Friday, March 30, 2018

Blind Item #7 - One Night - A Reader Blind Item

If you remember that recent reader blind featuring that pot-loving A-List rocker, GS, you will remember that he and I went to this posh, South African school, along with that B-List Academy Award winning Hollywood director, T, who was then playing the lead in all the school theatre productions.

South Africa was a very disturbing place to live, especially if you were like me or GS, and had a lot of Black friends and associates. We lived closeted lives, highly fearful of being outed because of the abuse we would have suffered if our racist classmates had found out where our true sympathies lay. South Africa was a brutal, totalitarian state and an atmosphere of dread hung over the land that was difficult to shake.

All of which leads in to one of the most mind-blowing day and night I think I have ever experienced, in the company of this recently-deceased foreign-born music legend, ST. Not all of you will have heard of him, probably, although in his native land and in certain parts of the music world he was permanent A list. If you don’t know him you might well know his son, a B-/C+ list Hollywood host/announcer. ST won multiple Grammys and even hit number one on the charts in the States back when he lived here. ST had created some of his country’s greatest signature songs, and he had played around the world for decades along with his A List first wife, several HOF bands, and many other music greats. He was huge, gregarious, fun, and collaborative—quite simply a human tour de force, a true inspiration, whose fame, was, if anything, far less than he deserved.

I would only ever be with him for about six hours, six hours that constituted perhaps the most intense and draining day or night of my life, a day that still lives large in my family’s memory.

When my Mom drove down to pick me up from school for a long, holiday weekend, she told me we needed to go pick up ST at a location about fifteen minutes away. ST had been living in exile for two decades due to his political affiliations, although he had returned to live just across the border of South Africa in the city where I grew up. He was THE man in our city, music-wise, and I had seen him perform once before at an outdoor venue, and his massive, raspy voice combined with the big sound and harmonies of his band just blew the crowd away.

My mother drove to a spot close to an infamous, massive slum. This was the ghetto where ST had lived when he became famous back in the day, and he eventually jumped into our car wearing some paint-splattered workers’ overalls and an incredibly shabby hat he was using to stay incognito. He had gone to pay his last respects to a close relative who was on their deathbed.

When he got into the car, it emerged that my mother had undertaken to smuggle ST into South Africa. He had borrowed an American passport from an equally tall African American we knew (who also looked a little like Apollo Creed and whose son was a friend of mine and who took lessons from ST). I guess what happened was that ST had heard that my Mom, who was his pharmacist, was driving down to Johannesburg to get me and begged for a ride. Even though my parents had turned down these sorts of requests on numerous occasions from other exiles, how could they possibly turn down ST? In any case, ST looked at least a little like the photo in the passport, and he could turn on a perfect American accent if he chose to, so the plan was not as hapless as it initially sounded to me.

After picking up ST, we next had to drive across Johannesburg to pick up a black friend of my brother who’d been invited up for the weekend. But due to the holiday traffic, it was slow going. By the time we left the city and headed for the border, we had practically no time to spare. The border was due to close at 8pm, and it usually took over four hours to get there. We all knew that failing to get through the border on time would be a disaster. Not only were we a multiracial party travelling together, but among was a big-name celeb travelling on a fake passport. Failure would necessitate having to camp out all night in our car in a venue with a massive police and army presence. ST himself faced years in jail if caught, while the rest of us would have found ourselves in short-term detention and interrogation at the very least. So we had to drive fast without getting caught speeding.

At the beginning, we were still relaxed. ST did some brilliant impressions of the “Jive language” from Airplane that cracked everyone up. While still near the city, an amazing moment occurred when this huge hit song came on the radio—you all know this song, performed by this blonde, gravelly-voiced one-time A-List singer/songwriter, BD, that singer who got her start playing in this ultra-hokey folk band along with that permanent A List country singer in the sixties. My unhip parents even had their Xmas album! Actually, that BD song was probably one of the biggest hits of its era, and ST sang along to the chorus, his massive bass filling our Nissan.

When the song was over, ST told a story, most of which I’ve forgotten, relating to his meeting with BD back in some bohemian location in NYC when she was an unknown. He had known her well, extremely well, and they had tried to collaborate on a song, apparently, after they hooked up. Even us two teenagers in the car were impressed. You would probably have picked ST to have been doing Eartha Kitt or Nina Simone instead, but to each his own.

As the hours passed, the tension increased. We had to slow down in towns, and then once back in the countryside again, my Mom floored the accelerator in a way I have never seen her do, ever. There were some shaky corners and near misses with oncoming traffic. As the tension went up, we stared at our watches and ST endured my Duran Duran and Pat Benatar cassettes.

We got to the border with about ten minutes to spare. ST ripped off the overalls to reveal some upscale slacks and a “USA” sweatshirt. We walked inside, talking loud and American. It was the quickest and easiest crossing anyone in my family ever had, just no-look, stamp, and see you later, and within five minutes we were heading for home with the burden of apartheid lifted off our psyches as we basked anew in the atmosphere of a free, democratic country run by wonderful people. 

Relief, elation, happiness—how life can shift in a matter of minutes!

But our night was not over.

After about a minute into our drive, we came upon stopped traffic. The driver of an El Camino, coming the other way and heading toward the border, had hit a donkey, and a couple of cars were stopped on the edge of the two-lane highway. The donkey, badly injured and in utter despair, was standing up in the opposite lane, unable to move. Those of us who had stopped, along with the dazed driver of the El Camino, had no idea whatsoever to do.

At this point, we saw headlights coming towards us, in the distance, coming very fast. This vehicle was clearly in a hurry, and with only a minute or two remaining before the border closed, he was clearly intent on making it. The ten or so people stopped along the road, milling around and looking at the crippled donkey, all soon came to the vivid realization that something terrible was about to transpire. The car was clearly driving out in front of its headlights and there was no way it was going to stop.

The next five seconds were long and tortuous, and we all took cover as the approaching Mazda headed toward the donkey at well over 100mph.

Following impact, we were all sprayed by warm blood, and then, amidst the smoke and carnage, we noticed that the donkey, or what remained of it, had been deposited in the back of the El Camino!

Then out of nowhere, emerging out of the chaos and destruction, came the distinctive bass of ST. Up to this point I had no reason to believe that he was a basketball fan, but in an imitation of Johnny Most he yelled out, “Count it and he’s going to the line!”

Nobody laughed, but it was brilliant spur of the moment repartee.

Meanwhile, the two passengers in the Mazda were badly injured, barely hanging in there, and by the time we went out and brought the police back the driver could not be saved since there were no jaws of life on hand. The other passenger was pulled out, and I hope he made it……

Badly shaken having seen death up close and personal, we returned home in a silent funk.

After that I only ran into ST a couple of times. A few years later he came up to me one day and told me that a northern European soccer team had purchased the rights to his recent single and that he was going to shoot a video. He said that he thought of our crazy experience often, and that the chorus of his new song was inspired by its events. He needed me and a bunch of other young blondes to impersonate the fans of this team. It was not an easy task to obtain a group like this in an African city during the school year, but with the help of some peroxide, some missionary home schoolers, and some friends whose parents were willing to let them play hooky, we had enough bodies to create a sizable “fan” section.

We headed out for a hot and dusty day of shooting at a soccer field not far from the club where he did most of his gigs. ST had his famous instrument, the one given him by that permanent A++ list music legend, which he played and posed with when he was not out kicking a soccer ball around. My group wore a bunch of orange shirts and banners, and did some choreographed cheers from a large rock nearby.

I didn’t actually see the video until it appeared on YouTube thirty years later. ST was magnetic and his band was tight. But the blonde cheering section was nowhere to be found. We must have been lame on film. Just another group of chumps whose 15 minutes ended up on the cutting room floor.



30 comments:

pwal said...

ST= Hugh Masekela, son is Sal Masekela.

T. W. said...

I don't know these people.

I choose to spend time enjoying the Reader Submissions. Someone else can take time to figure out who is who.

Take care on this Good Friday everyone! ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜

Melvin The Reanimated said...

T is Gavin Hood. Won foreign language award for Tsotsi

Scandi Sanskrit said...

Northern European football team with orange jerseys? The Dutch national team? ZA and NL have close relations, don’t they?

That poor donkey. ๐Ÿ’”

A dumb idiot said...

Gavin Hood for the director, also went to St Stithians

mymartin said...

Dave Matthews for the rocker?

Geeljire said...

I have a blind that happens to be black

A dumb idiot said...

ST = Stimela

Scandi Sanskrit said...

Or one of these clubs: http://www.football-stadiums.co.uk/articles/football-club-kit-colours/ (but this BI sounds like an old one from 30 years ago and IDK if those clubs wore orange back then).

FWIW: The Dutch OTOH have worn oranje since the Totaalvoetbal days, so there’s that. ๐Ÿงก

cheesegrater15 said...

Too bummed about that poor donkey to enjoy this story. :(

Unknown said...

Sal Masekala is a very nice guy.

sandybrook said...

Thank goodness this person knows how to use paragraphs and decent grammar to drone on and on.

Glue said...

Also these "reader blinds" are too friggin' long!!! If I could get the cliff notes.....

Lucy said...

@cheesegrater15 - totally agree. That was upsetting on every level and caused me to stop reading as well.

Nor Cal said...

Thank you for the enjoyable reader blind. Unfortunately I do not know enough about music to venture any guesses.

ZantiMissKnit said...

I think that BD is Kim Carnes, hokey folk band is the New Christy Minstrels.

BD = Bette Davis = Bette Davis Eyes was a huge hit for her.

Normal. Yes indeed. said...

The Wolverine origins movie was god awful. I fell asleep soon after it started and woke up to credits rolling, the end. Did I miss anything?

Kno Won Uno said...

I like this guess.

Kno Won Uno said...

I guess there are people who don’t know Masekela, but I don’t know any of them. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿผ‍♀️

Unknown said...

ugh

Lunchpaillefty said...

I have a black that happens to be blind.

FrubDeMub said...

A list wife is Miriam Makeba. Permanent A++ music legend was Louis Armstrong, who gave him his trumpet.

lucy said...

why's everyone bemoaning the death of an animal when the driver of the car and quite possibly the passenger died? best thing that happened to the donkey was that Mazda. the animal was stunned, surely in pain and unable to move. Mazda driver died a hero. yes it is awful donkey died but far worse had it lived/suffered longer than it did

Hortensia said...

One night stand??? I've had long-term relationships to equal this blind.

bouldercougar said...

TLDR nobody believes in paragraphs, my poor eyes, I scroll past these ridiculous wall-0-texts damn

bouldercougar said...

Edit: this one actually had paragraphs, but seriously, these are not interesting. We follow ENTY (and the Himmmmmms) for their insightful insider views, not shitty diary posts

Stupidpervs said...

Novel. .can I get the cliffnotes version that sticks to the basic facts

Poor Mick said...

VAAAAAAAAASCO DE GAMA

WAS NO FRIEND OF MINE!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIW9mPmwCd4

Emma F said...

I love these reader blinds! And I thought this one was fantastic, really fascinating. Good to know someone else's did crazy things.

Ours ended up with a Pogues gig in Liverpool with my (I thought) tee-total mother accidentally getting us into the after party. Me and my friends were still at school.

Court b said...

Sorry, but these are getting worse and worse...

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