Stairway To Nowhere
Book Excerpt Read by Luke
October 3, 1979 – Hullabaloos, Albany, NY
“Hello,” Dik says, “Dressing room’s up them stairs on the left. Can’t miss it. Watch out for the leopard.”
“Leopard? Yeah, right.” He shoulders past me and hares off toward the van.
Up the wooden hill to Gigfordshire I go, into the dressing room, and of course the first thing I see is a fully grown leopard in the corner of the room. It stares at me with look-at-that-huge-kitty-snack eyes and licks its chops. I note with relief that it’s chained to the wall and try not to think about dry rot or termites. I set my guitar case and bag as far away from Tiddles as possible, trying to act nonchalant beneath the smirking gazes of Miki, Mulligan, and Annette.
“Bet Luke gets some pussy tonight.” Miki says.
“Har fucking har. Just as long as pussy doesn’t get any Luke tonight.”
Stewart Copeland heralds the arrival of The Police.
“Hi guys. Holy cow! How cool is that?” and he points his Super 8 camera at the leopard.
A grizzly bear-sized bloke sporting a grizzly beard, bib overalls and work boots clumps into the room and without so much as a howdy throws a whole raw chicken at the leopard.
“Had her since she was 2 days old,” he says. “She’s still get her teeth” – the crunching of deceased chicken attests to such – “but we had her de-clawed.”
“So at least I won’t get disfigured while she’s ripping my head off.” I say.
“Huh? Oh, no. Chain’s good and strong. You’ll be okay.”
We have a couple of hours to kill after sound check so, as we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, Stewart announces that he wants to work on some more of the film. This is Sting’s cue to go off and have a sulk over the latest Nabakov novel he’s pretending to read. He’s sneered at my copy of Stephen King’s The Stand which is my road novel. I am on my 4th or 5th reading. But then I don’t have any Russian perverts in my lyrics thanks all the same, just the occasional pyromaniac or robotic sex doll.
“Now for this scene,” Stewart says, eying the leopard, “I want Luke on the phone. Demanding the ransom for Annette.”
“They’d be more likely to pay me to keep her.” I mutter.
“You still got that leopard skin shirt?” Stewart asks me.
“Yeah. But if you seriously think for one second that I’m gonna –”
“Aw, c’mon! It’ll look great! With the leopard in the background and all.” Stewart says.
Fuck, he is so bloody enthusiastic all the time, how can I refuse? So when I hit the stage that night my leopard skin shirt is already soaked through with sweat before I’ve even played a note. Still, at least it isn’t soaked through with my blood.
Just to show how unimpressed it is with monkey antics, the leopard falls asleep during the after-gig party. Around 2AM Annette herds us back to the van. We have an overnight drive to Boston. The club’s owners, the lumberjack brothers – who claim to have built the place from scratch themselves, by hand, and who am I to doubt it – come out to say goodbye. They’re effusive about what a great night it has been.
“Great show tonight.” One of them tells me.
“Er, yeah thanks. Great … er, leopard, man.” I say.
“Yeah. Y’know she really took a shine to you.” One or other of them tells me.
“Yup. Must have been that shirt a yours.”
“Er, yeah,” I say, “Must have been.”
“That and the fact she’s in heat right now.”
For the next week or so my nightmares are unprintable
Stairway To Nowhere