I Have a Chat With Pete Townshend in His Hotel Suite, 1974, Part II: The Night After

Hello, Dear Binky-@-Huffington Reader,

I have been remiss. It's been almost two months since my last blog. God, I hate that word. Sounds like something that clogs a toilet, an apropos description here, as you shall see. Anyway, I have been working on something for the past couple of months, to be published (by an actual company!) some time very soon. It's hush-hush for now (cool, huh!), but, believe you me, I'll give you all the details the minute I'm allowed to.

My last posting was the story of my afternoon visit to Pete Townshend's hotel suite during The Who's famous/infamous four night stand at Madison Square Garden in June, 1974. What I didn't include was the fact that that visit of mine to The Pierre hotel occurred the day before Pete's famous much-confessed, much-publicly-ruminated-on, major-league breakdown re: The Who and his role in all of it. In some ways, according to him, he quit The Who the next night.

In Pete's telling, on the fourth and final night, Friday, June 14th, there were a pack of kids down front (I was in the 3rd row and don't recall any of this) that spent the night yelling, "Jump, Pete, jump!", "Windmill, Pete, windmill!" He had an epiphany that he was "pounding stages like a clown," that his life wasn't his own, that he was a puppet hating what he was doing, that he was too old for this shit ... He had a true existential crisis that night, one that reverberated through him for years to come.

There is irony in the fact that the Thursday and Friday night shows were both sensational.

About seven hours after Pete was singing "Baba O'Riley" to me like Andy Williams in his suite, The Who were coming back onstage for an encore. This alone was somewhat remarkable. Who encores were never guaranteed back then.

This night, the show had been so good, the band so tight, the crowd so reet, that the encore was one of genuine celebration. The Who launched into a killer "Shakin' All Over." About three minutes into the song, the entire PA totally crapped out. A complete shutdown of everything but John and Pete's amps. Roger's temper, while legendary, was always in heavy check. But, the second Roger realized that this was a show-ending problem, he flew into a rage, the likes of which I've never seen. He stormed over to the PA bins and speaker cabinets on John's side of the stage and started picking them up (easily over 100 lbs each) and heaving them at the crew trying to fix the thing. I mean, throwing these behemoths 15+ feet. Wild strength! He strode over to the side of the stage where two or three crew guys were standing, looking befuddled. There is no way of knowing what Roger said, but, these hefty crew guys literally shrank back in fear. Roger walked off stage screaming so loud that, down front, you could hear him without the PA. Pete, John, Keith, looked at each other with something bordering on fear and loathing and resignation. From what I've gathered over the years (and Pete himself complained about them to me in a letter once), Daltrey's post-gig rants, while not abundant, were long, loud, and brooked no dissent.

The next night, while not quite as stellar, was one of the better shows I ever saw The Who perform. The capper being Pete's decision, at the end of the night, to smash all FIVE of the Gibson Les Pauls on stage. He methodically picked up one after the other and destroyed them, down to spare parts status. As he went to grab the last one off it's guitar stand, Keith leapt out from behind his drum kit and pantomimed, "Please, may I?" as if he were a butler. Pete pantomimed back, "Why, of course!" as if he were an aristocrat. Keith then, in full comic flight, lifted the guitar over his head and brought it down on the stage as hard as he could. It didn't break, which Pete and Roger found uproarious. Inflamed by his initial failure, Keith flayed the guitar into chunks akin to kindling. A good time was had by all ... except for Pete, it turned out.

There was a big post-MSG shebang after the final Friday show. I somehow got on one of probably 35 guest lists, and for the first time in my fandom, went to an actual sanctioned Who event, other than a gig.

The venue for the fete was a 90 second walk from Madison Square Garden at a disused ballroom/theater called the Manhattan Center. The minute I walked in I could see that it was a stupid overcrowded event, peopled with useless hangers-on, professional party-crashers, friends-of-friends-of-friends-of-friends-of-friends of the guy who ran the limo service Keith Moon used in New York, none of whom cared a thing for The Who, total low-rent show biz crap.

As I was standing in this hideous throng, suddenly, Pete, like a hallucination, was coming towards me (totally unrecognized by the revelers). As he got within earshot, he looked straight at me with huge disgust and said, "What the fuck are you doing at this, Binky?!" and walked straight past me and out into the street ... and thus began his infamous walk up 8th Ave by himself, quitting The Who, quitting music, quitting his life. It is astounding to me to note that two dear old friends, Ira Robbins and Dave Schulps, both of Trouser Press infamy, both of whom had wisely decided, having seen who was walking in, not to bother with this after-party, followed Pete up the avenue for 23 (!) blocks, a discreet distance back, making sure he'd be okay. His distress was that evident.

Perceiving myself as having somehow offended my life's hero twice in less than 36 hours, I was beside myself with raw grief and humiliation. It was much later that I realized he meant that this crap event was totally beneath me, but at the time I thought he hated me ... all because of our awkward and disappointing (for both of us) goodbye in The Pierre's hallway the afternoon before (see Part I).

Suddenly filled with rage, confusion, self-loathing, I spotted a guy with a tray of champagne. I grabbed him and told him to hold on a minute. I took two glasses and downed them both in less than 10 seconds. Took another two and downed them in 10 seconds. Someone called my name. I was being introduced to Lola.

I was bombed.

For months, I'd been hyped about Lola by several friends...

"Oh, you'll love her, Binky. She's your kind of gal!" Now, we were finally meeting. She was petite, cute, wild eyed, honey-haired, dressed in an expensive and immaculate white pants suit.

I was bombed.

I shook her hand, leaned into her right ear, and immediately confided in her regarding my newly acquired buzz and how I got it as if it were a great secret between us. She immediately turned and spotted another waiter guy with a tray, grabbed two glasses and asked me to take two. She drank all four even faster than I had. She turned and leered up at me, "Now what, Binky?"

"Follow me, Lola!"

We went up a staircase. We were alone. I found a men's room. In we went.

With a flourish, I announced, "Okay, Lola, watch this!"

I strode over to the sink. I snapped it off the wall. Water gushed!

I picked up the trash can. Threw it into the mirror. CRASH!

I smashed the odor-eater container on the wall with my fist and got sprayed with this viscous minty Lysol-y horror-goo that was still on my skin days later.

I grabbed toilet paper rolls and shoved 'em into the two toilets and started manically flushing.

It got too wet in there. We headed down the hall. We were still all alone.

I opened a door. The little room was pitch black.

I turned to Lola, shoved my tongue down her throat, and pulled her inside. We groped around, and Lola found a pole to steady herself with. We commenced with sloppy vigor. Suddenly, and this is NOT a metaphor, the room exploded in a monstrously large and dense jet/shower/cascade of sparks accompanied by the sound of a bulldozer starting up. Giddy shock and awe! We both were literally seeing stars. We were in the room that housed the elevator's engine. Each time someone got in and pressed a button, our tryst-lair erupted! This happened at least 6 times during the 15 minutes we ground ourselves to a pulp. Rather added a certain je ne sais quoi to the experience.

Upon leaving the fireworks of our electrifying sex-suite, we discovered that the entire hallway was now truly flooded, water heading down the stairs even. We also discovered that we were both covered in black electrical soot. Almost the entire left half of Lola's face was Al Jolson black like some comic-book super-villainess. Good Girl/Bad Girl! Her white pants suit, now hilariously filthy, bore several big black hand prints in hard-to-explain-away places. We were in hysterics, leaning against the wall so as to not fall down into the water, both of us just rip-shit drunk. We'd known each other for about 20 minutes.

We gathered whatever wits we still had and went back downstairs, 3C, cool calm collected.

Our friends, however, made no such attempt to be cool and nonchalant about our appearance.

WHERE HAVE YOU TWO BEEN?!?

Lola happily yelled, "Binky trashed a bathroom!"

Jeeez, shhhhhhhhhhh!