The Uncles are sitting in the De Soto, smoking.
“We need to go to the hotel, Uncle Tam,” I request nicely. They look at us, see Patti and quickly look alarmed. We all pile into the back, with Patti in the middle, Casper is on her lap and Jack and me on either side with our arms around her.
She shifts her legs and asks, “Who’s pushing down on my legs?”
“Oh, that’s Casper. If you feel him, it means you have an open heart.”
“Like, The Friendly Ghost?”
“That’s what we call him. Most people don’t notice him. You’re special for feeling him.”
“He’s a ghost?”
“Yeah, we’re the Three Musketeers.”
“Stop the car,” she orders. “No way I’m hanging out with a ghost.”
I look over and see Casper still on her lap.”
“Well, now you’ve done it. You hurt his feelings. I’ll bet you don’t feel nothin’ now.”
“You’re right. What kind of trick is that?”
“More like a test to see how open-hearted you are.”
“Well, did I pass the test?”
“Definitely, but you also can be closed up, when you wanna be.”
“You guys are too full of yourselves, with antics and pranks. Maybe you’re too immature for a woman.”
“Oh, please Missy Patti, we want you to stay.” We both cry.
“Well, alright. But no more ghost talk.”
Casper is sulking in the corner.
“Onward, Uncle Tam. The lady has relented.”
At the hotel, the desk clerk is used to seeing Patti there. We go right up to our room and sit around, telling her our stories about the band. She cries when I tell her about Jace’s murder. Casper comes and sits with us, careful not to touch her as she is sensitive about him.
Hippie comes in and sits with us.
“Let’s go over and get a joint from Robby?” I suggest.
In the hall I ask if he can sleep in the other room. He is glad to see us showing interest in a girl for once.
Once Jack gets high, he cannot stop himself from making moves on me. Patti is enjoying the show, so I motion for her to sit on our bed. Jack needs no more encouragement.
“You just wanna watch us get it on, or join in, too?” I ask in my direct way.
She moves in between us and puts her hands down our jeans, finding us both fully aroused.
“What have we here,” she smiles.” Mr. big and fatty and Mr. long and pointy. How can we make this all work?”
I slip my jeans and briefs down. All four of us are fucking like a clockwork orange. Patti has a short fuse. I count at least three maybe five orgasms before any of the guys are even close. Her Farrah Fawcett red hair is now stringy from sweat as she whips her head back and forth. I fall backwards with all three of them on top of me.
As our breathing slows, Patti suddenly realizes she is hanging on to an invisible boy. She totally freaks. I try to explain that it is because she opened up her heart to all of us, including Casper. At the word ‘Casper,’ she bolts from the bed, gathers her clothes and makes for the door. All three of us are begging with outstretched arms for her to stay. She looks back at us, shakes her head, and is gone. Our initial disappointment changes to hilarity once she leaves.
“That wasn’t very romantic,” Jack complains.
“You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”
“She got loved in all her places,” Casper signs.
We lay back, cuddle up, and are asleep almost instantaneously.
Sometime later, Hippie returns and uses the other bed. He wakes us up in the morning, all excited to be going to New York City. After loading the cars and having breakfast, we go by Bruce’s warehouse studio. He answers the bell, looking groggy and not that happy to see us.
“Hey, Bossman, we gotta get out of this place, but want to thank you for last night. We’re feeling really confident about our songs now.”
“You’ll do great. Keep up that energy. You’ll conquer the world.”
“We just wanna put on a good show. Your boys are doing the conquering.”
He looks me square in the eyes, “What did you do to poor Patti. She came home all freaked out.”
“We told her our ghost story. It was too much for her. She ran off screaming.”
“Yeah, Casper, the Friendly Ghost,” Jack adds.
“It was good to play with you guys. It made us feel young again.”
“Hell, Bruce, you’re just 25. Shave your beard. You’ll be young again.”
“Thanks for the advice. Good luck at CBGB’s.”
“Yeah. I was onstage there with the New York Dolls when I was 14.”
“Jesus, kid. You’re non-stop.”
“Gotta be, if 25 means you’re old.”
“Get outta heah.”
“Love ya, Bruce.”
“Yeah. Just don’t tell any of my boys. I’m a married man.”
“Well, don’t tell Patti.”
We stare at each other. He is looking at his past. We are looking at the future.”
In an hour, we are traveling through all that urban sprawl of oil tanks and refineries that I remember from my trip south less than two years ago. I sense the excitement I experienced when first coming to the City. We take the Holland Tunnel and drive to the Flat Iron District and the Chelsea on West 23rd, just north of Greenwich Village. It is dark, dank and full of cockroaches. Just our kind of place. Even Max is welcome there. We have two rooms for the six of us plus Casper. Hippie decides he is sick of the antics with Robby, Michael and Iggy and doesn’t mind about the faggots. Also he gets his own bed with us. Casper goes roaming and swears he can sense other ghosts in the hotel. Jack cites all the famous people who lived there, some dying like Dylan Thomas, to make him feel right at home. Jack’s list includes Mark Rothko, Allen Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, and Leonard Cohen. Michael figures he’ll move to the Waldorf when the Miami crew arrives on Friday. Robby gets Iggy to go with him to score drugs in Washington Square, while everyone else goes with me to meet Andy Warhol. The Gay Uncles are staying at the Waldorf, leaving us Downtown to fend for ourselves .
When I was 14, Andy promised to make me a star once I am legal. I figure sixteen may be legal enough. The Factory is off Union Square, just a few blocks away. After knocking without a response, Michael pushes on the door which is not locked. Having only been there once, in the early morning hours, I am surprised to find the Factory humming with actual workers doing silk screens and other projects. We wander around without anyone asking why we are there. Finally, we find an office and ask to see Andy.
“He’s not using any extras this week,” we are told.
“No. This is more of a social call. He told me to come back when I got older.”
“You’re hardly older,” he comments. “Who are you?”
“We’re False Gods, a band from Miami. We’re playing CBGB’s on Good Friday.”
“Hang on.” He calls Andy’s assistant.
“Andy’s not up yet, but he suggests you talk with Gerard, the editor of Interview. Maybe he can get a photographer to your show and do a review. He says to meet him later. here at 1 pm, and go to breakfast. He doesn’t exactly remember you. How did you meet?”
“My cousin Joey did some porno for him. We came here with David Johansen after a Dolls show. It was pretty late. I was fourteen which he said is too young. That was two years ago.”
“Well, sixteen is still too young for porno.”
Hippie and Michael turned bright red.
“No. We’re not here to audition. We just want to show him that sixteen’s not too young to rock and roll.”
“I’m sure Andy will find you fascinating. You are gay, right?”
“Just Jack and me.”
Jack comes over and puts his arm around my waist, “Hi. The other two are just eye candy.”
The assistant keeps asking questions. “You came up from Miami to do a single night in the Bowery?”
“Actually, we’re here to do Easter morning services at St Patrick’s and Abyssinian Baptist, plus Scorsese is doing a film on us and is shooting the services.”
“Holy crap. And you need Andy for..?”
“We’re doing fine. I just like Andy and promised I’d come back when I was older.”
“Well, I’ll make sure he knows your story. Remember, Andy’s not in great health, so don’t wear him out.”
“We can be civil. We’re Southern. It’s just hard not to do everything at once when you’re sixteen.”
“I wish I remembered. You guys are firecrackers.”
“That’s what they say.”
We go downstairs to meet Gerard at Interview. Their offices are busy with paste-ups of new articles on the walls. I glance through an older issue, which is unlike any magazine I have ever seen. It is also twice as big as any other magazine. Once the editor speaks with us, he calls Jon Landau into the room. We’re formally ‘Interviewed.’ They ask if we have a press kit and a portfolio of still photos. We look confused until Michael pulls out the card of the photographer in Savannah who shot Robby in the trees and took formal shots of us as a group.
“What were you doing in Savannah?”
“Jack’s gay uncles wanted to stop there. We ended up doing a couple of songs in a drag show. Tim and I stripped to Abba’s Mama Mia and then four of us did ‘We are the Champions’ for all the queens there.”
“So, you did four shows at Southern road houses, a drag show, a teen sock hop at a storefront church, and a battle of the bands with the Springsteen band in Asbury Park, all this last week?”
“It’s our Spring Break. Gotta take advantage of the opportunities while you can,” Michael crows.
“How come the Easter services? Don’t the Churches ban that kind of music?”
We go into a long explanation about Teen Jesus and how well kids respond to us. We even invoked Pope John the twenty-third and Vatican II.
“Saving the world with rock and roll?” he asks.
“More like letting kids be themselves instead of closed off.”
Landau decides he will hang out with us for Easter.
“Hope you smoke pot,” Hippie tells him.
“I’ve been known to. I just don’t inhale.”
Andy’s assistant calls down for us to come upstairs to meet the man. Landau comes with.
“I do remember you,” Andy gushes when we walk in. “The fresh-faced boy down in the gutter with NY degenerates. Where is that crazy cousin of yours?”
“Joey’s living with Doug Weston from the Troubador in West Hollywood.”
“Always chasing the brass ring on the fame merry-go-round. Tell him we want him back.”
“I will. These are my band mates, Jack, Michael, and Hippie. Would you like us do an a Capella song for you?”
“Why not? Anything, but Rock and Roll.”
Jack and I look at each other and nod, before launching into our Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes.’ Jack solos the intro.
“Wonderful,” he claps his hands. “That’s my kind of rock n roll.”
We do an encore of Gerswin’s ‘It‘s Wonderful, It‘s Marvelous.”
“What can I say?”
“Anything goes,” we answer.
“I’m taking you to lunch. Coming, too, Jon?”
“I have to now. They just spent the evening with my newest prodigy. Now I’m afraid he’ll be doing show tunes, too.”
“Don’t worry about Bruce. He’s hung up between being a folkie or a rocker.”
“Think he’ll ever finish that hit I need, ‘American Runaway Dream?’”
“It’s now called ‘Born to Run.’”
“That sounds more like you guys.”
“He asked us why we’re so energetic. We said we’re born to run. He adopted it. He also added some doo wop from the fifties, like we do in our pop song.”
“Hey, I’m producing this album.”
“Hell, Bruce knows what a hit is, he just gets hung up on wanting to be a poet, like Dylan.”
“So your answer is to be carefree teens?”
“He thinks he’s old at 25. Teens will be his fans for a lifetime.”
“You’re predicting this?”
“We all know who he is. We’re just waiting for him to write songs for us.”
“Instead of for the critics like me?”
“Well, you grew up in the 50s. Elvis was King.”
“They do an Elvis cover.”
“Yeah, he played it last night when we did our battle of the bands.”
“What did you do?”
“’Teddy Bear.’ We won that round, if only because we smoked out the audience.”
“Jesus. I don’t need something like that to deal with. What have you done to my artist?”
I pull out a joint. “Okay to light up, Andy.”
“Why not. Jon asked for it. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him flummoxed.”
After smoking out, Andy declares we have to go eat. Even artists get the munchies. We walk across Union Square to Max’s Kansas City. As we are seated, Andy sees Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorpe and asks them to join us.
“You should shoot these boys. Tim and Jack are lovers,” Andy remarks to Robert, the photo artist.
Having just gotten stoned, Jack goes and sits on Robert’s lap and starts flirting.
“Hey. He’s my boyfriend,” Patti complains.
“Well, Tim’s mine. We can share.”
I comply by moving my chair next to her’s. There is something reptilian about her that is kind of a turn-on. We stare into each other’s eyes, daring each other to blink. She is ferociously stubborn. I blink first.
“You are cute,” she admits. “Andy, we’re playing here tonight. Why don’t you bring the boys over. They can get on stage”
“Je ne sais quoi. They just did Gerswin and Cole Porter for me. I don’t want to ruin that memory by watching them do your brand of raucous rock.”
“We’ll come,” Jack enthuses, not knowing what he is in for.
“Alright. Be here by midnight.” Everything starts later in the City.
By this time, Jack is actively making out with Robert. I follow his lead with Patti, until Andy announces we are ruining his breakfast. Jack’s manners kick in. We move back to our original seats.
“Thank you. Someone has manners,” and Andy pats Jack’s hand.
Jon pulls out a notebook, but is chagrined when Andy gives him an icy look.
“I think I’m jealous,” I whisper to Jack.
“Casper is turning him on, not me.” He responds. “I think we should get it on for him, so we can have professional photos.”
“I’m calling Mummy.”
“Oh shit, don’t be a drag. Why? Are you jealous?”
“I’m not turned on by either of them, but you are, at least with him.”
“It’s just the pot. I can’t help myself.”
“Being with Andy is like really being ourselves, even the comic book versions of ourselves. I like it.”
Andy was giving us the ‘eye.’
“Shh,” Jack warns. It is bad manners to whisper.
“Sorry, Andy. We’re thinking the same thing and had to confirm it. We like being with you.”
I throw my arms around him, just as Jack and Casper do the same thing. We are so surprised at ourselves that we jump back quickly.
“You were whispering about attacking me?”
“More like we’re so happy to be with you. Sorry we were whispering.”
“Our manners are usually better,” Jack smooths over the moment.
“Now is when you ask me for money.”
“Only if you like paying. We are receptive either way.”
Jack tries to explain. “We are totally being ourselves right now. You are an incredible host. See how Michael and Hippie are so used to our gay antics, they just ignore it. Hippie’s sharing our room at the Chelsea because he gets his own bed.”
I can tell Jack is going to go too far.
I pulled on his sleeve, “Remember the no kiss and tell rule.”
I take over explaining. “When we go out, it’s a performance. But with you, it’s the real us. You bring out the best in us. You’re an incredible host.”
“Well, you’re too old to sit in my lap, as you did when you were 14. You’re more than a big boy now.
“Show your manners, Tim,” Jack nudges me. I air-kissed Andy twice, and then lip locked briefly. I am blushing. Robert pulls out his camera.
Jack stated, “Another rule we have is the sex pact. We always share.” He kisses Andy as well. Robert gets the shot.
“I gotta go piss me a river,” Patti gets up and leaves.
I am waiting for her when she comes out of the Ladies.
“Don’t scam a scammer, buddy.”
“I’ll be your buddy. The thing is Jack is acting out, making me jealous because we are going to the Bronx to meet my old girlfriend. Things have calmed down, now that he’s coming on to Andy, if you can grok that.”
“We just call it queer. The English say bent.”
“You two going to pose for Robert today?”
“We’re going to the Bronx, remember?”
‘Why would anyone go to the Bronx?”
“So Jack can meet my girlfriend.”
“Why do you have a girlfriend in the Bronx?”
“I courted her for a week before she decided she liked me. I was 14 and she was 13.”
“A long distance relationship?”
“We stare at the same stars at night to remember how close we really are.”
“And she’s a Virgo?”
“How did you know?”
“You were 14 and safe for a girl. She must really like you.”
“Yeah. That seems like what I need, just that someone really likes me.”
“Jack really likes you. Don’t mess that up.”
“Yeah. It’ll be a soap opera this evening.”
“Well, come to our show here tonight. You guys can do a couple of songs. I’ll be able to tell you how it goes.”
“Hey, I’m only 28.”
She hits me on the arm. We return to Andy’s table arm in arm and sit with Robert.
“Hey, now you’re hitting on my partner.”
“You snooze, you lose.”
Jack is sitting close to Andy. He gives me a wink.
“Still wanna go meet Tina?” I ask him.
“For sure. That’s why we drove 1500 miles.”
We say goodbye to the group, thanking Andy for lunch. Jon Landau gets up to come with. We tell him to meet us back at Max’s Kansas City that night, as we need to be alone with Tina. He shrugs.
I turn to Robert, “Any way to keep that photo of Andy and Jack out of the press?”
“I’m not a paparazzi hack. Come to our studio and do a series of shots. We’ll put them in an exhibit. I will give Andy and you a print.”
“Thanks. We’ll make time,” I answer. Then I lean over and give ‘Mom’ Smith a real kiss.
“Oh, you nasty boys,” Andy waves us away.
The four of us walk back to the Chelsea. I call Tina’s number from the lobby and am told in Spanish she will be home from school after 3. When I walk into our room, Michael is all upset.
“Something’s wrong with Robby and Iggy. I can’t wake them up and Max is moaning. I think they’ve taken some kind of drug.”
“No. He’s just upset.”
We rush next door. I know the second I see them what is wrong. Just like Joey, they’re nodding out from heroin. We must get them to a hospital. They’re cold and clammy, but still breathing shallowly.
“Help me get them into the bath tubs. We’ve got to get their circulation moving.”
The four of us drag them into each bathroom. We pull their clothing off and dump them into the tubs. They don’t fully revive but are sputtering and muttering from the cold. After about twenty minutes we pull them out and stick them into separate beds.
“When they wake up, they’ll probably puke, so get waste baskets ready by the beds.”
“How come you know how to handle this?” Michael asks.
“My cousin Joey. He’s a junkie. I saw him nodding several times. Once he totally OD’d. I had to revive of him with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”
“We should call the medics.”
“They’ll be arrested.”
“Shit. What if they die? We’ll be arrested.”
“They’re not going to die. But we have to stay with them and make sure they don’t stop breathing. Or throw up and breathe it into their lungs.”
“Jesus, Tim. I don’t want them to die,” Michael is almost crying.
“Calm down. If it gets worse, we’ll call an ambulance.”
We sit around, watching them. No one wants to talk. I grab my SG and play Pink Floyd licks. Casper is agitated. He signs that he sees their spirits hovering over their comatose bodies. I play ‘Wish You were Here.’ Jack and I sing the lyrics softly to them. (1:18)
“So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue sky’s from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
And how we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
Songwriters: WATERS, ROGER/GILMOUR, DAVID JON
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., IMAGEM U.S. LLC
I haven’t cried for a long time (for me), but the tears roll down my cheeks. Robbie is my first friend after swim team. He wanted us to be boyfriends, but it never happened. I almost killed him myself because he is such a dickhead, but I still love him. I think about Jace’s death. Just when everything seems perfect, life crushes your little hopes and dreams.
Max barks, then jumps up on Iggy’s bed, licking Iggy’s face. Iggy’s eyes fly open. He swats Max away. Max just barks at him. Everyone crowds around. Jack tries to hug him, but he is swatted away, too.
“What, the fuck?” Iggy slurs the words.
“You OD’d,” Jack tells him.”
“Where are my clothes?” he demands. “I knew you fags would try something.”
Michael defends us, “This fag,” he points at me, “saved your life. We were going to call the medics.”
“Shit. I’d be in jail now. Sorry, Tim, I don’t mean it.”
He’s too woozy to get up. Hippie gets his clothes from the bathroom. He dresses himself slowly.
“Whatta ya lookin’ at?”
“You, ya big lug. Just ‘cause Iggy Pop’s a junkie, don’t mean you havta be,” Michael tells him.
With all the commotion, we don’t notice that Robby is back. He sits up and barfs all over himself. We are too late with the waste basket. He falls back and is out again. It really stinks up the room. The color comes back to his face. It is a positive sign. Maybe the Great Spring Break is not ending there in the Chelsea.
Finally, things settle down. Now we are angry at them. We are not their parents. After a week on the road, there is a sense of group protectiveness. They promise not to do it again.
I tell them we are going to play a few songs at Max’s Kansas City that night. If they are too drowsy, it will be okay. I want to save our Monkey song for CBGB’s, so can be a surprise. We will see what the vibe is tonight and play to it, probably ‘Sneakin’ Around’ and ‘Look Before You Leap’.