The Who Leave Me Behind.
by Regis Boff
The house lights were many times kept off in the arenas or in the stadiums at the end of a show until the band and the immediate traveling party were in the limos and heading up the ramps and out towards the airport. This could be executed with phenomenal precision.
The limousines were met at the top of the ramp by a phalanx of motorcycle policeman, from four to six generally, who would perform a high speed game of hopscotch through city streets to the airport barging into intersections ahead of our cars stopping traffic momentarily, then peeling off to the back of the caravan. This would continue until they led the us onto the tarmac and to The Who’s waiting private jet. It was very cool.
Everyone adored these mad dashes, even including the cops. The police treated the situation as though three members of the band had amputated various limbs during the show and The Who’s only hope was to jet the frozen pieces to the next city in time for reasonable reattachment. In reality we were just trying to avoid the traffic of the punters leaving the show.
Motorcycle police are, as everybody knows, kind of intimidating. They wore these big shiny helmets with reflective visors, over-polished black leather knee boots and thick gloves.
Peter “Dougal” Butler, Keith’s best friend, over the course of this particular tour, bought one of these outfits for Keith Moon one piece at a time from a different cop in several cities, which is another story entirely.
During the shows I would be in the box office at the other end of the stadium or arena hall. I had to get finished with the settlement, collect the money and get myself backstage before the end of the show on nights like these before the limos were filled and ready to go.
My first shows did not go so smoothly for me. I was psychotically meticulous about not being beaten on the deals. It was after all, why I was there. The hardest thing in the known universe is getting money back from a promoter the next day.
Even when I eventually relaxed with it, I often had to run to get back to the stage in time for the get out. The promoters would send one or two cops with me because I always had this bag full of money. I would be out running ahead of the cops through the audience heading to the backstage, so it looked they were trying to catch and arrest me.
Anyway, on my first or second show they left me behind. They left a car for me but I got stuck in the audience traffic, so when I finally did arrive everybody was already in the plane looking out the window for me, none too pleased. Townshend wanted to leave me entirely and take off. He got into a fight with the manager Bill Curbishley because Bill refused.
Jim Callaghan, the head of security, had spent time teaching me how to palm tips to the police. It was not a difficult movement but if you have ever secreted money to a cop it is infinitely aided by not doing it awkwardly. They are not prone to enjoying being seen taking what amounted to a bribe.
The way it worked was, the head of the police detail would separate from the others and wait for me at the end of the wing not that far from the steps into the jet. I had already palmed a wad of hundred dollar bills to tip him with.
In my panic about holding up the plane I put out my hand to shake his before he had taken his hand out of his thick glove. This resulted in his not being able to feel the bills I gave him so they just flew into the air as we took our hands away.
So the scene was unfolding miserably for me. The money was blowing toward the other cops who were as nimbly as could be expected given those outfits, trying to catch the flying currency as it raced towards the idling jet engines which in turn hurled them at even a higher velocity right into airport darkness. Everyone in the plane had his or her face pressed against the window laughing at me as I climbed the stairs afraid to look back at the angry police.