Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Party with the Dark Horse

I am still searching high and low for any stories, information and photos about George's 1974 concert in St. Louis.   I know there has to be people out there that have things.    But in the meantime I found this great story about when the tour came to Chicago (so close!).     It was from the April/May 1976 issue of The Write Thing.  

By Char Bass
Chicago November 30, 1974

We arrived at our hotel in Chicago around noon, Chicago time.  We didn’t have time to go to look at our suite, but they gave me the key.  Just as I got back out to the car, 3 black limos pulled up.  My girlfriend, Nellie, and I took it quite calmly.  We had planned to stay in the same hotel as George, but we had only guessed, not actually knowing where he was to stay.   We went on to the concert and the show was fantastic, even from behind the stage where our seats were.  After the show I didn’t feel let down, I was still quite up in the anticipation of something!

Photo by Tony Morelli and published by Flickr Creative Commons license
We went back to the hotel slowly through all the traffic, and we finally got to see our suite, and it was quite nice.  When I heard a noise outside our door in the hall, I ran to the door and looked out the peep-hole.   All I Saw was the back of the head of a man with long grey hair closing the door to his suite across the hall.  Soon we saw the limos pull up in front of the hotel again and we knew it was time for George to leave for the evening performance.  We went down to the lobby with our cameras.  No one seemed to object.  We wondered if anyone would mind us taking pictures, so I asked a man standing just a few feet away.  He replied that He didn’t care, but that they weren’t really part of the tour.  We wondered what they meant, they had on Dark Horse badges like everyone else in the lobby.  So I looked at the older man's badge to read the signature.  I just glanced so it wouldn’t be noticeable, it said Harry Harrison!   Then it hit me that was George’s Dad!   I looked up at his face to make sure, and even though his hair was much longer than I've ever seen in a picture,  sure enough I recognized his face.   Then I suddenly remembered the man I had seen in the all through the peep-hole and realized that George's Dad was staying right across the hall from us!

Emil Richards, George with Harold and Pete earlier in the tour

Now the problem was to get Nellie to realize this without saying anything, but while I Was trying to signal her I realized that she was trying to tell me something too.  She got me to look at the man we had questioned earlier, and then I recognized him as George’s brother, Pete!  So then with us both knowing about both men, I started a conversation with Mr. Harrison.  I asked how long the tour was and about his grandchildren, Leslie and Gordon (George’s sister Louise’s children) when I had ;met ten years before.  I told him about Leslie being too little to write at the time, but still wanted to sign autographs like her mother;, and so had drawn a picture of her Uncle George for us.  Mr. Harrison made some reference to Pete, mentioning that he was George’s brother, and was a bit surprised to see that we had recognized both of them.  I made some kind of remark to him about being in Suite 7B and he looked at me rather suspiciously, but I explained that we were in 7A and that I had seen him leave his room.  I asked them if it would be all right if I took their picture and they said, “sure,” so Nellie stood with them and I got a photo of them.  They decided to go to their car then, but Mr. Harrison said that he would see us later as they left.

Photo by George Tebbins

Soon someone asked us to leave the lobby, to go outside.   We didn’t have our coats.  it was cold, windy and spitting snow outside, but out we went so we could get pics of George.  They moved us behind the limo and I couldn’t see over the car well enough, so I stood on a little cement thingy.   I took one picture of George as he came out the door and then as he came closer to the car I began to feel the effects of his presence.  He looked at me strangely. I figured it was the camera and all the noise it made.   But as I got it focused and he was looking straight at me, and when i didn’t take it, he stood there for a few seconds and stared at me, and turned his head a little to the side in wonderment, but I just could not move.  As soon as he got into the car, I came back to my senses.

Later at dinner, I remarked to Nellie, half kidding, that I wished they would hurry up and invite us to the party, cause I Was getting tired.  Well as we were in the hall after trying to unlock our door, Mr. Harrison poked his head out of the door and said, “Would you girls like to go upstairs and see what’s going on?”  Now what do you say to that but Yes!  He added that Pete would take us up, and Pete appeared out of 7C.  it was unbelievable. 

So off we went and when we ended up in 22B, I remembered a girl in the lobby with the name tag Chris O’Dell (Ah, ha Miss O’Dell, I thought) who had been given room 22B.  Anyway George was not there, so Pete told us to sit down and he went to look for him.  He came back and got us a drink and said that George would be there in a little while.  So we sat there trying to calm down.  As I listened to what Pete was telling us, I became slowly aware, as if waking up, of a familiar voice in the room, and then I realized that voice, and gorgeous accent, could only belong to George.  Nellie said that I really jumped, and searched the room with my eyes quickly for him.  Fortunately, he had his back to us, so he didn’t see my reaction, but he was only about 7 feet away.  He had on green corduroy pants, slightly flared, and a green sweater with a V neck and no shirt on under it.  it had long sleeves which he kept pushing up a bit.  I got to see his earrings for the first time, very small and gold, and since he had no shoes or socks on, Nellie noticed that he is flat-footed.  

I really have very little idea what order things happened in while he was in the room. I’ll just try to tell about my observations of him as best I can.  Although I didn’t know then who she was, Olivia was there.  He kissed her just after they came into the room, and before he sat down.  When he decided to sit down, he looked around the room and found one of the chairs around the table empty and he sorta dove at it as if it were going to get away.  Bear brought him a plate of food from the kitchen and some wine and yogurt.  He  picked at the food more than he ate, but he really seemed to like the yogurt.

Well, then George stood and talked to someone at another table.  I could only hear parts of what he was saying, but I can’t repeat any of it, cause I heard his voice and accent, but not really the words even when it was audible.   He couldn’t stand still though, first he’d lean on the table, then on the chair and for a while he even stood down on his knees and talked.  Then he talked to another person and where he stood blocked the entrance/exit to the room.  That wouldn’t have bothered us normally, but we had had a lot to drink (water and tea as well as the alcoholic drink Pete gave us) and we really wanted to get to the bathroom.  The problem was that to get the bathroom, we would have to have moved George.  So we just sat there.

Soon enough George went back to his chair, and when he did, this weird girl came parading in.  She had on a black ballet body leotard, instead of a body shirt, and for a skirt she had on 2 hot pink chamois sewn together at the sides.   The back one was long and the front one was short and the sides were split all the way up.  She also had on a gold chain, belt, black hose and big platform shoes.  She came in and walked right up to George and said, “I met you five or six weeks ago, and I just came up to say hello.”  George looked up to her face and just said, “Oh...hullo,” as if he hoped that would satisfy her and she would go away.   So she goes on to ask him about the meaning of the OM and while they talk he carefully keeping looking at her face until he just had to look at her outfit.  He glanced down quickly and then even faster he looked back up and then very carefully looked somewhere else altogether then her face even, until she decided to go.  By the way, he explained that the 3 part of the OM stands for creation, restoration and destruction and the (: part is the sun and the moon.  During this time I had looked over at George to find him looking at me a couple times.

George sat there telling something to a person in a chair to the far left of us, but as I listened and looked at him, he talked to this person and never missed a word, but he stared straight into my eyes the whole time.  I was completely frozen.  He told about his guitar strap breaking on stage and how when he realized it was letting go, he stuck his foot out to catch the guitar on his shin.   All I could think of is that he is the only one I know that would deliberately get hit on the shin.  He must have realized what was happening to me, cause he stared into my eyes once more after that, and sure enough, the results were the same.    Olivia came over once and asked us if we wanted anything to eat and then right before he left he stood about 3 feet away from us and leaned over the coffee table in front of us to get some matches from Pete and I remember he said, “I thought he was crackers.”  but I don't’ know who he was talking about.  Then I heard him say that he was going to bed, and I looked up to see him with his arm lightly around Olivia’s waist and they said goodnight to everyone .  I felt a desperate urge to do something drastic to keep him there, but I suppressed it and just smiled.  We talked to everyone there for awhile and then we went down to Pete’s room and played cards for a little while before going back to our room.  The next morning we wrote a note to his Dad, thanking him and Pete for asking us up, and we put my beloved OM pendant in it, asking him to give it to George.  Dumb me, I didn’t have it with me while George was in the same room.

To describe George, I can say that i was really shocked at how thin he is.  His face looked just about like I expected, but thinner.  His hair was so fluffy and nice, but his eyes were what I really noticed.  They were so deep brown!   Most people when you look at their eyes you see the white around the color, but when you stare into George's eyes you just see deep brown and a lot of emotion.  It’s really a shame his eyes don’t photograph the way they really look.  If they did, I don't’ think anyone would have ever noticed Paul’s eyes even as gorgeous as they are.

I feel bad sometimes that I didn’t talk to him, but then I think about the girl in the pink chamois skirt and what fool she made of herself, and then to the fact that I wasn’t prepared for the meeting and really couldn't think of anything meaningful to say and I just remember George’s own words, “Silence often says much more, than trying to say what’ s been said before. “  And I know he is right.

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