Monday, April 6, 2009

Danny Whitten



The Troubadour was never the same for me after that night with Danny. Every time I went in there I remembered vividly the look on his face, as he walked by me and out of my life. I still went there, but never felt the same about it again.

One night I ran into Herbie Cohen there, and went over to say hello to him. I'd never gone anywhere socially with Herb, except when I met him years earlier, at his house, with Zappa. It was kind of unusual to encounter him in that setting. We stood in a corner of the front bar, and talked a little about music, and the business. I asked him if anything was going on as far as my stuff was concerned, and he said "no." I'd been writing songs for Arizona Music, which he and his brother had been running for about five months, and couldn't understand why nothing had been accomplished, other than me coming up with a lot of finished music. I asked him about it.

He told me to back off a little, and acted as if I were his office boy or something. I didn't like the way he was talking to me and told him so. Herbie had a reputation as a New York street fighter which I was aware of, but I had a reputation as a Los Angeles street fighter and bar brawler, but I don't think he thought much of it at the time. He acted as if I were a Hollywood pop star who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag, and that's how he treated me.

My problems with various record business executives, and producers in the past, was a major sticking point in my personality as far as being willing to take any shit from the likes of Herbie Cohen, or anyone like him. It didn't occur to me at the time, that he and his brother were the ones paying me on a weekly basis, so I said something to him that really pissed him off. It wasn't anything overt like "fuck off" or anything, just something that, for whatever reason, ticked him off. Herbie turned on me in the blink of an eye, and tried kicking me in the balls as I stood in front of him. I was surprised as hell, and knew instinctively that he'd attempted, and failed, to do some some real damage.

I turned a bit, and grabbed a beer bottle by the neck, and held it up at shoulder level, hissing "What the fuck are you doin' Herb, why'd you try and kick me in the balls?" Knowing he had blown the element of surprise, Cohen looked at me with that "let's get it on" look that I'd seen plenty of times before. "Come on Herbie!" I said, "You wanna fuck with me?" I waved the beer bottle in his face and watched his eyes follow it in my hand.

By this time Herbie's original opinion of me had shifted, and it was obvious by the concerned look on his face. That old crazy fuckin Jameson shit came over me, and I was ready to go to war. "Come on Cohen, you fuckin' punk ass mother fucker. I'll kill ya you son of a bitch." Herbie glared at me in anger and I glared back. We stood there a moment, and then he just turned away and left. I don't remember what I did after that, probably stayed and got drunk. Whatever transpired that night had far reaching consequences in my life.

The end result was that the Cohen Brothers quit paying me my weekly salary, and I began to panic. I went to their office, but Herbie wouldn't talk to me, and Martin said there was nothing he could do, because Herbie told him not to pay me. I left feeling like my world was once again crumbling, and that old feeling of "now what do I do," swept over me like a tidal wave. One day everything was fine, and a day later everything was fucked. I hadn't started the fight with Herbie, but I must of got to him in a way that he was unwilling to accept, because his form of revenge was swift and deadly in my world.

As usual, I had no money saved, and nothing else going on. I retreated to Gavin's house or some other place, and got loaded. I always got loaded when I didn't know what to do.

The weeks went by, and I sank deeper and deeper into an abyss of fear and depression. I couldn't pay my rent, and even though Gavin and Ron didn't pressure me, I felt bad that I couldn't cover my end. I'd sit at the piano and play songs, and write new ones, but no matter how hard I tried I felt like life my life was not worth continuing. I was dog tired of the endless problems and always being broke. I was fed up with always finding myself in the position to have to kiss someone's ass or watch my world collapse.

It was 1971 or 72, I can't remember, and I had been doing this bullshit since 1963, and nothing ever seemed to change. I'd get up for a while and then go straight to the bottom again, as if that were my natural place to reside, at the bottom. Maybe it was, I thought, maybe I just needed to accept that the bottom was where I belonged.

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