My Claim to Rock N Roll Fame

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Janis Joplin's boot encounters my head.


A Compilation of Stories, Journal Extracts, and Letters From My Fairly Ordinary But Minutely Observed Life

 “I swear to God, it’s all true.”


1969: Atlantic City Pop Festival

My Head, Her Boot:

My Claim To Rock & Roll Fame

Warning: Profanity, References to Drugs, A Generally Raucous Environment and Flying Go-Go Boots.


Summer 1969. The freak out intensifies.

My hair and that of most of my friends has grown long. It’s tough times in the barber business. Our standard attire is worn out jeans, T-shirts and boots. School, work, anything that smacks of responsibility gets short shrift. Sex, drugs and rock and roll are the order of the day.

In the larger world, hardly a day goes by that somebody doesn’t do some crazy assed thing that tops the crazy assed thing that was done the week before. Aldrin and Armstrong walk on the moon, broadcast live on TV, unwittingly becoming the focus of a group hallucination in Lonnie Weisman’s living room. Sharon Tate and others have the bad luck to make the aquaintance of Charles Manson and his friends. Mary Jo Kopechne takes a ride with a drunken Senator Edward Kennedy and gets terminally soaked. Brian Jones drowns in his swimming pool. Jim Morrison gets arrested for masturbating on stage. At the Altamont Stone’s concert the Hell’s Angels “security” contingent runs amock beating up anyone and everyone including Mick. An audience member is killed. John Lennon and Yoko Ono marry and go to bed for peace. Students are rioting everywhere. Woodstock happens.

That last one that brings me to my story. Big rock festivals had become a big thing. Woodstock was still a couple of weeks in the future and so had not yet become the icon of the genre. I didn’t attend Woodstock, about which I was not then nor am I now all that disappointed, being even back then generally against mud, rain, hunger, nakedness and bad acid occurring simultaneously and without shelter. Its just too hard to have a good hair day under those conditions, you know? But, had I been there I’m sure it would have been great. Anyway, not to be left out, New Jersey, of all places, managed to bring to the Atlantic City Race Track an impressive gathering of top name groups for an event being billed The Atlantic City Pop Festival. I’m sure that had Woodstock happened earlier, this festival would never have taken place. My experience of New Jersey is that if they had any idea that something like Woodstock could possibly happen anywhere, much less in their uptight quasi totalitarian “garden” state, they would have never agreed to anything remotely like it.

Anyway, I can’t remember how or why, but someone procured free tickets for a group of us, including back stage passes to this event. It was probably the American Dream that supplied us as we were friends with the guys in that band from Tacony. So, naturally we went, we being Tom Doyle, Jim Logan, Lonnie Weisman, Jay Sanford and myself. “Duck” Donovan may have been there, too, I can’t remember. We had Lonnie’s father’s car, about a ’68 vintage Dodge Charger. How Lonnie got “Vic” to give him the car for this weekend I don’t know. His old man was a total doofus and not known for his generousity. But Lonnie's mom, well, I was still young enough to think there was something weird and perverse about lusting after somebody's mom, but there was no helping it. The sight of her curvacious form in those just a bit snug casual print dresses she often wore with a pearl neckless and boufant styled hair aroused in me a hunger for her that I struggled to hide. She never knew how crazy she made me. Or maybe she did and just acted like she didn’t, I don’t know. Whatever, she's seventy something now, so back to the main story. Which was what? Oh, right,  the Atlantic City Pop Festival. That weekend almost ended before it got started.

Having collected people from various homes in Bell’s Corner, Tacony, and Logan/Olney we were finally ready to head for the bridge. Just one last thing to do. We went to a little head shop on 5th and Tabor to cop some THC from someone Jay knew at the shop. Having procured the red capsules, we were back in the car and about to roll when Jay insisted on putting his wallet in the trunk. A disagreement ensued, something not unusual for this group, but this one led to unforeseen events. It sounded like this: Come on, Jay, let’s just go. No man, I want to put my wallet in the trunk. It’ll only take a second. Oh, for Christ’s sake, Jay. Hey, he ain’t gonna help, I’m a Jew remember? No, you’re a fucking douche bag, just hurry the fuck up.

So we reset the brake and Lonnie and Jay got out. Figuring I may as well put the dope in the trunk I got out and was looking down putting the capsules in my bag when I noticed a pair of large shiny black boots standing next to my own worn brown “hippy” boots. Hmmm, they don’t look familiar… Next a large hairy hand reached into the trunk and grabbed the baggie of red capsules. The hand was attached to a bull of a Philadelphia policeman who said, “And what do we have here?”

Like, oh, shit.

It’s amazing how fast one’s mind works at times like this. Noticing that we were parked in front of a drug store I said, “Oh, that’s Salfane. It’s for toothaches.”

Salfane was in fact a red capsuled over the counter analgesic I had taken at some time or other.

“It’s what?” he says.

“You know, Salfane. You can buy it in any drugstore,” I said, pointing to the Rexall. “I didn’t want to take the whole bottle so I just packed what I thought I’d need this weekend.”

“Salfane, you say?”

“That’s right.”

“Why are you putting it in the trunk?”

“Well, my friend Jay here wanted to put his wallet in the trunk, so I thought I may as well put this stuff in my bag.” I’m trying not to look at Jay who is standing holding his wallet with a look of horror on his face.

Finally, Jay taking his cue says “That’s right, sir, I was just putting my wallet in the trunk for safe keeping. I always do that. See? It’s right here.”

By this time, a crowd was gathering on the sidewalk and the folks from the head shop were looking out their door at what they thought was a sure bust, possibly leading back to them. They appeared somewhat concerned.

At this point, Doyle got out of the car and came back to the trunk and with a most casual expression on his hawkish Irish face, said, “Is there a problem, officer?”

“He’s got my Salfane,” I said.

“Your what?”

“Salfane. You know, its for that tooth that’s been bothering me.”

Doyle hesitated for maybe half a second.

“Oh, yeah, that stuff. I think that’s what my brother used when he had that abscess.”

“Yeah, I think he’s the one that told me about it. It works pretty well.”

“You say this is for a toothache?” the cop says.

“Yes sir, you can check with the druggist right in there if you like.”

The cop looked at the drugstore, considering. If he were to actually ask the pharmacist we were busted. But, he was a motorcycle cop, it was a Friday night about 7, he was probably thinking about the paper work he’d have to do if he called in the narcotics guys and these red things were something illegal, about how he’d get laughed at if they were what these long haired punks were saying they were, about the dinner, cold beer and tv program he was looking forward to, and what the hell, he’s a traffic cop not a narc and there’s not enough stuff here to get excited about anyway. Plus they keep calling me sir, they can’t be all that bad.

“Ok, you can go,” he said, handing back the baggie.

“Yes sir, we’re on our way. Jay, is your wallet secured?”

“Yep, all set.”

“Then, let’s go.”

We got back in the car, our hearts pounding. As we pulled away from the curb we gave the head shop folks a look of profound relief which they in turn gave right back to us. Hysteria errupted as soon as we rounded the corner, everyone talking at once.

Un-fucking-believable! Man, I thought for sure we were fucking busted What the fuck did you say to him?… Fuck, man, I thought sure we were all going to fucking jail... I was getting ready to fucking run, man, I was gonna be laying down some feet… Del Riego, you gotta be the coolest mother fucker I’ve ever seen… That fucking cop didn’t know what to do... I was standing there shitting my pants through the whole thing… Oh, really Jay? You and your fucking I have to put my wallet in the trunk bullshit nearly got us busted you dizzy fuck... Yeah you fucking moron...  what did you say to the cop? I told him it was Salfane. What the fuck is Salfane... oh, fuck, never mind, let’s just get out of here before he changes his mind... Man, I would’ve been like shee-it man just cuff me, take me away, man,  just don’t beat me. Whatever the fuck you told him, it was righteous, dude. Yeah, ok, let’s just get over the bridge ok? So I can fucking breath again?

And thus we were on our way, Jay’s wallet and the red capsules tucked away in the trunk, our young hearts slowly returning to normal as we paid our nickel to cross the bridge.


I could tell you about many freakish things that happened during those forty eight hours, the naked guy directing traffic in the parking lot stands out, but this story is about a boot, and if you were like me you can imagine what it was like. Maybe you were even there and remember it. Ok, I’ll get to the boot, but I want to document that on this weekend in a small backwoods diner near the race track on a drizzly Sunday morning I discovered the delights of potatoes with eggs and bacon, probably the first real food I’d eaten in thirty six hours. In retrospect that may have been the most significant discovery I made that entire distorted year. And to this day when I eat home fries in the morning I remember that breakfast.

So I’m strange. But about the boot:

There we were near the front of the stage. It must have been Sunday night, about eight. We had seen Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, and a bunch of other groups I can’t recall at the moment and now it was Janis Joplin’s turn to take the stage. Big Brother or whoever was now backing her came out and started setting up and finally all was ready and Janis appeared. The crowd roared and pressed forward. She started her set, swigging from what looked like a pint bottle of Southern Comfort at opportune moments between verses, which were frequent. The crowd was loving her. I found her unappealing and her music depressing, but what did I know, unsophisticated and mired in middle class values as I still was? Still am, I guess. Anyway, about halfway through her set as she was singing

C’mon, TAKE IT! Take another little piece ‘o my heart now baby!

she started disrobing, tearing off her outerwear and throwing it into the crowd. I hadn’t been paying close attention to her and I had been looking away from the stage for a moment. It just now occurs to me that she may have noted my inattentiveness and sought some way to punish me for failing to display the appropriate adulation. Probably not, I doubt she either noticed or gave a shit if she did, but it’s a thought. Whatever, I returned my attention toward the stage just in time to see a white go-go boot come flying through the air directly toward my head. My somewhat altered mind found this object most fascinating in the half a second before it impacted, glancing off my cranium into the crowd behind me where it was quickly grabbed at by many hands and disappeared. I dimly noted the useless observation that it appeared to have been a left boot and had rinestones. Stunned, I looked up at the stage and she was looking right me wailing

You know you got, if it makes you feel good! Oh, yeah!

My friends, after a moment of incredulous silence, broke up laughing. Oh, wow, man! Did you see that? He got hit in the head with with her fucking boot! Fucking Janis Joplin hit him in the head with her boot!

Somewhat dazed I said, yeah, never mind that shit, is she gonna throw the other one?

She’s got that one off now, too, look out, she’s gonna launch… there it goes!

She threw that one elsewhere into the crowd so probably she wasn’t aiming at me after all. Somehow, all of this seemed perfectly normal.


And such

Is my claim

To rock and roll



Submitted: November 16, 2016

© Copyright 2021 saintdel. All rights reserved.

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