The Who make their move on the Vatican
by Regis Boff
Keith Moon was out on the street, working as a doorman/bellboy at the Navarro Hotel in New York City between shows at Madison Square Garden because he was running out of money.
I got him that job thinking it might be a character-building experience. It also relieved, for a little while, everybody’s constant anxiety over where he was.
The hotel manager, Mr. Russell, a personal friend of mine, arranged it because he felt obliged. After all, the band had rebuilt three of his hotel rooms over the last two tours. I always turned to the word ” shredded” in reporting what Moon had done to them.
It was August 6, 1978. I think.
We were in one of the suites playing scrabble and waiting for something to happen when Mr. Russell called to warn that Keith and his entourage were heading upstairs and that he was carrying two bags from a new guest that he had forgotten to leave in the lobby.
The initial shock of having their taxi door opened by a rock star wearing a six-foot-long Indian headdress had worked itself out in the manager’s estimation.
He was sharing his gratuities with other regular bellhops conscientiously though he got ill-tempered with the division math. It has, in fairness to our drummer, been my experience that no rock star can count.
In minutes the drummer blasted into our room like a one-person Apache raiding party. Behind him trailed our security guys, five groupies, two hotel porters, and I guessed from their suits and ages the people chasing their stolen bags.
” Have you heard the news?” he was nearly moaning with excitement. “Some Pope is dead! “
Feathers whipping in his breeze, he whirled on Anne Wheldon, our publicist who lives in a barely suppressed nervous hysteria, ordering her to ” get me someone on the line right now from The New York Times and Billboard Magazine!”
He started to wring his hands like an early Adolf Hitler slavering over a defenseless prewar France.
“Go right to the top, Anne, tell them I am throwing my hat into this Papal ring.” His eyes had an almost religious luminescence.
She had the entertainment editor from the Times on the phone within minutes.
He straightened his feathers and hunched over the desk phone. The room grew silent. We hung on his side of the conversation.”
“That’s right; I have wanted to leave the band for years,” he confirmed to the guy. ” “Given this emergency, I believe that moment is ripe.”
He listened, and his face seemed to droop.
“No, I am not Catholic,” he paused, perhaps sensing his tactical error.” “But I am a quick study, ask Pete Townshend,” he attached smoothly.
“And don’t let that motherfucker Mick Jagger hear about this. He is the devil, you know,” cunningly racing to blot any competition immediately.
We were rolling on the floor by this time, and Anne was standing next to him, trying to get his attention, waving her arms and mouthing that she had Rolling Stone on the other line.
He put both hands over the phone and, in confusion, shouted at us,” Fuck, he wants to know what I think qualifies me to be the next Pope.”
Ever quick, Bill Curbishley, his manager, shouted back to him”, Tell him twenty-five platinum albums.”
We learned later that he was not considered. But then neither was Jagger.