Thursday, April 30, 2020

What Becomes a Legend Most?

Something is wrong.

Psychedelic Jukebox went on to gush:
Details of this story may have been exaggerated or embellished, but it is consistent with his behavior. It adds to his legend when he pays 9 cabbies $100 each to block both ends of a street so he can throw furniture out of his room at the Hotel Navarro.

Two years after this escapade, Moon was dead of a drug overdose.  Okay, he was a seriously damaged person, but the people celebrating this stupid behavior forty years later presumably don't have that excuse.  The comments on these tweets are appalling, with a lot of "Moon the loon" and "You gotta love it!" and "Every picture I’ve seen of him he looks like he’s completely off his nut!" (as if that was admirable, this guy was totally a superhero, right?).

This sort of behavior was routine among rock stars in the 70s and after, so it wasn't just Moon's personal pathology.  It was cultural.  Tearing up a hotel room was a sort of rite of passage, it proved you had arrived, just as bombing a refugee camp proves that a new President of the United States is truly presidential and fit to lead the Free World.

I was reminded of an article Lester Bangs wrote way back when (Lester, like Moon, died young as a consequence of substance abuse, very nearly at the same age).  It must have appeared in Creem, the Detroit-based rock magazine I went on reading for some years after Rolling Stone had become irrelevant.  But I found it was reprinted in the posthumous collection Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (Anchor, 1987), and it originally ran in the Brit magazine New Musical Express in 1977.  It was Lester at his best.

Briefly, Bangs was traveling with the Clash as their career was beginning to take off.  On the way to their hotel they pick up three fans, who ride with Lester in a van driven by a surly roadie.  When they get to the hotel a food fight begins, and not for the first time.  The surly roadie pelts the kids and then attacks the one boy in the trio, giving him a black eye.  Lester takes them upstairs to the hotel room they're going to share.  Lester is kicking himself for not having intervened to protect the fans.
The girls are enraged at the Clash, the kid is slowly admitting to his own anger past utter mortification, and we keep hashing it over and over until we realize that’s not going to do us any good. So the conversation turns to other things. The kid works in a hotel in Torquay, a really swanky place, and regales us with stories of some of the foibles and antics of famous guests such as Henry Kissinger and Frank Sinatra. He tells us what pigs most of the big-name rock groups that have stayed there are. The only guests who are worse than the rock stars, he says, are the Arabs. When the rock stars leave, the rooms are decimated; when the Arabs leave, they’re decimated and full of bullet holes. Which of course brings us right back to tonight’s incident.
“What they don’t realize,” he says, “is that when they throw food all around like that, it’s somebody like me who’s got to get down on his hands and knees and clean it up.”
Sure, but y'know, that's like his job, right?  The Clash, the Stones, Led Zep, et al. are job creators like Jeff Bezos, and this kid should be grateful they're giving him something to do.

I'd only been working in food service myself for a couple of years when I first read this article, and as you can see it has stayed with me.  One reason I stayed in that job for another thirty years was that I wanted never to forget who cleaned up the messes made and left by entitled brats like Keith Moon and the Clash.  I wanted always to be on that side of things.  So I'm thoroughly disgusted by people who read about Moon paying cab drivers to block a street so he could trash a hotel room and think it's the coolest, most radical thing ever.  It's the 'wild male energy' celebrated by the mythopoetic men's movement and embodied today by people who are furious that fast-food places are closed during the epidemic so they can't get free refills of their iced tea.