Keith Moon’s Fabulous Dallas Scrabble Game

by Regis Boff

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     I picked up the phone . It was the seventies, probably Dallas, and my first tour with The Who. 

“Well, you won’t never guess, fucking ‘ell!” Jim who was at least half deaf shouted into my ear, “He wants to see you right now, and you should bring your case and I wouldn’t overdress if I was you.”

I asked the  question that ever really needed to be  asked of Jim, the head of security, “and you have him?”

“Buttoned down like a fucking shirt collar, mate, but he needs you right now”, and he hangs up.

I sat up in bed, picked out the roaches from the ashtray, and went to flush them and pee. Better the room was clean in case an argument backtracked itself here.

Figuring I would be back in a few minutes I still neatly remade my bed. Within the finite space and deep chaos of this life, neatness and steadiness counts for a lot. I had made a career of this.

I put on a white starched shirt; jeans, shoes and a leather sport coat: almost the same outfit I had worn since I was twelve,

pulled my case out from under the bed and headed out the door.

At the elevator, I palmed a few hundred-dollar bills to help handle any police that might be sniffing around unhappily in the hallways on the way up to drummer’s suite.

On his floor a half a dozen teenage girls were milling around listlessly, looking like they had just been snatched from a gas clothes dryer, some were using the wall to prop against. Like chickens alert to flying corn, they cocked their heads when they heard the elevator open but ignored me disappointedly because I looked like an adult.

One of Jim’s guys was standing at the door to the Moon’s suite being muscular and serious.

“What’s he doing?” I asked him, significantly more relieved now for not encountering any police on the trip. The likable young thug shrugged, “He’s been calling up hookers for the last couple of hours with Jim, Tiny, and Dougal.”

Moon’s living room was empty except for Tiny who was standing guard at the bedroom door. Tiny, was a four hundred pound ex-cop who, according to his own legend, was shot and partially disabled on a call before coming to work for Jim. He occasionally carried a gun. He kept it on his ankle where he could not reach it in an emergency without a chiropractor. He had shoulder length black curly hair and an uncut testicle sparse beard. On a good day he resembled the aftermath of a vicious high school custodian’s attack on a fat black bear, the custodian using only two long and filthy mop heads as weapons. Tiny is bathed, as the tour joke goes, when he is scheduled for surgery.

Oh, yes, and he was also naked.

“You’re a picture,” I said to him as I knocked on the bedroom door.

Jim’s eyebrows were the first things through the crack as he opened in the door.

Even at his middle age, his eyebrows seemed still to be auditioning for a resting place on his face.  English men, in my experience, never conclude equitable truces with their eyebrows. They are never trimmed or cut from birth to death. I have seen them draped over backwards over sunglasses and even waxed and combed upward in one continuous stroke like picket fences. Jim’s were in such a muddle that he had to arch his neck to see out from under them.

“ No clothes”, he says, No clothes,” Jim lives in a world where repeating himself goes unnoticed.

“You’re fucking kidding,” I said, but got undressed, (it was my first tour so I did not argue much.)

More than twenty naked women smell a certain way.

Eight of the girls were intently staring at a cardboard Scrabble board in the center of Moon’s ocean “king” bed.

“You better be winning,” I challenged him.

“We are finally here, are we, took our time about it, didn’t we?” he says to me, as his head bobs up from his private forest of breasts.

“ I had to get more cash,” I lied, knowing that this answer always settles him.

Even hardened whores fell easily under Keith Moon’s atmosphere, they all seemed to be having a great time and not one even looked up at me.

“Well, you’re in time enough, I may need to buy a vowel,” he loudly confused our two most important American letter games, Scrabble, the board which was in the center of the bed and “Wheel of Fortune” which must have a British equivalent somewhere in his past.

“Come sit, I have these ladies of the night on the run, but the field of play is getting blurred and the board is very condensed.” I glanced down and saw that five words had found their way into the game so far but none of the wooden squares forming them were touching each other.

“You guys ever play this game before tonight?” I said to the girls.

A stunning black girl with bruised blood colored hair and long shoulder length bone earrings heaved out in a sexy deep voice, (it reminded me of a lonely cow’s “moo”). “I got one,” and carefully laid down “dog,” forever impressing four of the other girls who I reckoned must be on her team against Keith.

Moon kicked the board off the bed in a miniature demonstration of a losing hissy fit. He sullenly pushed himself up to lean on the puffed pink silk headboard and motions me to sit beside him. I don’t sit next to naked men often and so I worried about my sweat.

“Can I hold it?” he draws my eyes to his with a begging look and I handed him my case. He flattens it to his stomach and balls and says brightly, “Does it have lots of money tonight?”

“You bet,” I said.

He tosses the case to the foot of the bed and all the girls hungrily lunge on it. They began rubbing themselves over it like it was some jungle musk puppet. I was half thinking of how early I could get hold of a spray bottle of Fantastic from housekeeping.

Moon puts his mouth on my ear and said in his British spy voice, “I have my eye on that little brunette down there, you’re an accountant of sorts, do you think I have a shot with her?”

Now I had this job because I have at least two strengths, the first was that I could be trusted with money and the second was that my unreality was not easily overwhelmed by the unreality of anybody else’s.

“ I think your chances are top tier,” I answered. “I noticed right away she has not taken her eyes off you, even with her mouth on my case”.

Jim and Tiny know their call girls, the girls looked like movie stars.

“Ladies, the case please,” he ordered as he put his arms out like the prongs on a forklift.

” I believe I will need quite a bit tonight,” now back to me. I responded as I always do to the band, “OK, how much do you want?”

He solemnly calculated for a minute employing his exacting ” pin the tail on the donkey” arithmetic, “Twenty-thousand might cover it,” he said, nearly  giddy with relief that the stress of the math was over.

I opened my case at his bare feet and all the girls in the room surrounded it like cats watching a toilet flush.  As I counted out the money, you could hear the wind whistling through their open mouths. I handed it to Keith and made him sign for it, which he did,  dramatically sweeping my pen in semi circles like a crashing propeller plane, before landing close enough to the dotted line.

He picked up the money and tossed it to Dougal who caught some of it.

Going out I asked Jim to try to keep a handle on how much he gave each girl but I knew that was doubtful. I told him he could drop off anything that was left to me in the morning and I went back to bed.

Photo courtesy of Peter “Dougal” Butler