The Green Room is chaos with press and photographers pursuing the stars. Michael, Amar and I do not attend, turning around and exiting the Casino. The Lakefront kids are milling about outside. We are their stars, or at least the band members most like themselves. I get interrogated about my kissing Freddie. I use my New English skill to deflect their questions in French, non-committal ‘oui, d’accord, & bien sur.’ They realize my French skills are too limited for an interrogation. We are off the hook. Amar, the local hero, is more popular, le roi de liste des invités.
Amar is afraid to call home, knowing he will face instant grounding, but we insist. He gets through to his sister who takes a message that he is hanging out with local friends. Our involvement is not mentioned.
We walk to the Lakefront where many fans gather. With no gendarmes in sight, I strip to my briefs and run into the water, swimming directly away from shore. A girl desperately tries to follow me, but after ten meters I need to rescue her. I use my lifesaving skills to pull her ashore. She asks me to do resusitation bouche-à-boucher. I fail to fall for her seduction plot. She gets up and flounces away. I swim away with more proficient swimmers. Floating on our backs we observe the nighttime scene in Montreux from a watery perspective. The city is lit up while we float in the dark, a small pod of human dolphins.
“Ce nuit etait incroyable,” one boy slaps me on the back.
We start splashing and dunking each other. I am so worked up that I pop halfway out of the water, yelling, “Whahooo!”
They ask me all sorts of questions about playing guitar and keyboard, generally asking for help getting a band together.
“A demain,” I promise to get them started.
Spirity appears again, diving into the water and flying out like a dolphin. The kids only see the splash and the trail of his wake. I splash water on him and a watery shadow is visible.
“C’est mon ami, l’esprit du rock n roll.”
They all splash him, as he sits in the water next to me, looking like a snow man with all the water running down his shadow.
One boy tries to hug him. His arms pass right through the shadow. The boys are spooked. Spirity flies up above us with water streaming off him like a fireworks rocket. People on the shore notice the display. I telepathically tell him to go ashore where he can meet his fans.
‘They won’t see me unless they love me,’ he contends, the needy jerk.
‘They loved you when you played with us tonight. I’ll explain that you took over my body and played with the band.’
We sit next to Michael and Amar who still need lessons about night swimming. They both can see Spirity. Amar explains to the others that we are imbued with the spirit of rock n roll.
“Si vous le voyez, vous avez l’esprit aussi. (If you see him, you will be too.)
Apparently, many of the kids already love and see Spirity, pushing forward to touch him. The first few scream when their hands pass right through him. Spirity flies straight up about ten meters and laughs at the new fans.
‘You used to call me Casper,’ Spirity recalls an old memory.
‘You don’t like Spirity?’
‘It sounds weird.’
‘Okay,’ I relent and tell everyone, “his name is Casper. il s’appelle Casper.”
They laugh, knowing the American Cartoon character.
I hear a familiar ‘woof,’ and a black dog appears next to Casper.
The kids are now more skittish. I remember the ghosts we were told about at Chillon Castle. The Swiss have a healthy respect for the supernatural.
‘Who is that dog?’ I ask Casper.
‘You don’t remember Max?’
“I told you about Max.” Michael is listening in to our telepathy. “He was shot at the Skynyrd concert.”
‘He wants something,’ Casper states.
‘What do you want, Max.’
The dog jumps up and runs to a guy sitting by the Lake.
‘Woof.’ He barks again.
“That guy’s holding.’ Casper announces.
“Hey,” I yell at the guy. “Break it out. I know you’re holding.”
“Comment le sais-tu?” the guy looks surprised I know.
“Max dit que vous avez du pot (Max says you have pot).”
“Bien sur,” the guy takes out a joint, lights it and hands it to a kid next to him.
There is a scramble by the potheads to get in on the free weed. Max is right there, inhaling second-hand smoke.
Michael and I are in stitches. Amar is less amused. Soon other potheads are sharing their pot. It is Woodstock II.
‘Let’s go back to your house before everyone gets busted,’ Casper suggests.
Amar nods vigorously. He knows he is already on thin ice. Breaking the law is not in his wheelhouse of tricks.
We beat a hasty retreat. The crowd of kids barely notices our exit. Free pot trumps celebrity.
“Where have you been?” Freddie asks when we arrive at the Lake House.
“Swimming at the Lake,” I answer.
Casper and Max are standing next to me but none of the adults notice them. I am not sure if they should know that ghosts from my past are visiting. Feeling unwelcomed, the ghosts leave.
“You avoided the media rush after the concert,” Freddie notes.
“I didn’t want photos of me in the press,” Michael explains.
“All they wanted to know was if Queen has broken up,” David describes the press conference.
“Once the news hits London tomorrow morning, we’re sure to hear from the boys,” Freddie gloats. “I wonder what the reviews of the show will say. I think you did a great job, Boss. With the new songs we can go on without them.”
“You’re such a knob, Freddie,” I laugh. “The goal is to get them back, not replace them.”
“That MOOG was incredible,” David notes. “When you were singing with Freddie, it was playing on its own.”
“That was Casper,” I explain.
“Who’s Casper?” everyone asks.
“A ghost from my past. I have been hearing his voice in my head; I call him Spirity, the spirit of rock n roll.”
“He came with us to the Lake,” Michael explains, “with Laz’s dog, Max.”
“A ghost dog?” Freddie is incredulous.
“Yeah, he sniffs out anyone holding pot,” Amar pipes up.
“You smoked pot at the Lake?” Billy is jealous.
“No. We knew we’d be busted,” Michael denies any guilt. “We split.”
“I’m taking you home,” David insists.
“Don’t leave. Stay the night,” Freddie looks forlornly at David, whose reputation as a bisexual lothario is well known.
“What if the police show up looking for pot smokers from the Lake?’ David is protective of MJ.
“I’ll call Miami Beach. They can’t bust in here on the basis of seeing ghosts. The boys did nothing.”
“I need to go home,” Amar is totally shook up and knows there is hell to pay even if he is not busted.
“I’ll drive,” I volunteer.
“No,” everyone shouts, aware of my experience driving Bowie’s Aston Martin.
Jim is drafted to drive. We three teens jump in the front of the Rolls with him. He escorts Amar to his door and explains to the parents why Amar is late. The parents believe Jim but drag Amar inside. Hopefully the punishment is not corporal. We may not see our Lake friend for a while. He has packed a lifetime of memories in the past week. A little detention may boost his ‘cred’ among his peers at the Lake.
We finally get home after midnight and go straight to bed. Michael wants to talk about his dancing. I hug him and fall asleep on his shoulder. We wake up early and make coffee in the kitchen. Even Jim is sleeping in. Michael and I go to la patisserie to buy croissants. We buy copies of the local newspapers, Le News and the Daily News. We take our petite dejeuner outside by the pool and attempt to read the reviews of our show. Le News appears extremely reactionary, calling it a riot of youth and detailing the number of kids arrested for pot at the Lake. Lock your doors and shackle the kids. There is no mention about the quality of the show. That the kids love it is proof that rock n roll is controlled by the Devil. The next review in the Daily News is upbeat and positive. The reviewer has an extensive knowledge about Queen and is effusive about the new songs. He idolizes any and everything about David Bowie. He warns the original members of Queen that they need to compete for their place in the ‘New’ Queen. I am miffed that there is no critique of my role as well as Michael’s dancing. Michael is glad to stay out of the spotlight.
The phone rings for a long time before I answer it.
“Bonjoir. La residence de M. Mercury, Je suis Laz.”
“Laz are you the only ones up?” It is Henri with news about the London reaction. The New Musical Express (NME) has published a report on the show. He is getting bombarded with requests for interviews. The original band members are livid and have encouraged the record label to pursue legal steps to stop future shows or use the name Queen.
“Call Miami Beach and get his London people to put out our story. If the record company calls, explains that you are the head of Knobs Records and the Knobs are on your label.”
“What does Freddie say?”
“Freddie’s still asleep. You and Miami should be able to handle the Press. We want to speak with the band members personally. If you want to arrange a press conference, let us know.”
I’m beginning to despise that title. Freddie is the Boss.
Michael and I decide to have a swim lesson at the Lake. We had promised the kids last night to teach them as well. I knew no one else would be up until at least noon, ‘RocknRoll all night and sleep all day.’
The usual crowd at the lakefront has grown considerably. The local Gendarmerie is already keeping watch. The pot contingent is considerably diminished. I am told that all those arrested were turned over to their parents. No real consequences except for a few beatings.
“Are you here for swim lessons or just want to chat about the show?”
The vote is equally split.
“Well, let’s get cracking on the swimming. We can bullshit afterwards.”
Qu’est-ce que sais le ‘cracking?” a boy looks worried. I have not been using New English.
“Oh, pardone moi, commençons.”
There will be no cracking of their butts today after the cracking they got at home last night.
I divide them into two groups, swimmers and non-swimmers.
“Who is really proficient, competent?” I ask.
Several mention that they grew up in the mountains learning to swim up fast rushing streams.
“Vous estes les instructors,” I decide. I assign them to help the other swimmers become fully capable instructors. They all go further up the beach. I notice that the Gendarmes send a couple of their number to watch over the instruction in the water. Michael agrees to be with the less capable swimmers.
I tell the twenty-odd non-swimmers to sit and we will start with dry land instruction by me, le Champ, as I call myself. They look relieved to stay out of the water for now. Les Gendarmes are taking more notes. After a long discussion on how to conquer their fear of the water, I have everyone pair off with one another and proceed into waist high water. With help from their partners everyone learns to float and propel themselves on their backs. I have to keep an eye on those who start to float toward deeper water. It is like herding cats. I do some underwater breathing exercises and other drills that require they get their faces wet. After an hour, we call it quits. I move to the more proficient group. They are divided into two groups. The best swimmers are racing each other in relays out from the shore about fifty meters. Michael and the other beginners are cheering them on from the shore.
“It is time to take a break, faire une pause,” I tell the watchers to join the non-swimmers.
I swim out to the fifty meter spot and the whole group surrounds me.
“Having fun?” I ask. “Next time you need to help those less competent. Before we take a break, let’s all race back to the shore. Ready, set, Allez.”
I take off and easily beat everyone. I am so vain.
The first few finishers pair up, and we do the tandem butterfly dolphin act as the others straggle in. It looks like a shark feeding frenzy. They do not have sharks in Switzerland, right?
Michael sits on our towels, Everyone spreads out in concentric circles around us.
“Who went to the show last night?”
“It was huge,” I claim, “because of all the kids who supported Freddie and David. What did you think about Michael and Amar’s dancing?”
Several kids get up and attempt to ‘Moonwalk,’ with mixed results. Many others are standing, clapping and swaying.
“I sing, “Save me, save me” over and over.
The Gendarmes look concerned. We calm down.
“You don’t know but the word got to London and the music business is all atwitter. Find a copy of the NME and read all about yourselves.”
They looked confused by my English.
“NME nouvel express musical.”
They start clapping. I approach the Gendarme who has been taking notes.
“Monsieur, est-il possible d’avoir des cours de natation ici tous les jours?”
He smiles and nods, “S’il reste tranquille.”
“Certainement. A demain.”
I announce that swimming lessons are allowed every day at this time, les cours de natation sont autorisés tous les jours à cette heure.”
There is a big cheer. The gendarme waves to the crowd.
I gather the best swimmers and explain that they must take the lead by giving the lessons. Michael and I will not always be there. They are less than pleased. I have a brain fart and promise that Henri from the Casino will pay for their services from our share of last night’s tickets sales.
“Cinq francs de jour?” I still have no idea how much a Swiss franc is worth (about a dollar).
Everyone is excited about rock n roll swimming as I name it.
Back at the Lake House, David insists that Michael and he leave for Lausanne. Michael convinces him to stop at Amar’s house, worried that he is being punished. Before they leave, Henri and Miami show up with news from London.
“First I have the split from last night’s ticket sales.”
Freddie agrees that I should decide how much everyone will get from a total of CHF 75,000. No one complains, used to my being Boss.
I take out F 9,000 for 15 weeks of pay for the swim instructors, which I give to Henri, telling him I will explain later. Next, I give every player CHF 1000, including Jim, Henri and Claude and the three stars, equal pay regardless of talent or celebrity. Still. no one complains. That total is CHF 13,000. I tell everyone that Miami is the band lawyer and manager; I give him CHF 15,000 for legal and management expenses, exclusive of his salary, which remains to be negotiated. The remaining CHF 38,000 will be set aside for future band promotion, equipment, travel and other expenses. Everyone is paid and there are no complaints. The stars don’t really need the money. David and Michael depart, promising to deliver Amar’s share on the way to Lausanne.
Henri, as President of our label, Knobs Records, suggest we book studio time to record a bootleg version of ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ We need to decide what song to record as a B-side. He has already arranged a distribution deal with Columbia Records who will also press the individual records. Miami agrees to draw up legal contracts for the band members. I start to realize that the influx of cash will not meet future expenses. The Knobs will have to go on the road to create an income beyond what Freddie pays them as roadies. Everyone assumes the original Queen members are returning.
On that note, Henri gets a call from his office that Brian, Roger and Deacy are mad as hornets and on a flight to Geneve at this moment. The future of Queen hangs in the balance. Everyone agrees to treat them as returning members of Queen with no animosity. Freddie sends Jim to pick them up in the Rolls. The roadies have to go back to sharing rooms again. My room will no longer be mine. The Knobs pair up, opening three rooms for the band. Freddie winks at me, letting me know not to worry. That is not what I worry about.
‘What’s up, butt-fuck?’, Casper and Max are back. They know I need help.
‘Freddie has moved me into his bed,’ I explain my worries.
‘Well, you always were a star-fucker,’ Casper laughs.
‘You don’t understand. I no longer am the gay slut you remember. My death wiped out that character quality.’
‘Yeah, I remember your wipe out. You thought you were a pro-surfer.’
More sad news from my past.
‘Well, I don’t get horny at all since I came out of the coma.’
‘That mean I am saved from being molested?’
‘I was having sex with a ghost?’
‘And just about everyone else. Until I died it was quite embarrassing to certain parts of my anatomy.’
“I raped you.”
‘All the time. I was happy to comply. I love you.’
‘How can you love someone who rapes you?’
‘You don’t remember my brother.’
I shake my head ‘No.’ I am not happy to learn details from my past. I do not remember anything they are telling me.
Casper has a plan about sleeping with Freddie.
‘We can switch places like we did at the show. He’ll never know. Once he falls in love with you, we’ll explain.’
I feel better until I realize how sick it all is.
Casper can read my thoughts. ‘Max can substitute for you if you want. He is an expert at anal and oral.’
We laugh but the plot is quickly going south (to bestiality). I feel sorry for Freddie.
We agree to let sleeping dogs lie (literally).
Max wakes up when Brian and the others burst into the studio where the Knobs and everyone awaits their arrival. Brian pretends to be angry and hostile, charging at Freddie. Max knows how to protect his future lover and knocks Brian down. Holding him down and licking his face.
Brian’s shock at being subdued so quickly turns to horror, blindly pushing Max away.
“What the fuck?” Brian revises his assault plans.
“That’s Max,” I explain. “He guards the band. He also likes pot.”
Billy runs over, the good roadie, with a joint, lighting it and passing it to Brian. Max is right there for second-hand smoke.
Once Brian mellows out, he looks at me, “Who are you?”
I’m Laz. Freddie brought me out of a coma. I guess I am a zombie. We’ve been keeping Queen alive until you guys return.”
“You’re the punk everyone’s been talking about. You’ve cast a spell on Freddie.”
“Just until you return. Freddie misses you. Max is really friendly. He loves rock n roll. He died defending my old band.”
Deacon finds it all very funny. Taylor is sulking in the corner, back to the wall prepared for another dog attack. Freddie recovers his composure.
“Laz is the Boss of the Knobs, our old roadies. He taught them to play the good Queen songs and we’re now writing new songs. The last one is called ‘Save Me.’
I turn on the MOOG and play the melody, really rocking the guitar leads.”
We all join in and sing the chorus after Freddie sings the opening verse. Brian is speechless for about ten seconds
“You’ve really gone round bend this time, Freddie. Zombies and ghosts? Roadies who think they can play rock n roll. Where’s that joint?”
“Wait until you meet Casper, the spirit of roll n roll,” I warn Brian.
The high energy confrontation that Brian planned has been defused.
Billy rolls more joints and the pot goes round. Max is in Seventh Heaven. Brian starts subconsciously petting him. Max sits beside him knowing that a new joint will soon come by.
Jim comes in from the pool,, “Lunch is ready. Wimpy burgers for the Americans.”
“Am I missing something. Laz is the only Yank I see,” Deacy notes.
“Who do you think was playing the MOOG on our new song?”
“No. You can’t see him. He’s Casper, the Friendly Ghost.”
“He likes burgers?”
“No way. He never eats. He’s a ghost.”
Casper plays a few notes from the ‘Save Me’ chorus.
Taylor crouches further into the corner. I realize he will be the easiest to convince to return. He really believes in ghosts.
Brian, Roger and Deacy first go to their rooms to change into swim suits. They sit with Freddie and watch our antics in the pool while Jim cooks burgers.
Billy and I hook up to do the butterfly dolphin tandem. We undulate back and forth.
“I’m in gay Hell,” Roger complains.
“Too much for a butch British ponce?” I call him. “Afraid you’ll up chuck your wimpy burger?”
Roger dives into the pool. His curly blonde locks are a soggy mess.
“You need to get dreadlocks,” I advise, “I know exactly where to take you in Montreux.”
“You Yanks are all alike. Always telling us what to do.”
“I’m not American.”
“Right. Where are you from, zombieland?’
“I’m from Romania.”
Somehow, we both find that funny.
“Why aren’t you a vampire then?”
“Freddie’s the vampire. Check out his teeth.”
Again, we share a laugh.
“How did you find Freddie?”
“He found me. I told you he brought me back to life; I’m his personal zombie.”
“You want to suck my blood?”
“I’m not gay. Wimpy Burgers keep me going. Blood is for Vampires.”
I dive down and swim the length of the pool underwater.”
Roger swims above me.
“You don’t need air as well?”
“That’s Casper. Ghosts don’t breathe.”
“How does Max smoke pot.”
“It’s all psychological. He was a drug sniffing police dog before he died. He’s reliving his glory days when we smoked him out.”
Freddie decides to play a new song for the old band. The Knobs set up with their own instruments. I am at the MOOG. We will play ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’ Brian and the boys are prepared to be critical. It will take all my tricks on the MOOG to keep the song together. The Knobs look nervous.
I give them a pre-performance pep talk.
“We are not trying to compete with or even impress the band. We are convincing them they want to play and record this song. It’s our gift to them. If they act snooty and try to play it down, remember they have to earn their way back in. I’m the Boss so they have to impress me that they really like it. We did it great at the Casino show.”
Enough words. Time to play. Freddie sits at the piano. I play the guitar rhythm tracks on the MOOG when Billy can’t keep up with the speed of the song.
Brian questions the guitar sound once we finish. I repeat the ‘don’t stop me now’ line from the chorus on the MOOG.
“What is that keyboard,” Brian feels threatened.
“A MOOG, I fill in when Billy can’t keep up.”
Brian gets his hollow body 12 string and I play the rhythm track back at him. He stumbles at first, so I slow it down a bit. He sounds great the second time through.
Roger and Deacy switch with the Knobs. After a few stumbles they have the whole song. I set the rhythm a bit slower, especially at the beginning and end.
The Knobs are despairing at being replaced, tears running down their cheeks. Their dream of being Queen II shattered by the song they helped write.
Max is sitting at my side, ‘Woof,’ he barks.
“Pot?” I say.
Billy pulls out his finest Jamaican ganja and lights it up. The tears stop as the original members console their roadies.
I play ‘Pressure Drop’s reggae rhythm to mellow us out. It is a double reunion. The original Queen members are back and the roadies are, well, back to being roadies.
The roadies switch back in and we play their hit, ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’
The roadies and the returnees play to Freddie, ‘Somebody to Love.’
Freddie is in rare form after our sessions with his boys. I know that he needs his band to also be his ‘mates.’ That we all rallied the band to get them back from London is his victory. Nobody cares about Jim Reid and the legal difficulties he presents. Miami Beach taking over both as legal counsel and band manager will make resolution of Reid’s contract easier. Now that everyone associated with the band is on the same page, the question of Reid’s fraud may be negotiated instead of prosecuted. That issue is above my pay grade. Speaking of which, I have CHF1,000 in my pocket. Going to Paris with Michael would be a treat. First, it is back to le Museum for dinner, no Raclette this night. It will be all Champagne and truffles. Why do I crave pizza so much, some American recessive gene?
“We always serenade the crowd waiting outside the restaurant,” Freddie informs the boys. “What should we sing tonight?’
“Champions,” they all exclaim in unison. “We are back.”
The Knobs are allowed to eat with the ‘Real’ Queen members, but I fear it may be short lived. Freddie demands total loyalty. Yet when it is given, he does not always reciprocate. These thoughts facilitate substituting the ghost of a black lab to satisfy his need to be righteously fucked. Casper informs me that we do not have to observe the actual act if it makes me queasy. That makes me feel even guiltier. I swear I will grin and bear watching it. I feel so perverted.
After the serenade in the Plaza, we relax with an after-dinner spliff (thank you Billy) in the lounge. All the band members get maudlin about almost breaking up and now reuniting. I settle in with Freddie on the couch. The original three observe my place with their leader.
“Sleeping with the zombie, Freddie?” Brian’s tongue is loosened by the pot.
“He treats me like a real Queen,” Freddie defends me, hugging me closer.
I have no idea how the band treats Freddie’s sexuality. For the Knobs, the arrival of the original three upsets our household balance. I don’t mind being kidded about being gay. It almost seems normal. What worries me is the actual deed and having a dog take over my body to do it. Life in the zoo.
Little does Max know what he is in for. Plentiful pot smoke to keep him high is all he cares about. In the bedroom, Freddie is a bit skittish after our last encounter. I reassure him that all will work out well. He wants to brag about getting his band back. We lay there and chat about our latest adventures. I fear Amar may no longer visit due to parental disapproval. I hope not.
“Well, he is five years younger than you and Michael. Does the age gap bother you? It probably bothers his parents, even if they are not consciously aware.”
“He really loves both Michael and me. Michael has really made him his protegee in dancing. The other kids respect him because he is Black, thinking it is a Young American cultural advantage to not be racist.”
“I love that so many kids came to our show.”
“They see you as an adult but not parental. Your music liberates them. All your songs are so personal.”
“That’s what bothers Brian and Roger, but not Deacy. They cannot relate to my sexuality.”
“You are sexy. Maybe they are threatened by it, whereas Deacon can cares less.”
“You think they are insecure. That’s what they always say is my weakness.”
“Do you feel insecure with me?” I tease with a quick kiss.
His eyes close and leans back in the bed.
Time for Max.
Suddenly I am floating with Casper watching myself act like a dog in bed with Freddie, who really responds to the vibe my body is putting out. There is no way I want to watch this.
“You can close your eyes. I’ll let you know when it is safe to look.”
I still peek at first. They don’t call it doggy style for nothing.
I still can hear the moans and grunts; finally Freddie screams as the act reaches its climax. Max’s panting is especially distressing. I even hear them uncoupling, or so I think. Time to return to my normal body and enjoy the fruits of Max’s labors.
Freddie is ecstatic, fully satisfied.
“I love that we never talk, just going right at it.”
He cradles my dick, caressing it and hoping for a round two. I collapse into his arms, as if the one time going at it has depleted all my energy, fluids and interest. Freddie throws himself at me and passes out. Thank God.
Casper sits at the end of the bed and laughs hilariously. I feel like a mindless zombie. I need my sleepover with Michael. That realization makes me feel incredibly old, like twenty-five or something. Drained I fall asleep.
I wake before Freddie. He lays stretched out on his back with the covers thrown aside. I warily check for morning wood, relieved that there was no action down there yet. I slip out of bed and find Jim in the kitchen.
He winks, “I heard you guys last night. I trust Freddie is fully satisfied?”
I turn bright red, forgetting any guilt about supposedly fucking his lover.”
“Don’t worry,” Jim reassured me. “We have an open relationship. You want to go buy croissants?”
Everyone has a weakness.
“Thanks for the thousand francs, by the way. I was just the chauffeur.”
“Equal pay for all members of the band.”