I met Paul in 1992. I had moved back to southern California, having lived in New York City off and on for about three years. I'd made an album in mid town Manhattan, accidentally marched with Al Sharpton, ridden horses in Prospect park, been telephoned by the FBI for questioning about a sublet I'd rented from a man who was associated with the IRA, and broken up with a long time boyfriend. I was ready to be back home.
I was pretty depressed though. I dated a few guys but nothing seemed to pique my interest. The only thing interesting in my life seemed to be happening in my dreams: like meeting and getting production lessons from Brian Wilson, a song given to me by John Lennon while we sat on a curb and he played guitar and banged the strings gently with a pencil, a convoluted storyline about a guy named Gary with the dream ending on a theatre marque stating The Leading Leg of Gary Handeman...
My imagination was alive and well but my love life was asleep. Then a surfer guy asked me out to a Bob Dylan show. It was at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. I feel bad in retrospect, he was a really great guy, a founder of Surfrider Foundation, and he deserved a more respectful date than what I was. We found our seats, he sat down and I excused myself, dashing out to the lobby to look for music friends.
Every now and then I'd check in on my friend with our seats but most of the time I was out in the lobby. I ran into a bunch of people I knew. Andy Paley was there, I'd just met him a few months earlier and hung out at his place talking about Brian Wilson. Andy had made albums with his brother in the mid 70s and somehow had become a Brian Wilson best friend in the late 80s. He had great stories. Wes was there, as in John Wesley Harding. I'd met him in London a few years before. Some other folks....don't remember who else.
At any rate, Andy introduced me to Paul Williams at the Pantages. It was a funny thing. I'd just read Dominc Priorie's book Look Listen Vibrate Smile, which was a compilation of writings (mostly from old newpapers and rock magazines) about Brian Wilson's legendary Smile album, and had just finished the interview (which had originally appeared in Crawdaddy) between David Anderle and Paul about Brian's work.
It was such a delight to meet him. I said, "Wow, I was just reading some of your stuff." He thought I'd read Das Energi, which has always been one of his most popular books. I said, no, it was the Anderle interview. I had a million questions to ask. We stepped away from the group and I got to ask a few. Then Dylan started and we all scattered to the wings.
I found my date and my seat but I could hardly think straight. I'd just met the guy that hung out with Brian Wilson in the 60s, during the making of SMiLe! He'd even made sounds on the sessions with others, like animal noises and stuff. And he'd stayed over night at Brian's in the tent that was in the sand box in the house next to Brian's piano. The first time he smoked pot was with Brian in that tent while listening to the acetate's of the SMiLe sessions. Dang.
And he didn't look old enough to have done all that cool old stuff. I can't say that I was attracted in that sexual or romantic way to Paul at that point. I was just attracted. Like that feeling you get when you meet someone and a surge of energy happens, undelineated, not yet appointed to any particular emotion. I don't think it even occurred to me, the idea of him being physically attractive or if he was sexy or anything like that. It was none of that. It was just a great big feeling that needed to be acted upon.
And so I asked him if he would kindly meet me at Canter's Deli on Fairfax the next day so I could ask him a million questions about Brian Wilson and his own ideas about what brought about an artists great work. I knew there was something I needed to learn.
....more to come...