I call Jack. He wants me to show up for the football in Cambridge that weekend. It seems silly when things are going so well here. I want to be on my way to LA by then. He throws a fit. So much for phone sex. Anyway, I really shouldn’t be getting off in the public phone booth at the Chelsea. I decide to show up for football as a surprise. He needs to get over himself and his possessive ways. I fail to mention my new roommates, Monte and Paul. They jump up and greet me when I get to my room. Jealousy sex is great. I push any guilt about Jack out of mind. Blair has told me that Andy will be at Studio 54 that night. After group sex, we sleep until it’s time to hit the clubs, sometime after midnight.
Andy is in the VIP section, waving us over. He looks at my all black outfit, noting I look morbid. I tell him that I’m working with Edward Gorey.
“That totally explains it. Isn’t he a bit old for you?”
Figuring that Andy is testing me, I slide next to him and we make out until flashbulbs warn us we’re being stalked.
“You may have given Andy a heart attack. He didn’t expect you to turn him on.”
“It was strictly spontaneous. I love Andy and wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings. Sometimes I get carried away. I would never threaten our friendship.”
“So, just friends still?”
“Jesus, Blair. Don’t be managing his feelings or mine,” and I kiss him to keep everything even. His hard-on tells me I’m out of control again. Well, I’m celebrating my hiring by the National Lampoon.
Monte and Paul take the brunt of my testosterone driven exuberance with mad crazy fucking back at the Chelsea. I don’t get into the office until noon. Someone else has taken the Automat orders for lunch. I’m famished from not eating for 24 hours. PJ shares his sandwich.
“Your probation period has turned out much differently than I expected,” he summarizes my interview process.
“So, I’m on probation?”
“No. In three days, you’ve recruited my oldest staff member to promote a reunion of the biggest rock band of the century. You shut down the assholes who treat you like a lowly freshman intern. Then you get your future boss to hire you before I, your current boss, can decide to have him do so, And now you’ve convinced me, without you even asking, to pay you more than most of these jerks make here in the City to work in the lowest cost of living city in the country. I assume you’ll want my job next.”
We both laugh. “I’m still hungry. Let’s go get another sandwich to split,” he suggests.
I grab Gorey as we walk out, so we could go to the Dakota rehearsal after lunch. I don’t dare drag PJ,. I know the chemistry we now have in the Dakota/Beatle band is too exceptional to risk upsetting. I want Gorey to be an unspoken presence, so he can capture the whole atmosphere of Dakota with his Goth sensibility.
Rehearsal is an unending jam. I start on rhythm guitar, channeling my inner George, while Jules and his dad fight it out for leads. Nina’s on bass, easily working with Ringo’s beat and tempo. I explain my populist performance aesthetic: asking for requests. Everyone has to play every pop song from memory. When Julian is better at it than his dad, he explains that he has Jace in his heart to show him the way. John tries as hard as he can to accept Jace without success. Julian is frustrated and pulls out the bong. Father and son reunion. Jace is now an unofficial half-Beatle.
Ringo has an unending knowledge of 50’s rock songs. We quickly adapt into a dance/sock-hop cover band.
Finally, I exasperatedly complain, “Can’t we at least play one Beatles song?”
“Those greedy bastards won’t let anyone else play their songs,” John explains how Paul’s new wife’s father locked up the Beatles legacy.
“How about ‘A Little Help from my Friends?” Julian suggests.
“That’s a Joe Cocker song,” I play smarty pants.
We end the jam with that classic, agreeing to use it at the Youth Group concert.
“Explain to me why we’re playing for runaway kids?” John is always the cynic.
“They’re me friends, Da. Tim’s best mate Jace. was abused and killed by his older brother. The Church believes Jace wants it to shelter kids like him,” Julian explains.
“Why are they listening to a dead kid?”
“Jesus,” John moans.
“See. Even you listen,” Jules snarks.
“Don’t be putting words inta me mouth,” John shakes his head.
Ringo hits the drum set with an introductory roll. I recognized it is ‘Great Balls O’Fire,’ by Jerry Lee Lewis.
We all join in and John can’t help himself from shaking it. He and Julian end up playing back to back, collapsing into each other’s arms at the ending. I can’t help myself and start into “A Whole Lotta of Shakin’
Arguments about Church and Country are lost in the excitement of old-time rock.
Gorey has gone to find Yoko. We find them in her work space, collaborating on more Gothic prints. Edward sketches a scary scene and Yoko uses paint to add depth and color. The scene they depict is a young girl falling down a steep staircase. Nina loves it.
I use the phone to reach Aaron and Paul, making sure they’ll bring the Temple el-Emanuel Jace’s Place group to St Patrick’s on Thursday night. They know all about the performance, Jace having told their hearts what is up. I feel their yearning to be with me.
“Tomorrow,” I answer their unspoken question. “We’ll make time to catch up.”
I shiver thinking they’re the same age as Tommy. Will I feel sexual from their trusting love? Also, I need them as ambassadors to the youth groups. At 18, I really am an adult now, in college and everything.
Gorey is reveling in the freedom to roam about the Cathedral. It is so Gothic. I want his illustrations to catch the whole atmosphere. Everything is set for the next day’s youth group performance. Father Frank promises to include the Black kids from Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist. I remembered how cavernous St Patrick’s is with seating for 3,000. I tell Father Frank to reserve the front row pews for the 300 Jace’s Places kids, leaving the remaining 2700 seats open to those ‘in the know.’ No need to publicize this performance. The ‘word’ will get out about a half-Beatles reunion. Ringo has been showing up on McCartney’s Wings tour, jumping on stage for their encores. Getting back together with John is special. We have to make sure the music is special. It’s The Beat; it is special.
Gorey asks me to come by his studio in the East Village. He is a big guy, roly poly, with a mustache. Lennon refers to him as the ‘walrus. John and I do an impromptu version for Yoko when she and Edward are working in her studio space.
“’You are the eggman’,” John tells her when we’re done. Edward is oblivious. I feel ridiculous that my only adult friends in the City are so old. I don’t consider Monte and Paul adults. Maybe I really am an adult. Oh, the horror.
Gorey’s studio is actually a separate work space in a large walk-up apartment in an old building. It is not Alphabet City. He states he has been there since after World War II. I insist he show me all the prints and actual canvases he is working on. He’s more than an illustrator, with a complete artistic aesthetic and sensibility. He glows from my praise. He’s a successful artist but suffers from the critics’ label of being ‘middlebrow.’ There is a sketch of a slug reclining on a couch that strikes me as the perfect metaphor for Julian’s pothead attitude.
I start laughing and hug Edward. It surprises him at first. He relaxes and allows me to show my affection. In WASP pose, he remains aloof.
“You know I’m gay, right?” I give him permission.
“Everyone knows, Tim.”
“You don’t mind me being physical?”
“It’s quite nice,” he admits but makes no moves of his own.
“Let’s go out and eat,” he suggests.
“Um, I really can’t afford it.” I’m down to about twenty bucks of my expense money.
“Heavens, Tim. You got PJ to pay me a $1500 advance for tomorrow’s show. I can at least celebrate with you. Let’s go to the Stage Door Deli on Vesey Street.”
“Do they have pizza?”
“Yes. It’s what makes them special compared to a hundred other New York deli’s.”
I’m in teen heaven, finishing off a large pepperoni and onion while Edward has a Reuben sandwich, half of which I eat at his suggestion, the New York favorite. He just orders another Reuben as takeout for later.
The Reuben is pretty good. I’d never had corned beef before. The sauerkraut is really sour, perfect for German Nazis, I joke.
He doesn’t find that funny, a World War II vet. I don’t tell him my Armand Hammer story.
Back at his apartment I perform the whole ‘Cabaret’ set we had done with Liza and Elton. He has an old standup piano. Jace shows up in time to help me tinkle the keys properly. Nice to have a musical genius on call in time for a command performance. We drink sherry which I find way too sweet. It creeps up on you. I wake up tucked next to him on his couch. He has blanket on me. He’s been a perfect gentleman. Maybe he’s not gay, just old and alone. Perusing his library, I find several Tony awards as well as published books he wrote. As a Harvard graduate, he has done better than Burroughs, escaping SRO hell.
I excuse myself and race back to the Chelsea, knowing Monte and Paul will be going out clubbing soon. They aren’t surprised I fell asleep after performing.
Off we go to Studio 54. I’ve only been there once but already have VIP status. The three of us go to the head of the line at the door. We sit at Andy’s table behind the velvet chain, even though Andy is not there. Soon Monte and Paul’s friends join us. I tell the bar waitress that Andy is paying. I promise myself to pay him back.
Soon I regale our group about the Beat’s performance the next night. Most feigned fear of attending Church. The hint of a Beatles reunion creates a frenzy of gossip. I know we’ll have no trouble filling the empty Cathedral’s pews. I’m sure PJ will have his own entourage. The three of us drink champagne and dance the night away. I fall asleep once we’re back at the Chelsea. That’s twice in one night. It doesn’t slow Monte and Paul down. I’m not sure that I participated or it was just another teenage wet dream. There is hot water for the shower in the morning, not an everyday occurrence. My country ways are fading fast as I don’t wake up until 10 am. Arriving at the Lampoon offices at noon is not considered decadent in the City where the clubs stay busy until 4 am or later. I brief PJ on the plans for the evening performance. He lets me know to expect him and his friends. I promise reserved seating for my boss. Edward laughs when I explain how the later hours of my evening had gone. He considers clubbing a lost phase of his youth. He shows me the drawings he’s already done from his visits to the Cathedral and the Dakota. It captures the atmosphere of our setting. It will be my job to capture the narrative. PJ expects a scoop on a Beatles reunion. I want to highlight the Jace’s Place kids’ plight. Thinking how we explained writing composition papers to Minehan (CAST – character, action, setting and theme), I need to establish a theme for the night. Looking at Gorey’s drawings, I see a cross between Greek tragedy (Julian’s oedipus conflict) and medieval Goth horror (in the Church atmosphere). I feel so complex.
After a lunch run to the Automat for PJ and my favorite staffers, Edward and I plan to proceed to the Dakota for a final rehearsal of The Beat band. The name strikes me as a perfect chance to involve my favorite Beat writer, Bill Burroughs. It’s early, so we make a detour to the Chelsea. After banging on his door for five minutes, Burroughs appears, disheveled and grumpy. He and Gorey hit it off right away, confirming my Goth theme for the night.
“I’m performing tonight,” I tell him. “Please come and read something as an invocation. It’s at St Patrick’s.”
“The Catholics rejected me a long time ago. I doubt they want me spewing my ideas at church.”
“We got John Lennon to join our band. He once said he was more important than Jesus.”
“This is a coup? the takeover of a world religion?”
“Just the Cathedral. The Church has opened up since you were ex-communicated.”
I promise to have a limo pick him up at 6:30. The Youth Group starts at 7:30, an ungodly time for NYC scenesters.
Rehearsal goes well. We play mostly early 60’s dance songs, like ‘Twist and Shout,’ which is a song the early Beatles covered. Also, ‘Roll over Beethoven’, ‘Long Tall Sally,’ ‘Rock and Roll Music,’ and ‘Kansas City.’ We also do Elvis’s ‘I got a Woman’ to be ready for an encore. John insists we not do songs he wrote with Paul McCartney to avoid problems with Paul’s new wife Linda, who’s father is the music lawyer. I plead for ‘Hey, Jude,’ changing it to the original ‘Hey, Jules,’ as a mood setting introduction for all the Jace’s Place’s kids who have been abandoned. Father and son have a long conversation about their issues, finally agreeing this is John’s attempt to bridge the gap after his divorce from Julian’s mother, Cynthia. Jules is a bit teary-eyed once it’s agreed to start the set with his song. I explain why Burroughs will open the concert with a poem. John instantly gets the Beat connection. Ringo laughs when John explains who Burroughs is. Jace signs ‘serendipity’ to me. Our spirits are up-beat while the mood descends into Dark Ages Goth.
Yoko prepares a special noodles dinner for us. I go down to the Dakota Concierge desk and arrange for a limo to transport our equipment and instruments to St Patrick’s and to collect Burroughs from the Chelsea. Feeling unnaturally friendly toward Jack’s cousins, I go to the Stone apartment and reveal the surprise Beatles reunion we’re organizing. Having fallen off the A-list at Collegiate, they are inspired to let all their social-climbing friends know about the event. I don’t promise Page Six but they’re hopeful. I now call them Bent and Tent.
At the Cathedral I’m in full-on performance mode, taking care of the equipment set-up and sound check. I ask Father Frank to orchestrate the seating, making sure the kids are up front and center; I ask that the Jewish kids be in the first pews. The youth group kids can host the Jace’s Places kids. I get to briefly say hello to Aaron and Paul. They are laughing at me while I run around organizing.
Cardinal Cooke will have his own section where we can put PJ and his hipster friends. The Studio 54 crowd will be on the opposite side of the aisle. Bent and Tent’s friends are to be banished to the back pews. I’m so happy that Father Frank is in charge now.
Bill Burroughs is sitting in the ready room with John and Ringo, regaling them with tales of drug escapades with Paul Bowles in 1950s Marrakesh Morocco .
“You should meet the Maharishi,” John tells him – adult talk.
“Good evening. My name is Tim Castle. Cardinal Cooke wants to welcome you to his Cathedral. He’ll speak about the Jace’s Place program for homeless youth. Jace was my best friend and his last words were “Protect the Kids.” The Cardinal will tell you how we’re doing. Cardinal Cooke.”
As the Cardinal speaks, I notice for the first time that the Cathedral is filled. The word has gotten out. Jace is holding hands with the Cardinal, who doesn’t notice him, as he speaks about him. Once he finishes, I introduce Burroughs.
“I know many of you are here for a semi Beatles reunion. We’re calling the band, The Beat, half of The Beatles. So, in the spirit of the Beat Generation, William Burroughs will introduce us to his latest poem, ‘Fear and the Monkey.’
Burroughs shuffles out, surprised by the 3000 strong audience. He expected a poetry reading to 20 or so patrons. He clears his throat and reads his work.
‘Fear and the Monkey’
‘Turgid itch and the perfume of death
On a whispering south wind
A smell of abyss and of nothingness
Dark Angel of the wanderers howls through the loft
With sick smelling sleep Morning dream of a lost monkey
Born and muffled under old whimsies
With rose leaves in closed jars
Fear and the monkey
Sour taste of green fruit in the dawn
The air milky and spiced with the trade winds
White flesh was showing
His jeans were so old
Leg shadows by the sea
On the sky light of a little shop
On the odor of cheap wine in the sailors’ quarter
On the fountain sobbing in the police courtyards
On the statue of moldy stone
On the little boy whistling to stray dogs.
Wanderers cling to their fading home
A lost train whistle wan and muffled
In the loft night taste of water
Morning light on milky flesh
Turgid itch ghost hand
Sad as the death of monkeys
Thy father a falling star
Crystal bone into thin air
Dispersal and emptiness. ‘
Originally published as William S. Burroughs, “Fear and the Monkey,” Pearl 6 (Odense, Denmark: Fall/Winter 1978). Collected in The Burroughs File, City Lights, 1984. Republished by RealityStudio in August 2010.
Poetry hardly excites a rock n roll crowd, but I’m going for effect. Time to bring out the band.
“Can’t get much more serious than poetry,” I joke. “Y’all ready fer some rock n roll? Let me introduce to you, the one and only Billy Shears. Oops, wrong band. We’re the Beat, Nina Bernstein on bass, ready to rock her father Leonard; Julian Lennon, lead guitarist, His dad, John, second lead guitar, Ringo Starr, on drums, and I’m just Tim, doing rhythm. You expect some Beatles, so here we go. For all those who have found a home at Jace’s Place, here’s a song the Beatles wrote for Jules when he felt he had been abandoned, ‘Hey Jules.’”
As we planned, I take the Paul role and sing the lyrics, while John and Julian trade licks on lead guitar. Once the chorus starts, Julian starts to slump under the emotion. Nina immediately comes over and sings the ‘dah dah da dah’s’ with him, holding him on one side, while John holds him the other side. The Baptist kids are on their feet right from the start of the song, waving their arms in the air, hoping to catch God’s attention. The song does go on for a long time. I know to stop before Julian is a complete mess.
“Well, Julian knows he’s safe now. We want Jace’s Place to be a safe place for anyone, regardless of their parents, famous or not. So it’s time to party,” I scream, “’Twist and Shout.’ John and Julian take the mic and sing the lyrics together.
The kids move into the aisle and are doing their version of the Twist, the girls shaking it as the boys rotate themselves. We do a string of dance songs,
ending with the Joe Cocker song that the Beatles took as their own, ‘A Little Help from My Friends.’ Ringo and I exchange places as he sings with John, while I maintain a simple, steady beat on drums. We encourage everyone to sing along, even if they ‘sing out of key.’
It’s the song we ended with the last time. John runs over to where Yoko is sitting, bringing her to her feet and bowing to the audience. Julian is having none of it.
“But Da, we have a final song to do,” motioning him to come back to the band. Yoko looks confused, until Julian motions for her to come up, too.
“What song are you talking about, son,” John pretends he was in the dark.
Julian plays the leads to ‘Oh, Yoko,” singing to the Dragon Lady. John acts surprised but quickly joins him on the upbeat intro.
Not everyone understands the family dynamic. I pick up my guitar and Ringo gets back on the drums after I whisper, ‘Gimme Shelter.’ He laughs that we’re ending with their arch rivals, the Stones. I step up to the mic.
“Okay, not everyone can solve their family issues. That’s why there’s Jace’s Place, to keep the kids safe.
‘Oh, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Songwriters: KEITH RICHARDS, MICK JAGGER
© Abkco Music, Inc.
“That’s it folks. Thanks to Cardinal Cooke and all his assistants, not only for this concert, but for all the kids who now have a place off the mean streets.”
Father Frank and Cardinal Cooke greet everyone as they leave. I’m observing my handiwork at the top of the steps. I’m shocked to see my ex-boss Marty Scorsese approach me. I’m at a loss for words.
“I thought you never wanted to see me again. The movie isn’t terrible”
“Yeah, well, my fate is in the hands of the studios, while you keep redeeming yourself. Now, the Beatles? I shoulda done a movie about them, not your teenage cover band.”
“I totally agree.”
“I see my underage interns are doing well.”
“Julian needed something to break the ice with his dad. Nina remains the chosen one.”
“What are we doing about my Jace movie?”
“Andy’s lined up the LA County Museum to sponsor a tour of his portraits. Can we hope that you’ll include our movie?”
“It’s my movie, kid. Whether you understand that seems irrelevant. I’ll get together with Warhol and re-edit the original. Teenage faggots are not a selling point. You may not like what I do to clean it up.”
“You’re the genius. I trust you to sell the project. I’m off to Hollywood as a musical coordinator on a National Lampoon movie. I have no interest in being an actor.”
“Great. As long as you’re out there, I won’t worry about you sabotaging my work. How did you get the LA art crowd’s support?”
“Jack and I put on a little demonstration for those Jewish fascists.”
“I can see you ‘Sieg Heiling’ for them.”
“Just about,” I laugh.
While everyone else goes out to eat, Gorey and I go back to his studio and compose the article with all his gothic drawings to go with my description of the concert. The Cathedral looks like a World War II bombed-out ruin, with the kids depicted as Dickens-era orphans being abused at a workhouse. Jules looks like Tiny Tim and his dad resembles Scrooge. Yoko comes off as beatific, a guardian angel to her step-child. I like the theme but feel we have to do some drawings of the band playing. Gorey relents, but what he does looks more like Christmas carolers than rockers. It is Victorian-era industrial revolution squalor, not American Disney utopia. He makes me look like a gnome. Ringo has a bit of Dr Seuss’s Grinch to him. All in all, it is perfect for the coming Christmas issue.
I sleep at Gorey’s and we present the article to PJ on Friday morning. He is conflicted on whether to publish it immediately or wait for the actual Christmas season. He starts getting calls from other publications and the press. His hipster guests spread the word of a Beatles reunion. I’m ordered to do a journalistic article instead of what Gorey and I did, which PJ calls fantasy. It will be published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He promises to edit my writing, thinking I’m not up to the Times’ standards. I feel slighted as he dismisses us in order to sell the exclusive to the newspapers.
“I’m splitting the commission between the two of you,” as he hands us each a check for $2500. “When I told the Times that the Post wants the exclusive, they upped their offer.”
“I guess the Beatles still sell,” I joke.
“It’s better than if they died. Don’t sell yourself short. You made it happen. The family human interest factor is killer.”
My only regret is I had planned to surprise Jack and the gang at Harvard for the football weekend. My Times deadline means I’ll show up on Saturday, not Friday night at the Ritz. What a sacrifice. PJ has a lot of editing to do on the flowery article I gave to him as a first draft. I go along with all his edits, just to get out of there. It still means working late into Friday night. Once it is couriered to the Times, he takes me to dinner. We go to Elaine’s on the Upper Eastside, where I see Woody Allen eating with either Mia Farrow or a really young Asian girl. Thinking about ‘Annie Hall’ excites me knowing I’ll soon be back in Hollywood.
“Well, you passed the audition, Tim. The movie will pay you $200 a week to coordinate the sound track. Call the office tomorrow and arrange for an airline reservation. I hear you’re down to your last five dollars from what Kurt gave you for expenses.” He hands me several twenties.
“I don’t even have a bank account. I’ll use the check to open one in LA.”
“Somehow I’m not worried that you’ll make it out there.”
I almost sing our New York New York song but keep my mouth shut.
“I hope you’ll give me reports on how the shoot is going. They plan on starting after New Year’s.” PJ is sounding like Kurt, wanting me to be his spy.
“I already have my Miami lawyer to do the rights and contracts for the music. John says the Chris Miller guy is demanding control over everything, including the music. I’ll have to get him to listen to me. I’m glad to chat with you regularly but I can’t be a spy on the production company’s set.”
PJ gives me a funny look and pauses before responding. “Who gives you all this advice. You’re barely 18 and act like a movie mogul.”
“Jack’s dad treats me like his own son.”
“Yeah, he set me up with Milton Feldstein at Harvard. I have to write a business school case study on the production.”
“He told you to get a lawyer?”
“He said I may need one. The band already has Mike Antonio as our manager. His assistant Jay is a specialist on entertainment law. He agreed to do the legal work.”
“If you’re worried that Chris Miller or anyone in LA thinks you’re a spy, I wouldn’t mention you have a law firm on retainer. They think you’re just a kid with rock and roll experience.”
“That’s me, just a kid in a band.”
“Okay. Keep me in the loop.”
We go back to the food in front of us. I think he feels intimidated. I have a college football game to get ready for.