We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive….” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. “What the hell are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. “Never mind,” I said. “It’s your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
OK, it was Foxhall Road, not Barstow, the ribbon-like vein leading down to Canal Road, Key Bridge and the Imperial Metroplex. And it was Summer 1985, not the era of the last good Stones albums. For a D.C. summer, it was still brutally humid, made crushingly worse by a savage vodka hangover.
Those who swear ‘good’ vodka doesn’t leave hangovers are fools or liars. This from the previous all night’s epic, ‘frozen’ Russian vodka drinking bout with a slinky красавица (head turner) at her place, her jealous husband bordering on violence as she conceived of new sinuous dance moves with the Stiftung in the living room. It was a small mixed gathering but things began to take a turn and [deleted] Someone Who Later Worked With NotSoBright finally averted irrevocable social fiasco by hauling the Stifling into his car as the sun was about to rise, with the Stiftung leaning out the window promising взаимопонимание (mutual understanding). If we knew what our driver was destined to do in the late 1990s, we would have decorated the side of his car with multi-hued liquids. On principle.
So it was on July 13, the next day, we awoke in paralytic pain, with a vaguely unsatisfied sense of athleticism denied. And a wholly forgotten obligation to get an acquaintance to the airport for a critical flight. Retracing a path of strewn clothes, tie, toppled magazines, and overturned sofa pillow (?), we grabbed the car keys and raced out the bunker. Still possibly not able to pass a breathalyzer we gunned the gas, hit the radio and immediately were pummeled with the atonal sounds of Ozzy Osbourne (IIRC). Live Aid Day. Ozzy’s stylings amped a burgeoning migraine into Yuri Gagarin territory. Minutes later our package got in the car, ebullient in that particularly unalloyed American sort of way. Delight in a ‘beautiful day’, rock n roll, Live AId, ‘Morning in America’ doing good — and the bastard turned the volume up still more. We loathed him completely.
We have a vague memory of him making his flight. More clear is the final horror awaiting. Heading towards exfiltration back up Foxhall we stopped in at a relative’s
till the bats passed. The relative furtively answered the door, wrapped in a bedsheet barely providing crude modesty. We looked over his shoulder into the dim recesses (Ted Kennedy allegedly was ‘close friends’ with the co-ed up stairs) and saw the bi-ped (with her seeming Dennis Franz mustache) seeking defiantly demure cover. (They later married and procreated). We felt completely transported. Into David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead.’ Naturally we fled.
Perhaps it was just the come down and the slow dissipation of what might well have been near toxic levels of pickles and vodka. But as we settled back and turned on the TeeVee, we saw Freddie Mercury perform at Wembley. Long time readers of this blog know who we believe in their prime was the greatest live band in the 70s. And such readers know we repeat Bill Graham’s quote that on any given night, any given band (out of a handful) can be the greatest band in the world – for that night. We must say we were transfixed – for that brief moment.
People may quibble about this or that, personal mores and so forth. But we remember that moment like it was yesterday, vivid, clear and so life affirming. “All we hear is radio goo goo, radio gaga”. Indeed. Was it the ‘what if?’? Lingering toxins? Fatigue? Or a genuinely inspired performance? But that to us is the entire envelope of Live Aid, the ridiculous and surreal.
What do you recall?