A (New York) Doll’s House

buster poindexter

Once again it was the wee hours of the morning and I was waiting for a flight to LAX for work. There was hardly anyone in the small waiting area.  Next thing I knew, 6 skinny, well dressed, musician-type folk sat down across from me. I instantly recognized David Johansen and his recent version of the New York Dolls, as I had just seen them play a month or so previous.  My eyes bugged out of my head and it was one of those painful “travelling alone” moments when you cannot pinch the person next to you and give the head nod.  So, I did what every punk rock music fan does in these situations- I ran into the bathroom, pulled out my cell phone and called my brother. “Guess who’s waiting for my LAX flight?”  “Who?” “GUESS! GUESS!!!!” He knew it had to be one of my musical idols, but he wasn’t getting close to the mark.  “Give me a hint?” My brother had given me a New York Dolls shirt for Xmas.  “T-shirt” was all I said.  “OH MY GOD! BUSTER POINDEXTER!!”” Only my brother would invoke the alter ego at this point.  “Go up to him and say ‘hot hot hot’!”.  My brother is not shy; he would have sat next to David and talked to him the whole way to L.A. But that’s not my M.O. I did spy a bit. They had just flown from Japan and were making their connection to L.A. They looked very tired and the flight attendant wouldn’t let the guitar player store his guitar in first class. So me, the Dolls and Les Paul all flew coach together. BTW David Johansen is tiny, tiny, tiny.

I went to New York when I was eighteen, just about to turn nineteen.  I wanted to meet The Ramones, David Johansen, The Talking Heads, Johnny Thunders….you know. My first time out of California and first cross country road trip. Being young, we had a loose plan that we would spend the summer with our friends who lived “somewhere in Brooklyn”. I think we knew where one of them worked, but no other info, so when we arrived in NYC we were tired and didn’t have a place to stay.  We needed a hotel with a garage because we had a drive-away car. The only one we found with a room was the Carter Hotel, and I thought it was ridiculously expensive at $50 a night.  As we took the elevator up to the 15th floor, the power went out and the elevator stopped. It was dark, packed with people, and very hot. Sweat was pouring down my sides (New York in June).  A kid next to me yelled out in the darkness,  “WE‘RE ALL GONNA DIE!” I almost fainted. Luckily the power kicked back on and the elevator started chugging its way up to our floor.

After a night of intermittent power and cockroaches, we got rid of the car, and I begged my friend for us to stay in the Hotel Chelsea. It’s where Sid killed Nancy; fulfilling every teens’ “Live fast, die young, punk rock fantasy.”  We got a room for $50 a night, but I didn’t complain. I loved the Chelsea from the minute I got in there….the art in the lobby, the musty smell, and musicians playing guitar in the stairwell.  I asked the next day if there were any cheaper rooms available, because we still hadn’t found our friends.  They gave us one for $30/night, no air conditioning.  I opened the window to get some air and spied a book on the fire escape. The title: Drugs: How They Work and Why.  We found our friends the next day- they had spent the weekend in Martha’s Vineyard. Bitter sweetly,  I left the book on the balcony.

hotel chelsea