by JIM HARRIS
I see that Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ autobiography, “Life,” is number two on the New York Times best seller list. As I’m sure you’re aware, Keith and I have a lot in common. Neither of us has written a hit song in 30 years, and we’re both rough-hewn rogues with tales to tell. I have therefore begun my autobiography, “Unhinged: The Jim Harris Story,”of which the following is the first installment (of 392). Enjoy.
In 1978, I was playing with a local band, “Center City,” when I got a call from our agent. “I got a job for you boys. A private party in the Hamptons” he said. “It’s at the home of a a well-known plastic surgeon who has written a best-selling book and appeared several times on the Merv Griffin Show. It’s going to be a real fancy bash, and the pay is great. Just be sure to tell them that the name of your band is Golden Touch.”
We were a little uneasy about pretending to be some other band, but the pay and the chance for a road trip was more than we could resist, so we took it. We eyeballed a map and figured it was probably a three-hour drive. There was no GPS or MapQuest back then. Our mode of transportation was an old black station wagon that looked like a hearse with fins. Owing to space constraints, we had to lash the entire drum set onto the roof. As we set off on our journey, it looked like a scene from the “Grapes of Wrath.” If there were any major highways traversing Long Island, we managed to miss them all. We must have passed through 30 small towns and 1,000 traffic lights along the way. As we started getting to the “wealthy” end of the island, local police began stopping us as we entered each new hamlet.
“Where you boys going?”
“We’re playing a party at Doc Wagner’s house in the Hamptons.”
“Do tell. What’s the name of your band?”
“Center City, uh, I mean Golden Touch.”
After giving us the once-over (several times), they’d let us move on. I remember that one of the cops who stopped us was the first female police officer any of us had ever seen, and she was a babe!
The whole trip wound up taking about seven hours. When we arrived at the party and got through security, the host looked at us as if we had just dropped in from outer space. “You’re three hours late!” he said. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to realize that we were not even the band that he had requested. “Oh well,” he said, “set up over there by the pool.”
We were almost through our first set when I noticed a bunch of beautiful women in the pool tossing a beach ball around — IN THE NUDE! Almost simultaneously, I felt a rush of air as our drummer, Kevin, blew by me, tearing off his clothes and jumping into the pool.
Drummers are inherently crazy folk, but Kevin was nuts even by drummer standards. He had the libido of a badger on steroids, and it was always getting us in trouble. Anyway, once engaged in the naked volleyball caper, there was no getting him back on the bandstand. We played a few more songs, sans percussion, and decided to call it quits.
We realized that we’d probably forfeit any chance of getting paid, but hey, we thought, how often would we get a chance to mingle with millionaires and movie stars? No one was paying any attention to us anyhow, and besides, they thought we were some group called “Golden Touch.”
So the remaining band members and I wandered into the house and began ingesting gobs of hors d’oeuvres while scanning the crowd for celebs. We spotted the actor Kevin McCarthy, who had appeared in “The Misfits,” with Marilyn Monroe, but most notably (to us), had starred in the sci-fi classic, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Once we made him aware of how much we admired his work, he was only too happy to talk with us.
After about an hour of such schmoozing, the host approached us and said, “OK, guys, party’s over. Time to go,” and ushered us out. We headed off, bellies full, paycheck in hand, happy as clams.
A few miles down the road, we stopped at a disco, where we were not only refused admittance, but chased by angry bouncers who didn’t like Kevin chatting up women in the parking lot. We escaped, as always, by the skin of our teeth.
Shortly thereafter, we tried to pull off to the side of the road to catch a catnap, but our old friends the police showed up and told us “No loitering.” We pushed on, arriving many hours later back in Philly, where we finally got some sleep. It was not our best gig as a band, but certainly one of the most fun.
I’m presently in negotiations with the Chestnut Hill Local to run the remaining 391 installments of my autobiography. They’re pretending to be uninterested, but it’s just a matter of time before they cave in and give me the $2 million I’m asking for. Please stand by.