Tom Petty Tribute 2 (10/31/2018)

Note: Tom is a recurring actor in this fictional recounting of the 1970’s sex and drugs and rock n roll.
This tribute remembers the difficult band lore after moving to Hollywood and finding themselves stranded in the Valley with scant support from their label, Shelter Records. Our hero Tim, now a Harvard student, is working as music coordinator for the National Lampoon.

After band auditions for our movie, Animal House, I party all night with Belushi. In the morning, my head is hammered with a post-coke and pot hangover. I feel like a hardcore drug addict. I listlessly stumble to the kitchen to make coffee. Sitting down I call Jack. He’s in shock that I’m so wasted.

“It’s heroin, isn’t?” is his conclusion.

“Get over yourself. It’s just Hollywood.” I try to explain how I’m ‘working’ day and night, but Jack won’t listen. He starts nagging.

My head can’t take it and stops listening to his complaints. I leave him ‘hanging on the telephone.’

 

Coffee helps. I worry that Belushi has been left to his own devices with the auditions finished. I remember how Doug assigned Tony to babysit Elton John when he was performing at the Troubadour. What the hell. I’ll take on the role for my boss, Landis. I drive to the Chateau  and find Belushi passed out with the remainder of his coke stash spread out on a coffee table in the bungalow.

“Wake up, coke-head. I’m taking you to the Valley,” I shake him and roll him out of the bed. I was just as out of it before I had coffee. He stumbles after me to the Rent-a-Wreck. With the top down, we roar up Laurel Canyon Blvd over the mountains separating Hollywood from the San Fernando Valley, where the morning overcast has already burned off. Fresh air and sunshine revive him.

“Why the Valley?” he asks.

“Pancakes at Du-Pars can’t be beat.”

I worry he’s about to barf, but he soldiers on. Coffee does the trick. Soon we’re both eating double stacks. A pair of young women come up to us, asking why Belushi is in LA when he’s supposed to be live on the SNL show in New York that night.

“They fired my ass,” is his canned response. Instead of eliciting sympathy, they walk away, now that he is no longer a TV star – typical LA attitude. Fame and its attendant worship are only as good as it lasts.

“See what it’s like being washed up,” I laugh and tell him how I always played second fiddle to a dog.

“So, what’s happening today?” he asks.

I have no plan but since we’re in the Valley, I want to see Tom Petty. I call Jimmy at Larrabee Studios and get his address. Belushi drives us to a rundown motel off Ventura Blvd.

“You drive like a pussy,” he claims.

We bang on the door for five minutes before Petty finally answers, cracking the door and peeking out.

“Afraid we was the cops?” I kid him. “Takin’ y’alls time hidin’ yer dope?”

“Hey, it’s the Cracker from Alaska. Ya got that right, ‘cept all the dope got used up last night.”

He gives Belushi a suspicious look until he recognizes him.

“Jesus, Tim. Ya always a star fucker?”

“Yeah. He claims to be a Chicago bluesman. I want to show him some real southern blues.”

Tom lets us in. The two double beds for the whole band bring back memories. The drug paraphernalia  on the one table gets Belushi’s attention. He takes out his baggie of coke and plops it down.

That gets all the other Heartbreakers out of bed. Coke is their wake-up fix. No need for coffee.

“Y’all’s in the movie bizness now?”

“Yup. We’s auditionin’ bands for a frat boy movie.”

“What happened ta Hahvahd?”

“This is my class for the Fall. I’m doin’ work-study.”

“If’n that coke’s from Hahvahd, it must be primo.”

“Naw. Their’s is real expensive and makes y’all smart.”

“You know he don’t talk like this with me,” Belushi notes.

“Yeah. Ol’ Tim’s our favorite rebel wannabee. He had me playin’ Dixie at the Florida State Swim Championships last year.”

“You played with his band?”

“We all opened fer Skynyrd. His drummer and I incited a riot. The police shot Tim’s dog. The crowd panicked. Skynyrd came out and we all jammed to a packed stadium. His band had the quickest burnout in rock history. They’s Southern legends.”

“He and I jammed at the Troubadour yesterday.”

“No shit?”

“I’m gonna be a singing star in the movies now. The director don’t know it yet.”

They continue to dissect and disrespect me. I think maybe the Heartbreakers should be the movie’s band. I worry they’d be insulted to play cover songs. Their own material is great for a certain audience but not universal. There is no reason to not give them a shot.

“We gonna jam?” I demand, sick of being their object of derision.

“Yeah. Let’s do it. Our equipment’s in a storage unit nearby. We jam there as long as it’s daytime.”

“What ‘bout the coke?” the bassist Ron Blair demands. Bass players have their priorities.

Belushi dumps a pile of coke on the table and the adults in the room (everyone but me) go at it until it’s gone. We’re ready to fly.

“Perfect,” Tom pronounces when he sees my convertible Rent-a-Wreck. Their van has been on its last legs for years. I take the keys from Belushi and chauffeur five crazed musicians and a TV comedian to the local storage facility. It’s the Heartbreakers’ practice studio, barely sound-proofed with egg cartons. An extension cord provides power from the facility’s outlet.

No one knows where to start, so I grab a guitar and play Tom’s Rebels song.

 

 

Blair finds a stars & bars battle flag, hanging it in front of his speakers. Tim 363 Tom and I share the singing and rhythm guitar. The memories are bitter-sweet. I love that the good ol’ boy

“I can’t sing that song,” Belushi exclaims. “The brothers will lynch me.”

That’s ironic.

“Wot kin y’all sing?”

Tom isn’t particular. “Here’s our Indiana song, ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’

 

They’ve been in LA long enough to lose their redneck ways. Belushi pulls out a harmonica and blows some Chicago blues.

At the finish, we all laugh.

“Too slow fer a frat party, tho,” I reject it.

Next we do covers for which Belushi knows the lyrics, including ‘Louie Louie.” After doing ‘Runaround Sue,’ Tom wants to play their runaway song ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’

 

 

It’s more up-tempo but has long solos which I nix.

“Here’s a song fer y’all, Tim, another Hollywood hustler.” He is so right. ‘Yer so Bad’

 

 

We’re both singing and playing rhythm guitar. When we get to the chorus Tom and I turn and sing to each other

 

‘But not me baby, I’ve got you to save me

Oh yer so bad, best thing I ever had

In a world gone mad, yer so bad’

 

Songwriters: TOM PETTY, JEFF LYNNE

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

 

He winks at me, causing me to rip a long lead riff. Campbell Tench bursts out laughing, “Tom’s got hisself a boyfriend.”

We just keep smiling at each other.

When the chorus comes up the second time, Belushi sings with us, stepping on my leads with his harmonica. Everyone breaks up.

“Okay, well, try out this song.” I rip into ‘I Won’t back down’

 

 

‘Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down

You can stand me up at the gates of Hell

But I won’t back down’

 

Songwriters: JEFF LYNNE, TOM PETTY

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

 

Once we’re done, everyone laughs.

“If you only knew,” I confess.

“Where’s yer old partner in crime?” Tom asks.

“Ya mean our drummer, Robby?”

“Not that piss ant. Yer boyfriend.”

“We broke up this mornin’. He thinks I’m a drug addict.”

“Welcome to Hollywood, son.”

Belushi laughs. “You fucked my three lovelies last night. Maybe you ain’t no fag.”

“Here’s a song fer y’all, ‘A Face in the Crowd,’ Tom starts singing.

 

 

‘Before all of this ever went down

In another place, another town

You were just a face in the crowd

You were just a face in the crowd

Out in the street walking around

A face in the crowd’

 

Songwriters: JEFF LYNNE, TOM PETTY

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

 

“No matter who y’all is fuckin’, Tim,  yer purdy loveable.”

There I go, turnin’ straight guys gay, again.

“Don’t know ‘bout that but this is hella more fun than Saturday Night Live rehearsal in the City,” Belushi sees it his way.

We do some more covers, with Belushi singing and sometimes blowing blues on his mouth harp. We’ve been at it for three hours. Belushi is ready for Tommy’s.

“Hell no,” Petty decides. “That ghetto food? Y’all gots ta go ta In n Out. It’s worth the drive.”

It takes about 45 minutes on the freeway to West Covina. My driving skills improve by the minute as the six passengers stand up and make a scene every time we pass any young lovelies. Going 80 mph is a steep learning curve. Tom suggests I stay within the lines after I pass two cars by straddling the lane marker. I stand up and holler, which scares everyone, including the other nearby drivers. No Highway Patrol to lecture me. The Wreck responds to its second life. I suggest we take the drive-thru. Belushi is on pussy patrol. We go inside, singing the ‘In n Out, Out n In’ commercial over and over.

 

The staff has heard that song before. It fails to elicit a positive reaction by any of the suburban high school eaters until a group of college girls recognize Belushi. They aren’t ready or willing to double-team the seven of us. They’re in a sorority and promise additional partners if we follow them to Pomona College.

“This is research for the movie,” Belushi declares. At the sorority, Belushi gets all the attention. Five unknown rockers and a teenager are not as popular, until some less lovelies decide we deserve second place in their hearts. Afternoon delight after lunch lives up to In and Out’s promoted slogan. Three hours of fucking is enough for Belushi. He lures three girls back with us to the Chateau to watch SNL that night. It’s the first show after he is supposedly ‘fired’. Tom promises additional drugs through his Hollywood connection to fuel our evening of anger at NBC for disrespecting our new best ex-TV-star friend.

 

Once back in Hollywood, Tom and I go for ‘take-out pizza,’ with the actual mission to score additional drugs. I maintain my drug resistance  as the designated driver. Everyone is mentoring me on giving up my gay ways. I have some crazy thought that I should abstain in order to get back with Jack. Mixed messages. Tom directs me to a small converted hotel on Cherokee, the Ojai. There is even parking for the Wreck on a short cul-de-sac in front of the building above Franklin Ave in the Hollywood Hills. Cherokee and Franklin is a well-known transvestite pick-up site. Many of the trannies live in the Ojai, using their SROs for business. I’m down the rabbit hole again. Tom uses the Alice in Wonderland imagery in several Heartbreaker videos. As an Ojai regular, he knows the manager, Barbara, an ex-priest transsexual with big tits and a bigger heart,  especially for the pros. living in her building. The dealer, name withheld at his request, lives on the sixth floor. When he finds out I’m abstaining from heroin, he throws in a joint with our purchase. Tom and I go up on the roof and smoke out.

“Y’all rilly broke up with ol’ Jack taday?” he asks.

“Not his fault. I ain’t neva gonna be no student at Hahvahd.”

“He’s a purdy gud singer. Ain’tcha neva gonna git the band back tagether again.”

“Y’all gonna eva git Mudcrutch back tagether?”

“That time’s gone fer good.”

“Ya neva knows.”

“Best ta move on. Life don’t stand still fer the past.”

“Time fer that when ya’s old.”

“Ya got that right.”

We finish the joint, staring at the lights on Hollywood Blvd below us. Two good ol’ boys, jist enjoying a high together. I feel so straight by being so bent by pot. Silence between guys is a solid.

“You know I ain’t gonna recommend y’all fer the movie,” I’m being too honest because I’m too high.

“Ya mean we ain’t gonna be no movie stars?” Tom joshes.

“Y’all’s too good fer this movie. It’s rilly dumb.”

“What’s not dumb ‘bout good ol’ boys from North Florida?”

We laugh.

“I jist wanna learn ‘bout makin’ movies. Our songs is all stories ‘bout our lives. Three minute capsules of real lives of the down ‘n out.” Tom has ambitions.

“I kin getcha a spot on the crew so as ta show y’all how the magic is done in Hollywood.”

“Kool.”

 

We go to Two Guys for the pizzas 2-guys and return to the Chateau. Our additional dope is appreciated as everyone is on edge from the coke. I remember my Viet Vet adventure with Joey. They did their speedballs in reverse order. While Belushi has a sorority slut in the bedroom,  we attack the pizza, waiting for him to finish before attacking the H. The pizza totally satisfies my pot driven high.

The girls are in my camp about heroin. I volunteer to drive them back to Pomona College while the guys get fucked up. I win points for refraining from dope. When they learn I’m at Harvard, they turn on the charm. With no rushing need to return to Hollywood, I spend the evening at the sorority in one of the three girls’ bedrooms. I move up onto their A list by satisfying their every need. Jace joins me, adept at keeping each girl engaged. I receive many compliments on my lovemaking. I notice that they all keep their eyes closed, unwilling to see how I was able to keep them stimulated from all sides, as well as top and bottom. Jace is even more adept than me. Perhaps his life with Tommy is paying dividends in the sexual experience and expertise departments – the primary lesson plan in high school.

 

Back at Doug’s I park down the block and sneak into Tony’s room. I’m out in less than a minute. All work and all play is too much for me. In the morning, I make coffee. I need to find my own place soon. At the Chateau, I gather the Heartbreakers and drive them to the Valley. They’re all worse for wear. Belushi is on New York time and comes along after I promise pancakes at Du-Par’s.

The Southern boys perk up on coffee and hotcakes, missing grits in a faux-sentimental way. I suggest we try South Central. They aren’t about to go for collared greens. After finishing I know the sure cure for drug hangovers and make everyone attend mass at St Catherine’s on Lake Balboa in Van Nuys. It’s a Spanish mass, so no one needs to understand what’s going on. Southern boys have mostly Baptist ways. I feel extra blessed at broadening their horizons. Tom swears it’s the only time he’s ever been to church.

“That’s not something to brag about,” I tell him.

We’re all invited for a parish lunch but excuse ourselves politely. We have to work. I insist we go back to the storage unit where we continue our jam, without the coke, which is long gone.

Ben Tench tunes his synthesizer to play honky-tonk piano. We do old Jerry Lee Lewis songs that we all know, starting with ‘Great Balls o’ Fire’

 

Belushi takes the lead on the vocals, no time for mouth harp. With inspiration from church and pancakes, he’s all balls a’fire, jumping and running around the confined space. Tom, Mike and I are stepping all over each other’s rhythm guitar tracks. We do ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’’

 

 

and finished with ‘Breathless’

 

 

Belushi is so out of breath I worry he’ll have a stroke. He’s laid out on the floor as we double over from oldies fever. Tench switches to Leon Russell’s ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ and ‘Delta Lady’

 

 

Belushi jumps up, recharged. “Fuck all this Southern boy moanin’ and groanin’. This here’s the Chicago Blues.”

He hits the harmonica intro to Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘How Many More years’

 

 

We are done. I drive the boys back to their motel.

“Okay, boss. Did we pass the audition?” Mike is hoping to be in the movie. But I have to be honest. They play best on their own material. Their blues roots are Southern deep but the movie is about frat boys in the 50’s.

“Y’all is always my favorite, Tom. I kin probably sell ya. I knows yer headed fer glory doing your own music. Doin’ a movie’s only a detour to real fame.”

We leave it at that. He’ll take music video fame, instead.

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