When I Got Paid to Choke Mick Jagger
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Being a coke-fueled bouncer has its upsides and its downsides. Which side of the fence did choking Mick Jagger fall on? Well, that depends.
By Noam Freedman
Steve was a young Brit who worked with my mother at a market research firm in New York City. I had stopped in one Friday to pick my mom up on my way home from Hunter College, and while I was waiting, Steve came over. He told me that he used to stage-manage bands in England, and he had a show coming up in the city and needed a crew.
Then he said that my mother had mentioned to him I had some band experience. Followed by, “Would you like to work stage crew for The Clash at the end of May?”
The venue for the shows was Bonds International Casino, a massive second-floor dance club on Broadway between 44th and 45th streets. It had been a men’s clothing store for many years, one I had shopped at with my grandfather a decade or so earlier. Thirty years after The Clash appeared there, I would take my wife for dinner at the Bond 45 Restaurant, possibly making me the only person to have been a patron at all three Bonds incarnations.
For those who don’t remember, these Clash performances gained notoriety because the promoters oversold the shows, selling 3,400 tickets to each show when the facility was only rated for about 1,700. On the third day of shows, May 20, 1981, when there were two shows scheduled, the New York City Fire Department came in and shut the place down.
We dumped all 4 grams of uncut, pink Peruvian flake onto the large glass coffee table and cut it into 16 large, neat, even lines. We proceeded to snort the table clean.
The ensuing reaction by the disgruntled fans was called a “riot” by the media. I was there, manning a police barrier in front of the club, and I would call it more of a ruckus: A couple thousand annoyed teenagers milling about and yelling. The addition of a police presence, including mounted units, only added to the tensions. The band, being fan-centric, honored all tickets by scheduling additional shows, and the performances resumed on June 4. What had been eight scheduled days turned into 17 performances.
Toward the end of the run, there was a rumor going around that Mick Jagger would be coming to one of the shows. Part of the rumor was that the Rolling Stones were considering scheduling a short-notice, one-night performance at Bonds, and we would get to work the show.
One night before the doors opened, following several nights of no-shows by Jagger, we were all called up to the “booth,” where the muckety-mucks were gathered. They informed us that Jagger was indeed coming that night, and to be on our toes, keep an eye out for him and bring him up to the booth when he arrived.
Following the “briefing,” the eight of us in the crew chipped in $50 each to purchase 4 grams of coke from one of the many sources of exceptional drugs at our disposal. We dumped all 4 grams of uncut, pink Peruvian flake onto the large glass coffee table and cut it into 16 large, neat lines. We proceeded to snort the table clean, two massive lines per person. Each of us closed out our turn by wiping the remnants of our lines up with a finger and rubbing the residue on our gums.
This was just a warmup for the liquor the bartenders would give up, and the crystal-meth-filled capsules we had in our pockets. When we started to feel sluggish we would carefully open a capsule and then snort one side per nostril of its painful, face-stinging contents to keep going all night. Ever since the “pit,” a security barrier in front of the stage, had been taken down, I’d been placed at different locations depending on what was going on that night. One night I would be onstage, another I guarded the temporary sound recording area; one night backstage, another night out on the floor. I even ran a follow spotlight for one of the shows when a light guy didn’t show.
This particular night I was posted stage left, where a lot of guests would channel in and out. The doors opened, and the place filled. No Mick Jagger. The show started. Still no Jagger. I was not in a good mood, and the guests were all a royal pain in the ass. The opening bands had brought a bunch of people with them, and I had had my fill of babysitting these leeches.
The first band finished. No Jagger. The second band finished. Again, no Jagger. The Clash took the stage, and the crowd pushed forward. In front of me was a wall of people; behind me, guests of the opening acts trying to sneak backstage. Added to this was the constant flow of people in the audience who thought saying something cute, offering me drugs or a blow job, would get them backstage.
About half an hour into the set, some putz dressed like McGruff the Crime Dog in a fedora and beige jacket with the collar turned up marches right up to the rope and tries to push past me. I put my hand on his chest, gently backing him up, and politely said that the public was not allowed in the area.
He ducked his head and tried to push past again.
I backed him up again, less gently, and said, finger in his chest, “I am not kidding, pal. This area is off-limits!”
To my utter disbelief, the asshole goes for it for a third time. This time, I slid my hand up his chest, wrapped my fingers around his neck and lifted him up off the ground. I wasn’t actually choking him, but rather using my hand against his jaw for leverage and then lifting straight up, like gripping a bottle just under the cap ridge.
There I was, holding this guy off the ground by his neck, hoping to make a point to any other jerk who thought the rules did not apply to them, when he pulled up his hat to show his face, and croaked, “Please! You don’t understand!” I felt a little wave of nausea pass through me as it registered in my exhausted, drug-addled mind that I was holding Mick Jagger off the ground … by his neck. I immediately set him down, and did all of the appropriate apologizing and groveling.
He was extremely gracious about it, saying, “No, no, don’t worry about it, I know you were just doing your job …” and then he added the word “well” as he rubbed his neck.
I turned to the nearest asshole and told him not to let ANYONE past the rope or it was his ass when I got back, and then I escorted Jagger to the booth. I apologized one last time, and again he said, “No problem,” as he headed up the stairs. I never heard anything about it from anyone. Apparently Jagger did not tell them he had been manhandled, and I still had a job. The Stones, however, did not book a gig at Bonds.
- Noam Freedman, OZY Author Contact Noam Freedman