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

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In Los Angeles, Rudge had assured me that Jagger and I would speak in San Francisco. In San Francisco he told me for two days that he was speaking to Jagger about it. But when I woke up on the final morning of the Stones' stay in the Bay Area, I heard that Jagger had decided to drive up the coast toward Seattle, the next date on the tour. I called Rudge; he confirmed the story. Now I didn't feel so bad about the rubber snake I'd put into his bed the night before.

Rudge continued to be evasive. I contacted Wasserman who assured me that he'd let me know about getting together with Mick in Detroit.

The Thursday before the Sunday and Monday shows in Detroit, Wasserman's secretary telephoned. "Paul asked me to tell you that Mick is aware of the situation in Detroit," she said. Presuming that was the go-ahead, I booked a flight to Detroit, where I arrived at 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning. The entire staff was still asleep; their flight from Bloomington, Indiana, hadn't arrived until 4:30 a.m.

In the afternoon, Wasserman and I spoke once more. "I'll be speaking to Mick shortly," he assured me.

"Haven't you already?" I asked, stunned.

"Well, yes, but in Chicago," he confessed.

At the hall, backstage, I again questioned Wasserman. Call on Mick. "He's not here yet," I was told. After all, he couldn't very well annoy Mick in his makeup room. The third time I asked, Wasserman simply grew testy; apparently, he didn't want to be bothered while squiring Knight Newspaper's gossip columnist Shirley Eder around.

The Rolling Stones Live, 1964-2007

At 12:30 Wasserman and I rendezvoused back at the hotel. He was, he assured me again, going up ("with Peter") to speak to Mick immediately. At 2:00 a.m. he came to my room. "Mick's gone out," he said. "Ollie Brown's mother is having a party, and he and Annie [Leibovitz] are going over there for a couple of hours. But he says he'll be right back and you can do the interview then."

Over the next two hours, Wasserman wandered in and out of my room to talk about Detroit. He said Detroit needs a press agent. At 3:00 a.m. Rudge called to assure me that Mick said everything was taken care of. Then Wasserman nonchalantly informed me at one point that, oh yes, he was going home to L.A. for a few days, and he had a 10:00 a.m. flight, so he had to be in bed by 4:30.

At 4:15, Wasserman phoned my room for the last time. He was curt. "It's nearly 4:30 and Mick's not back yet. That's it for tonight. Speak to Peter in the morning and I'll talk to you later."

At noon I phoned Rudge, waking him up. "Don't worry, Dave," he said pleasantly, "I'll take care of it." Well, you're leaving after the show for Atlanta, right? "Look, don't worry, Mick knows about it, it's all taken care of."

At 3:00 p.m. I wandered down to see Lisa Robinson, the most efficient of any staffer at arranging interviews. She suggested I speak to Allan Dunn, who was getting Mick up at 4:30, 45 minutes later. I wandered back to Robinson's room. "Sometimes Mick wakes up at 4:30 and he's ready to go," she said, "and sometimes he just stays in bed until it's tome to go."

Five o'clock came and then six. At 6:45, having heard nothing and knowing that Jagger had already said he'd not make himself late in getting to the hall (where he was due at eight), I packed my bag and headed for the elevator. There I met Rudge.

"Where ya goin' Dave?" he inquired pleasantly.

"Home," I said.

Robinson came downstairs, flustered, assuring me Mick was in the shower and would see me backstage. After seven years of interviewing, I knew this assured absolutely nothing. I caught the 8:30 plane back to LaGuardia.

Now, all of this might not be worth recounting if not for what happened later. After all, Jagger at one point seemed too busy, as Bob Greene reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, to visit Howlin' Wolf's home when the Stones played Chicago. And surely, Jagger owes more to Wolf than to you or me.

And, I was thinking, maybe it wasn't Mick's fault. After all, maybe Wasserman and Rudge hadn't told him about the interview when they said they had.

But on the night after I got home, I found out Mick had called a Rolling Stone editor at home to complain that I'd left too early. And two days later, Jagger called me at the office in New York. Our conversation was brief.

"Well ..." Jagger said in his best drawl, "I was thinking maybe we could do the interview on the telephone." Telephone interviews, I've discovered, are second only to backstage interviews in their rate of failure; I said so. And besides, I was beginning to think maybe I was wrong about who's responsibility all this was. Would Jagger cover his manager and press agent's asses so thoroughly? Or his own?

The rest of the conversation was brief. I said thanks, a little coldly. Mick said, "See you around," a little disappointed I like to think. Maybe someday we will. But not too soon. Like everyone else, I have some sleep to catch up on. After all, I'm not Keith Richards.

Christopher "Binny" Sykes, one of the tour's three "official" photographers, arrived from Milwaukee on the second week of the tour as an insider/ outsider with, as he put, "no political or business connection" in the music world. I asked him about the tour to get a relatively unbiased view.

"I arrived in Montauk," he said, "straight from London and New York, in mortal terror. I didn't know anyone. Very nervous, chewing up my fingernails and all that. I thought maybe nobody expected me. I went up to my room to sleep, woke up six o'clock, went down the hall and there was this enormous man standing by the lift.

"I walked up to him rather nervously and said, 'Are you something to do with the Rolling Stones?' He turned like some immoral twerp had slipped up the fire escape and I said, 'Well, uh, I'm uh, s'posed to be with 'em too.' He obviously didn't believe me at all, so he grabbed my arm and snarled. 'Well, ya can't see 'em now!' and pushed me into the lift. Without the badge, you couldn't explain to him."

The badge Sykes lacked was an orange laminated rectangle with a clip on the back. On the front side it featured a photo, generally of the face, but in the case of staffers like the stewardesses on the Star Ship, the breasts. Losing it supposedly meant a $50 fine.

"At the first concert I went to, in Milwaukee, I didn't have a badge," Sykes continued. ''So wherever I went, I was thrown out. And I just sort of quietly said okay and kept in the background until I got my badge."

At any rate, Sykes eventually did get his badge, and integrated himself into the crew. "All one's sort of illusions about what things would be like on a rock & roll tour are immediately destroyed when you realize that it's just hard work," said the insider/ outsider. "I cannot imagine anything more dreadful than going on tour just for fun. With nothing to do you'd go mad."

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