So as I wander through the open marketplace in Amsterdam, just a few crowded blocks from where I live, my whole life passes before my eyes, and I don't even have to drown. Stacks of records that don't even seem that 'ago' to me are on sale for pittance, most tellingly the Lennon-Oko ones, laden with sorrow, not only for the loss, but puzzlement about who gets killed, when, and why.
As my friends, and especially my son know, since it is the thing about me he admires (or has contempt about) most, I met John Lennon when he was separated from Yoko, playing pool at Jack Haley Junior's house in the Hollywood hills. He was with Harry Nillson, who was half out of his mind on drugs-- I had met the other half when I spent a night in D.C. at the then Bill and Taffy's-- the duo as they were still that season-- and Harry was there after club hours, singing and being sadly sweet, obviously very stoned. Tommy Smothers, doing a single stand-up at the Cellar Door, and I dropped him off at the airport afterwards. Tommy said "I really hate to see you like this, Harry," before himself falling unconscious a little while later, backwards off a bed, striking his head on the floor and fortunately not being dead as I don't know how I would have explained it.
These events seem strangely present to me, so I guess I have to get them all down while they are so, before all fades. I can still remember, exactly, Tommy's face as he came to, blank and blinking and obviously startled, saying "I owe you one." There is a God. He was the only one with whom I ever considered seriously being unfaithful, as he was bright and adorable and very original, and had also had an affair-- most unsatisfactory as she reported to me-- with my then best friend, Jaye P. Morgan, the very witty and angry comedienne, who probably would have had a bigger career except for saying "Fuck you, Mr. Carson," to Johnny, as they walked back to their separate hotel rooms in Vegas.
Those were semi-magical days, especially when you ease through a crowded marketplace in Amsterdam, where nothing seems to have much sense or purpose, ranging from jackets pieced together in Nepal, where you hope they are getting some of the money back, or beaded metal prayer boxes that seem to have room for nothing more inside than Hope. Hollywood, and the hills above them, and Washington, D.C. and the house of Bill and Taffy are a lifetime ago. More, actually, if you consider that most of the lives lived then are over. I have no idea if Jaye is still alive, she who was my best friend, and know for sure that Johnny is long long gone.
What is strangest is who is left alive. Yoko, who seems to have contributed so little beside her own inflated estimate of herself. I think Tommy is in all likelihood still with us, but it had to be hard to be a boy who never really made the transition into man, clever though he was. And as for Bill and Taffy, they had the one colossal hit of Afternoon Delight, their own brief TV half hour as the Starland Vocal Band and then vanished. Hard, as I know and love them and know how gifted they were and probably still would be if challenged. All these men had children-- Jon Carroll who was one of Starland still plays piano in the DC area, and, sometimes in far-flung places like Australia where I found him once, and less far-flung like New York, accompanying artists who may not be as gifted.
So what is strangest about who is left alive also extends to who is left alive career-wise. I cannot even apply it to those I knew in Hollywood, because those handsome and beautiful faces would be hard-put to be labelled by the young people of today. Even as I say "young people," I am sort of amused. Never did I consider the possibility that I would be old. Nor that I would be living in Amsterdam.
"What brought you here?" somebody asked me yesterday. The wise-ass answer: a plane. The truth? I haven't a clue.