In commemoration of my friend Tom Carson's engaging review of Mr. Davis' latest book, The Soundtrack Of My Life, I relate this anecdote.
I guess it was 1994. I had been a pop music columnist for the New York Daily News for a while, so I got asked to a bunch of music events, but by this time I don't think I had the column any more. Nevertheless, I got an invite to a very special—I believe the word "intimate" was used—private mini-concert by Carly Simon. The main reason it was special was because of Carly Simon's oft-cited reluctance to perform live. Another was that it was being held at Fez, a cozy, some might say funky, even, spot below the chi-chi Time Cafe on Lafayette Street.
Why did I go? I wasn't the world's biggest Carly Simon fan, as many readers may have inferred quite some time ago. Then again, it WAS in a sense an honor just to be invited. And there would be an open bar. And at the time I was a lot more insecure about my position relative to New York night life than I am now, so there was that. The issue of there having nothing better to do that evening may have been pertinent. I went, and I went stag.
The reason I place the show around 1994 is because her band had Doug Wimbish, of the Sugar Hill session band and further fame, on bass, and he had played on Simon's album of that year, Letter Never Sent. He sure is a good bass player. Anyway, the invite hadn't been kidding about an open bar. It was wide open, including the top shelf stuff, and I could not believe that I was sitting at a little table with a couple of people I didn't know and belting back the Macallans like there was no tomorrow. Soon enough I was feeling fine, and even singing along with some of Carly's greatest hits. "Do the Mashed Potato with a new attitude..." Aw yeah. She plays for like a half hour, 35 minutes, and then off she goes, and of course the place goes wild, clamoring for an encore. She makes the crowd wait good and long before she comes back out, and when she does come back out, she's got Clive Davis, who at the time was the head of her label, Arista, with her. And again, everybody's going nuts, and he's grinning, and she's grinning, and everybody's standing, and Carly and Clive are motioning for everybody to sit down (I myself was still sitting, swilling in my Scotch) and be quiet for just a minute. Once everyone's sitting down and shutting up, Clive takes the mic, and the first thing he says is, "I probably don't have to tell you who I am."
And the crowd lets out an appreciative chortle. And I have to tell you, I don't think my timing was ever better, because I waited just a microbeat and a half after the chortle died down and I bellowed, "Who are you?" And a couple of people laughed, and a couple of people gasped, and Clive looked annoyed and continued with his speech.
Cut to May of 1996. I had spent the late winter/early spring of that year in Dublin, Ohio, working as a freelance consultant for CompuServe, and after that I thought it would be a swell idea if I took the money I had earned and, instead of paying taxes with it, going to Paris with it. Through a series of circumstances too tortuous to be profitably related here, my traveling companion is Young Rosemary Passantino, a one-time rock critic herself, who was accompanying me on a purely platonic basis (her live-in boyfriend is even going to pick us up from Kennedy when we get back—I remember that return flight being the last time I smoked on an airplane). On our first night there we decided to visit the legendary nightclub Crazy Horse, because you haven't really lived until you've seen an elaborately choreographed stage show featuring a dozen identically proportioned nude young women. Anyway, the only reservation we could get was for the midnight show, so we had time to kill after dinner, so we went to the Virgin Megastore on the Champs Elysee. It was around 11:30, near closing time. I was gonna check out with some Lester Young double CD set (called Le Quintessence; I still have it, it's real good). And I notice, standing on the marble floor of the grand lobby, a familiar figure.
"Clive Davis!" I say. "What are you doing in the lobby of the Virgin Megastore in Paris just before midnight?" Clearly chuffed to be recognized, he says, "Where else is there to be?"
"Say," I ask as I sidle up to him, "you remember that nice little Carly Simon thing at Fez a few years back?"
"Sure I do. Great show!"
"It really was! And remember, before the encore, when you had a few words for the crowd and you started by saying 'I probably don't have to tell you who I am'?"
Clive looked a little wary now. "Uh-huh!"
"And there was this drunk guy in the back and he yelled out, 'Who are you?'"
"That was me! I was that guy!"
And Clive just looked at me.
"Anyway, it was great meeting you!"
After we had left, and were walking to the Crazy Horse, Rosemary was all like, "What'd you have to go and alienate Clive Davis like that for?"
And I'm like, "Oh, right, because he was ready to ask us to cruise around with him in his limo all night."
"You can't be sure of that. Maybe he wanted to hang out with some nice Americans."
Maybe he did. Who knows? If I had played my cards differently, perhaps I could have been Mrs. Clive Davis today. But no. I had to be a dick.