The Rolling Stones' Interlude in Paradise: Honolulu on $1700 a Day

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On a warm Monday evening at five o'clock, this voice comes rising out from the patio of the Hawaiian Hilton. No guitars or ukeleles; no gourd rattles or coconut drums; just this lone voice from the bandstand, singing out to a cluster of tourists. All the matched and screaming shirts and blouses are stilled for the moment. It is the traditional torchlighting ceremony, and today it is being preceded by the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Somewhere in Texas, the 36th President lay dead (Hey, hey, LBJ) . . . Somewhere in Paris, some kind of Vietnam peace was within some kind of grasp. And I'm looking down at this frozen little luau from an 11th floor balcony of the Hilton's Rainbow Tower, where I'm still waiting for word from those five tourists, W. Grace, F. Truman, P. May, L. Hutton and T. Bailey, known up on the 30th floor as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. Because aside from whatever else is happening, the Rolling Stones are in town.

Once again, the gathering madness. Chartered flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver. Stories in the local papers about kids waiting in line through Christmas Eve and Day for tickets, about how Don Norton, manager of a gas station in Pearl City, left his line Sunday morning at 2:30 AM because his wife Maria was having their first child. He got someone to save his spot, and he was back in line at the Honolulu International Center within two hours. A couple flew in from Boston to see the concert, explaining, very simply, "It's the whole Mick Jagger thing."

Imagined madness. The Stones people, as they always do, keep asking, "What's the angle of your story going to be?" I think they know that there's no real story. But if I am patient, the tour manager says, I will get to talk with Jagger, and he will tell me whatever news there is – about Japan and Jamaica, about the live album that won't come out, the new studio album that will, The Beard, that won't; the TV special, that will. I will ask about his place in the new high society, about his being a husband and father. But I must be patient, and I am, because, after all, there's no reason – especially no journalistic reason – to be impatient.

And so, a few flashes on the way to Mick:

"It's interesting," says a 25-year-old schoolteacher from Waianae, ages and an hour away from the sunbum ambience of Honolulu. "All this activity" – she is observing the local boy ushers, the cops, the light, sound and stage crew members, the STP (Stones Touring Party) people – accountant, travel agency woman, baggage man, guitar caretaker, security guards, record company people, promoters Barry Fey from Denver in official tongue jacket, Graham in his blue volcanic tie-dyed tank-top, and local radio giant/promoter Tom Moffat, in Aloha shirt; tour manager Peter Rudge looking like a wired Paul Simon; stage manager Chip Monck onstage, walkie-talkie strapped to his walking shorts – and the kids, all glowing from another day on the beach, all jabbering away excitedly... all this activity – "just for one person."

The first show, more than anything, was loud, to the point where Chip Monck would deride the sound crew who's been with the Stones since the US tour last year. "They seem to think the development of sound means getting it louder," he said after the three concerts. By decibel measurement, the sound was 7 db short of the point at which ears shrivel. First act was ZZ Top, who took every available decibel and poured out an ornamented Grand Funk sound.

The Stones did their usual set, Jagger looking drunk, teasing the band, toying with the mike, evoking Rod Stewart with one move; Fred Astaire (the mike being Ginger Rogers) the next. Strong rhythmic support, as always, and superb work from Bobby Keys on sax and Jim Price on trumpet and trombone, and Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart alternating on piano.

Early on, a girl rose from her seat near the front row to do that shiver-wiggle dance that young maniacs have perfected over the years. A teenaged usher immediately moved to her row to stop her. Sure, she was obstructing the view, but the usher had this look about him. He seemed genuinely annoyed that people could do that, right in front of everybody. He sat in a chair in the aisle, facing away from the stage.

The next day, Monday, Lyndon Johnson has died, and the Stones are asleep, out shopping, or otherwise not around.

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