I met John Belushi at a private club on Sunset called ON THE ROX. I had been working downstairs as the backstage waitress for the Roxy Theatre. Setting up dressing rooms with whatever a band’s rider/ contract might stipulate. Regularly troughs of beer, water, cases at a time packed in ice.
Whatever was required. Willie De Ville was too dope sick to go on stage at the Whiskey. He was given supplements, not cheerfully, but what was the alternative, really?
My boss, ex Chicago cop, Elmer Valentine had invited me to work upstairs at ON THE ROX. Christened a “morgue” by Rod Stewart, ON THE ROX only had a membership of 50 individuals at that time. You might see a Rolling Stone or a Beatle or a Laker. Much like an airport the stars used it as a sort of waiting room coming or going some place else. Depending on their work schedules landing for a tour, or a movie, principal photography or post. It was so exclusive it was uninhabited.
For example Jim Harrison one of my favorite writers at the time didn’t live in California but when he rolled into town he would meet with a friend for a drink. Jim and his pal Jack Nicolson might be the only two people in the club for the entire evening. With the variable of Harry Dean Stanton a regular, but Harry even when he was present was perhaps the quietest man I had ever sat with. He wasn’t uninterested in me. He asked me out on a date, which if I had had any sense I would have gone but I calculated he was too old for me. Anyway what would we talk about?
Harry could sit comfortably for hours without a word. I would play music on the tape deck when I wasn’t staring at the bar. I noticed flecks in some of the bottles floating almost swimming in just the right light, wondering if it was all real and normal. Harry might eventually pick up my nylon string guitar and play. Sometimes I howled along guessing syllables to a heartfelt Mexican cantata. Harry presented me with 2 gifts. A hat and a book. THE TAO OF POOH.
On the particular night that I am drawing your attention to, ON THE ROX was actually buzzing. Insular with “A” listers indulging their desire to be left alone to commune with their own kind. My focus was a little red cocktail recipe book that I had purchased across the street. I had never made a Margarita before. We had triple sec, check, limes, a blender. I had heard peripherally and from Tom Scott specifically sitting at the bar, that John Belushi was in town, doing the movie NEIGHBORS, and wanted to replace him?! They had been great friends once and now he was devastated that John had not come to him directly but that he had to find out from someone else. And so here he was rehearsing how he would approach John.
John Belushi was a presence although I wasn’t sure exactly when he arrived. He was just suddenly he was in the house and everywhere at once. He had commandeered the stereo and was blasting FEAR and pogoing in and out of the rich and famous denizens. Perhaps I should have known that this situation would need to be tempered but I didn’t. Lou Adler my boss, a deliberate and calculated thoughtful man spoke to me. His usual reticence addressing me I attributed to his preference for blonds. Although that night I had a half a head of blond hair freshly bleached on the crown ~ the work of the great punk hair-dresser ATILLA. Lou actually spoke to me, and said and this a loose paraphrase, contain him or else.
I was a bit afraid. Lou almost never spoke to me. I had learned if nothing else besides making drinks at ON THE ROX. That silence was a craft onto itself used by those in the acting profession especially as an implement of control. It wasn’t shyness. Maybe sometimes. And in this case it wasn’t TAO. I had no idea how it would go but I basically physically had to corral John to speak to me concerning his choice of music. He was immediately compliant and a bit stupefied as to what exactly the big deal was? Weren’t we having fun? I know I was. I told him I preferred FEAR to this other crap and I snorted to illustrate that, as I replaced his cassette with KIM CARNES. I knew Lou Adler’s taste and he would choose BETTY DAVIS EYES.
The next time John came to the club he brought Derf Scratch. (Fred backwards.) The bass player for FEAR. We all were immediate chums. There would be road trips with Derf when John was back in Chicago there was never a lull when John was in town. With the club all to ourselves that first night we blew out the speakers with FEAR and smoked blunts and jumped around the empty club ordering Chinese from the private chef.
John noticed my guitar and listened to my story of getting kicked out KOMMUNITY FK for basically having a job and wanting to get paid for a gig. After that when John came to town we would get together and jam. We wrote detailed sappy country songs and sang howling doggrel harmonies. We had this idea of making an album, getting at least a set together, recording. Usually we would go to Derf’s house or to John’s hotel. I was the chauffeur. I had no idea John Belushi dabbled in heroin. I knew he was married and he didn’t hold that against me. I was star struck driving his Mercedes, with the top down, Sunset Blvd, with the music cranked, with John and Derf. I do like expensive cars. Cars that command respect. But I prefer poor people to commune with but John was an exception.
We spent hours going over the same song, writing and rewriting. When I got fired from ON THE ROX I was bummed. I didn’t know who I was anymore. The job had become my identity. Derf told John what had happened and stuck John on the phone. I figured he wouldn’t want to be friends anymore. He said you’re so much better than that lame waitressing job. I’ll be in LA in a few weeks. They did you a favor. Fuck them. That was the last time we spoke. My friend was dead within a few weeks and everything seemed really quiet again.