Just about everyone has met someone they’ve seen in a movie or on television. Or at least they’ve got a glimpse of them. Usually, they’re not nearly as beautiful as you thought they were.
There’s a doc about the great Bill Murray and how he meets people in random places, the grocery store or just walking down the street, and ends up hanging with them, going to their parties. I met Bill Murray once myself, an unexpected encounter that resulted in a conversation and a deep impression that he’s more “zen” than Buddha and one deep mofo. But that story will never be told in print; only to friends.
The waves that an encounter with celebrity can send through a community, changing people’s lives in unexpected ways. That’s what I’m talking about.
Like when the Red Hot Chili Peppers came to town.
During the summer there are always a few private jets parked in their own little section of the airport—you can see them from the highway. Over the years Oprah, various Rockefellers, Sergey and Larry and their Google friends have stopped in for the scenery and the glaciers and eagles and bears. Back in the day John Wayne brought a boat up and fished for salmon every summer.
I’d really only gotten into the Peppers when Blood Sugar Sex Magik hit. A friend and I had a series of bong hits one lazy afternoon, and in the middle of this he spun up the CD. I was immediately, hypnotically into it. Looking back, I can see that it was one of those albums that’s probably best on a marijuana high. I can listen to it now, but I have to get myself in that mindset, the memories of a cramped old apartment and the exhaled smoke streaming through the light from a tiny, hooded lamp.
So it was probably ’92 or ’93, summer. Nowadays I can usually, mostly get the dates on things like this within a year or two.
Imagine a “downtown” of a few thousand people packed into a square mile or so of apartments and little old houses and tourist traps. And one morning, there these guyz are, fresh off the private jet, walking around. Kiedis was wearing some kind of cat in the hat that you could see from far away. Flea went shirtless as soon as the sun came out, and the other two guys? I don’t know, maybe they were there, maybe they weren’t. I probably didn’t know what they looked like.
The next day, I heard from one degree of separation, there’d been a party the night before. The guyz had invited six or seven good looking women they’d met walking around town that day, buying souvenirs and coffee and causing buzz. There was just one other guy besides Kiedis and Flea. Maybe he was the local connection.
I’m not sure if this was supposed to be during one of Kiedis’s “clean” periods or not, but there was certainly plenty of coke, interrupted by the occasional joint to chill a bit, and a flow of brandy and whiskey throughout.
Of the six or seven girls, two or three made it out before the orgy started, my informant told me. She had been one of them. Another was a girl named Katie, that I’d seen around at a few parties. She was the quintessential Alaska babe, pretty face and blonde hair but outdoors tomboy as fuck, hiking, fishing, skiing and often wrapped in layers of rubber to keep the rain off. She lived with some older guy on a boat down at the harbor.
The next night we had a big bonfire at a hidden beach a few miles out of town. It wasn’t a secret place, of course, but you had to hike a mile to get there, which kept the riff raff out. It was a mellow scene, 20 or 30 people all of whom had packed some beer in, and usually that’s all there was, except for pot. Some of them were state government, some had jobs leading tourists on bike rides or driving their busses.
The big topic that night was the Peppers. The guyz were rumored to be heading out on a boat for Glacier Bay the next day.
Katie showed up at the party late. She looked normal enough wearing a baseball cap, but she wasn’t talking much. When she took it off, her head was shaved down to stubble. I was standing with a little knot of friends a ways away. Someone said, “Damn.”
“Yeah, didn’t you hear?” asked one of the other girls, one who hadn’t been at the party. “Jim shaved her head yesterday when she got home. And she didn’t even fuck those guys.”
I was reeling, oh, I’d read the books, of course, after Allies liberated France the French had shaved the heads of hundreds, thousands of women who were suspected of fucking Germans. I’d seen the photos. There was something primitive about it. Something primal. A few had been slapped around, but very few had been seriously injured. The head shaving had sufficed, as a ritual cleansing of sorts.
Later on, after the fire died down, I saw Katie was alone and went over to talk to her. I got her a beer and we took a couple of puffs on a pipe I had. I asked her if she’d like to go out with me sometime. My approach was too indirect. Way too nice. I don’t think it would have mattered, anyway.
“I like you, man, but I don’t think so,” she said.
She was pretty drunk, filters down. It was that time at a party, after a certain number of hours, where the truth comes out.
“I’m going back on the boat tonight. I talked with Jim, and we worked things out.”
“But he shaved your head!” I said, louder. “How the fuck did he do that, did he tie you up?” I’d been wondering about that all night.
“Yeah,” she said.
I couldn’t think of anything to say for a while.
“He loves me, and I deserved it,” she said.
And she handed back my pipe and walked away.