COLUMN SIXTY-TWO, AUGUST 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 The Blacklisted Journalist)
THE NIGHT I WAS BRIAN JONES
I have an
olive green jewelry box that I inherited from my mother. It's a
In the third
drawer of this jewelry box is her father's square faced Bulova watch, a pair of
broken eyeglasses, miscellaneous removable dental bridges, and broken cufflinks.
It is in this drawer that the blue glass guitar pick was stashed.
A guitar pick correctly shaped but made of thick clear turquoise glass;
far too thick to pick a single guitar string at a time.
boxes hold strange objects women covet. Small
items filled with memories in need of safekeeping.
especially significant that this guitar pick once belonged to Brian Jones of the
Rolling Stones. Brian picked it up
off the stage where it was thrown during a concert.
A time when fans would adore their musical heroes by pelting them with
money and various other projectiles from the audience, the way an adolescent boy
sometimes hits or throws things at a girl he likes.
I must have
been only five years old at the time. I
still had the wavy platinum blonde hair my Aunt Rose used as an excuse to
nickname me Marilyn. And I had puffy circles around my eyes that never seemed to
My father had
schlepped my two brothers and me from New Jersey into Manhattan, to a hotel that
overlooked Central Park. I remember
mayhem, police, and screaming fans, as I stood not three feet tall in a crowded
The door to Brianís room opened just a tiny crack until he recognized my dad. Brian's blonde hair was also like Marilyn's, and he had puffy circles around his eyes too. We piled
those ants doing
way down there?
room; three kids and my dad, who was forever shuffling papers and carrying his
yellow legal pad and a black felt tip pen that at the time was very popular.
My dad and
Brian sat on the bed, and the three of us kids sat around a small table next to
the window, overlooking Central Park South.
The windows were open and there was a brisk chill in the air.
We gazed down at the action we'd just waded through, with throngs of
girls assembled in the streets and behind barricades.
It was hard to understand what they were doing, just hanging around on a
cold night. What were they were yelling about?
What did they want? We
peered out the window with an endless sense of amazement. From our view on an
upper floor of the hotel, they looked like ants.
My dad was
now lying on his side, pen in hand, taking notes after smoking with Brian using
the discreet little pipe my mom had made. The
telltale smell of sweet smoke wouldn't have raised an eyebrow of curiosity from
my brothers or me. This ritual had become so commonplace in our family that we
thought it went on in all homes with all grownups.
Brian joked as he sifted through a pile of coins and small objects he'd
scooped up off the stage. That's when he handed my dad the blue glass guitar
I peered out
the window just a little further and looked down at the colorful menagerie of
mostly teenaged girls lining the streets below.
it's Brian Jones!" I heard a voice yell upwards, followed by screaming.
I rotated my head to look up the side of the hotel toward the roof, and
then to each side, to see if any heads were hanging from windows other than
mine. I saw no one else. Then I turned to see if my dad and Brian were as I'd left
them seconds before. I poked my
head outside again, and this time heard more vigorous shrieks.
something down from your room!" came the cries.
I looked at
my brothers who'd also heard the pleas from below. I shrugged
The ants ran
for the sugar packet. I tossed
another one. They broke thru the
police barriers to grab it. I was
having a great time doling out rations of Brian's sugar supply, watching antics
that even to me, looked absurdly childlike.
I wondered why this sugar would be of such great value to the crowd below
but kept tossing until I'd exhausted the entire supply. Spotting a few salt and
pepper packets that resembled tiny oval suppositories, I tossed them out the
The girls on
the street kept yelling for more. But
we'd run out of non-dangerous items to toss.
If we'd been in an expensive hotel nowadays, there might've only been
salt and pepper in crystal shakers, or sugar in fine china.
We started to forage through Brian's room looking for other
"disposable" items. Sensing our agitation, my father raised his voice. . .
you kids. Cut it out."
supposed to be on our best behavior.
Were we ten
stories up? Perhaps twenty? Maybe
even in the penthouse suites? The girls on the street seemed microscopic.
I was a kid from New Jersey who lived in a ranch style house.
It felt as if we were on top of the Empire State Building.
But this was simply a case of mistaken identity.
As I said before, Brian did have those same puffy circles around his
eyes, and that same platinum blonde hair, and of course, we were in his room.
So I will
keep this blue glass guitar pick tucked in my mother's old jewelry box.
I will keep it hidden and safe, and it will forever remind me of the
handful of fifty to sixty-year-old women out there somewhere.
Women who have secretly kept packets of salt, pepper, and sugar in their
jewelry boxes, to remember the night when Brian Jones threw them down from his
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