"Wan-sum blow?" Tony asked.
"The Stones? Looking for a club to perform in? This area? Soon?"
You're a club owner, and you're struck as though by thunder. The Rolling Stones. That would solve all the problems, all at once. Gate, forever after. License to print money. A picture of you and Mick Jagger hanging over the cash register.
The band has been checking clubs out in the area; that's what the word was. Ralph's was mobbed a couple of nights ago. Maybe you've been checked out already. Maybe there's someone in here right now checking the place out.
Your bartender comes up to you, drying off his hands.
"That guy you were talking about, you know, who owns that recording studio where the Stones are... ?
"Well, that's him down there at the end of the bar. No tab on that, right?"
"Right," you say, with the full flush of Stones fever now upon you. "Don't let him pay for anything."
I drank pretty much for free during that period of time, as you can well imagine. Also, I got talked to by a lot of eager club owners, who believed, each of them, that I could somehow wield influence over the Rolling Stones, and make them show up anywhere I wanted. Flattering, I must say. It's also possible that I wasted time, once or twice, in clarifying the exact nature of my role. Let's face it: I liked the attention.
And so the club owners were calling me like crazy, and I had no choice but to deal with them in one way or another. Randall Barbera helped me a lot with that. One afternoon, for example, he volunteered to spend some time with a particularly ambitious owner, Tony Rio. Tony owned "The Hideaway," which to my thinking was as good a venue as any, and which stood a chance of being chosen by the band for their surprise appearance. Randall had visited The Hideaway with Tony, and with Tony's sidekick, Ron, and they had all just driven back up Airport Hill with the intention of seeing me for a few minutes, and summarizing their day's conversation in my presence. Why me? Again, I was never sure. Tony Rio apparently felt I had some voice in things.
Tony made the opening statement. "I jus' wan-cha ta know, Gil, jus' wan-cha ta know that me an' my partners have you and da Stones in da highest respet... "
Randall mercifully interrupted the man, and volunteered this on his behalf.
"Good room, Gil. L-shaped. All the sound reinforcement gear was left there from when the place was a disco. Best thing is the underground entrance. You can drive a truck into it. Right up to the back of the stage. Quick-in; quick-out."
"Wit' protection," Tony added. Tony then motioned silently to his pimply sidekick, Ron, who stepped forward to his side, at full attention.
"Wan-sum blow?" Tony asked.
Ron needed no further confirmation from me, but was already busy with his fingers and a little silver box, like those normally used to deliver Stanton phono cartridges to market.
"Wan-sum blow?" Tony repeated.
"Well, why the hell not?" I thought. Randall had already moved, and was applying a short length of candy-striped plastic straw to the box of powders. It was Ron now who spoke. "L-shaped room, Gil. Can hold 550. Perfect security for the band, and for you. Don't see why you don't bring them down, so they can take a better look."
"Gentlemen," I said, "it's not up to us. Let's face it. I'll do what I can, but... "
I was interrupted with the news that I had a phone call. From an old girlfriend of mine, or a friend of an old girlfriend of mine, or something like that. I took my leave of Tony Rio, and sidekick Ron, and their cocaine, and left everything in the capable hands of Randall Barbera.
"You've got some guy named Rick Present on six-eight. Says he's a friend of an old girlfriend of yours, and that she told him to call you."
"An old girlfriend?" That was good enough. Good enough for me to take the phone call, I mean.
"Rick," I bellowed into the mouthpiece. "Who are you?"
"Delicate subject, Gil," the voice said. "Let's say that I took on with Laurie for a while when you left off. You know. She must've told you about me. I'm the one that got her back on her feet. She was a real wreck, you know."
"Ah, yes, Rick -- I know who you are. Laurie's new boyfriend, right?"
"Wrong. I'm up here in Maine, now, running a rock 'n' roll club in the outskirts of Bangor. It's completely lost up here in the woods. Perfect security."
"Perfect security, against what?"
"Gil, listen to me. Bygones are bygones, right? All I know is, I've got the club for you -- the perfect club for you. Bangor Airport is just an hour from Worcester. It's still in the Continental United States, but too far for the fans to drive, right? Even if they knew, which they won't. I mean, it's tundra up here. There's no way the crowds could follow."
"What are you talking about, Rick?" I interrupted. "About the Rolling Stones, I bet."
"The word's out, Gil. I had six other club owners call me just today. All fools. Putting out the word that the Stones might show up, just to pack their bars at night. I don't see much sense in that, although they say it works. Me, I prefer to play ball, and maybe get the band in here -- I mean, really in here -- for a night or two. Laurie maybe never told you all about me, Gil, but you've got to understand that... "
"... wait a minute, Rick, please. I'd help you in a minute, but that's not what I'm doing here. I just own the place, you know, and answer the telephone from time to time. Not really in charge of their arrangements, at all."
"So they're there with you, at the Farm, right?"
"Yeah, Rick, I guess. Can't even say that to reporters, you know. Listen, I've put your name down and the specs on the club. I'll bring that to their attention, and they'll do what they want."
"Far out, man. When can I expect the call? Tomorrow? Tomorrow night? How soon do they have to move?"
"Don't wait by the phone, Rick," I said. "It may or may not ring."
"Geez," Rick drawled. "You seen Laurie lately?"
"No, Rick. Not for a couple of years."
"Me either," Rick said, "haven't seen her either. Dynamite chick, though."
"Give me your phone number, Rick, and the name of the club once again." And Rick did. Area Code 207; funny number, funny name. That's all I can remember now, except Laurie said later she had absolutely nothing to do with the phone call, and that Rick was never really her boyfriend anyhow. .
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.