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One brush with English fame

March 30, 2012

So, I’m going on a two-week tour playing piano and keyboards in  an acid-jazz band.  Hip-hop jazz, really. I’m quite excited, as we are to play Ronnie Scott’s in Soho, London for a whole week, the spring of 1995. I was twenty-five  and finally making some real money, so I could afford to bring back something for this swell gal I was seeing who loaned my money and her camera.

We set up in London, full of jet lag, and I feel so fortunate to have two great guys to set up my keyboard rig, which rivals anything Keith Emerson ever played. Then I see the female representative from the record label. She is beautiful, and has a lovely British voice, and that combination always makes me weak in the knees. Nothing ever happened between us, but I was crushed like a grape in a wine press. I continued to torture myself for the whole week in London. Meanwhile, maids steal from my room, including the borrowed camera.

The gig is somewhat stressful, as it is a launch for the record label, as well as the band. London is one of my favorite cities on Earth, so I’m digging it. But two ladies keep showing up to the gigs, and get everybody dancing. That was unheard of at Ronnie Scott’s. Some of us in the band got to know them, and they would come back to our hotel for gin and tonics, and various smokable products. Nothing sexual ever happened; we were just happy to have two cool birds keeping us company before we flew to the continent where English wasn’t the first language spoken. The younger one, whose name I forget (as my journal went missing), was a curly redhead, , who could have been a Georgy Girl. A tart, I believe, is the term. She was cool. Her friend, Christine, who was slightly older, and smoked like a Russian, had to be at the flower market every morning at six A.M., which made her friend wonder what Christine was doing. Something funny, Georgy Girl said, with a wink.

We finished our engagement in London and got into a van to go down to Dover, to take the ferry to France. Yes, I saw the white cliffs of Dover. But my heart longed for the young British girl. My lady in New York wasn’t answering her phone, and I was lonely and confused. I knew I couldn’t have a relationship with the British girl, but couldn’t get in touch with my Brooklyn girl. Our gig in Paris is cancelled, so we hang out in Belgium for a couple of days. Then we drive to  Germany, where I run into my college roommate in a square in Dortmund. He liked the gig. Then we drive overnight to Munich, where the bus driver puts porn to the TV, and we fishtail all over the snowy road.

At least in Munich, we check into the Bayrischer Hof, one of the best hotels I’ve ever been in. And the gig was  downstairs. I slept maybe 3 hours, ignoring that Hitler did his beer hall speech not too far away.

Next day we drive to Holland, and check in to a cramped hotel, and an even-more cramped club. We can’t fit on the stage, and a guy with a Hitler mustache shows up for the first set. I use half my rig, we kick ass, then abandon the hotel and drive to France to catch the ferry back to Dover.

We rode from Holland to Cambridge, probably 20 hours or so. The hotel in England is great, and I take a swim. But young English is there, which I loved and dreaded. However, Georgy Girl and Christine drove up to see us, and stayed in our hotel. More smokes and gin and tonics. They eased my mind somewhat.

After our gig, we said goodbye to our London crew. That’s when Georgy Girl turned to me and said:’ You do know who Christine is, don’t you?’

‘Well, no,’ I replied.

‘Christine Keeler.’

My jaw dropped. I was the only one in the band who knew of the Profumo scandal, which toppled the Tory government in the early 1960s, as Miss Keeler slept with many different members of governmental status, as well as a  Russian ambassador. The movie ‘Scandal’ was based on it.

Lovely English girl was not so happy with our new acquaintance, but that day was the last day I saw any of the three British lovelies. We flew to Switzerland, did our gig, going up coal chutes to get to the club (that was awesome)  and then flying back to Heathrow, then JFK. I got home to Brooklyn with a a fifty-dollar tin of caviar for my Brooklyn girl, which she took, then broke up with me to go out with my roommate. Their relationship crashed and burned, and I had nothing to do with it.

Years later, Christine Keeler had a portion of her memoir published in Vanity Fair. I wrote to the editor about how cool I thought she was. It got published, along with another letter that made her seem like a self-centered bitch. Two sides of the coin.

A few weeks after the magazine came out, planes hit the World Trade Center, and petty arguments didn’t matter anymore.

 

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