"Step on it, Elwood!"
Reed Desplaines worked at the recording studio as a night watchman and as a general helpmate. An unsophisticated lad, he would regularly meet and greet studio guests at Boston's Logan Airport at the wheel of the black Cadillac — the names of the people he was to collect dutifully noted on scraps of paper clipped to the overhead visor on the driver's side of the car — only to learn a day or two later that he had chauffeured and entertained a world-famous rock star. The world-famous rock stars loved it, thinking that Desplaines was exhibiting a very special sort of tight-lipped but knowledgeable deference. They would bond powerfully with the young man, thinking him to be a valuable, irreplaceable, and secret ally.
This was a misunderstanding that the studio went out of its way to cultivate, and to preserve, without ever notifying Reed of his importance. Reed's strength was in his innocence, and that innocence had to be protected at the same time it was occasionally exploited by our high-profile guests.
Take the following story, for example. The events described took place late one night at Long View Farm, on Reed's night watchman shift. It was very late at night. The audio control rooms had gone quiet, the guests had all been put to bed, and he (Reed) was taking a few winks of sleep (very much against the rules) in front of the living room fireplace. Not for long. A sizzling noise had jolted him awake, and into a state of full attention.
"Psss... st! Psss...st!!" went the noise.
Reed jumped to his feet, and lurched around the mammoth, free-standing fireplace into the center of the kitchen. And there it was — a finger hooked around the doorframe of the kitchen door — beckoning to him. The finger hooks and unhooks, finally straightening and pointing itself up towards the ceiling. Its owner, giggling, disguises his voice to resemble that of Marlon Brando, playing his role of "Godfather."
"Una..." goes the voice.
Desplaines nods understanding, and wheels about back towards the center of the kitchen.
"Non," the voice goes again, cracking up in a renewed spate of giggles.
"Due," the man says, now extending two fingers up towards the ceiling. "Due!"
Desplaines knows this drill, and addresses the handsome Long View Bar, which is crafted out of the beams of a fallen barn, and stocked with imported wines and fine spirits. He knows what to do. The bottle of Stolichnaya vodka is quickly in his hands, and upended over a water glass. The glass is filled. A second glass is filled. "Due," Reed Desplaines says to himself, sotta vocce.
"Due," he says again, less quietly, and turns back to his friend in the doorway of the kitchen. John Belushi is wreathed in grins and tousled black hair. He laughs out loud, grabbing the two glasses of 'Stoli' and heading back to his cottage across the pebbled driveway, deftly stepping over the snoring frame of his male nurse, dietician, and bodyguard.
Essay to be continued.
"There." he said. 1
1 It gave me more than that. Ten years later I would find myself writing a monograph entitled Virtual Reality. It was in that little book that I argued for the right of latter-day techo-artists to improve upon ground-level sensory perceptions, and to re-present those upgraded percepts as having been caused by things every bit as real (alas!) as an out-of-tune rock concert.
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John Belushi: Mark Parenteau Interview, WBCN 12/1978
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All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.