A few years ago, quite a few years ago in fact, I was mugged in Times Square, in New York, one of my favourite cities in the world.
I mean in hindsight I was an ideal target for the muggers. I’d been in NYC on business on a budget air-ticket and so I would cram all my meetings into a few mid-week days and then pretty much spend the entire Saturday in the cinema.
So, mid-afternoon I dandered out into Times Square’s hazy day-light, my mind clearly still in the themes of the previous movie. I was wandering aimlessly along the street with 20 or 30 minutes to kill before my next film.
To be honest I hadn’t even realised that I’d walked into a makeshift tunnel, which had been created by scaffolding spindling overhead, up the block-size building. There were wooden planks (acting as a workmen’s walk-way) above me, while to my left there were side barriers, solid to shoulder height (and protecting the pedestrians from the nearby screeching and screaming traffic) and, on the right hand side, the building itself secured the tunnel not only from the outside in but from the inside out, that is to say successfully trapping victims in the rat-run.
Anyway I was vaguely aware that there were several other humans in the darkened corridor with me. I did notice one particular lad (mid-20s, Caucasian and slim) several feet ahead of me, because he appeared to keep looking back in my direction. I was aware of this but certainly not preoccupied by it.
Then a string of things happened and although they all appeared to happen in slow motion I was helpless, as in being unable to protect myself in any way whatsoever.
The guy who had been looking back at me, let’s call him Noel (as in the first), made a speedy dash away from me to his end of the tunnel. I later realised he did so, not to confuse me as I originally thought, but, to secure his end of the corridor from any pedestrians entering the tunnel from his end.
Three of his colleagues immediately rushed at me, all mid-20s, and one of them violently shoved me against the building side of the corridor. The same one steadied me and jammed his arm against my throat, thereby pinning me to the building, while his two colleagues piled in as well. One of them kept looking all around him, his head darting this way and that just like a chicken desperately searching for slim pickings on a stony farmyard. The other assailant quite literally ripped my pocket from my trousers and the contents - my rather meagre stash of dollars and cents - dribbled out into his greedy hands. The Ripper and the Chicken then speed off towards Noel, while Mugger himself, pulled me away from the wall and then heaved me back towards the wall with such force, perhaps some of the force even due to his frustration at their miserable takings, that I was severely winded and I collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk.
Next a very strange thing happens. A man came up to me and helped me up from the ground. He said, “I’m Clyde, you’ve just been mugged but you’re okay.” He dusted me down, examined my torn pocket. Clyde instructed me to stay where I was and advised me that he was going chase after the mugger to get my money back for me.
He dashed off at a speed of knots after Noel, Ripper, Mugger and Chicken.
By which time other people, a crowd even, seem to have materialised from nowhere. They gathered around me and they too were concerned about my well-being. One of them pointed out that the Lone Ranger, a.k.a Clyde, who had helped me up from the ground and rushed off to rescue my dollars and cents was also, in fact, one of the gang. He had been stopping people behind me from entering the tunnel thereby protecting his fellow Caucasian gang members from the crowd.
Clyde apparently was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As well as being the rear guard, his job was to slow me down, disarm me with his friendliness, ensuring I didn’t chase off after the gang and even if I had felt compelled to do so (but please believe me, nothing, but absolutely nothing, was furthest from my mind) he’d given his mates a good head start.
I headed back to the hotel still very shaky on my feet, feeling very sorry for myself and realising I was on the edge of tears. You see the thing is, you really just don’t know how you should feel or how you are meant to react. Obviously being a stranger in a strange land didn’t help my predicament. By the time I reached the hotel I was still unable to shake the feeling. All the time wondering if there had been a chance I quite possibly may not have made it through the tunnel of terror.
Ray Davies was mugged in New Orleans and when the mugger made off with his girl-friend’s purse, Ray gave chase and was shot in the leg for his gallantry. Nick Lowe was mugged in Spain once and Tanita Tikaram was mugged at the foot of the Spanish steps in Rome. I and several record company staff and band mates were with her at the time and again the attack was carried out by a well organised team; this time several young girls rushed her, begging and lifting their own skirts to hide the fact that one of them was empting Tanita’s purse, her actions camouflaged by their skirts and amplified by the shock effect of them not wearing under-garments. Again a well organised heist, only this time the profits were going straight to their organiser or maybe even pimp.
They all clearly were also traumatised by the incidents and, as I say, I was maybe trying to hide my feelings by being preoccupied about not knowing how to feel.
I remember I was meant to join Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche for dinner that night and I rang them up to tell them what had happened and that I’d like to take a rain check on the meal, saying I didn’t feel up to it. They wouldn’t hear tell of me cancelling and of course they were correct. A night out with good friends was all I needed to see that absolutely everything wasn’t really bad with the world, you know, that the company of good friends would be the perfect cure for those Mugged in Manhattan Blues.
And this time I read:
Mary, Mary & JFK by Michael Pincot – even Camelot needed a scribe and the fact/fiction approach is very interesting.
The Good Son by Christopher Anderson
Another Side of Bob Dylan by Victor Maymudes - or at least taken from his tapes after he’d passed.
Sound Man by Glynn Johns – master engineer, worked with the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton and the Who and he is too much of a gentleman to tell tales out of school but yet still manages to come up with a fascinating account of his own career.
The Time of My Life by Bill Medley – I love the books where you’re given the inside track on how the legendary songs came to life and this one doesn’t disappoint.
Dreamweaver by Gary Wright – I was a big fan of Spooky Tooth, so again a great trip for me.
Stiff by Mary Roach – interesting read, you’re never know when you’re going to need some background.
Live at The Fillmore East & West; West by John Glatt – superb account of the three years the Fillmores were in operation and the rise and slip of Bill Graham and Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, Allman Brothers, Santana, grass, cocaine, heroin and (to a lesser degree) The Doors, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival. He really does take you back to that time and place in painstaking, not to mention revealing, detail. The history of Fillmore (East & West) and the above artists and drugs connection with them have now been properly documented; look no further for a reference book. This is truly a brilliant work, not to mention a major achievement.
Practice To Deceive by Ann Rule – once again it chills me to the bone to see how close some killers come to getting away with their crimes.
The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman – again a first class account of the ever changing group of the cream of LA session musicians and their work all the way from being Phil Spector’s house band for his wall of sound, to the Beach Boys (on record) and everywhere in between and how the records came to be. The author shares the inside track on You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, McArthur Park and Pet Sounds. I read it in a single spellbound session!
Ode To Billy Joe by Tara Murtha (Part of the 33 1/3 series of books on classic albums) So much missing both on the artist and on the music; that would be the book I'd look forward to.
Superman Comes to the Supermarket by Norman Mailer – a major including, the original pro-Kennedy, Esquire article by Norman Mailer and a collection of stunning on-the-campaign-trail photos.
JFK - The Smoking Gun by Colin McLaren – a true revelation. You know I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders as Mr McLaren quite logically, reasonably and without a great deal of fuss or pomp solved the mystery, which has been continuously, not to mention seriously, troubling me since 22/11/63. Approximately a couple of hundred books later on the subject, I happened upon JFK – The Smoking Gun (the clue really is in the title). I followed his research and proof in this major work and I completely agree with his solution. (For me) the greatest mystery in the world has finally been solved! But you know what the sad thing is? I woke up the following morning and the world is still the same, nothing had changed.
And listened to:
Bill Handle on Law - on KFI 640 FM) – top, top presenter… works without a safety net and is very entertaining.
Breakfast with the Beatles - on KLOS – a weekly (Sunday) treat.
And watched on the small screen:
Final series of Parenthood – classic – brilliantly resolved, but so much more… at the same time it should be taken as a family as a work in progress.
Whitney – a very sad story, still so sad.
Newsroom – perfect TV.
The Dave Clark Five and Beyond – there’s a great book there if any investigative journalist ever get down to writing it.
Bosch – 10 outta 10 and congratulations to all concerned on being able to make a brilliant series of books into an equally brilliant TV series (not always the case).
And watched on the large Screen:
The American Sniper – twice – a modern classic, whose 30,000,000 tickets at the box office far out balances the 6000 Oscar voters.
The Penguins of Madagascar
Big Hero 6
Night Stalker – great movie loved it.
Horrible Bosses 2
Theory of Everything – excellent.
Black or White
Birdman (twice) worth going to see twice if only to witness Michael Keaton and Edward Norton exciting performances.
St Vincent – excellent.
The Imitation Game – excellent.
Whiplash - excellent but I’m a bit disappointed that Miles Teller’s performance seems to have been overlooked.
Hobbit Five Armies
Night at The Museum 3.
Unbroken – unfinished; the book (and the life of Louis Zamerini) was so much more than the torture the movie focused on.
The Interview – marketing campaign if the year.
It Was a Really Violent Year
Still Alice – surely Ms Moore’s Oscar winning performance.
Two Days One Night
The Boy Next Door
And finally I witnessed The Waterboys, in all their powerful glory performing their new, amazing, Top 10 album, Modern Blues, at The Roundhouse London.
Until the next time…