You look like Chico Marx.
“Shut up, putz. This is how you open up the conversation? With insults and little jokes? I’ll throw your ass out of here, buster.”
I’m in my own house.
“You think this matters to Bill Graham? I’ve thrown people out of their own houses before. I knew they would cause trouble at the show that night, so I swung by their pads in the afternoon and 86’ed ’em. Never saw it coming. Most thanked me for the professional manner in which I tossed them out a window.”
Why would they thank you?
“I opened the window first. Most promoters wouldn’t do that. John Scher used to buy orphans just so he could hurl them through plate-glass. A real schmendrick, that guy. Not Bill Graham. I go the extra mile The crowd needs? I provide. The artist wants? I get. Carlos Santana needs cocaine in Moscow during the Cold War? I get.
“Phone rings. This is ’86. That schmuck with the splotch, whatshisname, he’s in charge over there. Gorbachev! Gorby, right, Gorby. This guy’s no Kruschev. Wants to open up the Soviet Union a little bit. Not too much. Just a bit. Economy’s terrible and the kids are getting ansty. Figures a rock concert might mellow them out. There’s no bread in the country, so he’ll import a circus.
“I pick up. It’s Gorby. I scream at him in Yiddish for ten minutes and hang up.
“Phone rings again. Gorby again. Now I got him on the ropes! Little nudnik thought he was talking to some moron like Reagan, may he rot in Hell that bastard. Who’s this asshole ever negotiated with? I could get 80% of the door and all the tee-shirt revenue from him with my dick tied behind my back, never mind broadcast fees. Putz.
“At this point, I still do not know why he’s calling.
“He tells me about his idea. Rock concert in Moscow. My mind starts racing. Bill Graham presents The Wall behind the Iron Curtain! Bill Graham presents Bruce Springsteen in Red Square! The Stones. Baruch hashem, the Stones. I might just end the Cold War myself through the power of my promoting.
“Then he tells me about his budget. I end up begging Steve Wozniak for half-a-mil and hiring the Doobie Brothers, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, and Jackson Browne. I didn’t have to pay Jackson because of a favor he owed me about a thing I didn’t tell anyone about.
“We fly in. I got 40, 50 people with me. Lights, production, lawyers, a couple CIA guys I knew through the Dead. Every one of us is wearing at least a dozen pairs of Levi’s, and we peel them off throughout the day in exchange for drinks and Communist blowjobs. Go to the stadium. Dynamo, it’s called. DEE-nah-mo. Place looks like if concrete could take a shit. Gloomiest fuckin’ stadium you’ve ever seen. We ask to see the power supply: it’s a babushka holding an extension cord. We’re gonna have to bring in everything.
“When I get back, I ask Steve Wozniak for another half-a-mil.
“He says yes, but only under one condition.
“What, Steve? Anything, I say.
“I wanna meet the Doobie Brothers, he tells me.
“So I stare at the phone for about a minute wondering if I’m being fucked with. I’ve met the Doobie Brothers a million times. Never that fun. Who am I to judge? Woz wants an audience with the Doobies, then he gets one.
“The show! We’re going to Moscow! I got two passenger planes and a cargo plane for the equipment. Carlos Santana talks to a stewardess about Jesus for the entire flight. The Doobies are drunk and crawling under seats to bite ankles. That one with the hair like a girl and a mustache does it hard, too. Bonnie Raitt has talked one of the pilots into letting her fly. Jackson Browne has accidentally been loaded into the cargo plane. Rock and roll, baby.
“Upon landing, all of the equipment and Jackson Browne are confiscated by the Red Army and held for ransom. I call Woz and ask him if he’d like to meet Santana. He wires me another half-a-mil.
“You thought the stadium was bad before; it’s worse now. Soldiers everywhere, but they’re not in uniform. Track suits and army boots and AK47’s. I start to wonder if maybe a week before I had a psychotic break. Maybe I’m in the booby hatch imagining all this. Because it can’t be happening. It can’t be real. The one thing–the ONE THING–Bill Graham had INSISTED on was that there be no soldiers. How can the kids groove and get loose with all that heat? I’m screaming at the top of my lungs.
“I want to see Fedesov. He’s the big megilla. He’s the macher. Supreme Soviet, this guy. It’s July, and he’s wearing a giant overcoat. I never saw a hat this fuzzy. He’s not used to being yelled at. Well, they called me, motherfucker. ‘Please, Bill Graham, come help our shitty country with no lettuce.’ I didn’t call them.
“I’m serious about that. Didn’t see a piece of lettuce the entire trip.
“So I’m screaming at Fedesov really letting him have it, and the translator’s frozen in fear. You don’t talk to a Supreme Soviet like this!
“But this guy’s tough. He smiles. Says in English,
“Is no soldiers. Is security.
“I start screaming again. Ten full minutes. I WILL PUT MY ACTS BACK ON MY PLANES AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF YOUR NO-LETTUCE-HAVING SHITHOLE, that sort of thing. I’m giving him the full shpritz.
“He says, no can do. Is security.
“This is gonna kill my show. Guys with rifles all around. Something bad’s gonna happen. What if the kids get rambunctious? The Doobies get the party started. Drunken anklebiters that they are, they can turn any floor into a dance floor. It’s a dangerous situation. I play my hole card, which was seeing if Steve Wozniak wanted to meet Bonnie Raitt.
“It turns out he did, and I bribed Fedesov with half of the half-million. I kept the rest in overhead and assorted fees.
“The soldiers marched out of the stadium, and the kids came in. Jackson Browne, who had been bought back from the Russians, played his songs about California. Bonnie Raitt came out and did her thing in a pair of remarkable trousers. These little Commies had never seen pants like this before. Everybody danced to the Doobies, and then Santana closed. There was no politics, no mishegos, nothing. These kids lost their mind for Santana. Rapture. That’s what it was. The whole place was in rapture. This was something new. They’d never heard anything like it, and Santana felt it and so did the band and everyone backstage. It was a magical moment.
“Santana came offstage, demanded cocaine, and threw his sweaty do-rag at me. The magical moment was over.
“Shocking as this may sound, it wasn’t easy to find rock star-grade cocaine in Moscow in 1986. The Doobies and I had to break into a hospital. I got the cocaine for Santana, but all the Doobies were arrested.
“I call Steve Wozniak and ask him if he wants to meet the Grateful Dead.
“He tells me that he’s met them.
“I ask if he wants to meet them again.
“He sends me a half-million dollars, I get the Doobies out of jail, and we fly home. Three years later, the Soviet Union would collapse. Funny story: Fedesov was executed.”
“Caught him taking bribes.”