ROCK’S IN MY HEAD:CHAPTER 33-THE HOTEL DIPLOMAT:
It is said that probably more than any other underground paper, RAT newspaper was in the “eye of the political hurricane”. These guys made news as much as they reported it. Later on in college I attempted to adopt some of their concepts, i.e., ad layout, stealing other papers headlines and cartoons without copyright approval, etc. into what we were printing but that is another story.
As it goes, RAT staff members were arrested in connection with a series of non-lethal bombings of corporate offices (banks) and military targets in late 1969. Money was needed for their defense as well as for the YOUNG LORDS, a group of Puerto Rican nationalists who RAT thought to be the newest, hippest of radical groups. So, a benefit concert was set for The Hotel Diplomat Ballroom, November 15, 1969.
Mostly everyone I knew was away for their “Senior Trip” to some upstate dude ranch. I was basically left alone for the weekend. The “CLASS OF 70” departed by bus Saturday upon the completion of a football game which was lost against our cross town rival. I attended a house party around the corner that evening. It was a zoo, and those in attendance mostly younger class mates were getting bombed. My buddy attended with me. After a bit of watching assholes make assholes of themselves, my buddy and I hit the road.
Out in front of the kids house my friend took out his pipe and lit up a piece of hash. Little did we notice the police car sitting about a hundred yards away. He was probably responding to a call by a neighbor due to the excessive noise at the party. At first I was sure he didn’t see us until he started moving the car towards us. I threw the pipe over a nearby fence and lit up a cigarette. The officer came over, opened his window and said ,“You boys are smart to go home. This will get ugly later” and he laughed. I was so nervous my hands shook. We smiled nervously and I went directly home where I found my mother finishing painting my bedroom walls which I had started that morning. I went to bed early, thinking…Whew.
So it’s now Sunday, my brother and I got up early and walked to the LIRR station to take the train into Brooklyn where we would meet up with my cousin.I was taking my brother to another rock n roll extravaganza as my cousin’s band was playing in a ballroom in Manhattan that evening. We arrived in Brooklyn in early afternoon and helped load the Ryder truck with equipment and a few cases of cold beer. When all was safely tucked in the truck we, the band, roadies, girlfriends and others got in the back of the truck and the door was slammed down shut. Away we go.
Stuck in traffic for what seemed like an eternity, the lead guitarist a bit intoxicated had to pee. No escape, no hope, he just peed himself. This RnR lifestyle was not what I expected it to be.
We hit our destination and searched for a place to buy him new pants, but BLUE LAWS (businesses closed on Sundays), limited our choices. Ultimately one of the girls found a pair of pants. Me, I found more beer.
The night was fun to say the least. Allen Ginsberg was chanting and running around in a toga with bells on his fingers, the speeches were political rants filled with profanities, my cousin’s band was hot doing two sets, and VIVA, a Warhol actress took a liking to me, drinking some of my beer and followed me to the bathroom when I had to pee.Oh, and there were TV cameras and reporters scattered around the hall.
It was very late or very early depending on how you look at things when my brother and I arrived home. Dad was seated in his usual chair at this ungodly hour with an ash tray filled with cigarette butts. I sensed this was not good, “Who died?” I thought. Dad while not taking his eyes off of me told my brother to go to bed. The INQUISITION began and lasted forever. Seems like the 10 O’Clock News, the one which asks the question every evening “DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR KIDS ARE?” had a feature tonight on RAT newspaper having a benefit for folks blowing up banks, Puerto Ricans Nationalists, no less. And we were the stars. Geez, he was so angry, oh, was he angry. He didn’t speak to me for days, he avoided me.
Going nearly five weeks without a show was tough. While working out some personal difficulties with my folks (HOTEL DIPLOMAT) I was doing extremely well in school while meeting more and more new “friends” and still pulling full time hours in the cassette factory when I saw the VILLAGE VOICE ad: Joe Cocker November 22, 1969 at Fillmore East. The bill also included (Peter Green’s) Fleetwood Mac and King Crimson who recently got some radio play. So, why not? Great seats arrived.
King Crimson opened the show and performed most of their amazing debut THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING (which I bought the very next week) followed by Peter Green’s FLEETWOOD MAC which was simply outstanding. Greenie was playing the blues so sweetly and the band tight, so very, very tight. Peter Green became a guitar idol for me at that moment. Joe Cocker, and The Grease Band held their own, opening with HITCHCOCK RAILWAY from his second album, and threw in two Beatle tunes before closing with WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS. Having seen Cocker two times in as few months, I was not sure if I wanted to see him again for a while. But
FLEETWOOD MAC, yes I will be back.