July 26, 2021

The day Keith Moon parked his car in a pool

“When you have a lot of money and you do the kinds of things that I do, people laugh and tell you that you are eccentric… which is a polite way of saying that you are fucking crazy. Well, possibly it is. No, what the hell! I’m like a shower! “

The Who became the hotels worst nightmare. Keith Moon celebrated his birthday at the Holiday Inn in Michigan, but as usual, the drummer’s party just got out of hand. After several “minor” incidents, the final fireworks would be his Rolls-Royce sunk to the bottom of the pool.

A section by HÉCTOR SÁNCHEZ.

“Happy birthday, Keith.” This was the text that appeared under the sign of the hotel of the Holiday Inn chain in Flint, Michigan, on the night of Wednesday, August 23, 1967. The Who, who had just opened for the Herman’s Hermits at Atwood Stadium, were in attendance. celebration. It was Keith Moon’s twenty-first birthday and, how could it be otherwise, the drummer needed to celebrate with a party that was up to the task. The celebration not only lived up to the lunatic Moon, but surpassed all expectations, turning the celebration into a pitched battle with an air of legend.

To get started, It wasn’t Keith’s 21st birthday. In reality, he was only turning 20, but decided that it was better to add an extra year to reach the minimum legal age allowed by the United States to be able to consume alcohol. Since you can’t conceive of a birthday without a cake, Keith’s had five floors and was shipped by the Decca label and battery maker Premier. Five floors is a lot of floors for anyone and before so much cake filling, the reveler Moon broke the rule that says that with food you do not play and began to throw the dessert against the rest of the guests. Despite taking a cake, the party companions received the gesture with great pleasure and the meringue began to fly overhead in a sweet war.

Before the clock struck twelve, the hotel manager appeared to advise that the party had to end. One of the guests, Tom Wright, a friend of Townshend, whom he met at the School of Art, photographer and regular companion of the band, did not smell good the arrival of the director: “I knew that this would not sit well with anyone.” They had agreed that the celebration would end at midnight, but Keith Moon was unwilling to allow his float to turn into a pumpkin just because the clock hand indicated it was time to say goodbye. With his straight English manners, Moon knew how to delicately deal with the matter with the director and asked him to extend the event: “It’s my party, it’s my birthday, you can’t come in here saying I can’t do this or that.” However, Tom Wright tried to be more diplomatic with the hotel manager: “I told him we would stop, and he left. At one minute to twelve, he comes back and says, ‘Damn, this looks more like a revolution than a birthday party. We have received complaints, you cannot do this. ‘

The music was blaring. Vocalist Roger Daltrey took two new conquests to his bed, guitarist Pete Townshend asked for more bottles of champagne to continue spreading the atmosphere and Keith Moon alternated throwing the cake with a fun new practice that consisted of throwing everyone out the window. the rolls of toilet paper that fell into his hands. Faced with the director’s repeated complaints, Moon decided to settle the discussion by spreading what was left of the cake on the heavy man’s face. However, the hotel manager did not take the cake with the same sense of humor with which the guests had received him shortly before. Chris Stamp, one of the Who’s managers and brother of actor Terence Stamp, began to wonder if the party wasn’t getting a little out of hand: It could be very serious, for much minor things in America the police can put you in jail, and also, we had lied, so if they arrested Keith and they realized from his passport that he was actually 20 years old … God! , the mess could be terrible! ”. At that point, according to Wright, the guests had no desire to follow Keith’s jokes: “Everyone was silent. The cream was spilling. And you couldn’t even laugh, because of how shocking it was. ” At that point, Stamp smelled the worst: “When I saw the hotel manager coming out of the room wiping the cream off his face, I thought, ‘He’s going to call the police.’

But for someone as unusual as Keith Moon, throwing the cake at the hotel manager was only “peccata minuta” compared to what was yet to come. The drummer found a new diversion sheltered behind glass. He broke the glass, released the extinguisher and emptied its contents through the corridors of the hotel while knocking on the doors of the rooms to warn them that a fire had broken out. The manager of the Who no longer knew how to handle the situation: “At that moment I panicked, I went to Keith and led him to another room. I said, ‘Keith, this is going too far, please calm down,’ and then he said ‘okay’. But in a fraction of a second, he jumped up and hung like a monkey from the lamp in the room, which collapsed with a considerable crash, cutting off the entire plant. ” As time went by, Chris Stamp analyzed the event with a sense of humor: “Can anyone imagine the whole scene, with hundreds of quiet scared sleepers, in the dark, believing there is a fire, coming out of their rooms, naked girls running around that hallway and bumping into poor old ladies in robes, hairnet, and slippers, Keith Moon hopping down the hallways and half-naked Pete Townshend laughing hysterically from the effect of the acids, and all that at 2:45 a.m. in a site like Michigan? If I’ve survived that, I think I’ll survive anything else. “

The party that Peter Sellers would experience in “El guateque” (Blake Edwards, 1968) would be nothing more than a childish compared to the birthday of the drummer of the Who. In the celebration of Moon’s “twenty-first” anniversary, there comes a time when reality begins to be confused with legend. At the end of the night, Keith Moon lost one of his front teeth and the explanation for this event is very varied: since he slipped on the cream or foam while fleeing from the sheriff who was chasing him, until he jumped into the pool of the hotel, which depending on who tells the story had or did not have water. In fact, that pool was the one that would end up gaining prominence at the end of the night. Urban legend says that Keith Moon drove his car to the bottom of the pool and that was when he hit and lost his tooth. The make of the vehicle varies according to history, it was even said that it was a Rolls-Royce, a Cadillac or, in Moon’s own words, a Lincoln Continental. Whether it was full or empty also depends a lot on the version.

The newspaper “The Guardian”, quoting Pete Townshend, considered that the event of the pool and the car arose from the wrong combination of two incidents: in one, Moon did not put the parking brake on the car and it advanced to a swimming pool under construction and without water; and in the other, the drummer bought a new car that he charged to the group’s account, but as they refused to pay for it, the musician “drove the car to a pond full of mud in his garden and called the seller to pick it up. ”. Roger Daltrey also confirmed this event: “Moon did not drive a Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool, but he did put a Chrysler Wimbledon in a decorative pond.” However, Daltrey contradicted himself when talking about the birthday: “I saw it. We pay the damages. They amounted to $ 50,000. I have it blurry, but I remember the car in the pool. And the chaos. And running Keith to the dentist after being arrested because he had lost a tooth … But then I read in the bio that that never happened, so maybe I was living someone else’s life, I don’t know”. On the other hand, this is how Pete Townshend recalled in his autobiography the night of the celebration: “By the time I got to the party room, the cake was all over the floor, the walls and Keith’s face. In the pool, a Lincoln Continental swayed precariously, half in, half out. Later, I heard that Keith had released the brake and the car had started to move forward. As he was trying to get Keith back to his room (by then he was furious), a young man approached him to ask for an autograph, and Keith threw a lamp at him which hit him on the head. Afterwards, Keith managed to break a tooth and escaped arrest because he was hiding at the dentist. “

The versions contradict each other and, in addition, one must take into account the state in which the protagonists were at a party where, apart from cake, large amounts of alcohol and amphetamines were consumed. In the book that analyzes all the concerts of the band from 1962 to 2002, “The Who live and direct” (Lenoir Editions), the authors, Joe Michael and “Irish” Jack Lyons, could not ignore this birthday turned in bacchanalia and they are very accurate when describing what happened that night: “The absolute truth is difficult to establish.” What the authors are sure of is the conclusion of the incident: “What seems beyond any doubt is that the director, with a face full of cake, left the room, entered the reception area, picked up the phone and sent a circular to all the Holiday Inns in the country, prohibiting the entrance of the Who in any establishment of the hotel chain for an indefinite period of time ”.

With the arrival of the police, the party came to an end. The group’s managers, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, were in charge of paying the bill and the corresponding damages and in a gesture of solidarity, the Herman’s Hermits also contributed. For his part, Keith Moon ended up at the dentist. One dent in her smile was the birthday present. Some time later, the incombustible drummer spoke of his follies like this: “When you have a lot of money and you do the kinds of things that I do, people laugh and tell you that you are eccentric … which is a polite way of saying that you are fucking crazy. Well, possibly it is. No, what the hell! I’m like a watering can! But I live my life my way, I do everything I like without thinking about what others say. Fortunately I am in a financial position where I can afford it ”. As life is ironic, in 1978, when Keith Moon tried to redirect his life by giving up drinking, he died after taking an overdose of Clomethiazole, the pills that helped him alleviate alcohol withdrawal. Four years earlier, “Mama” Cass had died at the same place, 12 9 Curzon Place in Mayfair, London, and at the same age. Keith Moon was 32 years old. The madman died before he was old.

Previous installment of The Hidden Face of Rock: Phil Spector’s Revenge.