Monday, 23 December 2019

Hollywood Here I Come

I once woke up outside Bakersfield hungover and disoriented. I should have known exactly where we were as hometown hero Merle Haggard had just come on the car radio. 

We had intended to visit LA but the back seat of our car went on fire somewhere in the Mojave Desert so instead we pressed on for our ultimate destination, San Francisco.

If that all sounds a little vague, that was the mood back in the GPS-less mid-70’s whilst doing one’s obligatory Keroauc On The Road trip from Brooklyn to the Wild West.

My friend, Bob Schwenk and I had contracted to drive a brand new Audi to the City on the Bay for a very unlucky stockbroker who was relocating there. 

We hit black ice some hours out of NYC, barely missed a state trooper and collided with a jackknifed truck on Route 80.

After managing to beat a reckless driving charge, a very large auto mechanic stood on the hood of the brand new Audi with a sledgehammer and beat it back into some kind of shape, then bound it with a huge metal chain and off we went. 

Let’s just say it was not a happy day for the stockbroker when we chugged down the driveway of his lovely Mill Valley residence.

I did finally make it to LA in some triumph in the early 90’s when Black 47 was the next big thing. 

Funky CeilĂ­ had just been deemed the most played song on Alternative Radio when EMI Records flew Chris Byrne and yours truly out to do two solid 10-hour days of radio interviews. 

Now anyone can have a great time talking about themselves for an hour or so, but try doing it 10-hours straight two days in a row! It literally drove us to drink, not an unknown destination in those years.

Soon thereafter, the whole band and crew were flown out to do the Jay Leno Show. What an hilarious, salty guy – offstage - and then so staid the minute the cameras rolled!

I didn’t care, George Foreman was also a guest and being a boxing fanatic I couldn’t believe I was shaking hands with the man. His hands, by the way, were incredulously large and soft.

Hollywood was like a dream, but then Elliot Roberts was our manager and Elliot knew everyone – from the busboys all the way up to God. He never introduced me to God but just about everyone else.

Speaking of God, Black 47 always stayed at the Continental Hyatt (Riot House) on Sunset Boulevard, wherein lived Little Richard. At that time he was the self proclaimed King - and Queen - of Rock & Roll.  

Imagine a punk kid from Wexford hanging with this jewel-bedecked legend packing a large bible under his arm. 

He appeared to be preaching a mixture of fundamentalist Southern Christianity and equal opportunity sexuality – a lethal combination.

One of the Black 47 members after encountering him in the elevator famously noted, “I didn’t know whether he wanted to save me or… (I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

Ah, there was nothing quite like the dying days of Rock & Roll hedonism on Sunset Boulevard when men were men and sheep were nervous.

Hollywood was the land of opportunity. I got a call one day from a Vice-President of Fox TV wishing to buy the rights of Liverpool Fantasy, a play I’d written about The Beatles – if they hadn’t made it.

I made a huge mistake by asking Elliot Roberts to negotiate the deal. Elliot, without ever reading the play, stated straight out to the Vice-President that Liverpool Fantasy was a big-screen movie and that we were merely dropping by as a courtesy while on our way to gather offers from the major studios.

The Fox guy offered 50 grand on the spot as a good faith payment with more to come and a definite shooting schedule.

We passed. That was Southern California for you – the golden land of missed opportunity.

But hey, I’m ready for another shot. I just need to find a brand new Audi drive away and locate my well-thumbed copy of On The Road.

With a GPS this time there’ll be no stopping me. Hollywood, here I come!

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