Is it me, or does it seem like people so often forget about the ones who’ve helped them in the past?
I’m sure he doesn’t mean it… I’m sure he’s just too busy to give me a call.
Or, I’m sure that he just never got the 15 or so messages I left at the same phone number of his that I’ve had for 20 years or so, and that it was just a coincidence that the assistants voice seemed the same as always, and promised to pass on the messages to “Billy”.
The reason I was calling was that I was going on vacation to San Diego for a month or so, and would be heading up to LA, and the Hollywood area where he now lives, and would have enjoyed seeing him again for old times sake.
But I guess I had the wrong number.
I thought I was calling the number of an old friend that I had helped in the past…
In the early days (early 1980’s), I was in the security business, and one of my customers was “The Cambridge Music Complex”, located in Fresh Pond, Cambridge, Ma. It was a rehearsal studio with about 20 or 30 rooms, and was “rehearsal central” for many of the well known bands at the time.
There were “The Cars”, “Boston”, “Aerosmith”, “J Giels”, just to name a few. They had a sound stage used for larger rehearsals and showcases, and venues for visiting talent. One night, I met Joe Cocker stumbling around the confusing hallways looking for the Mens room. I led him there, but didn’t hang around for long, if you catch my drift.
Clive Davis once appeared to revue a band called “The Streets”. One of my roommates, Greg Tawa was the lead guitarist, along with Johnny A, who’s has gone on to have a respectable career for himself. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get the record contract
I spent many nights and brain cells hanging out down there with the so-called “IN” crowd of the era. I wired the place for security, and became friends with many of the musicians. I also installed home security systems for several members of The Cars, including Eliot Easton, Greg Hawkes,and Ben Orr…Ben was my favorite, and we became good friends. Unfortunately, he passed away from Pancreatic cancer I believe. It’s the same disease that claimed my sister Dianne last May. Bummer…
For those of you who may not know, Billy West has become a very well established, nationally recognized voice-over talent. He was the voice of Ren and Stimpy, and many, many other well recognized cartoon characters and commercial voice-overs.
He could do incredible impressions of just about anybody you can imagine. Unfortunately, he had a substantial drinking problem, and much to his credit, he has staightened out and become very successful in the entertainment industry. You can check out his site at BillyWest.com.
One day, I came up with the idea of selling a service of Billy doing custom impressions of any character you wanted, and selling them to put on your answering machine. I called it “Starvoice”. Actually, my good friend Bob Selame was a corporate name and logo designer at his family shop, Selame Design, a national award winning design house in Newton, Ma., and he designed the name and logo. They also designed corporate logos for national and world wide chains such as Stop & Shop, Medi-mart, etc., etc. He’s done design work for me that his shop would charge tens of thousands of dollars for. He’s charged me nothing but his friendship.
It never really got off the ground, but what it did do was create a stepping stone for Billy’s future career. As I was promoting my burglar and fire alarm company in the Boston area, I offered to donate several smoke detectors to be given away as prizes on WBCN Boston DJ Charles Laquadara’s show, called “The Big Mattress”. His alter-ego was a character he performed as “Duane Glasscock”, and it was hilarious.
So, Billy made this demo tape that was very funny, doing a sampler of celebrity voices. I took this tape into Charles, and before you knew it, Billy was a regular on the show. As he became more established, he moved on to appear on the Jay Leno show, and soon became a regular on the Howard Stern Show, and apparently, never looked back. At least, not in my direction…
One year, me, Billy West, another business partner of mine, Skip Sweeney (sound engineer for “The Cars”), Jack Griffin (owner of the Cambridge Music Complex), Billy Cole, a musician from a band called “The Taxi Boys” at one time, and Ray Tabano, from the “J.Giels” Band, all went on a trip to Lima Peru…
Now, considering the participants on this journey, you can just imagine the chaos and debauchery that ensued. Billy would make occasional calls into the Radio Show for live updates. It’s truly a miracle that we all made it back alive.
There were riots in the streets, water cannons blasting the demonstrators, a small earthquake, the front window of the hotel was shattered from an earlier demonstration, burning cars and tires everywhere, all kinds of cool stuff like that. Military and machine guns on every corner.
One night, as there were thousands of demonstrators streaming through the streets below our balcony at the “Hotel Crillon” in downtown Lima, Billy, in his usual drunken condition for those days, began shouting, waving, and egging them on, not having a clue about what all the fuss was about.
When one of the hotel porters came into the room for something, he explained to Billy that they were protesting against Americans for some reason or other, and he may want to reconsider his actions. In hindsight…wow.
One morning, my partner Skip and I were sitting in the hotel lobby having breakfast. He was carrying his cameras, and had UPI press passes dangling off of the straps, and I guess that was the reason we were befriended by a gentleman named Ignacio Prada I believe. It was a long time ago, and the names may be inaccurate, but I think that was it, because the whole episode has come to mind many times over the years.
He invited us to his nearby downtown Lima home. It was unbelievable! The doors to enter into the courtyard were massive. Once inside, it was like walking into a museum. The servants provided water served from this decanter that whistled as the water poured out.
There were massive oil paintings on the wall, of his father, and grandfather, and maybe a great grandfather or two, whom he claimed were former presidents of Peru. It was like walking through a fine arts museum!
After lunch, he invited us to join him the following morning to tour his health club, and we naturally said yes. The next day, we met in the hotel lobby, and hopped into his car and headed for the local farmers market. We had no idea what the hell was going on, but were enjoying the show. Everywhere we went, he was treated with immediate respect and given full priority as he walked about this huge outdoor food market.
He picked out this kid (baby goat)that was already cleaned and prepped, and off to the health club we went. When we entered the health club, he handed the goat to an attendant, and we proceeded to make the rounds of the club. First there were the steam baths, then the hot pools, then the massages (Sorry to say, no happy endings), and then it was time for the feast.
As we were lead into this palacial dining room, he began to introduce us to his friends. The first one was the minister of defense, next came the minister of agriculture, the minister of transportation, the minister of this, the secretary of that…it started to get a little scary. I was wondering about the real possible danger of getting caught in the cross fire of a politically volatile hit squad or something. It was great! What a rush.
After this grand luncheon feast, he invited us to his home in nearby Mira Flores. In Lima, ther’s generally great wealth, or dismal poverty. This was the better side of town, to say the least.
There were bodyguards posted around the perimeter, and I’m fairly certain that their machine guns were very real, locked and loaded. He introduced us to his family and his beautiful daughter. It was a bit awkward being unfamiliar with their customs, as she leaned forward for what I guess in hindsight was a kiss on both cheeks? I just didn’t know what to do, so I just stood there embarrassed, and hoped I didn’t offend anyone. Well, we got out alive, so I guess it wasn’t too bad.
Before dropping us off at the hotel, we went out into the desert and met his friend “The Communist”. He seemed very cordial and we sat and had a few drinks before leaving. As we arrived back, Ignacio invited us out again the following morning to meet his Maoist friends in “The Shining Path”. We had no idea what the hell they were all about or why he was so interested in us. I assume it was the press credentials. Well, anyway, me and Skip got too drunk that night, and were so hung over the next morning, we never made the meeting, and had to leave the following day. Upon our return to Boston, we discovered these “Shining Path” guys were not someone you would generally wish to associate with.
When we were clearing customs back at Logan Airport, poor Ray Tabano was so drunk and burned out, we had to carry him through customs, and couldn’t find his passport.
I forget exactly what happened, but we got through it, though not before we were all thoroughly searched, as some dirtbag back home had the notion to rat us out to the DEA and claim we were bringing back drugs. We weren’t, of course, so there were no problems, but it just goes to show you, you really can’t trust anyone, so just behave. Of course, I can’t vouch for what happened while we were there. It was the 80’s after all…
Well, I guess that’s all there is for now for that little true adventure story. I have dozens of really great stories to share, and now that I am newly discovering this on-line article thing while researching network marketing information for promoting my animal rights blog, I look forward to hearing from anyone that may be interested in reading more of my exploits. I have survived Peru, a small plane crash in Bimini, a pirate attack off of Nassau, and a lot of other exciting true adventures. I never really thought of it that way, until I started writing about them, and one thing leads to another, and all these memories come flooding back to me. Wow, I forgot how much fun I’ve had in the past. Time does fly, and life’s too short, so carry on, make the best of it, and love with all your heart.