874. The Great Pretender

Carynne would later tell me that Argentina was much more “guitar-focused” (her term) than other parts of South America, so if I was going to be chased through the streets anywhere with a frenzy nearly equal to Ziggy’s, it was going to be here. I’m not completely sure that’s true, but it was also the only place on the tour where there were journalists who wanted to talk to me specifically. She claimed some of those press requests had come in before the whole baby-saving story broke.

But I suspected she might be trying to make me feel better about the fact that I spoke to a reporter without approval and upstaged Ziggy.

Ziggy, for his part, acted like he didn’t care about being upstaged.

But I cared. I felt like I’d made a gaffe, and I was not super happy about being worshipped for putting myself between Ford and a knife. I mean, anyone would do that, right? I think the main reason the story hadn’t gotten more play in the United States is twofold. One, Remo and I didn’t want to talk about it much, and two, no rock music reporter wants to be seen as sappy or going soft, you know? The whole story was like too Hallmark-special/Norman Rockwell or something.

In Argentina they didn’t mind that the story was corny as hell. They played it up to the hilt. There was no World Wide Web yet back then so the story was completely new to them. They ate it up.

The result was that the throng of fans outside our hotel–yes, they caught on to where we were staying–would sometimes chant my name as well as Ziggy’s.

I suppose I wouldn’t have minded the entire thing too much, but another result of my sudden popularity in Argentina meant I was asked to accompany Ziggy to do the big national TV variety show he was booked on. I certainly wasn’t going to pout and refuse, was I?

In the transport van to the place, I got up the nerve to ask for more details. Carynne and Barrett were both there, along with Tony and Flip. “So what’s going to happen on this show?”

“Ye-e-e-sss,” Ziggy echoed, drawing the word out with curiosity. “I’ve been wondering that myself.”

Barrett was in the seat ahead of us and he turned around to talk. “Well, there’s been a bit of a monkey wrench thrown into the works, so we’ll need to discuss with a producer when we get there.”

“Monkey wrench?” Ziggy’s voice was as “arch” as his eyebrow. “I was under the impression they wanted me to lip synch a song to their fake backing band.”

Barrett’s gaze flickered over to me for a guilty moment. “Uh, yeah, that’s the usual.”

Carynne jumped in. “Which is the main reason we didn’t ask you to come along in the first place,” she said to me directly. “I know how you feel about lip synching. Plus, you know, the whole hand thing.”

Barrett took up from there. “So what’s complicated is they really want you,”–meaning me–“to do the segment with Ziggy, but there’s the question of whether you can even play. Or should.”

“Wait, so you’re saying they’d make an exception and let us actually play live for real, if I can do it?”

“Yes,” Barrett said.

“But no pressure!” Carynne added. “It’d also work just as well to beg off and just tell the story of how you got injured again.”

“Um, do they know I don’t speak Spanish?”

The two managerial-types shared a glance. “They…have a translator to help you with that,” Carynne said. “Right?”

“Um, well, it’s not a live translation.” Barrett looked uncomfortable. “Basically they want to hash out what you’re going to say before the cameras start rolling.”

I caught Ziggy’s eye and we kind of asked each other without saying it aloud, are you okay with that?

“Is that a problem?” I finally asked Barrett.

He let out a breath of relief. “If it’s not a problem for you, then it’s not a problem.”

“We thought you might, you know, feel like that was faking it,” Carynne explained.

I almost had to laugh. They were worried that I was going to equate that with lip synching and have some kind of moral objection to it. I mean, I guess there were some parallels. You were presenting something to the viewer that was supposed to look spontaneous but that was actually canned. But I wasn’t bothered by pre-planning an interview.

When we got to the studio they seemed in a hurry to get us in place, and I guess it was because with a live audience they didn’t want it to get too boring between acts. The negotiation was quick and in the end they fell back on having Ziggy lip synch to a record as usual for that show, while I would do the talking part but not play. Weird, but there you have it. The things you do for fame.

The thing I learned that afternoon while we worked out what the questions were going to be and what we were going to say in response was that Ziggy’s Spanish was better than mine, but not by as much as I expected. He needed the translator’s help filling in some words and he also asked for some help with his pronunciation.

“Your pronunciation’s fine,” I said, while they were quickly doing our makeup.

“Yeah, for a Puerto Rican street thug,” he said, sneering at himself in the mirror. “I’m trying to sound somewhat better than that.”

“Ah. Makes sense. I probably sound like a Castilian street thug, then.”

He smirked at my reflection. “Your lisp is pretty funny.”

“Charming. It’s charming. Like a British person saying ‘zed’ or something.”

That made Ziggy snicker and seeing him smile and laugh was my favorite part of that whole day.

(A great cover by the great Freddie Mercury who I truly did not appreciate during his lifetime the way I should have. -d)


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