Monday, March 25, 2013

Chapter 40 - Magic Rudy

There was another party in the Hollywood Hills where Larry couldn’t
help but notice this Sicilian guy wearing nothing but cowboy boots, a
white child’s cowboy hat on his head and a double leather bandolier
holster like Pancho Villa wore when he raided the New Mexican
territories. As he came closer, Larry, who was slightly taken aback by
this swarthy man in his late thirties or early forties sweating like
overcooked bacon in a frying pan, heard him say, “Hey man, what’s your
name? You look exactly like my best friend.”
“Larry Harrison. Who’s this guy you think I look like?” “Bobby Bloom,
you know the guy who wrote Montego Bay. Hey, what’s your birthday?”
        “June 16.” Larry said while still trying to get over the shock and
amazement he felt by this naked man striking up a conversation with
“That’s the same day as mine,” the naked man said. “By the way, my
name is Rudy. Hey man, give me your number.”
Obviously he didn’t have a pen on him, unless there was one in the
bullet slots of his bandolier. They went inside and exchanged
information and he introduced him to June Fairchild who was the girl
in the Cheech and Chong movie “Up in Smoke”, the one that snorted all
that Ajax.
Rudy was the Svengali, the Maharishi who wanted to control all the
women that entered his domain; he was the conductor of his own
symphony, the orchestrator of earthy pleasures like Bacchus, the Roman
god of wine and intoxication, the patron saint of excess and
debauchery. Whenever beautiful women would come over to his house on
Formosa Drive he would politely asked them to take off their clothes
and put on kimonos, and he had fifty or more of them that were
purchased at Aardvark’s vintage clothing store on Melrose, and they
would willingly comply. Rudy had some movie connections with an talent
agency so there were always gobs of women around. The interesting
thing was, he never slept with one single girl. He was married to Mary
Jane, who somehow put up with all this craziness.
I never spent too much time at Rudy’s because I was still with Robin
Stewart and tried my best to avoid the temptations, women and drugs.
Robin S., as most of the other women who encountered Rudy thought he
was a perfect gentleman and a lot of fun to be around. He was
basically a nice guy that would give you the shirt off his back, at
least he did for Larry, but there was something very disturbing going
on behind that fa├žade of nicety and friendliness. There always seemed
to be at least three or four young girls cooking and cleaning, wearing
next to nothing prancing around the place.
He did try to get Larry's career off the ground as well as helping the
band that seemed to be scattering in four different directions at once
– anyway the wind would blow. There was an audition once where we set
up four barstools in Rudy’s living room and he had invited some
big-wig producer over. It was Stephen, Joey, Jon Marr and I, singing
our originals. There was this one called The World Inside My Eyes,
that was so Beatlesque it was scary. There was this EST inspired song
I had written entitled Be With Me Now, that Jon sang lead vocals on
but Joey couldn’t follow the harmony Jon had taught him. Jon always
came up with these bizarre parts that were so complicated only a
trained musician would be able to follow and Joey was used to singing
a natural harmony, nothing fancy mind you. Needless to say we didn’t
pass the audition.
Stephen had a Rickenbacker guitar that was given to him by Michael
Kennedy as a token gift for all the money he was given via Bruce
Golden. Jon Gries, Stephen's brother begged and pleaded with Stephen
to let him hold onto it, knowing the value it would someday have,
after all, as I said before, it did belong to John Lennon. John had
given to Nicky Hopkins and then Nicky presented it to Michael as a
gift for his guitar contributions on the Hopkins album, "No More
Changes". Jon had seen so many of Stephen's guitars end up trashed,
lost or stolen. He had seen his brother's Ovation twelve-string
stepped on and subsequently destroyed by Mary, a drugged out friend of
a friend on Palm Plaza a year earlier. Stephen declined Jon's offer to
keep the guitar for him and one day he took it over to Rudy's. I have
no idea why he left it there under the bed in the guest room for over
a week, but when he came back to claim it, Rudy had informed him that
it was gone, probably traded for a couple of grams of coke or and
ounce of weed. That guitar today, even in this stumbling economy,
would probably be worth over a million dollars. Oh well, I guess there
is no sense in crying over spilled guitars - nevertheless, it does
bring a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
I often wondered what ever happened to Rudy, if he survived his
Kafkaesque escapades in West Hollywood that spilled out and over
everyone he came in contact with; I found out he passed away in New
York just before the millennium. I think about all the wasted time and
money, the sex, drugs, and rock and roll - the mainstay of his
existence. I don’t think that Silverspoon had anything to do with his
demise but sometimes I wonder if that band wasn’t jinxed in some way
because of all the people that went by the wayside. So many people
that lived by the sword died by the sword but the pen (or the
typewriter/computer) are always mightier. At least that’s what I
believe and I’m sticking to that credo.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chapter - 39 - The Red House

The color red can symbolize many things. It can represent love, anger, warning and even death. It is the color of blood and the color of the heart - the color that is most associated with sex (she was a red hot mama, or daddy or whatever your preference is). There is a term code red, meaning high alert and when some one sees red they are ready to boil over with anger. It is also the color of power and prestige; when we "roll out the red carpet" for someone of great importance or royalty.
The first time I walked into the "Red House" on Fountain Avenue I was nauseated, sick to my ever-loving stomach. This is the place where Christa Helm and Patty Collins had rented to work on their music to get ready for their recording at Larrabee Studios with Larry and Stephen. They had hired Richie Moore to do the engineering and practiced for hours by singing karaoke style into their two track tape recorder they had lovingly nick-named Gort. If you want, you can google Christa Helm and find out about her story but it really has no relevance to the Silverspoon story other than playing a small part in driving a wedge between the band members that was already happening with its own momentum and it was picking up speed.
As I said before, Larry had met Christa on Halloween of 1975 at a party that Bonnie Yardum was hosting at The Daisy. He ran into her again with Rudy Mazzella in the summer of 1976. Another female back-up singer from Texas was brought onto the project and she immediately clicked with Christa. It was believed that Patty and Christa were a lock and had their vocal parts secured but Christa still felt they needed another female harmony. That's when they hired, let's call her Darla, and there was a lot of jealousy in that house of ill repute. It's was another bitch-fest. I can't remember the name of the disco song they were working on at the time but I hated it. I couldn't believe that Stephen and Larry would stoop so low in their musical endeavors, but disco was hot and so were the girls. Fortunately, I was involved with my Robin and we both thought the "Red House" was bad news. I had a sick feeling that something terrible was going to happen there so I stayed away - as far away as possible.
On February 12th of that year, actor Sal Mineo was stabbed to death in the parking garage of his suite on Holloway drive near La Cienega. This case is still unsolved. A year to the day later, Stephen's brother, Jon Gries, was living at his mother's house on Lloyd place in West Hollywood. It was in the wee hours of the morning; Jon was restless and found it hard to sleep. At around three AM he got out of bed and a few minutes later he heard something that sounded like a cross between a cat getting skinned, a baby crying and gurgling noises. He went outside to see what was going on but didn't venture far enough to see anything unusual. Later that morning, a West Hollywood Sheriff came by Jon's place asking him if he had heard anything unusual late the night before. He was still groggy from a lack of sleep but remembered that, yes he had heard those terrifying screams. The sheriff then told him that a young woman was stabbed over 30 times and bludgeoned with a blunt instrument, she bled to death under a parked car just a few hundred yards from his mom's house. It was Christa. As of now, like the Mineo murder, the case remains unsolved. 
Christa may have gotten a bad rap from people at the time, saying was a social climber and unscrupulous, but according to Larry, she was a sweetheart who was totally focused on making a hit disco record and she provided a loving environment for him to live and work. Stephen's recollection is a bit dubious at best. As for me, I was glad to be as far away from that scene as humanly possible.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chapter - 38 - Another Robin in The Nest

Larry was now living in the apartments at the Record Plant in LA and was working for Gary Kellgren at his home studio in the Hollywood Hills. There were three rooms in the back of the Plant. one was called the Dungeon Room another was the Sissy Room and the third was the Boat Room. I think Larry was staying at the former and sometimes the latter when the room was needed by a client. I am sure he did a lot of shuffling around to make way for the rock stars inhabiting those rooms. The Dungeon Room was exactly that, furnished with racks and other torture equipment while the Sissy room was decorated with white wicker furniture with pink and white bedding and curtains with a white gazebo in the middle of the room. The Boat Room, for the lack of a better description, looked like a boat.
Chas had returned from Europe and had brought with him a Welsh singer, Mike Japp who had replaced lead singer Hugh Nicolson in the band, "Marmalade". Mikel had an amazing voice that was very reminiscent of Paul Rogers from the bands "Free" and "Bad company". Chas had contacted Bob Merritt (the engineer we had worked with at The Record Plant) to finish up some tracks they had cut in England. After hearing the tracks Bob had especially like the song "Piece Of The Action" but thought that it would be better to re-cut it from scratch. at first they had used ex-Spoon drummer Marshall Battjes but it seemed like he just wasn't making the grade, besides Chas was and is very particular and demanding about his choice in drummers and replaced Marshall with some other dude with a more simpatico style. Also on the recording was Matthew Fisher who played Hammond organ on the 1967 "Procul Harum" song, "A Whiter Shade Of Pale".
There was a new studio "D" out back by the apartments and shop that Chris Stone said was not very useful. Bob asked if he could experiment with the room and was then allowed to have free reign over it. Chas and Mikel's band, "Waterfall" had lucked out and were recording in that studio free of charge, just like Silverspoon had done a couple of year before. They played so loud that the walls were vibrating in studio "C" next door and the band in that studio couldn't take it anymore. The whole band including the producer went over and banged on the control room door. Bob finally answered the knock when the music stopped and let them in. 
"We have been subjected to this barrage of sound and can't get this tune out of our heads", the lead singer said in his high pitched English accent. After they were invited in, Mikel had recognized the producer from England by the name of Ron Nevison. The tension in the room eased. The lead singer was John Waite and his band was called "The Baby's". It's funny how things happen like that but because the song was so infectious the band ended up recording the song and it appeared as the final track on their second record "Broken Hearts". 
In the meantime Silverspoon was desperately trying to re-invent itself. Joey was put on suspension for his love of substance proved to be more important than his commitment to music. Who did we know that could sing that high and blend with Stephen and myself now that Jon Marr was back in school at Marymount College and could not make himself available? The answer was right in front of out noses. Mikel Japp was a prime candidate even though he was working with Chas. Not only did Mikel have one of the best and purest voices we had ever heard he could also play a mean guitar. There was one major drawback though - he was the worst, or best drunks I had ever had the pleasure or misfortune of knowing. Sure, Stephen and I would have a drink and Larry was no tea toddler, but Mikel took the door prize in that contest.
We had booked a room at Studio Instrument and rehearsals were going well until he started showing up late and then not showing up at all. We found out later that Mikel had fallen in love with Ciri, a young woman who was a clothing designer for Donna Summer and they had moved into an apartment right across the street from Palm Plaza. A few week later he told us that he had married her. It looked like we were back to square one again.
Mikel and Larry were in my mom’s Mercedes with me at the wheel when we saw this cute red-head waiting for a bus on Sunset. We pulled over and tried to sweet talk her into the car and she tried her best to resist but our innocent charms were undeniable and she eventually got in. I was attracted to her and told her she reminded me of a cross between Ann-Margaret and Inger Stevens. We told her there was a party at Stuart Collins house on Larrabee and we all cruised over. Stuart, another Englishman born within the sound of the Beau Bells, had a Rolls Royce and we all got in and the party moved across the street to Paul Downing’s house. Paul is a left handed guitarist from Yorkshire that used to play with John Phillips from the Mamas and the Papas with Don Adey (the gent that worked a SIR and got us free time there). They had a band a few years earlier called "The Jamme" which was also very Beatle influenced. There was another member of the band, Terry Ray, who would be hired as a replacement drummer in Silverspoon, but that only lasted a few weeks because we were so untogether and scatter-brained at the time (what else is new). There was a Florida room in Paul’s house with a waterbed where Robin S. and I spent that whole afternoon a kissing and a hugging. We spent the next two years together and she proved to be a great distraction for me in my quest to escape the madness of Silverspoon.
      It was about a week before the bicentennial when I moved into her one room apartment on Ozeta Terrace just up the road from the Whiskey. She had just finished her gig with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue as a back-up singer and dancer and was working on designing her own costumes. That place was so small and stacks of clothing were piled up everywhere. Now I’m not the neatest person in the world but this place was a mess, even by my standards. I knew that I had to get some kind of a job so we could make plans to get out of that prison of a place. 
I was pouring through the want add and found and eventually found a job in a phone room run by some Hungarians selling industrial light bulbs on commission. The hours were early in the morning, around six am until eleven am which took a little getting used to. The room was stacked with telephone books from every city and state in the US. I picked out some of my favorite areas on the east coast and started dialing for dollars. Because there was a three hour time difference, when it was six in California it was nine in New York or Boston. I was getting discouraged after not making a sale for three days and I was thinking of quitting when by sheer determination or luck I finally made my first sale. The manager of the boiler room directed me into the boss’ office of the mad Hungarian. He had long stringy hair that was greased back into a pony tail with long fingers and fingernails that would make Dracula envious. He patted me on the back and took out some white powder from his desk and inserted his pinky fingernail into the vile. “You did good kid” he said as he stuck his finger in front of my nose. I knew it was cocaine and I reluctantly snorted it. I was disgusted but I didn’t want to offend him. Needless to say that job didn’t last too long but it was my introduction into the wild and wacky world of telephone sales.
Meanwhile Stephen was having problems with the Robin of his own. As I mentioned before she was a gorgeous Playboy model at seventeen and was being hit on by every guy that came within arms length of her and he found it too hard to deal with. She would go out for a pack of cigarettes or something and come home five days later, but he was in love with her and was trying to make things work. They were still living together at Palm Plaza when he came home one day and found her passed out on the floor after ingesting a handful of valium and he was terrified that she was going to die. Now these were the days before 911 so he called the police when she began to stir and staggered over to him. He was panicked, but was thankful that she was alive. When she tried to grab the phone away from him he tried to shush her up but she wouldn’t relent. Out of frustration, or just being plain old freaked out he gave her a tap on the head with the butt end of the telephone receiver. She passed out again as he hung up the phone. Eventually after bringing her tea and water and trying everything he could to keep her from dying he realized that she was breathing normally and around four in the morning he fell asleep while sitting up on the easy chair.
When he woke up a couple of hours later she was gone. He called everyone he knew asking if they had seen her. He even went down to the places she used to hang out in the neighborhood without any luck. Later that day there was a knock on the door. He opened it and there was Robin and this guy, who was Jim Croce brother who said, “Hey man you can’t go around hitting women. Robin is now staying with me and were here to pick up her things” Stephen was at a loss for words but thought to himself."Who the hell is this guy walking in here like her knight in shining armor when he doesn't even know what has transpired. You’re just hearing her side of the story." He tried to explain himself but they wouldn’t hear it. He was guilty without a trial or jury or anything. She was gone again but it wouldn't be for the last time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chapter 37 - Models, Playmates and Actresses

It was a beautiful June day in LA and I, dressed in my finest duds with my ubiquitous polaroid bag with the cassette recorder stuffed inside, headed out in my mom's Mercedes with Stephen to the Playboy Mansion. Jerry Brown, the current governor of California was running for president and with Linda Rondstadt. There was going to be a fund-raising party there at the almost 22,000 square foot edifice, and we were going. I can't tell you how we were invited, but things like that were happening all the time. You would be hanging out at a friends place and the next thing you knew you would be whisked away to some crazy party.
The musical theme was "Taking It To The Streets" by the Doobie Brothers. Even though the Mercedes was still in good shape, we parked on the street at the end of Charring Cross Road and happily walked the quarter mile up to the mansion. The high green hedges were perfectly trimmed as we rushed ahead toward the palace that loomed larger than life in the distance. At the front gate there were gobs of security, and I was surprised nobody checked my bag strapped around my shoulder. Today you couldn't get near any public venue wearing anything like the sort of stuff I was carrying; but our names somehow were on the guest list and we got in. 
The first thing we came to was the pool with the waterfall and saw a flock of flamingoes strutting around the path that led all over the grounds. It was only around one o'clock in the afternoon and already the place was packed with all sorts of politicians, movie stars, people that tried to look like movie stars, bunnies and bunny wannabes, rock star types and a couple of real rock stars; in other words all the glitz and glamour mixed in with power and wealth. What in the world were we doing there? Were we hanging out like guitarists at the C. F Martin factory in Nazareth, PA, or  baseball players visiting Yankee Stadium for the first time. After winding our way through the thicket of bamboo trees and other foliage we couldn't even name, we edged our way into the house itself moving ever so slowly past all the blonde, brunette and red-headed fantasy girls. Finally we saw him sitting cross-legged on a striped plum-colored couch smoking a pipe surrounded by the most beautiful women we had ever seen - Hef himself.
I couldn't see then that this was another distraction from my true purpose, and to quote Roshi Phillip Kapleau, in his book, Awakening To Zen,  I was "subject to whim and caprice, like a weather vane blown in different direction by every kind of emotional wind." I could say the same thing for Stephen who was especially intrigued by what society was calling the ultimate in female anatomy; playmates and models and actresses. Like autumn leaves in a zephyr we were being tossed and turned by our senses and desires and would willingly go wherever they would take us.
This reminds me of a story a few years earlier in early 1972 when I was still driving my Karman Ghia, the one Susan had bequeathed to me a year or so earlier. With Stephen in the passenger seat heading east down Fountain near La Cienega, we spied a beautiful young lady at the wheel of a British Racing Green MGB-GT a few cars ahead of us. Fountain is a two lane black-top, (one lane in each direction) nevertheless, I was determined to catch up to this dark-haired beauty while Stephen was edging me on. We weaved our way past the next vehicle barely avoiding the parked cars on the right as we were approaching Sweetzer. I was hoping the light would change to red so I could pull up next to her, but it didn't. She was two cars ahead now as we came up to Crescent Heights; that light stayed green as well. I floored it and was able to circumvent the VW in front of me. We were only one car behind now. Traveling at fifty-five mph now we barely made it through the yellow light at Fairfax and we were able to pull up beside her. We both smiled at her and she tried to ignore us, but the sting of Cupid's arrow would not let us give up that easily.
She eventually, either out of fear or curiosity, made eye contact with us and she couldn't help but smile. We were that charming in a goofy sort of way, I guess, and convinced her to pull over at the Mobil station on the corner of La Brea and Fountain. We got out of the car and approached her in the friendliest of manners we could muster. She rolled down her window and we told her she was gorgeous and blah blah blah, and after a few minutes with my heart pounding in my chest so loudly that I thought she could hear it, we had her phone number. 
She told us her name was Renee and was just barely eighteen, still living in an apartment with her mother. She also said she was a model who had a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency, one of the top agencies in the city. We watched her disappear in to the bustling traffic as she headed north on the 101 back to Burbank.
Well as it usually goes, we both started calling her. If the phone were busy for long periods of time I knew she was on the phone with Stephen and visa-versa whenever he got a busy signal. This went on for what seemed like weeks, but was probably only a week, when I asked myself how much time and energy I wanted to spend on this girl, especially when Stephen told me how hopelessly in love he thought he was with her. I said, "Go for it, man; she's all yours. This was the beginning a courtship that lasted almost ten years. Unfortunately, or fortunately for him, the timing was off (as we all know, timing is everything); it turned out to be a completely platonic relationship he had with that angelic beauty by the name of Renee Russo.