I did not appreciate how close to the edge I was flying back in 1978 when I was driving Rock n' Roll bands from one end of the continent to the other. I had been on the road pretty much non-stop for two years. The mind numbing miles built up. One hall began to look like another. I often had to check my itinerary the morning of a stage call to remind me what town I was in and what town I was heading for.
My time behind the wheel became a blur of interstate super slabs interrupted by nightmarish back ins to backstage loading docks run by surly stagehands. Sleep was often a luxury. Food, while plentiful, was always the same leftovers found in Green Rooms across the nation or the classic gut busting fare served in truck stops.
I was on the David Bowie tour in the spring of 1978. We were on the last leg, the whirlwind part. The bunched up series of shows on the East Coast meant travel distances dropped but the strategies to make it safely in and out of a city grew ever more complicated.
The East was where I had learned the ropes of driving. I was back in my element. I could get 6 or 7 trucks to Madison Square Garden without much hassle as long as everyone stuck together. I could back into holes the western drivers considered impossible. In other words, I came east and I was a star.
We had three towns left. Providence, Boston, and we finished with two shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was in Providence the comedy of errors began for me.
A normal crowd of groupies and sycophants were hanging out in the lobby of the Providence Howard Johnsons when I stumbled through the roulette door to check in. How these clowns seemed to know where to go puzzled me. But they were always around.
Whacko Redhead was parked on one of the over stuffs tapping her feet. I only noticed her because her red hair was a couple of feet long and looked like it had not seen the business side of a comb or brush in years. And on her head was a Red Sox cap. Our eyes met. Mine stopped at her face. Her stare went right through me. Kinda scared me if you want to know the truth. I smiled weakly and continued to stumble my way to the front desk. I checked in, got my key and directions to my room.
Maybe two minutes after throwing my shit on the bed and collapsing next to it, someone knocked on the door. Not happy in the slightest, I dragged my sorry butt off that bed and opened the door.
"You're with the Bowie Tour aren't you?"
There, in all of her 5 foot grandeur stood Whacko Redhead with her feet apart like an umpire and her hands on her hips. She pushed past me and came into my room.
"So what do I have to do to get backstage?" She plopped on my bed.
By this point in my Rock n Roll career, I had grown tired of the groupie scene. The easy sex for backstage passes had gone stale for me. Add in the fact that I was dead on my feet and my mood was not all that agreeable. So I lied.
"I don't do backstage passes anymore. I'm tired. I need some sleep. Please leave." And I continued to hold the door open.
Whacko Redhead did not get up off the bed. Instead she began to tap her feet again like in the lobby. "Well then", she started, "I am sure one of you drivers is horny enough to cough up a pass. Who should I see?"
Her direct manner and her piercing blue eyes cut through me hard. I began to chuckle. "Well, Billy Boo is perpetually horny. He's always ready for some head."
"Which one's Billy Boo? Not the 400 pound whale with the whiny voice and scraggly beard?"
"That would be Billy Boo."
"Uh, no thanks. I picked you. So, what's it gonna take?" Her blue eyes bored right through me.
"Darlin, all I want is some sleep. Even if I had the urge, I don't think the engine has the fuel." But I closed the door and walked back into the room.
That was my first mistake.
At age 26, we guys always have the urge and the fuel even if we don't think we do. And this is something all the women know. An hour later Whacko Redhead and I were saving the planet by taking a shower together. That sleep I thought I needed traded in on easy sex for a backstage pass.
I lost track of Whacko Redhead during the show that night. But come time for load out, there she was sitting on one of the speakers waiting to be loaded on my truck. When a stagehand slapped that speaker, she hopped off and walked over to me at the back door of the trailer.
She reached around my waist with one hand and pulled my head down with the other. After planting a screamer of a kiss on me, she backed up. "Well, I guess that's it then. You are off to Boston now."
"Yeah, I guess so."
And then I made my second mistake.
"How'd you like to go to Boston with me?"
I don't think I had even finished talking and she had the passenger door of the truck open and was scrambling up the looped footstep. By the time I had climbed in behind the wheel, she had a doob lit and was passing it over the dog house to me.
With traffic, the Old Boston Garden was at most a two hour drive from Providence. Once there, I figured I would finally get that sleep I needed. It was possible my head could be on a pillow by 2 AM. With stage call not until 8 AM, I might get 4 hours of solid shuteye.
Whacko Redhead had other plans. On the way out of Providence she insisted I stop at her apartment so she could grab some clean clothes and maybe gussy up some. Since finding Boston Garden should be no problem for the other drivers and the fact they had over 8 hours to find it, I cut them loose with a call on the CB radio. I pulled into Whacko Redhead's apartment complex around midnight. I didn't pull out until 6:30 AM the next morning. And again like so many times before, I made stage call with only minutes to spare. Buford, the head engineer for SHOWCO was not impressed. Damn women.
I got my trailer unloaded and then headed to the Holiday Inn in Somerville. After a quick romp in the sack with Whacko Redhead, I headed for the shower and left her in bed thumbing through the itinerary for the tour. As I toweled myself off, there was a knock at the door. I wrapped my towel around my waist and opened the door expecting one of the crew or a hotel employee. There standing in all their Parental intimidation are Mom and Dad. I had forgotten that I had invited them down from Maine to see the Bowie show and hang with all the cool people backstage.
I didn't move. I didn't say a word. I just looked at them. In the meantime, my dad's eyes had gotten bigger. My mom's eyes had become slits. I turned around and sitting there in one of those hotel room chairs buck naked was Whacko Redhead. Her eyes had grown big also. She jumped up and scurried to the bed and began to gather her clothes.
I still just stood there saying nothing. What was there to say?
Mom finally spoke. "Well Mike, are you going to invite us in?"
"Uh, yeah, come on in." I stepped out of the way just as Whacko Redhead made a beeline for the bathroom with her clothes clutched so to cover her naughty bits.
Mom and Dad come into the room. Mom's eyes are still slits. Dad is grinning from ear to ear. He said, "So all those stories are true huh?" Mom shot him a hard look of disgust and then began to scan the room for a safe place to sit.
I heard the shower kick in. Good, Whacko Redhead was cleaning up. I turned to my parents, “Folks, make yourselves comfortable. I'm going to get dressed. Be out in a moment." Mom and Dad just looked at me. They still had not sat and that grin on Dad's face was beginning to unnerve me.
Once I was dressed I came out of the bathroom and was relieved that Mom and Dad had figured out where to sit. It seemed to take the edge off the situation that had started so badly. I began. "So this is kinda awkward......"
Mom immediately interrupts. "Awkward? Christ on a crutch Mike, you invited us down. You know how hard it is to get your father to go anywhere, and when we finally get here, you are shacked up with some whore."
"Mom, she's not a whore. They are called Groupies. And besides..........." I can't finish. Mom was not listening. She had made her decision.
Dad piped up and said, "Well I for one am glad we came. She seems a delightful young lady."
Mom turned and stared at my father. "Delightful? Why do you say that? Because she was naked?"
"Why yes dear. Because she was naked. All young ladies are delightful when unclothed."
I can tell my parents were getting primed for one of their daily spats. It always started the same way. One baits, the other bites. I spoke up. “Okay that’s it. Stop right now. Let’s head to the Garden. I’ll leave Angie here. She won’t mind.”
My mom could not resist a parting shot as we moved towards the door. In a loud voice she warned, “Don’t leave any valuables here Mike; they might not be here when you get back.”
Whacko Redhead, her head hanging out of the bathroom door, stuck her tongue out. Dad smiled at her, then said, “Nice to have met you.” Mom tugged on his arm, glared at Whacko Redhead and we left.
Thankfully, the following hours at the Garden were so special for my parents and myself, the incident at the motel became but a footnote to one of the most bizarre days I had while driving Rock n Roll.
Since it was near the end of the tour, David Bowie had a catered high end meal set up for the crew. Chefs with big hats cooking while waiters wearing white waist coats served food that was absolutely some of the best I have ever eaten. Mom and Dad got to sit down with us. As it happened, David Bowie sat at our table and talked with my parents. He chose our table because their elderly presence was so out of character for this business. My dad was able to hang out at the Sound board while Buford ran his sound check. Both of them ended with respect for the other. They were both geeks. Dad asked questions that Buford had to strain to answer. Geeks just love that kind of shit.
It turned into a good day. If I had had a plan to begin with, I could not have come up with a better series of events to completely impart just how insane the Rock n Roll business was. My parents begged off when I suggested staying for the concert. The meal, meeting David Bowie, the sound check and of course Whacko Redhead was excitement enough for one day. They drove me back to the motel. As I got out, they both insisted they had a wonderful and if nothing else, an interesting time. They drove home to Maine.
I still had to deal with Whacko Redhead though. She had been cooling her heels at the motel for 5 or 6 hours. Even though she could have robbed me blind during our previous two days together, my mom’s warning skittered through my mind as I walked to the room. What is it about moms and their ability to weasel their way into our minds? It must have something to do with that bonding during pregnancy. After all, they have nine months to implant whatever insidious control device they want.
With this floating around my mind, I opened the door of the motel room. The mess I left was straight now and a fully clothed Whacko Redhead laid passed out peacefully on top of the bed covers. The king size bed wrapped around her like an acre of pasture wraps around a cow. Her red hair seemed under control now. Her eyes closed, she was the perfect picture of calm. I crawled on the bed beside her and was asleep the second my head hit the pillow.
Originally written in March of 2010. The slight edit is to replace real names and clean up obvious grammatical and spelling mistakes.
The story is true to the best of my memory. The dialog is added to create connection and color to the events as they unfolded.