Monday, February 21, 2011

Chuck E. and Rickie Lee

The legendary Tropicana Hotel, where many, many bands stayed throughout the 70's and 80's, had this funky little coffee shop attached, called Duke's. It looked like a cross between an employee lunchroom, and a small town coffee shop, with a big seascape on the wall, with a collage of different people and scenes modge podged onto it. There was a counter and stools, and the grill behind that. It was always bustling. You waited for a seat, and sat down at long tables, with other people. You would always end up talking to the people at your table, and it was always interesting. Rockers on tour and locals,tumbled out of bed with tousled hair, threw on some clothes, and ambled in to Duke's for a strong cuppa joe and a monster omlette.

I found myself there, one day, with my aunt, and during our meal, we noticed that a bag lady at the table had ordered a glass of water. That's it. I was surprised they let her stay. As we chowed down on our giant platter of food, the bag lady, was spooning jam, from the jar at the table, into her glass of water. My aunt and I watched her for awhile, and were giggling, what's next the ketchup packets? As we were watching, the guy at the end of the table said, "What you mock, you will become." We looked at him and he said it again. So we laughed, and of course struck up a conversation, and he told us his name was Chuck. He had a band, he was playing at The Central on the Sunset Strip,(later to become The Viper Room) and we should come and see him. Chuck E. Weiss and The Goddamn Liars.

So, I'm at the Viper Room, waiting for the band to come on. They walk onto the stage, and there is my friend Spyder, who I knew from another friend's band! A wild and crazy sax player, with a little Pacino thing goin' on, with a pompadour and a cream colored zoot suit.

The band starts playing "Rumble". From the shadows, Chuck struts onto the stage to the music, in a zoot suit with a looooong chain hanging from his trousers. He took the stage, and went into his set.

Afterwards, I went to say hi to them, and Spyder gave me a big hug, and introduced me to Chuck, and I said we had already met. Chuck wagged his finger in front of my face, narrowed his eyes, and said, "What you mock you will become." I cracked up. I went and saw the band a few more times, and Spyder had told me that the song by Rickie Lee Jones, "Chuck E.'s in Love", was about Chuck. I said, "Oh, that's the Chuck!?"

One lazy mid-morning, the phone rings, and it's Spyder, who was one of the funniest people I had ever known. We hung out for awhile, but later on I found out he was hanging out with Katy Sagal. Anyway, so he says, "Stay on the line and don't say anything." He does a conference call, and gets Chuck on the phone, and the two of them were making phony phone calls, and had me in silent hysterics. I had to muffle the reciever so I could laugh out loud. They did this a few more times to me. Occasionally, I would run in to Chuck around town, and he would look at me and his eyes would narrow, and he would shake his finger at me, and say, "What you mock, you will become." I would laugh, and the last few times I saw him he would just do the eye thing and the finger shake.

Around this same time, I was working in my friend Carolyne's boutique on the Sunset Strip, Cheap Thrills, right next to the famous Schwab's drugstore, were many celebrities frequented, and Shelley Winters held court. An artist friend of mine, had painted the place up all crazy, and we had painted a leopard print on the floor. It was vintage, and punk. We took on some hand-made consignments, one of a kind fashions. One time, Dodd Darin came in. We had made a big collage on the wall behind the register, and on the wall, was a 45 sleeve of a Bobby Darin record. The girl he was with said, "Hey, look, there's your Dad". I looked at the photo, and looked at him, and there was a strong family resemblance. (Also, I had donated the autographed 8x10 of Grouch Marx to the collage, that I had recieved from the evening I spent at Groucho's house with Laraine Newman and Bill Murray. But that's another blog post.) So, you never knew who might walk into the shop.

One day, I was there, and it had been a slow week. My friend was a little concerned. She had been spending time at home with her new baby, so I would fill in a few days a week for her if I didn't have a show to work on. The store was empty one afternoon, and then in walks Rickie Lee Jones! Cool. I greeted her, and she was looking around, and started picking out things to try on. I showed her a few choice items. She went into the dressing room, and everything she tried on looked fabulous on her! One thing after another. I brought her more stuff to try. Even the WAC outfit, which was kind of drab, hugged her voluptuous curves perfectly! After trying on and modeling outfit, after outfit, she piled a bunch of stuff on the counter, and I started ringing it up. Ka Ching! Ka Ching! I bagged up all her stuff, and she left smiling. So was I; she spent hundreds! I excitedly called Carolyne, and said, "You won't believe who was just here! Ricky Lee Jones just bought a shit load of stuff, and everything she put on looked GREAT! Even the WAC suit!" Carolyne was very excited, and laughed, and said, "I knew the right person would come along and get that!" Rickie Lee had made her week.

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