The Kinks Make Me Look Good in LA

At the end of January 1991, after more than a decade running record stores in the East Village and more than two decades playing clubs, I was hired by Bill and Rose McGathy, the heaviest hitters in independent rock radio record promotion for every major record label. I had called Bill to ask him to be a reference for a job I was going to go for at Virgin Records. He called the guy scheduled to interview me and told him, "If you don't hire Binky, I will!"

An hour later, suddenly deciding his glib line was a good idea, Bill called me and shouted "Fuck Virgin! You're coming to work for me!" I said, yes, please.

I was now an "indie." I'd spend the day calling radio stations and attempting (and often succeeding) to instigate a relationship with the programming staff charged with putting new music on the air. It was an absolutely perfect job for me. I had the ongoing opportunity to throw around my semi-vast musical knowledge and New York-CBGB-Max's-Dolls-KISS, etc. pedigree while critiquing the living shit outta various merits of some 60 to 70 songs a week released on about 20 labels. We'd start 5 to 10 new songs a week and the same number would die on the charts and disappear. I became a trusted go-between for more than 50 radio programmers and all the record labels, getting airplay for the labels and promotional and marketing support for the radio stations. Non-criminal payola sorta. I was having a ball.

Every year, there were about eight must-go-to confabs for radio and rekkid people. These were schmoooze-fests where guys who ran radio stations in towns like Tulsa or Shreveport or Bangor or Boise would be flown into places like New York or Los Angles or Miami or Austin to rub elbows with VPs and SVPs of record labels, famous artistes, attend private gigs for conventioneers only (I once saw Prince perform for about 200 people at one of these conventions), listen to a keynote speech by a genuine celebrity, get ripped, hit on pretty big city women, etc.

While there were legit panels and seminars and dinners to attend, and even some actual business going down, most of the time was spent having legal and illegal fun. In the interludes between episodes of various debaucheries, one could now and then strike up a new relationship with someone useful. Pollack Media, a very influential consulting firm for radio, always held the first convention of the year and it was always one of the glitziest. Those were the Big Fun money-burning days of the music industry.

I had been working for Bill and Rose McGathy for about 50 weeks and as a first anniversary treat, they took me along to the '92 Pollack Convention in LA, flying out first class 'n' everything, my first time ever.

Each enormous leather seat in first class had it's own little pop-up movie screen and you got to choose from about 30 titles. This was totally state-of-the-art hot stuff back in 1992. Woo Woo! I picked Glengarry Glen Ross from the movie menu and the stewardess brought me the little DAT-looking tape. I watched as I ate steak and drank champagne... Oh My God... the scene with Al Pacino and Jonathan Pryce in the restaurant gave me such heebie-jeebies I had to shut it off. The Pacino character... Wow, way too close to home for a guitar player just turned soft-sell indie promo guy. Yikes and yecch!

I forget which centrally-located high-rise up-scale hotel we were staying in but the bathroom in my suite, a few dozen floors up, was completely cream and mocha marble, brass fixtures, huge mirrors, and larger than my bedroom in NYC. Every possible extravagant doo-dad from that era was included in that hotel room. The bed was the size of a small pool. Just stupid gaudy opulence.

That first night in LA, after dindin at some joint with its own waterfall, the highlight of the evening was an intimate acoustic session with Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks on a tiny stage at this schmancy restaurant where their new label had just fed about 100 of us industry dopes. Columbia had recently signed the Kinks and it was a very big deal... the first release was just weeks away. Back then, Columbia Records was Big Red and very very successful. Almost every exec who worked there carried themselves like capos for Don Corleone.

And... I mean... really... the Kinks, one of the most important British Invasion bands. One of the most important bands in rock history, period. A prestige signing, for sure.

For the record, the Kinks could actually claim to have invented the Metal Riff ("You Really Got Me", their first single) and were the one band that had a tangible impact on the Big Three... the Beatles (Ray beat Paul to the punch with British Music Hall songs and singing with a British accent), the Rolling Stones ("Mother's Little Helper" was a straight steal from the Kinks) and the Who (Pete readily acknowledges that the first few Who singles were rewrites of Kinks songs). So, this was a coup for Columbia and the acoustic set was a hellavuh treat for them to provide us jaded music biz types!

When the time came, Ray and Dave materialized with acoustic guitars and played and sang about six songs. A few new ones from their forthcoming Columbia release, and a few Klassic Kinks Kuts. "Lola" and "Waterloo Sunset" for sure.
 It was marvelous. They both looked just great in matching suits. They were in fine voice and full of witty banter, clearly enjoying themselves and each other... 
a downright odd and lovely vibe for the Legendary Battling Kink Brothers.

Bill, Rose, and I were standing no more than 30 feet away from them for the whole performance. As soon as Ray and Dave finished their set, several important Columbia executives jumped onstage to thank the Brothers Davies, pump up the crowd, and kinda preen and schmooze Ray and Dave while the rest of us were left to ogle.

Without really thinking, in one of those Just Do It moments, I turned to Bill and Rose and cockily announced "Watch this!"

I jumped up on the little dais-stage, walked up to Ray and Dave and before I could say a word...

"Oh my God, Binky, what are you doing here?!" yelled Ray.

"For fuck's sake, Binky, is your band in town? Are you doing a show? Where are you playing?" shouted Dave.

"Wow, you look great, Binky... Is your sister here too?" queried Ray, shaking my hand.

"I can't believe it. It's so good to see you, Binky!" exclaimed Dave, giving me a hug.

"Hey, did you like the new songs?" asks Ray.

By now, Bill, Rose, all the Columbia guys were simply staring slack-jawed and in some cases, distinctly confused and maybe even pissed off that I somehow had received this totally unfathomable reception from the two stars of the evening.

The truth is, I was shocked myself. I'd hopped onstage hoping to be recognized, and maybe briefly acknowledged, and that was about it.
 The Davies Bros. over-the-top happy-to-see-me reaction was delightfully unexpected.

We wound up talking for several minutes and I had the pleasure of introducing Bill and Rose to Ray and Dave. When it came time to leave, both Ray and Dave shouted "Bye, Binky... it was great to see you! Give our best to Dezanne!"

My sister, Dezanne, was a huge Kinks fan and had gotten to know both Davies years earlier. She had even danced with Dave onstage at Carnegie Hall one night while Ray serenaded her.

Disclosure time...

From September 1974 through July 1977, my much older-woman girlfriend at the time was the Kinks' American liaison/tour manager. During that period, I was an occasional member of the Kinks entourage whenever they played the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area. Hanging around with the Kinks backstage and/or at their hotel was an enjoyable perk.

By the way, just to settle a longstanding rumor, none of the Kinks were even the slightest bit gay, contrary to some legends. But they did prance around like total fops in their dressing rooms a lot... howling with laughter all the while, obviously a way to blow off steam and stay loose. Drummer Mick Avory and Brother Dave were particularly adept and silly. Ray would occasionally join in. In every visit to any dressing room, I was always greeted with the most ridiculous limp-wristed and simpering teasing ("Oh my dearest Binky, you simply must tell us where you got those darling slippers.")

I hadn't seen the brothers for over a decade before that night in LA. It was surely one of the most memorable little reunions I've ever had with anyone. And God, it was fun to watch them Columbia Corleone bigshots so flummoxed. Frankly, Bill and Rose got a kick out of that, too.

A few years later, Pete Townshend gave me a similar thrill at the Nordoff-Robbins Charity dinner given in his honor in New York. Again, as a treat, Bill and Rose took me along.

Before the dinner and speeches, Pete and I had a very nice "Hey, hello, how are ya!" moment while my boss Bill McGathy stood a several feet away waiting for me to introduce him to Pete ("I just gotta gotta meet him, Bink! Okay!").

After Pete had greeted me, I pointed to Bill and said...
"I'd like you to meet my good friend and employer, Bill McGathy, Pete..."

Pete looked at Bill with a hard stare, turned to me and said loudly with a theatrical suspicion in his voice, "Is he all right then?"

"Oh, yeah, Pete, Bill's great, he's a huge fan of yours!"

"Oh, well... okay..." and Pete reached out and mock-grudgingly shook Bill's hand.

It was just a funny bit for my benefit. Maybe even more fun was how Bill, already monolithic in Rock Radio, instantly became a teenage kid totally dazzled to be meeting Dr. Who!

Meanwhile, very late the next night in LA, Bill and Rose and I were invited to a private soiree in someone's hotel suite. We walked in and, among more than a dozen strangers, sitting right in front of us was a Genuine Lead Singer Rock Star. His band was as big as they would ever be at that moment and he was Living It.

Mr. Actual Rock Star had the room enthralled with his pontifications while he blithely toked on a joint. He had taken about four deep hits, while he lectured and grandly gestured, and then passed the joint to me. I took a polite poke and immediately felt that ugly familiar menthol burn. It was pot laced with angel dust. And Rock Singer Star had been smoking it as if it were a Camel. I blew out the smoke as quickly as I could and turned to Bill and Rose and discreetly but emphatically gestured that they should pass it on without partaking. I stumbled out onto the suite's balcony overlooking miles and miles of 2AM Los Angeles, grabbed the railing, put my head down and started to force myself to hyperventilate. Rose came out to check on me. I told her what had happened. She quietly freaked and maternally stayed with me until I was able to get the small amount I'd inhaled out of my system.

We took our leave forthwith.

On my way home from that Pollack convention a few days later, I was once again sitting in first class. With less than 5 minutes before take-off, the only seat in that section that was empty was the one next to mine. I was digging the idea of having two seats in first class to myself.

Suddenly, with literally less than 60 seconds to spare, there was a commotion behind me. A moment later, a young woman dressed head-to-toe in very expensive black, wearing huge darkdarkdark Jackie O sunglasses, with the most perfectly flawless skin I'd ever seen, flounced into the first class cabin and with melodramatic exasperation plopped herself down in the seat next to me. From behind her sunglasses she shot me a withering "Don't you dare even THINK of talking to me!" warning look.

It was Lara Flynn Boyle.

Christ, I'd had a wicked crush on her ever since Twin Peaks.

How the hell was I gonna sit there next to her for the next five-plus hours and not say a word! Damn!

The plane took off and the ascent was choppy. 
I took a deep breath and muttered, "I feel like I'm on the A train..." With my peripheral vision, I saw that Lara gave me a tiny smile.

I leaned over and confided, "You know, as a New Yorker, I spend my entire time in LA waiting for turbulence in my hotel room!"
 She got my little earthquake joke and gave me a bigger smile.

Wanting to allay any possible hitting-on-you scenario in her mind, I immediately took out my wallet, found a picture of my then two year old daughter, held it up for Ms. Boyle and said, 
"I haven't seen her for five days and I'm losing my mind."

"Oh my God, she is so beautiful! I have a niece the same age. What's her name?" And off we went...

This was years before Ms. Boyle's extended fling with Jack Nicholson and she turned out to be a sweet goofy kid. She even laughed when I accidentally called her Sherilynn! We talked a blue streak for more than half the flight until Lara started getting sorta woozy.

"Sorry, I only had four hours sleep last night, Binky. I've gotta take a nap."

So, I enjoyed some shameless staring while she dozed for the last 90 minutes of the flight back to JFK. God, whatta profile on that woman!