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The Rolling Stones: Jumping, Booming, Bumping, Grinding to a Halt

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The TOTA party spoke of Keith Richards with awe. While in Los Angeles, he did not sleep for a solid week. Yet there his playing was the best of the tour.

"I 'aven't slept in me fucking room since we got 'ere," said Jim Callaghan, the Stones' security chief, whose assignment was to bodyguard Keith between shows. "Last night, we went to the gig, then to the party, then to another place and 'e's still up, 'e's still bouncin' and 'e's still got his 'ead together. And this ain't for a couple of days, this is through the fuckin' tour. 'E's brilliant, Keef Richards."

Peter Rudge had his own vision of Richards: "Keith is the only rock & roll gypsy in the world. He defies analysis onstage. There's something about Keith Richards that's what rock & roll is all about. It's the guy who goes with his friends, does what he wants; he plays great some nights, he plays lousy some nights. And the nights he plays lousy are the nights the Stones play badly. I mean, he is the Rolling Stone. There's no one else."

The crowd that packed the Inglewood Forum, a ten-minute drive from L.A. International, looked typical of this year's Rolling Stones concertgoer. The mob was young – by design, as tickets were put on sale in midday to give kids a couple hours' advantage over working adults – well scrubbed, if drugged, and psyched for another rock concert.

I eavesdropped on a 15-year-old girl who remained impassive until she was told that Billy Preston was on keyboards. "These guys must be pretty far out if they can get him to play with them."

Photos: Rare and Intimate Pictures of the Rolling Stones

The L.A. concert was filled with exotic images. "They sent me ahead from Dallas on Saturday," stage manager Brian Croft explained. "We had to begin on Monday and we didn't have a concept. On Sunday night I called Mick and said, 'Let's go Oriental.' He said 'great.' Then we decided to have Chicano musicians with their music, and I had to go out and hire about $100,000 worth of them."

It wasn't exactly jam-packed with celebrities on opening night. Except for George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, Neil Diamond and Sarah Dylan, rock & roll peerage was out of town. Keith Moon wandered around unmolested. The big news was the movie stars.

Barbra Streisand had been slated to appear. She never made it, perhaps because when she inquired through her office about security arrangements, Rudge had snapped, "How would a dozen hairdressers in bikinis suit you?" (And this memo on the morning of opening night: "Absolutely no cars backstage except the band's – no matter how many hairdressers you know.")

Bianca Jagger came through with a few celebrities. Her ticket allotment was used for Sue Mengers, the agent, and two of her clients – Judy Garland's daughters, Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft. Whether the Stones thought much of this or not was hard to tell; Rudge: "In '72, Truman Capote got more press than Charlie or Bill and that angered us a bit."

Opening night was a flat show, not a bad one in the context of the tour, though some who were seeing the '75 production for the first time were shocked that it wasn't better. The galvanizing moment, visible only to a few, came at the end of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" when Jagger grabbed one of his four water buckets, turned to stage left, looking past Richards and Wyman, and spotted his wife standing with Liza Minelli; he bounced and dumped the bucket on them. "He's been trying to get her the whole tour," one of the tour women said, "and he couldn't have picked a better moment."

After the show, the Wilshire was lined with hangers-on. A beefy, T-shirted security man checked everyone; only registered guests with room keys made it past him, unless someone had phoned down with an okay. Warren Beatty was stopped from getting in the elevator to go to his rooftop apartment.

Chuch Magee, the road manager Ron Wood brought with him from the Faces, was disgruntled. "Look," he told me, "they're all afraid to go out of their fucking hotel rooms." Magee had bought a camper and had driven it from New York to the coast and back, sightseeing and camping out at the arena sites.

Jagger was mostly staying out of sight. He was burned by a slick Hollywood press agent, Allan Carr, who held a huge bash in Mick's honor on Tuesday night. Jagger had said no deal, but Carr left his name on the printed invitations and 600 showed up: The Cycle Sluts and various other members of the L.A. bisexual demimonde performed near a pool with floating swans.

Bianca was widely regarded as a pain in the ass by the tour party; I suspected it reflected the mood at the top, especially after I was told that an interview with her would hurt my chances of one with Mick. She was regarded as particularly meddlesome in Washington, where she and Andy Warhol attempted to drag Mick to the White House. She did drag Jack Ford to the concert. ("Well," Rudge said later, "we had some visa problems, so we had some business to take care of in Washington.") On Tuesday night in Los Angeles, Mick, Bianca, managerial assistant Mary Beth Medley and press agent Paul Wasserman were up until 3:00 a.m. discussing Bianca's ticket allotment for the L.A. dates. She was supposed to get 15 pairs, same as New York.

The Rolling Stones on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Then on Saturday night, Medley and Bianca had their big bout. Bianca wandered into the hotel room office where Medley was sorting out the final 50 tickets; requests from George Harrison, Neil Young and Sarah Dylan were still unfilled. Bianca snatched up half of them and walked away. "Hey," Medley shouted, "you can't have those. They're taken."

Bianca turned, said, "Too bad, isn't it?" and left.

Barbra Streisand never did meet the Stones. She showed for the midnight-to-6:00 a.m. party thrown by Atlantic Records on the tennis courts in Diana Ross's Beverly Hills backyard. She was on the list, but when she was told that she couldn't bring in the six people with her, she left. "We had too many goddamned hairdressers at the party already," an Atlantic Records exec laughed madly.

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