Four quick, funny scenes:
A hush would fall inside my neighborhood coffeeshop whenever the Kinks’ Ray Davies entered, but no one ever bothered him. During one of Davies’s NOLA visits, some fool snatched his girlfriend’s purse, and Davies’s stubborn English pride told him to chase the robber, who pulled a gun and shot Ray Davies, and so we didn’t see him at the coffeeshop for a while.
Davies survived that bullet to his leg, but still feared the bloodthirsty British press, and so hid out just several blocks from my apartment, at the large house of his friend, artist Robert Tannen. “Ray Davies just walks around the house in his boxers all day in a Vocodin haze, reading books,” said my friend who interned at the time for Tannen.
“Oh shit! Do me a favor?” I gave my friend a copy of my New Orleans novel, The Donkey Show, with an inscription wishing Ray Davies a pleasant recovery. I felt honored when my friend told me he watched Davies read the whole book.
Some weeks later, a wooden cane helped Ray Davies limp into the coffeeshop where I sat writing. The usual hush fell. This time I felt tempted to speak to him. I happened to be seated beside the milk and sugar kiosk, to which Davies eventually hobbled. “Mr. Davies, I don’t mean to bother you, but I wrote that book The Donkey Show…”
“Oh!” his face genuinely lit up. “I really liked that book! Thank you very much!” Everyone in the coffeeshop watched as Davies sat down at my table, and began asking me lots of questions about my novel, how long it took me to write, how I went about getting published, etc.
The whole time I wondered, What the hell is going on!
I told my girlfriend all about Davies’s compliments, as I did anyone else who’d listen. It felt like a huge validation. Every time I saw Davies out and about in New Orleans, he treated me like a fellow artist, like a peer. Twas kinda psychedelic.
One moment I’ll hold onto forever, came during that year’s JazzFest. As my girlfriend and I squeezed through an especially dense crowd, we found ourselves almost belly-to-belly with Davies and the girlfriend for whom he’d laid down his life. “Oh, hi Mr. Davies!”
“Michael!” he said, and shook my hand. And when I introduced my girlfriend, he looked her in the face and said, “You boyfriend is very talented.”
I used that as a blurb on the back of more than one of my books.
Davies had not talked to the press about getting shot, but he agreed to sit with me at a bar and let me interview him. But then he kept having to put it off. We rescheduled a couple times. Then one day at my library job where I helped man the reference desk, I received a call. One of my bosses picked up and turned to me: “It’s Ray Davies?” My boss seemed slightly impressed.
Unsure how Davies knew where I worked, I took the phone. “Michael, I am so sorry that I keep rescheduling, but I am busy all this week,” Ray Davies said, “so let’s just do it on the phone right now, eh?” The line of people at the reference desk grew as he began, “The other night Trent Rezner and I were backstage at the Bowie concert together and I told Trent…”
I grabbed a paper and pen and, with the phone to my ear, tried writing his words down. But I was too caught off guard, not to mention neglecting my job in front of my bosses. Eventually it broke my heart to say, “Uh, Mr Davies, I’m sorry but I am at work…”
We rescheduled one more time before I finally gave up.
The last time I saw Ray Davies, myself and Ratty Scurvics busily set up our musical gear in the Contemporary Arts Center’s parking lot, about to play a concert for a special New Orleans art night, where everyone walked around the Central Business District drinking. Ray Davies wandered in, and walked right up to where I kneeled, plugging in my guitar pedals. Only when I stood did he recognize me. “Oh Michael, hello!” he said.
“Good to see you Mr. Davies. I am about to play a show here.”
“Oh wow. You play music too?” he asked.
“That’s great!” he claimed, then split as fast as he could.
Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.