Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Night I Kept Billy Preston From My Friend's Girl: A "Main St. Cafe Story"

It was a big night, at The Main St. Cafe. Billy Preston was playing, and we were hoping for a "sold out" show. Unfortunately, we didn't have the money to advertise the show in Newsday, when they solicited us. So, instead of a glowing write-up about the upcoming show, they published a story titled "Billy Preston's Back-Let Him Be" on page 92. It was five paragraphs, or so, about his career, highlighting his pending "child-molestation" charges in California. The last paragraph said "he's playing at The Main St. Cafe this week." Thanks, Newsday.

I was already working as a bartender at Clarke's in Freeport by this time, and going to "my club" after my day shift, a few days a week. I have to mention this, because Bernie, a 92 year-old regular customer of mine there, is the one who showed me the article, a few days before the show. He was impressed that I had such a big star playing at my club. I told him that I was a big fan of Preston's work, almost all of my life, and was looking forward to seeing him in person. I have to note Bernie's class, knowledge, and wisdom. Knowing people like him was one of the biggest rewards of working at Clarke's.

The "big night" turned out to be "not so big," for the business, but about fifty to seventy-five people got to see an amazing show. He played a "Beatles tribute" set, and had the whole crowd singing along. He played my favorite two instrumental songs, "Space Race" and "Outta Space," as well as his better-known hits "Will It Go Round?" and "Nothin' From Nothin'" Because it was such a small turnout, I got to watch most of the show. It was awesome!

He was more reclusive than most of the talent we booked, and went right back to his bus, after the show. Neither John (my partner in the club) nor I got to take a photo with him, as we did with Dave Mason and Rick Derringer. We sent him a plate of hot wings, and he signed a B&W publicity photo for us (which I hope John still has, because I don't). Something funny happened around that time.

While we were trying to get into Preston's bus for a pic, he saw my friend's girlfriend, who I'll call "D," with us. D was decked out in a sexy bright red dress, and was totally HOT! Her boyfriend couldn't be there, and he asked me to "keep an eye on her," which I was glad to do (lol). Mr. Preston let D onto the bus, but she said "only if Chris can come with me!" So they let me on the bus, and I got to meet him. He said "good wings," and I said "blah blah blah, I'm a fan since I was blah blah..." Then his manager came along and said I have to leave the bus, and I graciously complied.

D started to follow me off the bus, but someone asked her to stay. She said "Chris, what should I do?" At this point, we went back and forth, with me outside the bus, not even able to see her. She decided to come with me back into the club. Less than five minutes later, Preston's manager showed up at our table, inviting D back to the "hotel" with Mr. Preston. She was clearly tempted, and I knew it. After letting her string this guy along for a few minutes, I said "D, let's get out of here. Let me take you somewhere." She didn't even blink an eye; she just got up, and left with me.

I took her to a nearby little local bar, owned by a former bartender from Clarke's, coincidentally. We told everyone how great the show was, and where Billy Preston was staying, if they wanted to meet him (My club booked his hotel). I don't know if any of those fans actually went there, but we had a laugh about the whole situation! I dutifully filled my friend in, that his GF was "a good girl" against amazing odds, at least that night.

This all happened in '92, and I've long been out of touch with both of them, but I know they didn't stay together. Billy Preston has passed away, as has my old customer Bernie, since then. That's why I'm collecting the Main Street Stories, as best as I can. This is a funny look at the ups and downs of life in those years, from my perspective. There's a lot to tell, and I hope to get input from friends I am still in touch with to help balance it (John, among others). I already have a photo gallery from The Main St. Cafe on Gather, linked here. Yeah, that's "D," in the "flagged" photo. As I said, there are many stories to tell, from those days. There's sad posts, too.

Stay tuned for more "MAIN STREET STORIES," in addition to my TALES FROM THE VENDOME, LEAV IN THE USMC, FREEPORT, and 1980:PERMANENT WAVES chapters. Most of these only have one post thus far, so I'll try to churn out at least one "old story" a week, this year. This one was fun and easy, but alot of them are a little scarier. I'm hoping the stories are an enjoyable read, even if they make you cringe! LOL! Here's to the new year!