To avoid any potential embarrassment to the people concerned no names are mentioned however the rest of this tale is one hundred per cent true.
In response to NonBeige’s request for weird and wonderful stories I thought this may prove amusing to the readers.
In the early 80’s I was involved in the music biz in a small way as co-manager of a talented but not particularly successful rock band. They were signed to quite a well known label that had offices in both London and New York.
For completely unrelated reasons I was in New York and the manager of the label’s local office called me. He had VIP tickets and “access all areas” passes for a concert by one of the world’s biggest bands at Madison Square Garden and did I want to go with him….”Hell yeah!”
I got myself ready, unpacked a brand new, exceedingly fashionable shirt that was suitably rock n roll, pleased with the overall look I made my way to the hotel lobby and into the waiting limo.
We arrived at the “Garden” went straight to our VIP area and grabbed some champagne. Surrounded by the great and the good this was shaping up to be a fun night. Nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened.
About half way through the headline act some moron threw a fire cracker into our section. Of course, everybody panicked and my pal said “we don’t need this; let’s watch the rest of the gig from the side of the stage”. I didn’t need much persuasion.
Flashing our passes we were escorted stage side and were no more than ten feet away from the action and looking out over the packed auditorium. The band broke into one of their most popular hits that had a particularly risqué chorus. On the second chorus the singer gestured for all of us stage side to join them on stage and do impromptu back-up vocals. Consequently about twenty of us found ourselves crowding around various mics singing our socks off. I had just sung on stage at Madison Square Garden! Things couldn’t get any weirder …could they?
After the gig, there was the obligatory back-stage party. The large lounge area was packed with rock stars, movie stars, industry execs and friends and family. Apart from the usual security guys there were two fairly non-descript guys wearing navy blue sweatshirts with a logo. Being the inquisitive soul that I am, I was intrigued as to who they might be. I sidled over to one of them and said “Hi”. The logo on the sweatshirt had a badge motif and the wording NYPD: Precinct 99.
We started chatting and I got the stereotypical “Gee man, you’re accent is really cool” etc. It transpired that these two guys were on some sort of extra-security detail in case anything serious kicked off.
After about ten minutes of “shooting the breeze” the cop says to me “I really like your shirt” to which I replied “I really like your sweat shirt”. He comes back with “Wanna swap?” Now, as much as I had only just bought the shirt and yes I really liked it, thirty seconds later we were wearing each other’s tops.
At this point my friend comes over to see what the heck is going on and cop number 2 also joins the group.
We are chatting about our respective jobs and I throw in “Is it really exciting being a New York cop?” To my amazement one of them chirps up with “Do you guys wanna hang out after we leave here, we’ll get a squad car to pick you up and take you back to the precinct, we have to change then we are off duty and we can show you our side of the city”.
A squad car! You bet.
True to his word we leave the venue and he calls for a car to collect us. Whilst we are waiting for our “cab” one of the cops grabs my arm and says “there’s a little group smoking dope over there let’s go and rattle their cage …you got the sweat shirt”.
We go over. As soon as they check out the shirts what’s left of the “joints” are stubbed out and four very scared looking kids stand before us. We ask them why they’re hanging about and are they dealing drugs, have they got any concealed weapons and not to give us any lip. They get told to assume the position and we both proceed to “pat” them down. After establishing they were not part of a Columbian drug cartel we send them on their way. Part of me enjoyed the subterfuge but I couldn’t help feeling very uncomfortable.
The “black and white” turns up. Our mate tells the driver that we are his new friends from London and to drive us back to the precinct and to make it “fun”.
With the two of us in the back the car takes off like a Formula 1 racer. Tyres squealing and sliding round corners. The driver says “Hey guys, do you want the lights and sirens?”
On arrival at the destination our new found friends tell us to grab a seat in the bar a few doors down and wait for them. What they forgot to mention was that the bar was frequented primarily by off-duty policemen and police “groupies” (yes they do exist).
I’m wearing an official sweatshirt, my cohort is in his concert finest and we have English accents. To say our reception was frosty is one of the great understatements. We order a couple of drinks and just as we are being served the biggest and scariest looking guy in the place comes over and says bluntly “what are you guys doing here?”. I tell him whom we are waiting for and how we met and instantaneously the mood lightens and everyone wants to chat.
About twenty minutes later our two “buddies” show up and lead us to their vehicle. Before we drive off one of them offers us a choice of drugs to get us in the mood to party. He produced a bag of cocaine. Now I’m no expert but neither am I naive. There must have several thousand dollars worth of “blow” in the bag. No comment!
For the next couple of hours we were driven round some of the seediest, sleaziest streets the Big Apple had to offer, with regular pit stops to bars and clubs where the guys are greeted like long lost family. Not once did money change hands for the drinks we imbibed. Sad to say the mood was getting a little too “raunchy” even for this inquisitive Brit.
At about 3 am we stopped off at an all night food stall and munched on hot dogs that were meant to be the best in the city. They weren’t that special.
With full tummies alcohol overload and undoubted substance abuse our unexpected benefactors pipe up with “Do you guys wanna get laid?” “Huh?” It transpired that they wanted to cruise the streets pick up hookers and let them off in exchange for a “freebie”. I may not be the world’s most moral person but this was one step too far. As they used to say in the tabloids we made our excuses and left.
It’s now some 30 years later but every minute of that night is vividly ingrained in my brain, ironically not long after I returned to London a girlfriend “nicked” the sweat shirt.
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