It’s not often I tip my cap to royalty, British or Irish, but I am deeply indebted to Sir Bob Geldof. Without him I would never have kissed Debbie Harry.
Now what in the name of God, says you, would the singer from Blondie be doing kissing the likes of you – the head on you and the price of turnips!
Well, it didn’t happen today or yesterday, but back in the mists of time when I nightly made the scene and was known to guest list keepers the length and breadth of Manhattan.
And so it came to pass that the Boomtown Rats made their first New York appearance at the Academy of Music and great was the buzz around town.
I had seen them in Wexford’s Whites Hotel back when they were an excellent R&B type band of the Stones/Doctor Feelgood ilk and was keen to experience their punk incarnation.
With little problem, Pierce Turner and a gang of us finagled our way on to some guest list or other. All credit to the Rats: they were electric that night and, in fact, premiered I Don’t Like Mondays during their encore.
It was during this song that one of our posse, Neil Kempfer-Stocker, a man with much dander and many connections, broke the news that the Rats would throw a post-gig shindig at the very swanky One Fifth, coincidentally enough housed at One Fifth Avenue.
Neil suggested that, on account of our Wexford accents, we should rush down, pretend we were the Rats, eat their food, drink their booze, and if we could bamboozle a few ladies into the bargain, Geldof would hardly miss them.
Everything went swimmingly. Neil rang One Fifth, said our limo was parked around the corner, that the Rats were about to check out the joint, see if it was up to snuff - all to be done with the minimum of fuss.
The manager appeared forthwith; he was from Italy, well used to La Dolce Vita, and appreciated the fact that stars of our wattage might like to have some moments of peace before our admirers descended upon us.
He did appear a little stunned by the voracity with which we attacked the lobster and shrimp. But he was thrilled that we took so well to his own recipe of champagne and Guinness. This mixture, I might add, though rough on the palette, improved mightily by the pint.
Regardless, it possessed a tremendous kick and time seemed to fly – our initial plan had been to duck out the back after a couple of belts; indeed some of our number had already stuffed shrimp and lobster claws into their pockets.
I don’t remember even being particularly perturbed when the manager filled our glasses one more time and confided that we should meet our guests who were clamoring outside in the lobby.
There was nothing for it but to stand in line and shake the hands of every hip, New York City freeloader as they rushed past to partake of the feast. Most of them wouldn’t have known a rat, Boomtown or otherwise, if it had taken a bite out of them.
And then I saw Debbie Harry approaching and whatever notion I had of time stood still. She was beaming at me, though I must confess, she appeared glassy-eyed and a little unsteady.
I reached out for her, unwilling to have her spoil my moment by toppling off her heels. She melted into my arms and, to this day, I can’t believe how well she fit. Then, she murmured, “You were wonderful onstage tonight.”
Who was I to disabuse her? In no uncertain terms, I let her know that she was looking and feeling nothing short of brilliant herself.
She’d obviously never before had a brush with a Wexford Casanova, for she stumbled once again. It was now or never and so I closed my eyes and gently laid my lips on hers. To my amazement she let them linger, although I suppose she could have been using me as ballast to get a grip on her heels. Still, as she pulled away she winked conspiratorially.
Geldof arrived soon after. He appeared somewhat puzzled and then indignant when the manager sought to corroborate his identity.
Ah well, it’s only rock & roll, Sir Bob, thanks anyway. For every time I hear Heart of Glass, no matter where I am I wink back at Debbie’s lovely unsteady memory.