment was Mick reappearing in the Michael Fish Shirt Dress he wore at the original concert. In 1969 I was just a country teenager with no concept of what my life would be. When I saw pictures of Mick in his Mr. Fish I felt I could do anything I wanted.

Being part of the Pop generation we were skeptical of all imagery. Yes, Hitler was a villain but did you see how he manipulated those crowds? I’m convinced the Stones studied his films because they mastered the art of inciting to a frenzy. Like Adolph it started with their propaganda, intentionally or not. Keith is close to death. They’re back in jail again. This is the last tour. It’s worked for 50 years.

Today there’s much less hype, much mellower audiences. One occasionally gets a waft of Munich, however, when you see the Investment Fund Manager in the front row, arm raised in defiance, mouthing the lyrics to You’ve Got the Silver.

Before there was the Citibank VIP sections in the stadiums there was the pre-punk mosh pits of the arenas. In 1972 Gary and I saw them several times in the mid-west where we honed our stage rushing technique. You had to break just at the right moment in Stevie Wonder’s set. Too soon and security would pull you out. Too late and you couldn’t get close. We always made it.

When the notice appeared for the lottery of New York tickets I submitted a couple hundred postcards under five different names. All five won. I had 20 tickets, enough to go every night with plenty left to scalp.  It paid for the trip.

Grouping at The St. Regis, July 1972
Grouping at The St. Regis, July 1972

We were only able to rush the stage opening night at Madison Square Garden. After that teams of guards propped up huge sheets of plywood at the end of all aisles and in front of the entrances on the main floor. Primitive but effective.

But that first night our timing was perfect, we made it to the third row just as they launched into Brown Sugar. The rough and tumble of the mid-west shows did not prepare us for the violence and brutality of New York. Gary and I were separated, the mob pushed from all directions squeezing those in front against the stage. People were on the floor. There was no security and no way out.

As I was about to be crushed I felt an arm around my waist pulling me backwards and up onto a chair. We were packed so tightly I couldn’t turn to see who grabbed me. I tried to thank him over my shoulder. He kept a firm grip on my bare midriff throughout the whole show.

When it was over and the crowd started to thin, I got off the chair and turned to properly thank my benefactor. I noticed that he was this cute kid. And that his other arm was around his girlfriend on the next chair. Sheepish grins and that was that.

Those first few moments standing on the chair I focused on stabilizing. When I did eventually look to the stage, Charlie Watts was staring directly at me. He had witnessed the whole Guernica scene and had a look of concern on his face (without missing a beat, of course).

I knew why he was watching so I continued to project panic not wanting to break the spell. Finally I decided to be honest and let him know I was okay. I flashed a big smile. As soon as I did, Charlie calmly turned his head and stared into space. It was the coolest “fuck you” ever.

My blurry homage to Keith and Jean Paul Gaultier, 1984
My blurry homage to Keith and Jean Paul Gaultier, 1984

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