I was always a big fan of the British Invasion, so when Rod said we had been invited to dinner by Gordon Waller, of Peter and Gordon fame, I insisted that we go. 1 Who cares that Rod hadn’t talked to Gordon since 1967 and had no idea why he contacted him out of the blue. It was an English guy who had a mere two degrees of separation from Paul McCartney!
So it was a date! We were to drive up to his house in the Glendale hills and enjoy a delicious dinner with Gordon and his wife. Oh, let me back up here. Rod doesn’t have the best of patience and has a habit of saying “we have a dog” when he wants to leave a party or dinner or whatever. We do have a dog (2 actually), and I know he honestly is thinking of the dogs’ well-being when he says this to people, but much of the time…the dogs are fine…he just wants to leave. He still uses that to this day. “We have a dog.” That’s the code for “I want to leave now.” But this time, I made him promise that he would not cut the night short with “we have a dog.” This was going to be something special and I didn’t want him to ruin it by being rude.
So we got to Gordon’s neighborhood, and how lovely it was! Big, beautiful houses arranged perfectly along the mountainside. Each house more handsome than the next. Rod commented, “Gordon must have done better than I thought.” We were getting close to his address, and as we rounded the curve we saw a gorgeous white house with columns. We stared in awe of it. Then we realized that was not Gordon’s house….it must be the next one. But no, that house is a hideous, over-grown monstrosity with the shutters falling off. Not to mention the creepy guy with an over-grown shave peeking out from the garage. Just then, the guy ran away. Shuffling for the scratch of paper Rod had written the address on, sure enough, the address matched the one he had written.
We walked up to the door and rang the bell. A man slowly opened the door and just said, “Yes?” as if he had no clue why we were disrupting him. Rod said, “Gordon?” He just stared at us. We looked at each other. Finally, the man said, in a very heavy British accent, “AH-HA! I’m just fuckin’ with ya! Get in here before the neighbors see ya!” An air of digested Guinness beer filled the entrance hall.
We nervously followed him into the house. Suddenly, I longed for the smell of Gordon’s Guinness breath because the overwhelming stench of parrots was unbearable. Yes, parrots. There were caged birds everywhere! Squawking and throwing their food. Gordon seemed genuinely happy to have us at his house. Very proud. Excited someone was there. He walked up to one of the birds and started to tell us its name, but it came over to the side of the cage and bit him. He screamed and slurred, “Fuckin’ bird! I’ll shoot you all, you fuckin’ shits!” 2
He led us around the house and walked us by a door that led down to a carport. At the bottom of the stairs were three dogs that looked like they wanted to kill us, and I’m a total dog person. Dogs love me. These dogs hated everyone. Gordon yelled at them as they barked, “Ah, fuckin’ dogs. Shut up!” Then it was off to the garage (the same garage he was peeking out of when we drove up).
He opened the door to a two-car garage FILLED from wall to wall with one big miniature train set. Rod pretended to be interested and asked questions about the cars. Gordon became excited and seized the opportunity to talk “shop” with someone who shared his train fetish. He insisted we get in the middle of the little town. Part of the track could be lifted up, similar to a drinking bar, and then lowered back down. We were stuck. We couldn’t run or escape. Gordon opened another Guinness. Apparently one of those train cars doubled as a fridge.
Finally, after a lesson on the difference between Lionel Pennsylvania and Virginian Locamotives, he led us back into the house. So far it was like we were Golden Ticket winners for the Chocolate Factory, and we hadn’t even seen his wife. As we entered the house, again, Gordon screamed 3 to his wife to come and meet us. He told us all about her and how they had met at one of his shows. She apparently was a big fan of his (or, dare I say, “groupie”) and hung out at shows all the time. Not just Gordon’s either. He told us she was on several of the 60’s dance shows and “knew” many other bands. He said she also was an actress and stunt woman for Farrah Fawcett and other attractive women in the 1970’s. She must be quite a catch, I thought.
His wife entered the room. She could barely walk. Her legs moved up and down like she was a souped-up gansta’ car with hydraulics. She grimaced with pain but smiled through it. He instructed 4 her to take us on a tour of the house while he finished making dinner. She led us into the master bedroom and closed the door. She showed us a wall of pictures, many featuring her in her hey-day on the set of Shindig. The others, of him from his long-ago career.
Then she gathered us close to her and whispered, “Help him!” Her tones were pleading. Help her husband. Help them! She told Rod she didn’t know where else to turn. He needed help. He was drinking too much. She didn’t know what to do. 5
Then she abruptly opened the door, spread a smile back across her face and led us to the dinner table, as if she’d never said anything. Gordon told us where to sit…I had to sit next to him. Appetizers were served first. Steamed artichokes. I had never had a whole steamed artichoke before 6, so I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do with it. I tried to be nonchalant and wait to see what other people were doing. I looked around. Gordon started in on his artichoke. He started cursing again. This did not look good. “Fuckin’ artichoke! The damn ‘fing isn’t even fuckin’ cooked! Give ‘em back! They fuckin’ have to be cooked some fuckin’ more. Fuckin’ ‘fings!” He grabbed everyone’s plate and stuck it in the microwave for a minute or two. And, dang, if mine wasn’t the first one he brought out. I tried to pretend that I wanted to wait for everyone else to get there’s, but everyone was staring at me. Gordon piped up, ”Go on! Is it done now?” Shoot! I didn’t know how to check to see if it was done. I looked to Rod for guidance, but I quickly gathered, from his bouncing eyebrows, that he didn’t know how to eat an artichoke either. Gordon told me I needed to pull off the leaves (or whatever they are called), dip it in butter and then pull off the “meat” with my teeth. Well, I did this and got about a half inch of something soft. I assumed this was right. Gordon seemed happy with it; so I was.
We all continued to eat the leaves, and I was happy to be done with that part of the meal. Oh, but I was wrong. “You know how to get out the ‘eart don’t you?” Gordon said. I did not know how to get out the heart. Gordon really wanted me to enjoy it, so he grabbed mine and started to explain how you have to cut the top off and carefully expose the heart, then you can scoop it out with a spoon. While he cut away at my artichoke with his steak knife, I noticed something red on his hand. He put my artichoke back on its plate and started to hand it back to me. He was bleeding on my artichoke! He had cut himself while cutting my artichoke and didn’t even know it because he was so drunk! I thought, “Well, that’s it. I am NOT eating that artichoke now!”
I don’t even remember how I got out of that one, but I was done. I didn’t care! I figured I at least had the bread to eat, but that turned out to be horribly freezer-burnt, just like grandma used to make. Finally dinner was over, and Gordon began talking to Rod about various projects he had in mind. Meanwhile, Gordon’s wife proceeded to tell me about her many ailments and injuries from her stunt days. Usually I don’t mind listening to people list their maladies because that seems to make some people feel important, but something about this made me unusually depressed. Maybe it was the way she longed to be back in time or the way she clung to the last bit of stardom she could find or was it that she had to ride her horse with her legs in braces sticking up in the air.7 I don’t know, but it almost made me want to talk to Gordon more…although after the three more cans of Guinness, you could hardly understand him.
After dinner, Gordon insisted we go to the sunroom and listen to the solo album he had just recorded. We graciously listened to about 40 minutes of it. Then Gordon, clearly a master of “knowing his audience,” started to tell us of his newest venture. He was flying back to England in two days to meet with….drum roll please…Paul McCartney. Now we’re talking!! This is what I came for!!! He told us he had an idea and business proposition to talk to Paul about, but he couldn’t tell us about it… it was top secret. However, he could tell us that Paul will not let anyone in his house that is wearing anything originally from an animal. He ran over to the other side of the room to show us his new canvas tennis shoes he had bought just for the big meeting. Then out of nowhere, Gordon asked Rod to play the guitar. “Go on! Play us your songs!” Rod sputtered and looked over to me with those honey-do-something eyes. God must have seen those eyes, too. Just then the doorbell rang, and in walked some guy who used to play guitar for somebody…I can’t keep track anymore. Gordon’s attentions were suddenly diverted to a new vict.., er…friend, to whom he could chatter away with all night long. I looked at Rod…he looked at me….yep….“We have a dog!”
Luckily, no one seemed to care that we had to go. If Gordon or his wife ever wrote a story about the night we came to dinner…I can only hope we came off as interesting.
- This longing to be near fame is what got all the children and their families in trouble with Michael Jackson back in the day. When you “want” to be around famous people, you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Therefore, be forewarned, if you are invited to a celebrity’s house, think long and hard about “why” you want to go, and then go anyway. Just don’t sign any confidentiality agreement. ↩
- Okay, I’ll admit that my quotation marks are a bit, well, not necessary as I don’t remember exactly what he said. But I do know that the “F” word was used freely….but have you ever noticed that when coming from a Brit, the “F” word doesn’t sound as horrible. It’s almost as if that word is completely necessary for British people to communicate properly. ↩
- No seriously. Screamed! My ears are still ringing. ↩
- That’s putting it nicely. ↩
- To be fair, she was genuinely concerned for him, but we didn’t know what to do either. Rod and I felt like we were in a weird Woody Allen movie. Wait, that was redundant. ↩
- Apparently, I was sheltered to various foods as a child. I don’t “think” it was because my family was white trash, but you never know. I bet if I confronted my mother on this issue, she would just blame me for being picky or refusing to eat anything but Chef Boyardee. Wait, I’m going to call her and see. HA! I was right. She said, “You wouldn’t eat anything.” Typical. She just can’t admit that JUST MAYBE lettuce topped with cottage cheese, a pineapple ring and a cherry is white trash! If your mother or grandmother tried to serve you this dish and you know you’re white trash, can you please write me so that I can prove to my mom that I am right on this one! Thank you. ↩
- Yeah, that’s a visual. ↩
Posted in • Stories | 1 Comment »