Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Till death do us part....

  It's a strange experience when some friends ask you to pick up the clothing of someone you cared about.  Jo Jo Laine was in the U.K. towards the end of her life, having dual citizenship she decided the health care plan she had in the U.K. was important.  A few years after her passing "Uncle Ira" passed away, in his 90s.  Ira was a well-known Boston photographer who was the rock in their family, and he had a lot of clothing and stuff.  Had Ira been alive he would have phoned me to get their belongings, but the immediate family called mutual friends of ours.  So a month or two ago I'm picking up the clothing of one of my dearest friends.  Her kids are like step-kids to me, they were 3, 12 and 13 when Jo Jo and I met, they are now in their 30s and 40s.  So I moved the stuff into storage until we figure out how to get the clothing that they want from here to the U.K.  The point is, after years of loss, holding her coats in my hands was surreal.  And the photographs and the scrapbooks, it was like yesterday. 

   When Jo Jo passed away the messages from the other side came through loud and clear.  My best friend Jeff phoned me "Joe, you won't believe this...a bus is going by and the sign says JO JO TRAVELS"...she was sending Jeffrey a message.   The kids threw a surprise party in Chelsea for Jo Jo.  Chelsea being a random place that wasn't in our lives, it was a true surprise.  So I called up Rex Trailer who Jo Jo did a lot of modeling for, car commercials I guess and whatnot,  Rex and Jo Jo had a wonderful friendship.  Being a busy guy we didn't think he'd show up at the surprise birthday party, but there he was. Jeff and I and other friends of ours attended ...very happy times and memories we will always treasure. 

   Rod Stewart invited us to Great Woods (whatever the heck it is called now?  Former Tweeter Center, Comcast Center, what have you..)...after the show at the Four Seasons hotel back in Boston (a blur now, must've been a couple of hours after the show) Rod asked "What did you think, Joe?"  I said, "Rod, when you went into the classics it was tremendous."  Rod smiled and said "But I can't play all the old stuff just for you and the thirty critics in the audience!"  Of course when he did the unplugged record he did just that very successfully, glad I was one of the many votes!  So Jo Jo hands Rod a record I had co-produced for her with the late Jimmy Miller.  She introduced me to Rod as her "manager"...Rod said "So how long have you been producing Jo Jo?"  I said..."Awhile...I'm not her "manager" I make her records."  We had a laugh.  The next day Rod was playing soccer on the Boston Common with Jo Jo's oldest son.  After her lengthy relationship with Rod she met Denny Laine of Paul McCartney & Wings.  A business partner at the time was a major disc jockey on WZLX.  He announced that Rod Stewart was playing soccer with Denny Laine's son on the Boston Common...that must've caused a commotion...hope someone videotaped it because I was home working...Jo Jo tells me later "Rod said that my son has the exact shoe size as him."  And what did you say, I asked.  Jo Jo looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said she said to Rod "But of course!"
I was like, you gotta be kidding me.  "He's not Rod's son."  Jo Jo said "I know that, you know that, his father knows that...but after all that money he gave Alana (Hamilton)" my Jo Jo joked with a smile.

   My friend Jeff saw the sign "Jo Jo Travels."  Almost simultaneous with that I'm driving up Route 93 and "You Wear it Well" came on the radio.  I burst into tears...Rod Stewart had written the song for her, and wrote in her biography "You wore it well then, Jo Jo, you still wear it well now." 
"Remember them basement parties, your brother's karate the all day rock and roll shows. Them homesick blues and radical views haven't left a mark on you, you wear it well" Rod Stewart   (Jo Jo's brother was taking karate lessons at the time)

It's probably my favorite Rod Stewart song, and was before I met Jo Jo and before meeting Rod in person.  Jo Jo asked me to take a picture of her and Rod at the Four Seasons.  It ended up in some biography, uncredited, but there you have it, I was the only one there outside of the fellow Rod was with.


In August of 2013 our friend Manuel fell out of a hammock at 55 years old, broke his arm, went into a coma, and died three weeks later.  The shocking event reverberated through our old rock and roll scene. Friends of 30 years corresponding on the internet figured out we'd better start having "get togethers."  People we haven't seen, quite literally in decades, at least not all in the same restaurant at the same time, rekindled our friendships.  In the internet age it's not like we hadn't been in touch, but the cold reality was that we had replaced our camaraderie with digital happy birthdays and once in awhile phone calls. Manuel's tragic and sudden departure was difficult, certainly life changing for his wife, more than we could comprehend. 

     In September one of my bands reunited for a reunion party.  A week later the girlfriend of one of my musicians died.  Unbelievable.  The party for a nightclub was actually a gathering of friends.  I dedicated a song to lost bandmate Manuel and my friend Bobby Hebb, the author of "Sunny."    Bobby had visited me in Medford many times, sometimes to be on TV, sometimes just for lunch.  In August of 2010 Bobby unexpectedly passed away.  Suddenly, a voice on the phone, email correspondence, evaporates.  November 2010 rolls around and another best buddy, Karen, wife of a rock & roll hall of fame artist that I directed a movie of, is taken off of life support.    Karen would call me at 3 in the morning.  "Please, Karen, Jeff's asleep.  Don't call at this hour."  But she would reply I have to talk to you. "  I responded "When I first met you in '92 I hated you."  She, as astute as Jo Jo, would quip back "I hated you more, but I love you now.  I have to talk to you."   I wish she would call back...I'm still waiting.  Suddenly, the phone rings and it is not Bobby...it is not Karen...it is certainly not Jo Jo, she sends signs via the radio. 

   The phone rings.  Maybe it's Rex Trailer?  Randy California of Spirit?  Ed Cassidy of Spirit? One of my late and dearly departed old friends?  No such luck.  "Hi, this is Captain Barry Clemente of the Medford Police Department with an informational message..." Sorry, Barry, you're not my type. 

   Phone rings again:  "Hi, this is City Councilor Paul Camuso, as your councilor I have supported programs and services for our senior citizens..."  You've got to be kidding me.  Wrong number. Now I've seen that guy on TV and he's definitely not my type.  Barry, Paul...I know you want to speak with Jo Jo, Rex and Randy but they are unavailable.  They are definitely unavailable...at least without a medium.

   * * * * *

   We thought Jo Jo was indestructible.  She had a strong presence, charisma by the boatloads.  At a club in Boston, Club Cafe, our entourage waltzed in (a friend of ours owned a limo company and would always insist on driving us around in style.)  Jo Jo, in a hurry to get out of the house and into the limo, inadvertently put on a green shoe and a pink shoe.  What the heck, she could make it work.  A pretty lady stops her (our inside joke was calling the establishment "Club Half Gay", which it kinda sorta is) ...and the pretty lady says "I LOVE YOUR SHOES."  
...Jo Jo says to her without skipping a beat ...."Yes, dahhling...it's like my sexual preference.  I cannot make up my mind!" 
Jo Jo, standing with record producer Jimmy Miller of the Rolling Stones (RIP 1994) as I bumped into an extremely handsome ex of mine (thankfully, still alive)  at the bar (just so you have the reality drama here, perfect for late night television, emphasis on the word late for most of the characters in the cast.) 
Of course Jo Jo and my ex boyfriend met and he and his spouse all moved in together (on separate floors).  I had a way of matching people up, and probably still do.  Jo Jo would say "I cannot believe how good looking he is."  I would say "Dream on.  Ha ha..."  She was always taken with my relationships.  Which is why we were a perfect pair...our lives were an interesting tangle of people who genuinely cared for each other.   We would fly to Los Angeles, New York, West Palm Beach...and as one of the execs at one of the companies I worked for said "You two were the talk of the hotel."  Ha ha...no doubt in my mind.  Those were fun times, let's just say the experience was ...something you readers are not old enough to see in print right now.  Maybe when you are 200 years old.  God, I miss that girl.  The only girl I would have married...with permission of my significant other, of course. 

"They were such happy times...thought she was Mary queen of Scots."
Lou Reed, BERLIN lp
At one of Uncle Ira's parties at the Kowloon (his birthday a few days before mine in May) Jo Jo's mom pulled me aside.  "Joe, I have to tell you, and it won't be easy.  She's dying."  "Helen, stop it.  She would have told me."  Helen looked at me firmly and with a lot of love and said "She doesn't want you to worry."  I was shaken.  I called England the next day.  "Your mother says you are dying."  Jo Jo responded in her usual feigned outrage at a preposterous thought like that "My mother exaggerates."  But I knew Jo Jo, and her very religious mom would not ever do something like exaggerating about her daughter's life. 

Love you Jo Jo.  Always will. 

Till death do us part, baby.


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