Run Daddy Run
Fattened hares and trained turtles run the final lap
Text by: Valery Posternak and Nick Makarov
Writing is 10% inspiration, 90% masturbation.
Are you ready? On your mark . . .
Do they always have that kind of carpeting in the hallways of expensive hotels? It’s always the same thing over and over again.
Get set . . .
This is the final lap.
You have ten seconds to reconsider. For example, read the script; it already has an ending, and any practical person would. But that’s not your style, you always have to get caught up in things yourself. So, run down this carpet, run as fast as you can, and leave the script for pathetic losers.
“Listen, they’re hangin’ out at a strip club on Nevsky Prospect,” Nick informs me happily. I get it, there’s really nothing I can do, but I feel perfectly fine at O’Hooligan’s Bar on Bolshaya Konyushennaya. Where else can a respectable person feel comfortable after a four-hour train ride? London Pride, football on cheap plasma-screen TVs, some guy sitting at a nearby table reading and chain smoking, sipping dark ale . . . We’re minding our own business, enjoying life, and then we get a phone call: “Hey, Nick, this place sucks, get us out of here!” No kidding! We have one more beer and then set out to find the guys.
“Subway,” says Peter over the phone. The Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ tour manager is a tall smart aleck always smoothing his hair (oozing with gel, a salt and pepper grey of which he is obviously very proud). And every chance he gets, that is to say every time a girl walks by, he melts into a slick smile. I take Nick to the nearest subway station, but it has been closed by now for some time. The wind is blowing empty beer cans and torn plastic bags about. It’s cold. And just then I recall something from the long lost days when I used to live in St. Petersburg. “Hey, over by Palace Square there’s a Subway restaurant!” Sure enough, they’re there, inside. It would be hard not to notice them, eating hoagies, laughing, slurping cola. Take a big bite—mayonnaise in Frank Benbini’s beard, and showing just beneath that, his tattoos. Now chew, and wash it down.
History won’t remember us fondly,
but then history is written by the zebra for the zebra.
It’s great to be a winner
in any situation. A hungry lion.
By the time they’re done with their meal, it’s already three in the morning and Nick and I take them to Dacha Bar on Dumskaya street, where my old hard-core buddy Ribson happens to be at the door tonight. He’s happy to see everyone, although his height and physique (completely covered in tattoos) is not something one immediately associates with a warm welcome. “Hey, can you get a couple of my friends into the show? They love Fun Lovin’ Criminals.” No problemo.
Every time I look out the window onto the street, I see me, running away from myself. I dash after myself and catch up with myself every time; there is no chance of escape. No group of escapees would ever take such a weakling along. That’s too bad, because if they gave me a chance to join their team, I would prove myself worthy. Instead, I just look out the window, always alert: What if I try to get away again? Yup, there I am! On your mark . . .
“This party is fuckin’ crazy! It’s hard to leave when
you can’t find the door . . . I found it.”
I would later read this on Huey Morgan’s Twitter. No kidding. As soon as I bumped into him backstage, I knew that he was the kind of guy who had it together. And he definitely knew he was going to make it through to the next round; but how can you get a word out of this former marine and specialist in French wines?
Snow, bleak wind, and crap. That’s how things usually begin. At the freezing entrance of the terribly secret zone that is Club Milk I have to go through the necessary facial manipulations to convince the bouncer to let us all in. Once inside, Nick is running around at top speed trying to sort out the group’s problems, while I, taking in my first glass of bourbon, wait. Just when it seems like they’re settling down, something happens and they get distracted again and damn, no, not yet.
I’m going to have to try to pretend like I’m one of them. My head is still full of highbrow thoughts: I could ask them this or that, depending on how things go.
Timeless wisdom: why the hell do I even bother?
But this is no place for such pondering, especially since I have an all-access pass, as well as assurances that everything will turn out a-okay, though I know only too well what those kinds of promises are worth. As long as I was sober, I was in control and I had my dignity. After all, I’m a serious, bearded gentleman, not the type to waste time on such foolishness as rock ‘n’ roll. So I need to take a moment to pour myself another glass and think about what I just said.
Half Puerto Rican, half Irish, raised in the streets of New York, Huey Morgan has long lived in London, as have the rest of the members of the group. Even though the Fun Lovin’ Criminals are a typical product of 1990s New York, with all the popular marks of that era, a melting pot for rock, jazz, funk, hip-hop, blues, and god knows what else, there was much more demand for their music in Great Britain. But perhaps that isn’t the only reason they are not in their own country. There are rumors of a wild youth, a past spent on the streets (“I was a real tough kid, I thought I was Tony Montana”), which is why, at the end of the 80s, Huey was faced with a choice: going to jail or joining the army.
“It was Parris or prison, and the judge said. ‘Son, you better make a decision.’
I chose the former. because I heard it was warmer, April in Parris,”
Huey would later sing in “The Grave and the Constant.”
Nowadays he remembers his time at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, reluctantly: “There we were, all dressed in green, up to our necks in dirt.”
“But that gave you a certain kind of life experience, didn’t it?” I ask.
“To hell with that kind of experience.”
“Is that where you learned to appreciate wine?”
“That’s a good one,” laughs Huey.
In 1999 he had his own column on wines in the British journal Mondo (“This issue, Huey uncorks four bottles from France. Ah, France”), which seems unusual for a person of his background, who dresses like a caricature of an old-time gangster when he’s on stage.
“During summer break, my mom always tried to get me as far away from the streets of New York as possible. When I turned fourteen, she sent me to France. There I found a worthy pastime. I lied that I was sixteen so I could get into wine-tasting courses in the city of Bordeaux. That was where I learned the ABCs of wine tasting.”
“But if you had to choose between good French Syrah and 100% Colombian?”
Huey smiles cunningly and rummages in his pockets, then takes out a small packet of white powder, which he immediately conceals in his weighty fist.
“If there’s no one around, then Colombian. Where the hell did that come from anyway? Somebody must have slipped that in there when I wasn’t looking.” He winks. The group’s technical coordinator, Chris, comes backstage: “Hey Huey, do you know where —’
“Fuck you, man, close the door!” Huey, yells. “Can’t you see we’re busy in here?” Chris disappears.
“We’re both journalists,” he says, smiling cunningly at me again. “We know how it is, right?’”
Of course we know, when the party’s just getting
started and no one’s trying to find the door yet.
These days Huey Morgan hosts a daily show on BBC 6 Music Radio that boasts a roster of the most outlandish guests imaginable for ears that have been ruined by contemporary music.
“That’s a subject that comes up a lot in our conversations,” says Huey. “And we all agree that it’s wrong, of course, and then, I don’t know what happens, but one thing leads to another and we end up in the nearest bathroom and —’
“What about the moral side of it?” I hardly recognize myself.
“I got a cold and now my nose is all stuffed up. How’s that for a moral side?” counters Huey.
Huey Morgan loves talking, and he’s good at it. This is at least in part due to his time as a radio host (The Huey Show, every Sunday from one to four). “You know, I’ve had all sorts of guests: Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Ian Gillan, George Benson . . . and they’re all great to talk to. There have been some great discoveries. David Johanson from the New York Dolls told me, ‘You gotta listen to Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. You’ll totally get it.’ So I got Black Joe Lewis on the show, he’s a kid fromTexas, barely twenty years old. And there have been some amusing incidents as well, like I’ve been friends with Roots Manuva for ages, and I told him when and where, but he didn’t get that he’d have to come to the studio while we’re on air.”
“Is there anyone in particular you’d love to have on the show, but never did?”
“Oh, I’d love to see Jimi Hendrix in the studio!”
“What would your main question be for him?”
“Can you teach me to play the guitar?”
The door flies open again and Frank Benbini, Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ drummer, bursts in with a marker pen in hand. Huey pauses and winks at me.
“That jack ass is definitely up to something.”
Frank quietly examines the walls, fiddling with the baseball cap on his head, and then leaves without saying a word. Moments later, someone cracks up laughing outside the door; then it happens again. Huey can’t stand the suspense.
“What’s going on out there?”
On the other side of the door a printout is hanging up with the group’s name on it, next to which someone has written in marker pen:
The Tour Manager is a CUNT
Peter, the selfsame tour manager, appears in the hallway. Huey closes the door.
“Let him deal with it,” he says, laughing.
We are all doomed to die. There are different ways
of doing it. But we inevitably choose the worst way.
Rock ‘n’ Roll, for example.
And then, there was St. Petersburg.
(did that really happen?)
I’m standing in my red striped boxer shorts, with a sheet wrapped around me, on a gigantic bed at a tiny motel perched atop a typical St. Petersburg atrium, with all the lights in the room turned on. It’s impossible to lie down and go to sleep. Everything is burning, alight, shining. I am overcome with doubt, on its way to becoming total panic. My jaws are convulsing and I’m out of chewing gum. Above my head hangs an enormous reproduction of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, glittering a Morse code of gold at the back of my head.
And I know that these messages must make sense,
but Morse code is inaccessible to my mind and all
I can do is hope that things aren’t as bad
as they seem.
Dammit, who hung up a picture with a name like that in my room ? And why—when I checked into the room, which reeked of fried potatoes and onions in the morning, and had walls that were heavy with gilded trinkets, frames, pendants, a clock, a chandelier and other such do-dads—did I not see the hidden signs in this particular script? Still, my name is not Cumberbatch. Of this, I’m certain. But how much else can I know?
Huey Morgan met Fast (aka Brian Leiser) . . . Interesting, all the official sources claim that the reason for the nickname was that he talked so fast that it was hard to understand him. But inside sources say that the real reason is that he liked to smoke, which made him slow—and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real reason why they call him Fast.
And so, in the early 1990s Huey came to bus tables
at Limelight, the New York club where Fast used to loaf
around the bar.
That was some kind of place back then. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll all over the place, that was before Rudolph Giuliani got the city under control. Peter Gatien stuffed all of humanity’s vices and those of the waning 80s into an old church building on the corner of 6th Avenueand 20th West Street, creating nightly rehearsals of the end of the world through the then contemporary sounds of industrial rock and crazy techno. Although one could hear just about anything there: Guns n’ Roses, Whitney Houston, Pearl Jam, and even Chuck Berry. Michael Alig liked hanging out there too, contemplating things like dismembering Angel Melendez. Big boys play serious games. You know what I mean if you’ve seen Party Monster with Macaulay Culkin. So, Huey and Fast could be found in one of the utility rooms there talking about the kind of music they wanted to play. “Yeah, I know this great drummer,” says Fast, “Steve Borgovini. He’s a good pal of mine.” “I was introduced to Fast by a friend who knew him well, and from the first moment, it was like we were on the same wavelength.” Almost immediately came the Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ momentous performance for someone’s birthday, where among the other guests was a guy from EMI. It was the American dream come true. “So we dropped the bus trays and picked up the guitars,” Huey would later say.
But that wasn’t Huey Morgan’s first musical experience. “I played with my own band at CBGB when I was just a kid. Every Monday they had an open mic type event, where anybody could show up and do their thing. All you had to do was sign up. I remember there were about 20 people in the audience who had come to take a look at us. I played guitar and our vocalist stood in the center, a tall black guy with a gold chain around his neck wearing leather pants and no shirt. And he was wearing a pair of scuffed up cowboy boots. Can you imagine?’
“What does Ian Dury’s phrase ‘Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ mean to you?”
“It means a lot to me. It’s definitely one of the driving forces behind the rebellion that we call rock ‘n’ roll,” says Huey. “Now it can take any form: dubstep, hardcore, or whatever. The main thing is that there has to be some feeling rawness when dealing with music. With sex and drugs there should be that same kind of rawness. You can’t just put these three components into a box. They have to be completely liberated from the rules of this world, they have to be totally free, otherwise it’s like Miley Cyrus or something.”
“So, it should be like Jimi Hendrix?”
“Exactly! He is the epitome of a musician with that notorious swagger about him. Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t just talk, it actually calls upon its listeners to open their hearts and their souls. You think that’s easy? No way man. That’s like one of the hardest things in the world, no kidding. Although Jimi had to pay the full price.”
“How do you survive in all of this?”
“Everybody has to survive, to get by, from day to day.”
I take out my Zippo lighter and dig around in my pockets. Huey leans over to Nick and nods in my direction.
“Is he going to roll a joint?”
“No,” I answer. “Not now.”
“Too bad,” Huey laments.
“So, where’s your shaker and your famous cocktails?” I say.
“Shaker? Dammit, Nick, where’s my shaker?” The musician brightens. “Where is it? It should be here, where did you put it?”
The door opens and Peter comes in.
“Hey, where are my cigars?” says Huey, turning his attention to him.
Peter disappears immediately.
“At home, in my minibar, I have this shaker shaped like a penguin. My wife gave it to me for my 40th birthday. Years ago it was used at the famous Savoy Hotel in London. I should have brought it with me.”
After the concert we find ourselves in a bar called The Rolling Stone, where a man in an ancient advertisement is staring at me with the caption “BEER WILL CHANGE THE WORLD. I don’t know how but it will.” He’s handing me a glass. I already have one of my own that a suspiciously fidgety and talkative Roman Unguryanu gave me. Fast and Frank play some music. Huey is touching my old jacket made of rigid leather and says,
“I like that tough-guy style, man, no kidding.”
“When was the last time you had to fight somebody?”
“About five years ago.”
“Me, of course,” says Huey, slapping me on the back.
“What would make you get into a fight?” I ask, just to be on the safe side.
“Intolerance! I hate that kind of thing. I think people should be accepting of one another and of each other’s life styles, too. Not trying to force other people to do stuff they don’t want to do. You gotta do what you gotta do. Not hurting people or putting them down, though.’
“I agree,” I say, nodding.
“I mean, how else are we all gonna be able to live together on this planet?” Huey chuckles.
Right, except that we have to spend every single day trying to learn how to live here, in a future that is battered by the waves rolling in. I try to do it in good time, I try to guess how I’ll have to adapt, but I am almost always mistaken, having missed that one small detail that changes everything in the end. Still, this daily workout is not in vain. It’s more like an addiction. I’m always ready for change when it comes, although each time it gets harder and harder.
Heading into the future is like shooting the windshield of an old wreck
of a car in a scrap yard, and not disturbing the spiderweb between
the driver’s seat and the roof. With such a clean shot that the spider doesn’t
even notice, but instead keeps waiting for the best fly of its life to come along.
God really knows what he’s doing when he invents a future for us all. He’s great at it. I’ve got a lot of other issues to take up with him, but one thing I know for sure—the future is his specialty.
(Huey Morgan on Twitter)
If you have family, call them. If you have friends love them.
If you don’t have anything, you have me.
(fragments of text from my notebook, jotted down in St. Petersburg, with traces of an unidentified alcoholic beverage on the page)
I’m at . . . seems like the space has changed completely since I was in the restroom just now and . . . I’m over by the . . . Damn, what’s that thing called again? Everything is sooo completely . . . Already um, you know, but there’s something else going on here that is reeeally . . . I’m standing at the bar, which is difficult for me right now, oh, I’m screaming . . . A-a-a-a-a-a-a-ah. The DJ is winking at me. Why me? Does he know me? My voice flutters off, only to come back as the screech of Axel Rose, something about the jungle. Nooo, anything but that. I cover my ears. Somebody is
“Will you vote for me?” says a young woman, who seems to be having difficulty balancing on the high barstool.
I study her carefully. Good Lord, do I look that bad, too? Just in case, I examine my own reflection. No, I’m not wearing a mini skirt and I’m not swaying from side to side yet, either. So I’m A-okay.
“Vote for you? Who are you?” I say.
She raises a hand, knocking back half a shot of what looks like tequila. Then she sits there totally immobile for a second. She grabs a slice of lime, and, after a second attempt, bites into it. Chews.
“I am United Russia!” she suddenly screams. Tiny pieces of lime come flying out of her mouth, one of which lands right on the tip of my nose.
“No,” I shout, hoping to out-voice Axel.
“I don’t want to.”
The girl tries to turn toward me but loses her balance and topples off of her familiar perch. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, some guy grabs her, growling, “I leave you on your own for two seconds, and now look at you!”
“Do you know who I am?” she screams at me.
“No, I don’t,” I admit in all honesty.
“Shut up,” the guy is trying to turn her face toward his, but she’s not ready to give up so easily.
“Well, do you —”
Her voice is drowned out by the sound of Slash’s guitar. Roxy hands me a glass of rum, putting hers down on top of the bar, and pulls up one trouser leg of her jeans to reveal an impressive tattoo on her calf to me and Frank. It’s the silhouette of the girl on the sleeve of Velvet Revolver’s first album. Peter materializes beside me, stares at the tattoo for a while, and then says, “Actually, I used to work with Slash.”
“I don’t believe you,” laughs Frank.
Peter looks hurt, rummages in his pockets, takes out his phone, and jabs a number on the screen in Frank’s face.
“That’s his number.”
“Fine, I believe you,” say Frank. He takes a sip from his glass, winks at me, and suddenly bursts out laughing. Meanwhile, Peter is already at the other end of the room, showing his phone to Nick, who just came out of the bathroom and is still adjusting to this new reality. Frank is waving his arms.
“He’s the man, Nick, give him a kiss! Slash is his best friend!”
But then things take a weird turn, something out of a script that I would ordinarily find very hard to believe. It’s as though some son-of-a-bitch tore out a couple pages and replaced them with something straight out of someone’s worst nightmares.
“Frank, how about I kiss you?” I say. Roxy freezes, and then starts giggling nervously.
“Huh?” Frank tenses.
“No, I don’t mean it like that,” I tell him, sticking my tongue out at Roxy. “I’ll put red lipstick on and kiss you a few times on your forehead and cheeks, and then we’ll take a picture of you. Roxy, gimme your lipstick!”
“Okay, man.” Frank says, visibly relaxing. “You should have said that to begin with.” He shakes his head and he takes another swig of drink. “What the hell, let’s do it!”
Whoa, careful on the way down now. Take it step by step and try to ignore the screaming coming from that godforsaken hole. It’s probably that guy cutting his girlfriend’s tongue out, so she doesn’t go around telling everyone who she is. But she didn’t get around to telling me, I distinctly remember that. My god, is it too late to tell him the truth?
“What is the truth?” says Frank, holding a bass pick with a pinch of something white on it up to my nose. I inhale and nod my head.
“Who the hell knows.”
“Heck, you’re right,” Frank says, and does the same trick with the pick to his own large nostril. He freezes, turning to face the stall doors.“You hear that?” he says quietly.
“Yes,” I whisper, feeling droplets of sweat trickling down my ear lobes. “He cut out her tongue.”
“Who? What?” Frank turns around and studies me carefully. Boy is he huge!
“Never mind,” I whisper.
Frank tiptoes to the door and suddenly bangs his fists on it, shrieking all the while.
“Now beat it!” he says and tears toward the exit.
I remain still. Gimme a minute here . . . What’s next?
The door opens a crack, and Nick pokes his head out. Clasped in his hand is a rolled up thousand-ruble bill, and behind him I see the frozen expressions on Peter and Fast’s faces.
“He-he,” I chuckle nervously and try to disappear.
Frank takes over for me, and whispers cunningly, “So, did those assholes shit themselves?”
“Depends on who you’re talking about.”
“Doesn’t matter. What matters are the results.”
“Well, we’ve got results, that’s for sure.”
“Great. You got that lipstick, right? You’re about to take the pictures of your lifetime.”
He grabs me, pulling me downstairs again. Thank goodness, no one’s tongue is being cut out there anymore. But I always suspected that an excellent lobotomy specialist might be lurking in a bathroom of that description at this time of night. How could I have let that escape me?
I don’t remember how I put the lipstick on and
kissed Frank. I don’t remember what he said to
me. There’s a lot I don’t remember, but now, on
a cold winter’s night, looking
at the photographs taped to the computer screen
in front of me like sinister Post-it notes, I am overcome by
waves of horror.
God Almighty, give me the strength to recall what other crazy stuff we did on the night of December 15th. Did I do anything I should be ashamed of now? I swear I had nothing to do with the fact that on December 15, 1999 at a club in Dorset, Boy George was hit in the head by a falling disco ball, or that on the same day in 2003, Courtney Love was sentenced to 18 months in lock-down rehab. (Did that do her any good, I wonder?) And I know that that was the day that Alan Freed was born, the fellow who coined “rock ‘n roll,” the term we all know and love, and Max Yasgur, too, who let that phrase become a cult and take root in his dairy farm . . . But, I’m uneasy knowing that this was the day, long ago in 1988, when James Brown was sentenced to six years in jail for something so bad that it’s almost unspeakable . . . God damn the 15th of December. What are we going to do about this date in the calendar? After all, I’m still in it, and there’s so much to contend with all around.
How the hell did we end up in Dom Byta? No, I remember perfectly that after the concert we drove to some club on Vasilievsky Island. Frank and Fast drew self-portraits in my notebook.
“Would you sell your soul to the devil to play the trumpet like Miles Davis?” I ask Fast.
“Naw,” says Fast, shaking his head. “That’s too high a price for me.”
Peter pours out the last of the champagne, which they have yet to pay for. Frank nods to Fast and says, “C’mon, there’s some important business we need to talk over.” What sort of business could they possibly have to talk over in the bathroom?
Back in the bus everybody wishes the driver a happy birthday. Bottles are rolling around on the floor.
“I hope he hasn’t started celebrating yet,” Huey says uneasily, noting the bottles.
“So, there are things you’re afraid of?” I say.
“I’ve just become a father. My son is only four months old. The thing I’m most afraid of is the future.”
There it is again, the god damned future. The script left unread on principle. How many seconds do we have left? We’re driving past Five Corners, a place where I once lived. What the hell did I know about the future?
During their sound check in the Cosmonaut, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals play Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”.
“What’s your favorite Led Zeppelin album?” I ask Huey after the concert.
“Physical Graffiti. To me, that was one amazing double album. One thing I’ve always regretted that I’ve never seen them live on stage. I was lucky enough to see the original members of Pink Floyd play at Live Aid, but I’d give anything to see Led Zeppelin! A friend of mine who’s a couple years older than me saw Led Zeppelin play two or three times. He’s one lucky bastard.”
“Have you ever met any of them?”
“I know Page a little. I was invited to a party hosted by his wife. I was just hanging out there when Jimmy turns to me and says, ‘Huey, man, what’s up?’ I was stunned. Can you believe it? He knew my name! I was absolutely dumbfounded. I couldn’t think of anything to say.”
“Is that why you started playing ‘Rock and Roll’?”
“That’s a great song! It has everything you and I were talking about. This one time, we were playing that song at the anniversary celebrations for the Hard Rock Café, and then I see this friend of mine sit right down next to Jimmy Page, just as I’m supposed to play the solo. I almost dropped through the floor, I’m not kidding. Anyway, after the concert, my friend comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, have you met Jimmy yet?’ So, after the show I go up to Page and I ask him how he liked our version of the song, and he says, ’Not bad.’ I was really relieved. Just imagine, he could have said, ‘Man, that really sucked. You stink!’ And that would have been a disaster for me. I don’t even want to think about it.”
I’m standing in my red striped boxer shorts, with a sheet wrapped . . . (oops, did that already)
(or hasn’t that happened yet?)
We’re in the Alexander Sergeevich Coach Inn also known as the Marriott Courtyard Pushkin on the Griboedov canal. Ah, the great names of history! What am I doing here at six in the morning?
The horrible carpeting in the hallway is leering,
baring its teeth at us in blood-thirsty patterns. No,
they definitely have that same carpeting all over
the world to drive the cool guys crazy.
“Nick, I know how to get us out of this trap,” I announce.
“Whatever you do, just don’t ask me to get you golf shoes at 6AM,” Nick says, quoting something familiar, while clasping a freshly opened bottle of rum inside his jacket pocket. There’s a flask of cider poking out of his other pocket too.
“We’ll make it. The main thing is not to step on the bloody cucumbers! They’re the most dangerous ones in the carpet pattern.”
Are you ready, on your marks . . .
Get set . . .
“Huey, three words if you will, in closing?”
“Fun. Lovin’. Criminals!”
Fattened hares and trained turtles run the final lap. We’ll figure out who’s who some other time.
Text by Valery Posternak
© 2011, Postertracks
Translated by Amy Pieterse and Mary C (Polly) Gannon, 2012