MAN SIGNS DOG: JIMI HENDRIX IN NEW ORLEANS

(Origially published in the August 2011 issue of Offbeat Magazine)

 

On July 30, 1968, the Jimi Hendrix Experience kicked off its second United States tour with two shows in Baton Rouge.

According to Hendrix biographer Charles Cross, Hendrix was never comfortable in the South. He was always “edgy” in states where he complained that segregation was “still the de facto norm.” So, when the band missed a flight in Baton Rouge and had to drive to Shreveport, Hendrix was anxiety-ridden.

“When they stopped for lunch, Jimi told his bandmates he couldn’t go into the restaurant they’d selected,” writes Cross in his biography Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix. “‘I didn’t believe that was possible, even in Louisiana,’ Noel [Redding] recalled. Redding convinced Jimi to accompany them. Jimi was the only African American in the restaurant, and though they were served, they drew many glares and quickly left. A few days earlier, they had run into legendary rocker Jerry Lee Lewis at an airport. Lewis had failed to recognize Hendrix.”

In the biography, Cross tells the story of an enraged police officer assigned to be Hendrix’s bodyguard pulling a gun on him when the musician walked through a backstage door with a Southern blonde on his arm. Cross writes that Hendrix’s promoter Pat O’Day lived in constant fear that Hendrix would eventually be murdered in one of these racially charged incidents in the South.

Cross quotes Hendrix: “Fifty years ago, I couldn’t have even walked into this auditorium. And fifty years from now, no one is going to care…We could change America, not from white to black but from old to young…. Can you imagine Southern police protecting me?”

Neville Brother Charles Neville hung around the same clubs as Hendrix in Greenwich Village, and he told authors Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber in the 2010 biography Becoming Jimi Hendrix that there was no shortage of women attracted to Hendrix back in those early days, and Jimi was quite pleased to return their affections.

“Sometimes in the afternoon, we’d go in for a sound check and Jimi would be over at the Café Wha? before it opened, just fooling around,” says Neville. “I remember him sitting at the edge of the stage with his acoustic guitar, and there’d be a little semicircle of hippie girls gathered there, swooning.”

Hendrix loved those Southern belles and they loved him right back, much to the distress of the police. Former OffBeat editor Bunny Matthews wrote in UNO’s student newspaper that racial tension was in the air that August night in ’68 when Hendrix played Tad Gormley Stadium.

“The White Citizen’s Council was distributing handbills stating: ‘The screaming idiotic words and savage music of these records are undermining the morals of our white youth in America,’ wrote Matthews in The Driftwood. “And the daughters of these concerned citizens were at City Park, August 1, 1968, screaming their names and phone numbers to Jimi (skin-tight pants, guitar between legs, tongue licking cheek) between songs.”

 

The day of the show, Jimi Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell and bass guitarist Noel Redding attended a love-in at Congo Square with performances by local bands. Hendrix spoke to the masses from the back of a pickup truck, inviting them to the concert later that night.

Brian Collins was the organist for a popular ‘60s New Orleans garage band called the Gaunga Dyns (at the time of this writing, the Gaunga Dyns’ memorabilia is on display at the Cabildo as part of a New Orleans music exhibit). Collins skipped school the day of the Jimi Hendrix concert— something he normally didn’t do, but he believed Hendrix was a valid reason to call in sick. That day, a DJ friend tipped off Collins that in 30 minutes, Hendrix was going to appear in front of the Municipal Auditorium.

“There was just a small group of people standing around to see Hendrix,” Collins says. “Most people were at work or at school. Then, this Cadillac drives up and Jimi Hendrix gets out of the car, and I was kind of a shy kid but I just wanted to see him. God I wish I had brought an Are You Experienced album cover with me and had him autograph it. I could probably sell it on eBay and retire.

“There was a lady in the crowd with a chihuahua, and she hands the dog to Jimi Hendrix. He has these huge hands. Michelangelo would have loved to carve these hands out of marble. They were just superb hands. This little chihuahua became totally submissive and went to a totally new level of chihuahua consciousness. The dog just laid there with his head down on Jimi Hendrix’s fingertips. With his other hand, Jimi took a Marks-a-Lot and wrote on the side of the animal, ‘Jimi Hendrix.’

“He gives the dog back to the lady and the little dog pops up, the little bug eyes are looking around wondering, ‘What the hell is going on? What happened? What was that?’ It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of shit. It wasn’t a Las Vegas act with animals that have been working with their trainers for years. It was a random chihuahua into Jimi Hendrix’s hands.

“It was one thing watching Hendrix when he was performing but this chihuahua thing was fucking mystical,” says Collins.

 

Steve Staples [now the owner of International Vintage Guitars] was the guitarist in the Gaunga Dyns, and he was totally enamored with the thought of seeing Hendrix in concert at Tad Gormley Stadium. By that time, the band had already put out its first album, which generated several hit singles and plenty of airplay in New Orleans. By the tender age of 17, Staples and the Gaunga Dyns had been on TV, played on Bourbon Street and at high schools, colleges and frats all over the South.

Jimi Hendrix was staying at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, where Staples and a couple of his friends went to try to meet the legend. He dropped his friends off in front of the hotel, and while he was looking for a parking spot, they found Hendrix in the lobby. He invited Staples’ friends up to his room, where he was entertaining friends and record company executives.

Unfortunately, Staples missed the party. “I didn’t know my friends had taken off with Hendrix, and when I came around I couldn’t find them,” he says. “They told me Hendrix was very soft-spoken, very nice and a real down-to-earth guy.”

Although he barely missed Hendrix that afternoon, his brush with greatness would come soon enough. He had a connection with WNOE DJs Tom and Paul Collins, known as the Collins Twins. One of the Collins Twins was dating the sister of the manager of the Gaunga Dyns and brought Hendrix over to the manager’s house in the Aurora section of Algiers for a visit.

It was the home of Minit Label’s Joe Banashak, who produced Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is” in 1967. Joe’s son, Jeff Banashak, was managing the Gaunga Dyns, and he drove Hendrix’s Cadillac to the Memorial Auditorium that day. It’s because of these connections that Staples and the rest of the band got tickets right in the center of the front row. They were only 20-25 yards away from Hendrix as the concert started.

The Soft Machine, a British psychedelic garage band, opened for Hendrix that night. “They were a fabulous sort of rock and jazz band,” Staples says. “They had an incredible keyboard player and a great drummer and a fantastic singer.

“And then came Hendrix. I think he had four Marshall stacks, and Mitch Mitchell had a huge drum set. There was a wall of nine or 10 amplifiers across the back of the stage. Hendrix played mostly Strat. He played ‘Red House’ on a black Les Paul, left-handed obviously. I’m sure it was one of his best performances ever.”

Hendrix did all his famed moves that night in New Orleans: guitar behind the head, behind the shoulder, playing the guitar with his teeth, making love to the guitar. And then, in front of that packed crowd in City Park, Staples saw Hendrix do something he had never seen him do before. “He took the guitar and pulled it around on his side like he was holding it under his arm and he pulled it away, shoved it forward, and then let go of it on the strap. The guitar literally left his hands and went up in the air, and he caught it and kept playing.

“‘Purple Haze’ was really good,” says Staples, “but ‘Red House’ was amazing to me that night. He just tore it up. I was not stoned or drunk; I was 17 years old and it was like being on drugs. It was so good. The other guitar player [from the Gaunga Dyns] and I sat next to each other and our mouths literally were open from the minute he started playing and until he went off the stage. We just turned around and looked at each other and went ‘fuck!’ It was so good.”

 

Bunny Matthews was still a student at UNO when he got the news of Jimi’s death, just a little more than two years after Hendrix’s show in City Park. Matthews concluded in his college newspaper column, “Sometimes he probably just longed for the days when he was just Maurice James with processed hair, playing rhythm in sweaty little black night-clubs. But it was too late. Jimi Hendrix was our idol. Like it or not. He was.”

Stairway to Bourbon Street: Led Zeppelin in New Orleans

(Originally published in the May 2011  issue of Offbeat Magazine)

It’s May of 1973 and the British Gods of Rock—Led Zeppelin—sweep into New Orleans at the height of their mysterious and epochal powers as arguably the best rock band in the world. They play a strange concert that night in the Municipal Auditorium; after all, it is New Orleans and Zeppelin is on stage playing their best stuff to a bunch of stoners and hippies and, well, you get the picture. “Jimmy suggestively bowed Robert’s bum during ‘Dazed and Confused,’” says rock journalist Stephen Davis in Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga.

“[The Municipal Auditorium] wasn’t state of the art even for those days,” remembers former Atlantic Records executive Phillip Rauls (pronounced like Rolls-Royce, just like the kind Keith Moon drove into a hotel swimming pool.) “It was in a rundown area of town.”

Rauls remembers very well those hours just before Led Zeppelin took the stage at New Orleans Municipal Auditorium on the night of May 14, 1973. “In those days, we partied hard,” he says. “We partied before the concerts as well, and such was the case with that particular event. Hell, we were in New Orleans having a Dixie beer and a bowl of gumbo! We were all pretty sky-high if you know what I mean.”

Rock critic Jon Newlin wrote a review about the concert in the May 19, 1973 issue of Figaro, a review that is either a brilliant piece of writing or nonsensical rubbish as the Brits say. He described Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant as “a verdical odalisque with a shiny, cylindrical neck like Fernand Leger’s Big Julie, a cross between a peachy Jacobean kewpie doll, and a hard 40’s blonde (on the order of, say, Lizabeth Scott) after 800 volts worth of spoolies. Along with a zany, dumb, rubber band singing voice, he has a cagey galumphing balls-of-the-feet dance style.”

Newlin described Jimmy Page as, “a sequined lesser marsupial who hardly ever looks up from his instrument, plays guitar like Renoir said he painted—“avec mabite.” His playing is a fine, shiny manifestation of the British appetite and capacity for violence, with plenty of sudden, slow, watch-for-falling rocks cadenzas.”

And apparently Newlin was not too enamored with the band’s music either, “What really set my dentures on edge was ‘Moby Dick,’ the electrocardiogram solo, which resembles a marathon dance for clubfoots and is about as interesting as a week-old black market club sandwich.”

“This was the poison pen era,” says Rauls. “Zeppelin hated rock critics.” So great was Zeppelin’s disdain of music critics that they considered a negative concert review to be a reaffirmation of their greatness.

“The Auditorium had a low balcony and some dumb fucker had taken too much LSD. I remember a guy actually falling from the balcony down into the audience and fortunately, it wasn’t a big fall because it was a low balcony,” says Rauls. “The band kept on playing and the fire marshals took the guy out. I guess he cushioned himself but he was pretty screwed up.”

As Atlantic Records’ Promotion & Marketing Director for the Southern Region, Phillip Rauls was well acquainted with Zeppelin and heavily involved in the activities of that evening in ’73. He was the guy who would fly in ahead of the band and call on the media and the local promoters and the radio stations like the WRNOs and WTIXs of the world to convince them to play the records of Atlantic’s recording artists.

“WRNO was supportive to Led Zeppelin. Joe Costello, the GM, let the guys run the show,” says Rauls. “You had Captain Humble and Bobby Reno. The first record that WTIX played was “Stairway to Heaven” and it took an Act of Congress to get that record on there,” remembers Rauls. “Stairway to Heaven” was a major breakthrough because up to that time they were really an FM radio band and for Top 40 AM to end up laying that single—it was a major breakthrough.”

As a Memphis boy, Rauls had something in common with Zeppelin. “They always wanted to talk about blues music and Memphis music, and that was the small bond that I had with them.” He found Robert Plant and Jimmy Page to be very polite, very British, but they could get down with the best of them.

After the concert, Zeppelin headed straight to Bourbon Street to see Frankie Ford play at the Gateway on the corner of Bourbon & Iberville. Stephen Davis describes the scene at the Gateway in Hammer of the Gods: “Robert Plant, dressed in a glittery silver blouse open to the waist, asked Ford to sing ‘Sea Cruise,’ his big hit from the fifties. Later they went to a club called Déjà Vu, whose owner asked Led Zeppelin to imprint their hands in the fresh cement outside. ‘Why don’t you get them to put cocks in,’ Peter Grant suggested. Robert said he didn’t think his would make an imprint.”

Before they left New Orleans, Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun threw a party for the band at Cosimo Matassa’s Jazz City. Soul food comprised the menu that night and all of New Orleans’ best R&B and rock legends would perform: Willie Tee, Art Neville and the Meters, Ernie K-Doe, the Wild Magnolias, Snooks Eaglin and the Olympia Brass Band. Rauls helped coordinate that party and remembers the event like it was yesterday.

“They didn’t need some ritzy ballroom,” he says. “Just going to a funky, soulful recording studio in a beat down part of New Orleans and to meet the guys they grew up listening to—they were in seventh heaven. Willie Tee was still alive, Ernie K-Doe was there, Professor Longhair—all these guys were former Atlantic artists that Ertegun had a relationship with. To bring them out at Cosimo’s party, it gave the band a woody.”

Davis writes of the party in Hammer of the Gods, “John Paul Jones played organ while a stripper bumped and grinded on the tabletop. Jimmy and Robert watched in awe as the elder statesman of rock and roll strutted their stuff.”

As the party organizers, including Rauls, were going over the guest list and the media list for the event, they asked the band what they wanted. Page and Plant requested “a lot of flat-chested little birds,” so as a joke Ahmet Ertegun arranged for four taxi cabs of Girl Scouts to be driven to the party’s entrance. John Paul Jones had a more eccentric request that night.

“Jones told the party organizers that he wanted some New Orleans drag queens,” says Rauls. “Everyone has their fetish I guess. ‘Make sure the top two drag queens of the French Quarter are there’ and sure enough they were, and he spent most of the evening over in the corner chatting with them.”

In Richard Cole’s book Stairway to Heaven, the former tour manager for Led Zeppelin remembers one particularly embarrassing night for Jones and his New Orleans transvestite acquaintances.

“John Paul was chatting with a couple of drag queens in a New Orleans bar,” he writes. “The queens were flirting endlessly with him as if they had found their ‘catch’ for the evening. One of the ‘girls’—Stephanie—eventually ended up with Jonesy in his room back at the Royal Orleans. It seems they were smoking a joint or two. The joint suddenly started the bed on fire, and within minutes sirens were blaring and firemen were tearing down the doors and taking their axes to the place.

“Later, Jonesy insisted that he didn’t know the transvestite was a man. He looked sincere during his explanation, but no matter what the truth really was, we knew we had caught him in a rather embarrassing situation. ‘We’re not going to let Jonesy forget about this one for a long time,’ I told Robert.”

Zeppelin’s song “Royal Orleans” is an account of Jones’ infamous adventures at the classic New Orleans hotel that night:

Out at a hotel in the quarter, our friends check in to pass the night Now love gets hot, but fire preceded water Poor whiskers set the room alight. Whiskers!

At the time, New Orleans was just beginning to get a strong reputation with the rock groups as a place to lay over between their Southern concert dates. You would hit Dallas, Houston, San Antonio; you might jump up to Oklahoma City or Little Rock. But you would come into New Orleans or Baton Rouge, and then you would get a hiccup in the schedule, purposely.

“Sometimes, they would let the groups regroup there in New Orleans for a day or two and unwind because traveling and touring is very stressful work and it’s indeed hard,” says Rauls. “To have a couple of days off in New Orleans to go down and hear some jazz music on Bourbon Street and have some nice cuisine and let your hair down just was a great deal for a band like Zeppelin.”

According to author Stephen Davis’ LZ-’75, The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour, the band’s affection for the Crescent City drew a chorus of catcalls at a 1975 concert in Dallas. “After ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’,” he writes, “Robert (Plant) exclaimed to the audience that it was great to be back in Texas ‘even if me and Pagey been flying back to New Orleans every night.’”

Rauls remembers, “The band were bad boys. They weren’t necessarily the greatest band in the world to have stay at your hotel for 48 hours—the madness that it created through the lobby and fire escapes and the laundry rooms, and all the craziness that goes with a rock band and fans trying to gain access. Terry Bassett of Concerts West offered to let them stay at his ranch on the outside of Dallas, and in between Dallas gigs they would fly into New Orleans to party and have a good time.”

The Ivanhoe became one of the band’s favorite hangouts. Rauls, Page and Plant were staying at the Downtowner across from the Ivanhoe, and they would go over there after a gig—John Bonham, too—and on occasion they went up and jammed onstage, and of course it would be 2:30 in the morning. There would only be 30 to 50 people in the room.

“Of course, drinks were being poured, tabs were being run and it was good to see the band get up and intermingle with the local musicians and just see two members of Led Zeppelin playing at the Ivanhoe,” Rauls remembers. “On one occasion, me and Bonzo (John Bonham) went in there and he went up onstage and played. Oh Christ, it was madness.”

Ironically, Plant would also experience the pain of a lifetime in the city that he had come to love. Led Zeppelin had just checked in at the Maison Dupuy Hotel for a July 30, 1977 concert at the Superdome that would never happen. Maureen Plant phoned her husband from England to inform him that their five-year old son Karac was gravely ill with a viral infection. Two hours later, Maureen called Robert once again with devastating news; Karac was dead.

“The band had just arrived at the Maison Dupuy Hotel in Louisiana—where the governor planned to make them honorary colonels,” writes Mick Wall in his biography of the band, When Giants Walked the Earth. “As Plant put the phone down, his world collapsed. So did what was left of Led Zeppelin’s. All of the remaining shows were cancelled.”

Freddie Mercury and Queen: A Halloween Night at the New Orleans Fairmont

By Randy Savoie

By the time Freddie Mercury arrived in his favorite American city for a sold-out 1978 Halloween night concert at Municipal Auditorium, Queen had already crossed that threshold from popular to international superstardom. A Night at the Opera, featuring Queen’s tour de force “Bohemian Rhapsody,” had seen to that just two years earlier.

Moments before the show began, a huge gondola tilted forward to act as a curtain and Freddie Mercury, making these sweeping arm motions, emerged out of the blue and green lights and smoke and bolted onto the stage “like a rooster, striking ballet poses, under an astral guitar blare that neatly skirts the edges of rock & roll,” wrote Circus Magazine’s Mark Mehler that night.

As box office manager for Beaver Productions, George Friedman was in charge of paying the band, and recalls that night vividly. “Queen were good players. They played hard. They weren’t druggies. They were serious about the show. They knew the spotlight was on them. They knew Freddie was getting everybody’s attention.

“Freddie was very much a showman but also a brilliant musician. He played it hard. He was a skinny, little, pocket-sized guy, but he was so charismatic. He was a hit right out of the box that night. It was a very high-energy show.”

“The melodies are undistinguished, but the constant tempo changes of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ keep an audience awake for nearly two hours of uninterrupted music,” wrote Mehler in Circus. “The lighting show is one of rock’s most ambitious. Eerie purple lights shine out over the heads of the audience, making their hair seem cloudlike and inanimate. At the midpoint, Freddie is a whirling dervish, dominating every corner of the stage.”

“His voice showed signs of wear so that he had to change his vocals to avoid high parts. Indeed, from time to time, the music suffers from not being able to duplicate the multi- tracked recorded vocals,” wrote Figaro’s Christopher Young. “But Mercury does have a certain presence and he pulls it off.”

Mercury starts the first encore in black-sequined orange hot pants “dancing around like Peter Pan,” said Circus. He wears a “revealing white body stocking” for the second encore. “As he wails ‘We Are the Champions,’ his voice warbles with mock emotion and he grasps the microphone for support,” wote Mehler. “At the apex of the triumphant denouement, the top executives of Elektra Records, who have sat smiling throughout the show, arise as one and walk out. Moments later, the show closes with a taping of ‘God Save the Queen’. Body and souls spent, Freddie ambles off stage, drained and spark-less.”

Figaro’s Christopher Young concluded, “Beaver [Productions] must really be a pinchpenny outfit not to have come up with a free pass for me to this concert. I mean my little $8.50 can’t mean that much to them, but it sure put a hole in my wallet for the week.

“It’s okay though, because they played for a little over two hours, and there was no boring warm up group, and although I would rather have been at a good Halloween party, this concert was worth the money.”

What Young probably did not know is that one of the more depraved, intemperate, lewd and licentious post-concert parties in rock history was only minutes away from beginning at the Fairmont Hotel as the audience poured out of Municipal Auditorium and into the Halloween night in New Orleans.

Queen was celebrating the release of their new album, Jazz, and they had come to the ideal city on the perfect night for a Halloween bash.

“We just wanted to have a bit of fun,” Freddie Mercury said in an interview. “The [album] title suggests one or two promotional possibilities….New Orleans was the obvious place to launch it.”

PR exec Bob Gibson told Queen’s manager Jim Breach that he had no idea how much it would cost to stage this soiree in the Crescent City. “I was very cocky when I was young [and I told Queen’s management] ‘I don’t want to hear the word “budget,”’” said Gibson in an interview. “It’s going to be successful and you know what I’m capable of.”

After several trips to New Orleans, Gibson decided that the Fairmont would be the perfect location for the party because it had a giant ballroom. “We wanted to create an environment where whatever you wanted to do was sanctioned, and we decided to play up the Halloween aspect of it. The room was very stark and bare, very high ceilings, so the first thing we did was to rent 50 dead trees.”

“The Fairmont was a clean, modern-looking hotel, but with the trees it ended up looking like a skeletal forest. It had a kind of witchcraft theme,” EMI’s Bob Hart said in an interview.

Fresh off the concert performance, Queen—Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon— came strutting into the Fairmont Hotel ballroom led by a trumpet playing Dixieland Jazz Band while more than 400 guests, including 80 reporters from around the world and over 50 EMI executives, were already chowing down on everything from oysters to Shrimp Creole to stuffed crabs and washing it all down with champagne served up by impeccably uniformed waiters.

Beaver’s George Friedman says it was an extravagant scene. “They had a transvestite, cross-dresser band,” he says. “The band was good. It was loud. The dance floor was packed up. They didn’t know who was who in there. They had these huge videos of 50 people naked on bicycles to debut the single ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ off the new album. It was a really weird scene.”

“The tables were laden with pyramids of food…like a bizarre medieval fantasy banquet for a king,” Sounds journalist Sylvie Simmons would say later. “Unfortunately, being vegetarian I couldn’t eat any of it. So my choice intake had to be liquid.”

Queen’s publicist was charged with the mission to round up every available “freak and eccentric” from the many houses of ill-repute in and around Bourbon Street and bring them back to the Fairmont as soon as humanly possible. The mission would force many Bourbon Street bars to close that night for a lack of employees.

“As Queen arrived, a flock of transvestites, fire-eaters, dancing girls, snake charmers and strippers dressed as nuns, appeared from the wings,” writes Mark Blake in his 2011 biography Is This the Real Life: The Untold Story of Queen. “The Rolling Stones’ disco hit ‘Miss You’ blared out of the speakers, as various female revelers shed their clothes on the dance floor. The festivities rolled on until daybreak with groupies dispensing blow jobs to music bigwigs in a back room, and one party girl stripping off to ‘smoke’ a cigarette in her vagina. Or so the story goes.”

Peter Hince, Queen’s head of crew, told reporter Johnny Black, “You’d be wading through the crowd and suddenly come across women tangled up with snakes, or jugglers, transsexuals, all kinds of extreme acts. Everything was going off at the same time. Freddie was signing naked girls’ bums. We wheeled out all these crates of booze and started partying on the bus. Some of these ‘girls,’ shall we say, decided they wanted to come on the bus with us. Next thing you know, one of my guys is down on his hands and knees, sticking his head up one of their skirts. Then he comes out and says: ‘This one’s definitely a girl, but look at this!’ He’d found a backstage pass in her knickers!”

Around 3 a.m., Mercury and company decided they needed some fresh air and went for a middle-of- the-night stroll down Bourbon Street.

“Freddie was in a great mood. I was pointing out what I considered cute boys, and Freddie was saying: “No, they’re gay,” Sylvie Simmons said in an interview. “Then we waved at them and it turned out sure enough, they were gay. I don’t remember him getting off with any of them though.”

Morning had broken, and with it the arrival of a $200,000 bill from the Fairmont. One week later, the Sun newspaper published a photograph of Freddie Mercury autographing a stripper’s bare bottom. The headline of the story: “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.”

“Over the last three decades, the tale has taken on a life of its own to include all manner of bacchanalian excess: public sex, naked mud wrestling, a nude woman on a salver of raw meat, and most infamous of all, dwarfs, sometimes described as ‘hermaphrodite dwarfs,’ ferrying cocaine on trays strapped to their possibly bald heads,” writes Mark Blake in Is This the Real Life. “The one about the dwarfs and the bald-heads and the cocaine is not true,” a laughing Roger Taylor told Blake in 2008. “Actually it could have been true. If it’s true I never saw it, but I have to say that most of the stories from that night are not that exaggerated.”

EMI record company executive Bob Mercer had caught a flight to New Orleans especially for the post-concert party and told Blake that he doesn’t buy the story about the dwarfs and cocaine. As far as he knows, he was the only person at the party that had any blow. “Because all night I kept getting tapped on the shoulder by certain people and I kept having to go with them to my hotel room,” Mercer said. He would go to his room for the last time around 6 a.m. only to discover that he had been robbed.

A hungover Queen held court the next day at an early morning press conference. “The party was deliberately excessive,” said Brian May. “Partly for our own enjoyment, partly for friends to enjoy and partly for the hell of it. Roger Taylor added, “The trouble was, as time went on, we just got better and better at having a good time.”

Elektra Records Chairman Joe Smith said later, “It was definitely a Freddie party. He was testing the limits of what he could get away with. And people were kind of dazed because there had never seen anything quite like it.”

 

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