Friday night we went to a party and Pike introduced me to Keith, who it turned out had heard about me from Chernwick. And that led to another gig with a band who were partway through cutting their album when one of their guitarists broke his wrist in a swimming pool accident.
The story was that he had been trying to clean the pool while on drugs, and he fell in. I guess that wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t been right at the stairs and railing of the pool at the time, which also explained the broken ribs and a couple of other things wrong with him, too? Though it was the wrist that kept him from playing.
They were running out of studio money and running out of time to deliver a product, and they had more than half the tracks in the can already, so they were desperate. Keith was their producer and, I think, more than a little paternal toward them. I later heard rumors they’d already run through their budget and Keith stuck with them anyway.
No, I’m not going to say which band it was. Keith was a genuinely nice guy who cared about what he did. They weren’t the only band he helped out.
So I went to Van Nuys every day. At first everything was pretty straightforward. Play this part. Play that part. No problem.
Things got hot and heavy after I’d been recording with them two weeks, I think because Keith got more and more in love with the way I played. He also loved that he could bring in sheet music and I could play from it. To me that’s no big deal, but I know, most rock musicians don’t read music and of those that do, most can’t sight read.
Let me confess something, though. Sight reading is a great party trick, but I don’t think it necessarily makes you a “better” musician than someone who can’t. I know that’s not what is preached in the music schools, where you’re lower than dirt if you can’t. But music school is all about them finding things to make you feel lower than dirt. Now that I think about it, that’s really what music school is for. It’s to make you want to quit. It’s a weed-out machine. Those who aren’t culled are the ones who get shots at those tip-of-the-iceberg gigs. And all pro gigs are tip-of-the-iceberg. Sessions included.
In other words, I’m motherfucking lucky to have survived this long, but that’s because fucked up as I am about other things, my playing isn’t one of the things I let myself doubt.
Of course, music school isn’t the only mechanism that is set up to make you think you’re lower than dirt. The industry as a whole has two modes: top of the world, or not. There’s really not a lot of middle ground. If the album sells a million copies, that’s a hit. If it sells “only” 100,000, it’s a flop. “Only” 200,000, still a flop. Maybe it’s all about expectations.
We’ll come back to that subject–expectations–at a later time. Because right now I’m talking about this band, and Keith, and how that all unfolded. So the basic gist is, Keith kept rearranging stuff to feature my playing more and more, and then so that the new tracks would mesh with the previously recorded ones, he started having me overdub parts on the songs that were already done. That led to him wanting to re-record some of those tracks…
Recall what I said about them running out of money. So Keith was doing this not for money, but because he really thought it sounded better. Eventually the band put their collective foot down and said no, they couldn’t keep rearranging stuff because of how I sounded or how I played. This turned into a huge fight between Keith and them until I finally butted in and said what I should have said in the very very beginning, which was that I could play exactly like the injured motherfucker if that was what they wanted. Once I understood the issue, I realized I should listen to the band more and Keith less, even though Keith was the one paying me (and stroking my ego). Keith was a smart guy, though, and didn’t have so much of his own ego invested that he couldn’t see how to make it work.
Among the things we did then was I put my own guitars away and just played the ones they had already used on the record, and I went to school studying the guy. I listened to the previous album in the car everywhere I went, and at home I sat there with my headphones on, picking away at recreating his solos, the way I would’ve when I was fourteen. It took a couple more weeks to get everything done to everyone’s satisfaction.
Bottom line: we got it done. And most people can’t tell it’s me on the record.
Note that I haven’t said a word about Jonathan. We didn’t have any fights during those three or four weeks. I also made sure my ass was at home by 9pm at the latest and that meant no issues about either dinner or sex. We had plenty of both.
But to get back to the story about the guitarist who broke his wrist in his swimming pool. Chris and Lacey arrived shortly after the gig ended and we got together with them for dinner at some swanky place Lacey picked. That was fine, though I always felt whenever I had a moderately fancy dinner that Bart should have been there. Afterward we went to a celebrity hot spot for some kind of schmoozefest. I don’t remember what it was now–someone’s birthday or the release party for their self-help tape or announcement of their new deal with William Morris? It doesn’t matter who or what. If it had been someone I knew maybe it would have stuck, but it was someone Lacey’s agent knew.
Apparently Chris and I were still considered A-list. I wasn’t surprised about that. I mean, the videos were still getting played and our pictures were still appearing in magazines. It wasn’t like anyone but us knew we were on our record company’s shit list.
So the hot spot was a kind of night club room in the back of a restaurant. It had a dance floor and lots of alcove-y booths. It was supposedly hard to get into normally, but there was this party, and I was never clear on whether everyone there was there for the party or if it was only some people. I don’t suppose it matters.
What matters is that at one point Lacey grabbed me, literally, and placed me in front of her so her back was to the wall and my back was to the room.
“Lacey, what the hell?”
“Act like you’re talking to me until that creep goes away.”
“Don’t turn around! He’ll give up and go away if I look busy. Normally this is Chris’s job but he’s in the men’s room.” She seemed really anxious.
“Um, okay. Does this happen a lot?”
“Depends.” She took a deep breath and smoothed her hair. “There’s always some guy who can’t control himself when he gets this close to a ten.”
“A ten? Oh, I get it.” Ten as in that Bo Derek movie. “Should I try to get Jonathan over here, too?”
“No! If he thinks I’m talking to a group he’ll try to horn in. Trust me, just stand where you are.”
“Okay, anything to help a woman in need.”
She frowned at me then, giving me one of those sour-fruit faces. “Oh, yeah, right.”
“Wait, what did I do now? You asked me to stand here, I’m standing here.”
“Didn’t you just make an album for … (insert name of guitar player here)?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Oh, come on, you don’t actually believe that ‘I fell in the pool’ story, do you?” She crossed her arms and glared at me.
“I heard he was high as a kite when it happened. Why, is there more to the story?”
“You could say that. Like why his falling into the pool landed his girlfriend in the hospital.”
“I didn’t even know he had a–”
“Mandy Killington. Why the hell do you think I’m here?”
It was kind of loud in there, between the music and everyone trying to out-schmooze each other, and I thought, did I miss something? “Lacey, slow down. I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.”
“That’s always your excuse, isn’t it? Listen to how often you say that to me.”
That’s because you’re batshit crazy, I thought, but didn’t say. “Nonetheless, who is Andy Kingston and why are you here?”
“Mandy Killington. She’s a model. She was supposed to do a shoot this week but she can’t because her face is disfigured.”
I started to get that sinking feeling. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a realist when it comes to how badly people can treat each other. But sometimes you get the feeling something is going to be really ugly. “From something that happened a month ago?”
“Yes, that’s how bad it is.”
“What did he do?”
“He beat her, you dummy.”
“Okay, no, I get that! I mean… never mind.” I tried to get back to the logical thread of the conversation. “So you’re here to do the shoot in her place?”
“That’s right. And if you think it’s right that a guy can wreck a woman’s career by wrecking her face, you’re wrong, mister.”
“Whoa whoa whoa, wait a second, when did I say that?”
“You’re an enabler! Without you his career would be in the toilet!”
“What? Lacey, I don’t even know this guy. A producer hired me to–”
“Excuses! You’re one excuse after another! No wonder Carynne is fed up with you.”
“Carynne is what? Listen to me, you’re not talking sense. If I don’t do it, the producer just hires Steve Vai or some other guitar player to fill in. It’s not like I took the job because I have any personal connection whatsoever. I’d ever even met the guy.”
“Is he nice?” she demanded. “Was he nice to you?”
“Not particularly, no. He didn’t come to the studio most of the time and I only met him a couple of times.” It dawned on me finally that none of the injuries probably had anything to do with a swimming pool. “He had a black eye, too.”
“So, they had a fight. Lacey, lots of lovers have fights.”
“You are soooo trying to justify the actions of your friend.”
“I’m not. I’m just saying that’s all I know. How do you know he battered her? Does he have a record?”
“See, no one ever believes the victim. You took that guy’s money to save his ass when he deserves to burn in hell for what he did. You’re not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem.”
Okay, I had had it by then with her pat therapist sayings and her constant digs at me and my lack of psychological savvy. In other words, she was pissing me off. “Oh, is this about money? Is this about money, Lacey?”
She thrust her chin at me, which I took to mean yes.
“If I’ve got blood money on my hands, so do you. You’re taking her gig. When are you going to donate that money to a battered women’s shelter, huh?”
“Hey, don’t you tell me how to run my career. You don’t know anything about it.”
“No shit. But here, how’s this, you pick the charity and I’ll donate every cent I made from this gig to it if you do the same. How’s that for putting my money where my mouth is? Huh? If you really believe everything you’re saying, you’ll do it.”
“You’re infuriating! You’re only saying that so you can say you were the one who won the argument!”
“You’re the one who picked the fight in the first place! What’s it going to be, Lacey? Put up or shut up!”
That was when she went bonkers and attacked me. Her fists were small but hard. Remember that in her heels she was probably almost a foot taller than me. She got me once in the face before I grabbed her by the arm, and then Chris came to the rescue and grabbed her from behind, and then someone who was adept at celebrity wrangling hurried me out of public view. A club security guy.
They had a backroom production office or something. I had them grab Jonathan then and bring him to me while they gave me an icepack to put on my cheekbone where she’d really whacked me. The club security guy here was more like a member of the Secret Service than like Antonio and his crew. Suit and collared shirt. He was white.
The conversation went something like this:
Security guy: How are you feeling Mr. Marks?
Me: I’m fine, really. I don’t think I need the ice.
Security guy: Are you in need of medical attention? Or any other form of official attention?
Me: Uh, I don’t need a doctor, if that’s what you mean.
Security guy: We’d just like to know if you’ll be reporting this to any other official… officials.
Jonathan: You mean do we need to involve the police?
Security guy: For obvious reasons, we’d like to maintain discretion…
Me: Or for fuck’s sake, so would we. And you’ve got to be kidding me, like I’m going to charge Lacey Montaigne with assault? I’m fine. Really.
Security guy: May I take an official statement from you to that effect?
Me: Uh, sure?
Jonathan: I think he means repeat yourself to prove you really mean it.
So I promised them I wasn’t pressing any charges or anything like that. We snuck out and went home.
I got a phone call from Chris about an hour later.
“I have to ask you a favor,” he said, sounding pretty shaky.
“Anything. What is it?”
“One, can you come pick me up. Two, can I stay on your couch.”
“Yes, and yes, where are you?”
He gave me the address, and I told Jonathan where I was going. J. than had the bright idea that if Chris was going to stay over that we go to Remo’s where there were more beds. Right. So we went and retrieved Chris from a bar in Hollywood, and then we took him through In and Out Burger, and THEN we drove up to Laurel Canyon. It was in the car on the way up there that Chris finally told us what was going on.
“Lacey’s on drugs,” he said.
“No kidding,” I answered automatically, then realized he meant it for real, not as an expression for bonkers. “Wait, which drugs?”
“She scored some coke in the girls room there. Just a little, she said. Can you believe it?”
“Man. She seemed really high strung when we started talking, kind of sweaty and nervous, but it didn’t occur to me it was that. She told me some guy was stalking her and so she wanted to talk to me to keep him away. And that turned into her accusing me of practically battering Kandy Millington myself and saying my gig money was blood money. So I said fine, if my gig money is blood money, so is yours. And then she went postal and tried to beat my face in.” I was driving, so I paused to check the mirrors. “Did what I just said make any sense?”
“Yeah.” Chris heaved a sigh. “Yeah, unfortunately, I understood every word.”
“In the end I challenged her. I said, fine, you donate your gig money and I’ll donate mine, to whatever battered women’s shelter she wants.”
Jonathan spoke up from the back seat. “That’s a brilliant idea. What did she say to that?”
“That was, literally, when she attacked me.” I shrugged. “I have no idea how much money she makes on one of these shoots. Maybe I was out of line.”
“Or maybe she was on drugs,” Chris said. “That’s it.” He gestured over his shoulder with his thumb like a hitchhiker. “I can’t be around her.”
“You’re serious? I thought you were just coming to stay the night. Is this breakup a permanent thing?”
“I don’t know. I think it has to be, though. If she’s going to fall off the wagon that easily? Our first night in Hollywood she goes into the restroom and scores some blow? When she’s been through rehab, and she knows what I’m going through, too? What the fuck. So wrong. I thought she understood. I thought she was stronger than that.”
“Okay, all that,” I said, “but if I remember what they told me and Carynne at the orientation thing, we shouldn’t judge you as strong or weak. Right?”
“Well, okay, that’s true. But… I don’t know. I’m… I don’t know what to think.”
“I think you should sleep on it before making any big promises or pronouncement,” I said.
“Shit. When did you get so mature and wise?”
Haha, yeah, that’s me.