The Who’s version of Coronavirus
by Regis Boff
All that remained of the band’s all-night security detail was Jim Callaghan, who was shifting nervously from foot to foot in front of me. He was wearing one shoe.
I ignored him.
Keith Moon stretched out in front of me in black nylons and a blue silk kimono behind a tea service set for him on a small Victorian table. His hotel suite window showed whichever lake was next to Chicago. It was early morning sometime in the late seventies. He was wearing Callaghan’s other shoe.
At mid-tour, he was worn and beginning to look like an unshaven Judy Garland during her last difficult years, but I kept this to myself.
“Spot of tea, Regis?” he offered, not caring there was not a second cup. “Did you take in some theater before you rushed here to help me?” he jabbed.
“I wanted to pick up more cash,” I offered, working to deflect him. The band still made me nervous.”
I learned early that rock stars had no concrete understanding of cash, they liked it, but it stalled and confused them.
This drummer viewed me as a magically tall money fountain and understood vaguely that on occasion, I needed a refill. It was our primary working link.
“We have disturbing confidences to consider you and me,” he began slowly. “I have met the wrong woman.”
He paused here, investigating our faces for sympathy. None came. But we didn’t laugh either.
Days seemed to pass as I was blank for any response. Callaghan cracked first,” He’s got the clap.”
“Quiet!” he shot at him in a shrill hiss, “this is our grave intrigue; no one can ever know.”
” I’ll find you a doctor,” I swiftly convinced him, and then after brief but genuinely stupid pleasantries, I headed off.
I can make anyone do anything for Who tickets and cash.
The doctor was there in under an hour to take a culture. He called Keith later to unveil that he had an especially hateful strain of Vietnamese gonorrhea.
That afternoon I headed back up to his room with the doctor and his bag of syringes in tow.
We found him with his close friend Dougal hunched over the suite’s dining table with pens and paper looking like Hitler and Goebbels planning a North African tank campaign.
While the doctor set up, I asked: “Should we let the girl know?”
“Girl?” he sniffed as though I had demanded the definition of a two hundred letter word. They both snickered at me; he said, “there are constellations of girls, and we are connecting those dots as we speak..”
With that, he turned back to his diagrams with Dougal, who was now so stimulated about the probable sexual associations he was practically drooling. They were tracing who they had slept with and who else had most probably done the same girl. The enrollment grew and grew like a virus. No one, at least in the imaginations of these two, could be innocent. ( Except me, of course, because I would be paying the doctor.)
There is nowhere on earth like a rock tour when it comes to women. And yes, occasionally, the odd girl might have a disease of one kind or another. It did happen.
But groupies get a bad whack in music mythology. Commonly they had far higher IQs than the road crews, the traveling staff, and the band members they coveted. Most of the famous ones are ambitious, conniving, and breathtakingly forward advancing. Sometimes it is sad but rarely.
I understood that innocents were fingered that day, caught up as they were in Moon’s fabulously infectious net. Still, the English are reliably the last to guess at a lie. They will nearly always misjudge what to do in favor of caution. It was just good unclean fun, after all.
Dougal and I called nearly everyone on tour that day and the glum suspected marched in all day. Even some of our lawyers succumbed to the flimsiest of evidence.
With sick looks on their faces, they dropped their pants.
The doctor was now working for me full time. He made a small fortune and walked away with enough tickets to start another Ticketron in Chicago.
A photograph exists of everyone standing or kneeling together in that suite at day’s end because the whole damn thing turned into a party.
It resembled a U.S. baseball team card.
The Indian doctor was sitting in the center, holding a lap-full of Who tickets and syringes. I don’t know who has that photo today.
I would pay for it.