Bennie Strange


... I start hearing this stuff on 'BCN about how I shouldn't be going to Worcester at all tonight, since the Stones had "made a mistake," and were going to be at Sir Morgan's Cove -- which was supposedly too small to contain them and the thousands of people who were going to show up.

    The one mistake you could make is to think I like Worcester, or that I come anywhere near the place for my health. I don't. Personally, I think Worcester stinks. 
    It was raining on the Cape though, and as much as I enjoy being with Nancy, I just had to get back to the mainland. Something about islands and peninsulas gives me the creeps. So I got Gil's Squareback started, which is no easy feat in a Truro rainstorm, checked out with Nancy what she needed at the health food store in Worcester, and split. Nancy gave me the fifty-dollar bill that Gil always makes her keep in the glove compartment. It was a Monday, I think, and it was raining harder on the mainland than it was in Truro. Coming down in sheets. 
    All the way up on Route 3, I keep on thinking about Gil, and the way he throws an old friend off his property just because he doesn't want to get his clients mad, who happen to be the Rolling Stones. Big deal. Here one day, gone tomorrow. What's six weeks of the Rolling Stones compared to the distance between the nearest two stars? Sometimes I wonder if Gil has ever looked up in the sky, on a dark night, and asked himself just what he's doing in the universe. Hey. I wasn't really gonna cause any trouble up there in the barn. I didn't actually want to see Mick Jagger. I couldn't have cared less. I just said that, to give Gil a choice. Me or Mick Jagger. And he doesn't even know Mick Jagger, which makes it all the more amazing. 
    Anyway, I'm just outside of Worcester on the Mass. Pike when I start hearing this stuff on 'BCN about how I shouldn't be going to Worcester atall tonight, since the Stones had "made a mistake," and were going to be at Sir Morgan's Cove -- which was supposedly too small to contain them and the thousands of people who were going to show up. "Don't go into Worcester, tonight," the DJ kept on saying. And here I am on my way to Worcester. Mark Parenteau was the DJ. I never met Mark. Gil's been hanging out with him though, somebody told me. 
    So I'm curious, in spite of myself, and in spite of what I'd agreed upon with Nancy only a couple of hours earlier, and I figured I'd get a little closer, and take a look-see. Had to go to the health food store for her anyway. Maybe I'd run into one of those radio guys giving out the free tickets. Who knows? I wouldn't get one from Gil. Not after the reception I got at the Farm the other night. 
    I wasn't anywhere near the health food store before I realized that something very strange was going on in Worcester. I mean, very strange. There were people everywhere -- some are alone, some are moving about in twos and threes, and then there are these groups which get bigger and bigger as I get closer to the center of the city. So, you might say, what's so unusual about that? Worcester's a big city. It's got lots of people in it. Well, it was raining. It was raining hard, and these people weren't on their way to anyplace. They weren't trying to get in out of the rain. They were just standing around, getting wet, and having a good old time for themselves. I thought I was on another planet. 
    Then in a flash I realized that these people were Stones fans, hoping to be stopped in the street by somebody from WAAF, the radio station, and get their free ticket to go see the band tonight. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. This was total insanity. Half of them had on WAAF tee-shirts, others had painted WAAF on their foreheads, or were carrying signs. I saw vans parked on the side of the road, with the logo "WAAF --- ROLLING STONES" in day-glo spray right across their new paint jobs. Brand new paint jobs. Jesus, these people were nuts. Then I passed underneath a kid who had shinnied up a flagpole. He'd been up there for a while. He was wearing his WAAF tee-shirt, and he wasn't coming down until someone from the radio station told him to. 
    People were hanging out of windows, getting wet, and shouting to each other. Kids were jumping in the puddles, laughing, splashing, and yelling things about the Rolling Stones. I saw old people on the corners, getting wet, too, and checking out reports with each other. The whole town was unhinged, and everyone was getting wet. It was about 4 PM, if the clock in the Squareback was right, and it usually is. 
    I had trouble getting into Living Earth, the health food store. There must've been twenty Stones fans mobbed in the entrance, for no particular reason, it turns out, all of 'em comparing rumors. No one had gotten a ticket yet, and it was starting to look mean. Somebody said they should go down to the WAAF offices, and see what was up. Someone else shouted that Green Street would be a better bet. After all, that's where they were supposed to be playing, at Sir Morgan's Cove. "Ralph's" somebody else shouted. "They just want us to think they're going to play the Cove. They're really setting up at Ralph's Chadwick Square Diner." I ducked through the mob, didn't say anything, and made my way into the store. At least I'd get the things I promised for Nancy. 
    About half an hour later, after I'd picked up the tofu and the tamari, I saw Ian Stewart fly by in a car. Completely by accident. Rob Barnett from WAAF and some other guy were in the same car with him, so I knew that I had got lucky and that I was in the right place at the right time. They pulled into the large parking lot just across from Alan Bilzerian's clothing store on Highland Street, and were immediately surrounded by what looked to be about forty kids, and some not-so-kid looking thugs. There were a lot of portable transistor radios in the crowd, and everyone was bitching and moaning about not getting any tickets to the Stones gig. You could tell that even from across the street, where I was standing. 
    Stu was the first out of the car. He raised his arms, like some religious leader, and shouted "Be quiet!" Then everybody got quiet, which amazed me. If it wasn't for his accent, he probably would have been mobbed. But he wasn't. 
    "All right," he says. "You, you, and you." Three people stepped forward, out of the crowd. A big guy, who looked a bit drunk, if you ask me, his girlfriend who had no front teeth, and a kid who must've been about eighteen. They huddled with him and that guy Barnett, showed what looked like their driver's licenses and signed something. Then they were given something -- their tickets I guess, because they quickly put whatever it was into their pockets, and ducked back into the crowd. 
    Then there were more people singled out, and they went through the same motions. 
    "What the hell," I figured, "kicked out of a Stones rehearsal, on the outs with the boss -- I've got nothing to lose." So I eased across the street, mingled with the crowd, and inched my way towards Ian Stewart and the guys from the radio station. I guess maybe I got too close, 'cause the tall one -- who I later find out is some promotions guy named Steve -- started shouting, and pushing me around. 
    "Get the hell away from my car," he yelled, in a voice I felt was a little louder than necessary. 
    So I faded back into the crowd, which was shaken up a bit by all that shouting. "His car? I heard some girl say. "I thought it was the Stones' car." Then we started inching in on them again, closer and closer. They got the jitters and jumped back into their car, the three of them, and Barnett started shouting out the window. 
    "There're more tickets over at Mechanics Hall, thirty minutes from now," he yelled. "Go over there if you're smart." Then they drove off, fast. 
    Didn't bother me any that I didn't get a ticket down there on Highland Street. I knew I'd get into the Cove that night, if I wanted to. I knew the guy who owned the place. .


 All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.