Segarini: The Art Of Touring 7 – Dude! Where’s our truck?

Part 6 can be found here

“Say again?” says Frankenheimer.

“Somebody stole the truck”, says Dennis, looking not unlike a deer caught in the headlights of a very angry, red-faced, manager. Bruce, who normally towers over the diminutive Dennis, is doing his best to will himself to the size of a Smurf, turning a sickly shade of blue in the process.

The rest of us, of course, are laughing our asses off like a bunch of 9 year olds that just saw their first boob. We know that Dennis and Bruce are pulling a prank on our stoic manager, and cannot contain the laughter any more than we could if we were backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, partaking of the huge canister of nitrous oxide, traditionally kept  just out of sight of the audience. Frankenheimer stares at us like we are retarded, and on fire.

“Seriously”, he says through clenched teeth, a twitch developing just under his right eye, then slowly, :Where…is…the…fucking…truck…!”

Dennis snaps like a twig. In full, school-girl sotto-voce, he manages to wheeze, “OhgodIdon’tknowwewerejustgoneforaminuteanditwasgoneshitImreallysorryitwasjustgoneandwedidn’tknowwhattodosowetookacabbackherebecauseIdon’tknow…”, the rest sort of trailed off, John’s face no further than an inch from his. The rest of us stopped laughing. Maybe this wasn’t a joke.

‘Dennis”, John said, instantly going from ‘full goose fume’ to ‘managerial unflappable’, “Take a deep breath, calm down, and tell me what happened”, he paused, “I promise nothing bad is going to happen to you or Bruce, I just need to know what happened. Okay?”

Now, I’ve got to be honest here. Even if the truck had been stolen, the equipment that was really important to 3 of us, was never in harm’s way.

Randy, Jim, and I always kept our guitars with us. They were not in the truck. They came in the Vista Cruiser along with our luggage and were NEVER tossed in the truck with the rest of our gear, because they were like members of the band. Randy’s acoustic that he wrote on and played our new songs on, and the bass he had recently bought and practiced on all the time, Jim’s classic, beat up Fender that he played, unplugged just sitting around, the only sound it made, kind of a ‘tink, tink, tink, ta-tink, tink, tink’, but it put a beatific smile on Jim’s face, eyes closed, transported to whatever happy place he was in because of that guitar in his hands, and my newly acquired Fender acoustic/electric, one of only 11 that were made as an experiment in conjunction with Martin, and given to well known artists to see if they liked them enough to warrant Fender getting into the acoustic guitar business.

During the recording of the Roxy album, I had stumbled across this guitar with a Martin body and a strat neck that was collecting dust in the studio storage room along with a Mellotron and Eric Clapton’s Fender Champ and a bunch of other musical treasure, had fallen in love with its action and odd sound, and had asked our engineer/producer John Haeny, who it belonged to. I wanted to see if I could buy it.

It turned out that Fender had given it to Judy Collins…and she hated it and just put it in the studio lock up and left it there homeless, and unloved. I took it. I kept it, and for the 30 years I had it, it was my primary writing instrument, and dear friend.

Our guitars were safe.

However, we had just purchased about 10,000 dollars worth of custom built amplifiers from a guy in San Francisco that had built Santana’s gear. These things were soooo cool. They looked like bulked up versions of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, hulking black behemoths, with an acrylic head with volume and tone controls the same, onyx-looking black as everything else, and one big button that was black until you pressed it, turning on the amp. Then it glowed a deep, hot, red like the eye of a Cylon, or that stupid crime-solving car, Kitt, on the TV. 300 watts of pure, clean power, and each of us had 2 of them. They were amazing amps, We were also carrying a P.A, tons of outboard gear, ‘just in case’, and MacDonald’s drums, some stage clothes, and the custom built air-flight cases that it was all packed in. Surely, this stuff couldn’t possibly be stolen. Dennis and Bruce probably just forgot where they parked. This is New York. People don’t steal your stuff in New York!

Well I’ll be damned! People do steal your stuff in New York!

Somewhere down there, people are stealing other people’s stuff

Well, sadly, the truck really had been stolen.

John finally got the story out of Dennis and Bruce, and there really wasn’t much to tell. The roadies had checked into their room at the Chelsea, dropped off their bags, and got right back in the truck and had driven to Greenwich Village to check it out. They parked the truck on Bleecker, walked around the corner at MacDougal Street, Dennis realized he had left his sunglasses in the truck and went back to get them, and the truck was gone. He figures that he and Bruce weren’t gone more than 5 minutes. End of story.

Frankenheimer calls the police. They show up at the Chelsea almost instantly. John tells them what has happened and asks how long it will take to track the culprits down. I mean, how hard can it be to find a giant yellow truck with California plates in downtown Manhattan.

“Well, Mr. Frankenberry…”

“That’s Frankenheimer.” Says John.

Cop: “I’m afraid the best course of action is to check the pawn shops and music stores in the Burroughs, and you might find some of your equipment, but the chances are slim, and none”.

John: “What about the truck? Can’t you look for the truck?”

Other Cop: “Oh, we can pretty much tell you where the truck is by now.”

John, John, Jim, Randy, and Bob: “Where?”

Cops: “East River. On, or near the bottom.”

Stunned silence.

“How can that be?”, says John, looking completely bewildered.

“Out of state plates, big rented truck, parked in a tourist area. They hot wired the truck the minute you walked away, drove to an alley, transferred the contents to another truck or stashed it in the backroom of a store they use for contraband, and one of them drove the Ryder to the river, put a crowbar or a brick against the throttle, and goodbye truck”, explained one of the officers, regarding John as if he had asked him how to make Kool-Aid.

The East River: New York’s Lost and Found…

“My God”, John sputters, “you make it sound like this happens every day!”

Cop: “More like 4 or 5 times a day. There’s really not much we can do. The crooks are pretty organized, and almost impossible to stop. If I were you, I’d be a lot more careful, Son. This here’s the big city.”

John turned bright red again. That’s twice today.

The cops asked for the manifest, (it was in the truck), took Dennis and Bruce’s statements, filled out some forms, wished us luck, tipped their caps, got back in their squad car, and drove off.

NYPD sketch of John and Roxy

This incident is so absurd to us, that no one has any problem with just ignoring the whole thing and moving on. Watching the police drive away seemed to act like a signal that said, “Alright boys, show’s over, nothing to see here, move along”, and that was it.

“Bar”, I said, and we moved as one toward the bar off the lobby of the Chelsea. John stopped us.

‘Write down what you need to play tomorrow night. What kind of amps, what kind of drums, strings, sticks, all that stuff. As soon as you’re finished send the list up to my room with Bruce or Dennis, and I’ll go to arrange rentals for the rest of the tour. I’ll be in my room calling home, and Ryder, and the insurance people, and Jac, and…”, He stopped. Just stopped in mid-sentence, looked terribly tired, turned, and headed up the stairs to the hotel. Hell of a guy, John. We were lucky to have him.

“Bar”, I repeated, and off we went to write down what we needed for John…and hold a wake for our gear and rented truck.

Never underestimate the healing power of tequila, beer, gin and Jack.

So, several drinks later, Bruce runs our lists up to John. A handful of bar napkins covered with details of what we need to play the Bitter End the next night, and a note saying we were going out on the town later and if he wanted to join us, we’d call the hotel and let him know where we were if he wasn’t back before we left.

We pass John in the lobby, us headed up to our rooms to relax, shower, and get ready to go out, and John headed out to the Vista Cruiser and then to Manny’s, the music store in New York that was so famous, we heard stories about it even in California. I’ve got some Manny’s stories for another time, but not now.

About 2 hours later, I’m trying to figure out what to wear to Nobody’s, the bar in the Village I’d heard so much about, when the phone rang.

It was John.

“Hey, man. Did Manny’s have all the stuff we need?” I asked him.

“Oh yes”, came the answer, “They will deliver it all to the Bitter End in time for sound check tomorrow afternoon”.

“Get strings and drumsticks and everything?”, I asked, feeling chatty for some reason.

“Oh yeah. Bringing the strings back to the hotel with me so you guys can change them tonight or in the morning so they don’t go out of tune tomorrow night.” John thought of everything.

“So, are you going to go out with us tonight?” I guess I felt kind of bad about how we just left him to deal with all the crap today, and pissed off to the bar while he dealt with everything.

“No”, he said over the sound of a car honking, “I don’t think so”.

“Where are you?” I ask him.

“In a phone booth around the corner from Manny’s, waiting for the cops…”

Waiting for the cops?

“Why are you waiting for the cops?”

“…because somebody stole the Vista Cruiser.”

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Next: The Art of Touring Concludes: No Wonder There Are So Many Cabs in NYC…

Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

2 Responses to “Segarini: The Art Of Touring 7 – Dude! Where’s our truck?”

  1. ha! great ending. can’t wait for the next installment!

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