New Year’s Eve Globe Theater, Coral Gables FL 12/31/1976

Mike Sr. suggested that his jazz quartet start earlier than planned as many in the adult audience were already enjoying cocktails at the Globe replica. I asked Jake if he and Jack wanted to repeat the Rimsky-Korsakov ‘Scheherazade.’

He smiled, “I hoped you’d let me play. I went to Spec’s and rented a cello.’ He had been speaking with Mike Sr. Jack was glad to show his chops on the MOOG. I left the kids in the music room enjoying their meal, and set up the mic on the Globe stage. There were so many adults at the cocktail party, no one noticed me until I spoke into the mic.

“Welcome, party-goers,” I had to repeat it several times to get their attention.

“Tonight we’re celebrating the return of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to Coral Gables. We’ve planned an evening of music to welcome in 1977.” No cheers, yet.

“Later will be about rock n roll, but for your drinking pleasure, we plan to start with something more mature. Please welcome my friends Jake Stern on cello and Jack Stone on keyboards, performing Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Scheherazade.’”

The guests were surprised to be treated to music of their liking instead of raucous rock. Jake walked out from off-stage with his cello, sitting on a chair in the front of the stage. Jack followed, standing where his MOOG was set up. They received polite applause and commenced the piece’s prelude.

 

Jack smiled at me as he played the love song.  The audience returned to their drinks, politely listening without the cocktail chatter. After fifteen minutes of recital, Jake finished with a flourish. I stepped back up to the mic.

“Now we have what everyone’s been waiting for. Our host and my patron, Mike Antonio, has revived his college jazz quartet for your listening pleasure. It’s jazz, so don’t take it too seriously.”

 

 

Mike Sr. led his friends out. He asked Jake to sit in, making it a quintet. We had it planned for them to play for at least an hour. Waiters circulated among the guests, refilling drinks and offering hors d’oeuvres. The guests began chatting quietly, making the Globe seem like a typical cocktail bar. I returned to the kids in the music room, who were oblivious that the performance had already started.

 

Tommy was a bundle of nervous energy.  Having to perform in front of his friends from high school was throwing him off his game. I took him back to the garage to bolster his confidence. We walked in on Grant and his posse. Clyde instantly spotted me.

“That yer new boyfriend, lover?”

“Naw. He’s too old for me.”

“Com’n and hit the spliff,” he waved us over.

That was what Tommy needed. He could care less when he was high.

“You boys ready to perform tonight?” I asked Grant. They were dressed in their best Nation of Islam coats and ties.

“We’s always ready.
“Jist wait until Tommy and I finish our country set. I’ll wave y’all up.”

“Same as always, at the back of the bus.”

“No way. The Jackson Five come after y’alls.”

“See.’

“Don’t fret. The stage will be yours to amaze or shock the crowd.”

Tommy decided to try out his tale spinning on Grant’s posse. It didn’t take long before the boys were laughing and repeating his phraseology. Tommy’s confidence soared. It was time to make our entrance. I had Grant’s boys go to the music room and get the kids to join us at the Globe Theater. From off-stage I caught Mike Sr.’s eye, giving him the cut signal to end their performance. They were ready after an hour of Sinatra and Dave Brubeck. They got a good hand as they picked up their instruments and exited the stage.

 

I dragged Tommy onstage with me to the single mic.  We did our Smothers Brothers routine.

“Look, Tom. We’ve got an adult audience tonight.”

“Oh, the horror, Huck.”

“Maybe if y’all tell ‘em a story ‘bout our ad-ventures, they might like us.”

“Ya mean ’bout Tom and Huck, livin’ it up in the Everglades.”

“I’s sick o’ that one. Ya ain’t got a new tale?”

“How ‘bouts when we went out west and I gots me a real six-shooter.”

“’Cept ya neva could hit the side of a barn.”

“Don’t tell ‘em that.”

“Hows ‘bout when you was the hero?”

“You’s always the hero, Huck.”

“Then y’all tell the story.”

By now the kids were streaming into the backyard from the music room. Tommy’s friends from Lauderdale, seeing him up on stage entertaining the adults, rushed down front to cheer their boy on. The rest of the kids followed and most of the adults moved out of the pit area, leaving it to the youngsters.

“Lookee here, Tom. The kids is arrived. Ya gots to be mighty funny now.”

“What’s funny is if’n y’all jist stands here while I’s a’spinnin’ my tale.”

“They’s all yours, now. Don’t let me down.”

“You’s my hero, Huck. I ain’t never lettin’ y’all down.”

He reached down and picked up the guitar, strumming away as the Mark Twain tall tale was spun. Spontaneously he decided to sing our version of Bobby McGee

 

 

‘Busted flat in Lauderdale

Waitin’ for a train

Feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans

Huck he thumbed a diesel down

Just a’fore a rain

Rode us all the way to New Orleans’

 

He kept strumming and proceeded to tell his tale.

 

‘We’d bin playin’ cards a’fore headin’ west. I’s nervous ‘bout injuns and such. Somehow I won me a real six-shooter. I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson.  But I thought it was grand. It appeared to me to be a dangerous weapon. It only had one fault—you never gonna hit nothin’ with it. One of the other card players practiced awhile on a cow with it, but as long as she stood still and behaved herself she was safe; then as soon as she went to movin’ about, and he got to shootin’ at other things, she come to grief.

It was a reliable weapon, nevertheless, because, as the driver afterward said, “If she didn’t get what she went after, she would fetch somethin’ else.” And so she did. She went after a deuce of spades nailed against a tree, once, and fetched a mule standing about thirty yards to the left of it. Huck did not want the mule; but the owner came out with a double- barreled shotgun and persuaded him to buy it, anyhow. It was a cheerful weapon—‘Smith & Wesson.’ Sometimes all its six barrels would go off at once, and then there was no safe place in all the region round about, but behind it.

After supper a woman got in, who lived about fifty miles further on, and we three hadda take turns at sittin’ in the cab. Apparently she was not a talkative woman. She would sit there in the gatherin’ twilight and fasten her steadfast eyes on a mosquito rootin’ into her arm, and slowly she would raise her other hand till she had got his range, and then she would launch a slap at him that would have jolted a cow; and after that she would sit and contemplate the corpse with tranquil satisfaction—for she never missed her mosquito; she was a dead shot at short range. She never removed a carcass, but left them there fer bait. I sat by this grim repeater and watched her kill thirty or forty mosquitoes—watched her, and waited for her to say something, but she never did. So I finally opened the conversation myself. I said: “Them mosquitoes pretty bad, about here, ma’am.” “You bet!” “What did I understand you to say, ma’am?” “You BET!” Then she cheered up, and faced around and said: “Danged if I didn’t begin to think you fellers was deef and dumb. I did, b’gosh. Here I’ve sot, and sot, and sot, a-bust’n muskeeters and wonderin’ what was ailin’ ye. Fust I thot yee was deef and dumb, then I thot you was sick or crazy, or sumthin’, and then by and by I begin to reckon you was a passel of sickly fools that couldn’t think of nothin’ to say. Wher’d ye come from?” The Sphynx was a Sphynx no more! The fountains of her great deep were broken up, and she rained the nine parts of speech forty days and forty nights, metaphorically speakin’, and buried us under a desolatin’ deluge of trivial gossip that left not a crag or pinnacle of rejoinder projectin’ above the tossin’ waste of dislocated grammar and decomposed pronunciation!

How we suffered, suffered, suffered! She went on, hour after hour, till I was sorry I ever opened the mosquito question and gave her a start. She never did stop again until she got to her journey’s end toward daylight; and then she stirred us up as she was leavin’ the cab(for we were noddin’, by that time), and said: “Now you git out at Cottonwood, you fellers, and lay over a couple o’ days, and I’ll be along some time to-night, and if I can do ye any good by edgin’ in a word now and then, I’m right thar. Folks’ll tell you’t I’ve always ben kind o’ offish and partic’lar for a gal that’s raised in the woods, and I am, with the rag-tag and bob-tail, and a gal has to be, if she wants to be anything, but when people comes along which is my equals, I reckon I’s a pretty sociable heifer after all.” We resolved not to ‘lay by’ at Cottonwood.’

 

Half-way through the story, people were laughing and slapping their thighs. Some kids would shout Tommy’s words or expressions, repeating  him.  As he finished, I ran back out on stage.

 

“Pretty good tale, Tom. How’s about we get the rest of the band out here and you join us in a sing along.”

“I kin be in the band, Huck?”

“Sure thing. The Hillbilly Brothers.”

“Making babies with one another,” Tom finished our signature line.

The kids looked shocked. The adults weren’t sure they heard it right. The teenagers just shook their heads in dismay. Dave came out and jumped on the drum set. Hippie hooked up his bass.  Jack brought me my guitar and hooked us both up. We were ready for country rock.

“Where’s Robby?” I yelled. “This songs for you. ‘One Toke over the Line, Sweet Jesus.’

 

 

The Jacettes ran out and kept Tommy on key for the ‘who do you love’s and the ‘sail away’s’

Robby was in the back, glowering at me, not willing to light up.

“I guess Robby’s not holding. How ‘bout it, Grant?”

He grinned and lit up spliff.

We proceeded to play several Grateful Dead songs.

 

As the mellow weed odor wafted over the adults in the back, there was a mass exit for the supper Mrs. Antonio had laid out in the dining room. The true jazz freaks stayed with hopeful looks on their faces for their lost youth. Tommy got all teary after having played several songs. He stopped playing and put his arms around me, swaying as we sang, just as we had done at the old Sawgrass Campground. Jack stopped playing and had an arm around me from the other side.

 

“Guess this is the signal for baby makin’” I quipped. “Com’n here Grant. You and your posse is on.”

His face lit up. He passed the spliff to a kid in the pit, as he and the Hialeah crew hopped up onto the raised stage. They surrounded the mic and sang a capella  doo wop.

 

 

I grabbed Dave, running back to the music room where the other Out-Crowd members were awaiting their turn.

“Why are the black kids playing?” Stu was afraid they’d been bumped.

“No worries, Champ. They’re warming up the kids for your dance party.”

They surrounded Tommy, telling him how great he was. He already knew. Mike Jr. had everyone gather round, pumping up for their set. I joined Jake at the side. He was enjoying our musical revue, from classical to rock, from 1880 to 1977.

“You are a showman,” He complimented me.

“Wait until we actually play our music after the kids are danced out,” I wanted his approval of my music.

It was time to introduce the Out-Crowd. They were crowded behind stage. I gave Grant the cut sign. They bowed and jumped back into the crowd.

“Catch your breath, everyone, ‘cause up next is the Out-Crowd. They want you to dance your hearts out and your feet off. Two years ago tonight we were in shambles after our founding member Jace was killed and we played his tribute concert at Viscaya. These guys, led by Stu and Mike, stepped up to sing and dance when I was too devastated to go on. Now they’re stars on their own with Dave, Jazz, and John backing up Stu and Mike. It’s the Out-Crowd”

 

 

They started out with the Big Bopper, Stu sounding like a fifty-year-old man, somehow carrying it off. They quickly moved into dance tunes. The kids were ready, after the romantic doo wop, to get out and dance.

After fifty minutes, the band needed a break. Punch was set up by the door to the music room. Unlike high school, the drinks were not spiked. A crowd surrounded Grant and his posse, as he took out a fresh spliff.  I directed him and his new followers to the garage.

“Back of the bus, again,” he complained.

 

It was getting late. False Gods needed to go on by 11:20 in order to finish right at midnight, with Michael & Jenna’s love duet. I didn’t want to rush the Out-Crowd’s dance party, but I had to rescue them from the clutches of Grant’s pot den in the garage. I was standing with Jake and saw Mom Watt standing by herself. We crossed the lawn and I introduced Jake.

“Remind you of another party here?” I asked her about the time it was Stu debut.

“My youngest was no longer a little kid.”

“He’s phenomenal. We always knew he had it in him.”

“We miss you. No midnight sleepovers anymore.”

“I’m away at college. Now I’m in Hollywood doing work/study on a movie. This is Jake. We work together. He’s a composer.”

“My goodness. You never stay still, Tim. Hi Jake. I’m Tim’s # 10 mom.”

“Always #1. There is no second place in my heart,” I joshed.

Jake winked at me, as I realized  I had said too much.

 

She gave me a wry look of understanding and shook her head. I felt like crap. The truth does that.  Jake just looked embarrassed. Time for the second half of the dance party.

“Wanna ‘shimmy shimmy’ with me?” I asked.

“I think I’ll dance with Jake.”

We all laughed and headed for the pit.

Jack appeared and we all shimmied together. It was time for the resurrection of False Gods.

 

We got together backstage. Michael and Robby glaring at each other was not a problem. Actually their tension always made us tighter, keeping it together. Hippie was sad that Anna and Little Greg were already home. After he had played the pot song with the Hillbilly Brothers, she left in a huff, swearing to pray for him.

“You’re let loose now. Go out and enjoy yourself.”

“Just no groupies. You can have ‘em. I hear you’re straight now.”

“Never believe what you hear.”

He looked disappointed.

The Jacettes were practicing their moves with Jill, waiting in the wings to do her song about Jace. Everyone was rehearsed and ready. All we had to do was execute.

 

As the Out-Crowd finished their last dance song, Stu grabbed the mic.

“I hope you enjoyed the dancing. Now, it’s time for the main attraction. Tim’s been my bestest friend since I was nine when he showed me I wasn’t stupid. He needed me to sing at the Jace tribute two years ago and now I’m a star. I owe it all to him. It’s my pleasure to introduce the world’s greatest rock n roll band, at least in Miami, False Gods.”

We trooped out with our guitars and the drummers set up at their kits. We broke into the intro to ‘Sgt Pepper.’

 

 

We jammed and ran around pretending to be the Beatles.

“Oh, I thought you’d want the greatest band in the world,” I yelled into the mic. “Except they broke up. We just were arrested and locked up. Hey, I’m 18 now, and I like it.”  We went into the Alice Cooper cover

 

 

 

“Take that, Dade County Juvenile Justice,” I screamed, pacing back and forth, strumming the chords to ‘False Gods.’

“We’re False Gods and grew up right here. This is what Miami’s about.”

We came in together to ‘South Florida’

 

‘Go deep to the South

When you can go no more

In the city trying to score

Come to our cool house

 

Bewildered by our drug

Whether it be love

Or just need of a hug

We’re free to meet the need

 

Miami’s here to serve

Keeps you safe and sound

Southern man beats you down

That’s what you deserve

 

Miami drug

Life too rough?

Take the time

Follow our sign

 

Girls are free

Always please

Jack your shit

Get into it.’

 

Both drummers ended with a crash. I looked up to see the shocked look on Jake’s face as he watched from the wings with Mom Watt.

 

“Y’all think that’s a drug song. Well, yer right. ‘Cause we know about drugs. Here’s a song we’ve never played to an audience before. Beware of what you want. It may just bite you on the ass.”

 

Drugs

“Heroin and cocaine makes a speed ball,

Dilaudin and codeine soften the fall,

Thorzine takes you away from me,

XTC and beer just make you queer.”

 

“Whiskey and ‘ludes make me real rude,

Acid and pot makes your brain rot,

PCP you forget about me,

Pills and beer chase away fears.”

 

It was short and sweet. The crowd didn’t know whether to cheer or just think about it.

We played it again, making sure they got the message. No regrets.

 

Robby and Michael started yelling at each other.  

“There they go again. They’ve been worst friends since kindergarten. Here’s a song about how Michael finally stood up to Robby.”

 

‘Look before You Leap?’

 

‘Wanna

Set you’re your buddy on fire,

Better buy a rug.

Wanna

Send your friends to hell,

Better get a priest.

Wanna

Beat up a bully,

Better get a gun.

 

Look before you leap

Better to say no

Then end up in a heap

No place to go.

 

Leap, leap, leap

You friggin’ freak

Leap, leap, leap

Strip and streak.”

 

Wanna

Beat up your friend

Get new friends

Wanna

Steal a new car

You won’t get far

Wanna

Dis some sweet lass

A beating comes fast

 

Look before you leap

Better to say no

Then end up in a heap

No place to go.

 

Leap, leap, leap

You friggin’ freak

Leap, leap, leap

Strip and streak.”

 

“When yer 15 and gotta get out and about, better know how to get around”

 

Sneaking

 

Sneaking around

Never been caught

All over town

Better than not.

 

Thrill’s in the chase

No time to waste

Folks on my case

All is in haste.

 

Waiting’s the worst

You were my first

I need you now

We’re on the prowl.

 

Back of an alley

Sprawled in the dirt

No time to dally

Who will cum first.

 

shaka shaka love?

‘shaka shaka love shaka shaka

Shaka shaka love shaka shaka.”

 

“No need for shoes in Miami, especially when yer swingin’ through the trees.  And when ya git caught, best ta do the monkeyshines”

 

Barefooted Boy

 

Barefooted boy

Makes a stand

To take his joy

Going hand to hand

 

Flying out free

Branch to branch

Through the trees

Reckless chance.”

 

“Free to be

A monkey like me

 

Ha ha ha

He he he

Haw haw haw

Chee chee chee

 

I stayed on stage, jumping around and scratching myself. The surprise of the night was when Iggy launched himself from one of the Globe balconies,  swinging like Tarzan on a rope. He landed in the pit and soon had everyone doing the monkeyshines. They all knew the moves.  We kept playing and repeating the chorus.

I was tempted to bring him onstage and do his Stooges act but refrained from deviating from our set. Iggy was running around the pit congratulating himself.

“Thank you, Iggy, and your Detroit reprise of the Stooges. It makes me thankful I’m from Miami. Of course, I had to run away to Iowa to escape Juvie. Here’s a song from my band there with my twin sisters. We called ourselves The Triplets and this songs’ about having two moms.” 

 

‘They say we’re not normal
Our lives are too strange
Maybe we should be Mormon
Wouldn’t that be a pain.

We got two moms
We don’t need dads
Our lives are songs
So we won’t be sad

We grew up with each other
That’s just what twins do
Then along comes our brother
Now we’re triplets too

Normal’s not gonna happen
That may be good for you
We’ll just keep on truckin’
Triples better than two

We got two moms
We don’t need dads
Our lives are songs
So we won’t be sad’

 

“I love Iowa but it has its downfalls, like winter. It makes it hard to get along,  being stuck inside for months on end”

‘You.’

“I say, …you…

You’re such a fool

You’re just a tool

But I love…you

 

I say…. you…

What can we do?

You said we’re through

What can I….. do

 

I say,…. you…

We break the rules

We look like fools

I really need…. you…

 

 

I say, …you..”

 

“Then there was the football team.  Those footballers and we had a little set-to on New Year’s last year. After the dust cleared, with five men down, they decided to like us after all.”

“Don’t fuck with me”

‘Don’t fuck with me
Might take ya down
Gots ta be free
See me git wound

Hate sees me seethe
Can’t seem to breathe
Yer arms on me
I gots ta be free.

Get outta my face
This ain’t the place
To make a stand
To be a man

Your nose I’ll crunch
My knockout punch
Will put ya down
Yer out cold bound.’

 

“It’s  so great to be back. Here’s our band song”

 

‘False Gods’

‘We rushed in where angels feared to tread

They gave up hope, gave us up for dead

Our memory lingers on eternally

From the abyss we heard Lucifer’s plea

 

But we too wanted a world of our own

Dreamed of ruling from a throne

We ran away from them to see

How we’ll be happy for eternity

 

We are false god,

We are false gods

 

We found this world so meek and blind

We stand here laughing at your kind

You cynical fools don’t understand

Fall to your knees useless man

 

This world so full of flaws

Facades and miracles applause

Eulogized not despised

Cause

 

We are false gods

We are false gods

 

From up the hill we hear your pleas

Bring us presents, fall to your knees

Pray and speak in semaphores

Sacrifice your hallowed sheep

 

Pitiful slugs that you are

Dance and sing around the fire

Arms waving all around

We’re so happy

This world we’ve found

Omnipotent beneficence astounds your broken minds

You’re just like toys

We’ve made our minds to be

False gods

 

We are false gods

We are false gods

 

We will live eternally

To hear your painful screams

Just wait 20 years or so

You will know just what we mean

 

False gods

False gods’

 

This song is ‘Life’s Lies.’ We sing about our lives when people look down on us.”

 

“This is our life,

our pride alive

Its our times

Lost our minds

Stupid rules rule

Demand we act

Just like fools

To be like you.

 

Look at me, you havta scream.

You think we be freakin’

You gotta be fast to not be seen.

No wonder we’re always sneakin’’

 

Our fans loved us. Jake was smiling at me. It was time to credit where it was due.

 

“It’s time to remember two years ago when we celebrated the life of our inspiration, Jace, killed too soon by his evil brother. Com’n out, Jill. Our muse has written a song in Jace’s honor. She and her boyfriend, David Wilkie, were the first people to accept Jace and me as boyfriends. David won two gold medals at the Olympics, by the way.”

Jill came up to the mic backed by the three Jacettes plus Jenna. It was time for her Rod Stewart style blues.

 

“Jace was such a sweet boy,” she explained. “We were devastated after what happened to him. To learn that it had been happening for a long time makes me so sad. But Jace wasn’t about to be sad. He had Tim and his band mates and they spread the joy that came from making music together.”

Jill and I sang a duet.

 

Jace

 

‘Two years gone

Memories linger on

A face not to replace

A life not to waste

 

You stole my heart,

I got your soul

You make me bold

We’ll never part

 

Our time was short

We stood our ground

Rock was our sound

Life we did report

 

Two years gone

But I have found

You’re still around

You just linger on.

 

Jace you have a place

I long to see you face

My heart skips its beat

Dancing attacks my feet.”

 

As soon as she started to sing, photos of Jace were projected on the side walls. The other girls were singing doo wop backing vocals. Seeing the familiar yet lost face made me gulp. I couldn’t go on. Jill was right there to hold me and hold the song together.

Once we finished, I told Michael to get off his drums  and join Jenna at the mic.

“These two love birds make me know there’s hope for love. They’re going to do two songs for each other. It’s getting close to midnight. Take my advice, get close to the one you want to be with for the countdown to a midnight kiss.”

 

Michael and Jenna did an a Capella version of  the Carpenters’ ‘We’ve Only Just Begun.’

 

 

They followed up with ‘Close to You’

 

 

As they finished, Tommy ran out with the Chinese gong,  pointing to his watch, with 24 seconds to go until midnight. He hit the gong every two seconds, as everyone counted down. There was lots of scurrying among the youngsters, finding their perfect partner. I looked over and saw Jake smiling at me. I winked at him, just as Jack tackled me with a big hug. Hippie looked lost, with Anna gone home. He quickly had his cohort of adoring ladies, still the groupie king, and still blushing bright red. Tommy’s girlfriend jumped up on stage and flew into his arms as he rung the twelfth and final gong. It was 1977.

“Time to go home. Thanks Antoni….” I was interrupted by choruses of ‘No.’

“You want more? I got just the song to start off the new year, ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight.’”

 

 

CURFEW

We’re still in our youth

But we have our ken

That these lives are ours

And they don’t belong to them

We’re having fun doing what we like

Then they come around and take away our rights

 

Makers of trouble

Wild and insane

Just because we’re young

We’re the ones to blame

The time has come

They’re telling us to leave

They’re pushing us around

So we gotta leave the streets

 

The streets are our domain

So they come and give us pain

But what gives you the right

To come blow out my light

But since I’m having fun

You’re gonna make me fight

And I just wanna say

Curfew must not ring tonight

 

For the first time I  drove the tempo at a much faster pace.  Hippie was lost at first but caught up, smiling that I had challenged his bass pace. Robby was wacked out but Michael kept the  beat going, allowing Robby to continue furious rolls and high hat banging. Tommy jumped into the crowd of his Lauderdale fans, pushing and shoving anyone nearby. The pit was a swirl of thrashing teenagers. The adults moved further back and the remaining kids rushed forward. I caught Jake looking aghast from back stage at the chaos. This was not the controlled music for which he had trained all his life. I winked at him, as he shook his head.

 

“Ain’t ready to go home yet?” I shouted into the mic.

“No!” the kids yelled.

“Let’s hear from our friend Tom Petty and his new band. He led the charge at breaking down the fences at the Skynyrd concert. He’s a Southern Rocker to the core. This song is my personal statement song, ‘Won’t Back Down.’”

 

 

 

“Com’n over here, Jack,” I ordered him after we finished. “You came to my work in Hollywood. Some asshole called us faggots. I beat the crap out of ‘im. What did you say?”
“You’re So Bad,” he answered.

“Damn straight,” and we went into a second Heartbreakers song.

 

 

I looked up and saw old Jimmy Olson  taking photos and making notes.  I waved at him to come up onstage. He looked fearful making his way through the hyperactive kids.

“Git up here, Tom,” I ordered Tommy to get back on stage with us. We sat on the front, as Jimmy joined us. “Tell everyone how this guy saved yer ass from yer e-vil brother.”

The band left us alone on stage, speaking to Tommy’s friends and all the other kids, who sat in the pit. The adults moved closer to hear our stories of Alligator Alley Adventures.

Jimmy became the interviewer. “Hi, Tommy. Things are sure changed since I met you in the Lauderdale Hospital.”

“Your stories in the papers saved me from a life of misery. Now I gots good foster folks and these are all my friends here to cheer on Huck, my best friend ever, and his band. All ‘cause y’all wrote ‘bouts my travails in Juvie.”

“Tell us how ya met Tim.”

“Well, I’s always bin callin’ ‘im Huck, after we runs away from the e-vil Juvie prison by Alligator Alley and lived like Tom & Huck in Huckleberry Finn by Mr. Mark Twain.”

“Why’dcha havta run away?”

“That juvie justice was worse’n e-vil. They’s puttin’ older boys in with me and other kids. We was all 11, 12 & 13. Them ol’ boys was molestin’ us kids every night. The first night ol’ Huck showed up, he beat up 3 of them molesters and protected us from then on. But that Program was abusin’ us in other ways. We got whipped and when sum one refused to give in, they was shipped off to the crazy farm fer life. Huck he’s my hero, but even he gots attacked by the guards. We couldn’t take it no more and escaped over the fence. That was the beginnin’ of our ad-ventures, which I call ‘The Legend of ‘Gatoraurus.’”

“I bet yer friends already heard that once or twice,” Jimmy stated. The Lauderdale kids all nodded vigorously. “But how ‘bout tellin’ ever-one else here tonight?”

“I’s always glad to tell ‘bout Huck. I love ‘em like no one other. Don’t care what y’all thinks. He’s my hero. You, too, Jimmy fer writin’ about me, so I’s ‘scaped that e-vil juvie injustice system.”

“That’s my job, Tommy. Yer a hero, too. For exposin’ the corruption and savin’ future kids from its evil ways. But how ‘bout y’all tell us ‘bout them four months in the Everglades.”

Tommy turned to crowd and began to spin his tale.

“Now y’all knows about my friend, Huck here. I guess he’s real famous now. But before all that, he was my hero. This tale’s ‘bout a mighty large ‘gator we knowed that summer when we was livin’ it up in the Everglades.  It’s a big swamp in South Florida near where I’s always lived. So’s I’s pleased to be tellin’ this story dedicated to ol’ Huck, my hero.

The kids and the adults started laughing at Tommy’s accent and grammar. By the time his introduction was done, most everyone was laughing. He felt they weren’t laughing at him but were liking his story. I was strumming the chords to ‘Crocodile Rock.’

 

“‘Gatorsaurus, he’s both a curse an’ a blessing fir our ‘scape from juvie. We jist hadta git outta that place. They was condemnin’ boys to the state mental hospital for not followin’ they’s rules. It were hell. Ta tell ya the truth, I’s scared of ‘gators when we slipped over the fence that dark and moonless night. They never guarded the back of that prison camp as ever’one knows there’s ‘gators out there that as soon ‘et ya as not. Ol’ Huck, he hadda hold my hand. I’s petrified I’s ‘bout ta be ‘et. Soon’s they knowed we’d ‘scaped they let the hounds out ta track us down. They was a’bayin’ and a’howlin’ on our trail until that ol’ “Gatorsaurus, he leapt inta action. Jist a few bites and them hounds was a’whinin’ and a’cryin’ ta git home. Guess that ‘gator he ‘et ‘nuff hounds ‘cause he let us go rather than have a second course of runaway boys. We’s a‘scaped. The next days was pure labor. Huck had me workin’ like an ol’ slave setting up camp and learnin’ hows to caitch catfish in the swamp wid jist ma bare hands. I taught him how to spot wild rice, jist like I’d seen at my granddaddy’s farm up state. We’s even found wild chickens fer eggs ta make fish chowder. I’s ‘fraid o’ that ol’ rooster ‘tills Huck kicked ‘im in the head. We’s havin’ so much fun, we plumb firgot ‘bout ol ‘Gatorsaurus. After a hot day’s work setting up camp and gittin’ food, we was a’splashin’ and a’goofin’ around in the water, havin’ a blast. Suddenly Ol’ Huck’s eyes gots real big and he screamed “’Gator,” over my shoulder. I’s so scared I jist jumped right inta his arms. As he turned to run. I seen them two eyes with ugly, scaly bumps behinds them a’swimmin’ right at me. I’s a’kickin’ ol’ Huck ta hurry up as we scurried away toward the swamp bank and safety. Sure ‘nuff, Huck git there a’fore that ol’ ‘gator. We lay there a’laffin’ ‘til I hads ta go see that ol’ ‘gator lookin’ hungry from missin’ his dinner. I’s throwin’ rocks at his ugly face. That ‘gator don’t cotton much ta bein’ mocked. Up the bank ‘Gatotsaurus comes. His feets going 80 miles an hour. I screamed like a girl an’ Huck, he grabbed me again, throwing me up on a tree’s branch. But ol’ ‘Gatorsaurus, he don’t give up. He’s charging right at Huck. Huck jist jumped up on that crazy ‘gators head and bounced into the tree, with ‘Gatorsaurus’s jaws snappin’ at his heels. Huck pulls me up to his branch and we’s sittin’ there naked as jailbirds, like we really was, laughing again at ‘Gatorsaursus. That ‘gator, he don’t like bein’ laffed at. With hundreds of slobber-covered teeth he attacked that tree, trying ta bring it down. “Gator must be stupid to be so stubborn. He looked like an ol’ dinosaur, 28 feet long, with scales oozing green slime covering his back and bugs living on the slime. He snorted water out his nostrils, lookin’ like a dragon breathin’ out fire and stinky sulfur.  We knowed not ta mock that ol’ ‘gator no more. It took more’n two hours fir ‘Gatorsaurus to finally give up on ‘etin’ us fir dinner. He swum away and never bothered us a’gin. Huck told me that ‘gators got big noses so’s they smells everythin.’ I figure ol’ Gatorsaurus never did come back ‘cause ol’ Huck, he smelled real bad.”

I finished the song on guitar. Tommy stood up and bowed. The crowd had been laughing non-stop for several minutes. He got a standing ovation. All the other players ran out from backstage. I pulled Jill and the Jacettes up to the mic. We had to do one last encore. I whispered to Jill, “Rod Stewart, ‘my lover, my best friend.’” She sighed, missing Wilkie badly, and then gave me a kiss. I was a lucky stand-in for our Olympic champ.

“Well, we didn’t think you’d still want more. But I know our Rod Stewart fan, Jill, wants to send out a song to her hero, Olympic gold medal winner and U of Miami swimmer, David Wilkie.”

We got another cheer. I picked up my guitar to accompany everyone on stage and in the audience, singing along with Jill.

 

 

Everyone was swaying to the slow ballad. Jack and Tommy were on either side of Jill, the boy magnet. The adults in the audience had moved up front, mixing with the kids. No more thrashing about. The pit swayed back and forth.

 

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