Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Strange Rigidity of Floppy Disks

In November 1974, during his famous months-long Lost Weekend estrangement from Yoko Ono, John Lennon famously did a lot of drinking at the Troubadour in West Hollywood with Harry Nilsson. On one occasion, they were thrown out for loudly urging the Smothers Bros., on stage at the time, to fuck a cow. On another, a drunken Lennon, having zanily affixed a sanitary napkin to his forehead, asked a waitress who was clearly not enjoying serving him if she knew who he was. “Yes,” she is said to have said, “an asshole with a Kotex on his head.”

Nearly 36 years after the fact, FAITP is able to disclose that the quick-witted waitress, Jacqueline (Jacqui) Ginsberg, now a successful chiropodist in Marin County, California, didn’t actually say that at all. “What I said,” she recalls, “was, ‘Yeah, an asshole.’ I did know who he was — I’d been a huge Beatles nut, though more of a George person — but was too intimidated for long-windedness.”

She wonders if the Kotex addendum was the work of the same unseen press agent responsible for Lennon’s own famous quote from Foyle’s Literary Luncheon in 1964. Following the publication of In His Own Write, a collection of his Thurberish cartoons and pun-filled prose, the then-Beatle was feted by London’s most prestigious bookseller. After lunch, he was supposed to get up and address the assembled literati. He stumbled up to the dais, mumbled, “Uh, thank you all very much. God bless you,” and returned to his seat. In the papers, though, he was reported to have cheekily advised his audience, “You have a lucky face,” as English beggars used to do when someone dropped a coin in their cups.

Months after the incident, attorney Gloria Allred, who’d heard about the incident in Rolling Stone, managed to deduce from interviews with members of the Troubadour staff that it had been Ginsberg who’d let fly the celebrated Kotex quip. She urged her to allow him to file suit against the former Beatle, alleging that he’d caused her emotional distress, “but it just didn’t seem right at the time. If one of us suffered emotional distress, it was John, who obviously wasn’t used to being spoken to as I’d spoken to him, and who was visibly bummed until he sneaked out of the club maybe 15 minutes later after leaving me a $20 tip.”

It was only 15 months later, after discovering she was pregnant by one (or another!) of the club’s bartenders, that Ginsberg reconsidered. She was crestfallen to learn, though, that a statute of limitations precluded her suing for emotional distress more than one year after the precipitant incident. She had her daughter, Pisces, out of wedlock, was disowned by her mortified Jewish parents, and fought alcoholism while trying to establish herself as an astrologist to the country rock stars.

Eventually, she realized, as all rational people ultimately must, that astrology is sheerest poppycock, and got herself a job in the human resources department of a company that manufactured what were called floppy disks even though many of them — the smaller ones — were actually quite rigid. She was wooed by and wed the company’s warehouseman, who’d been more of a Paul person, and from whom she kept her participation in the famous Lennon/Kotex incident secret for years. “I was surprised,” she admits, “by how, well, arousing he found the whole thing when I did finally tell him; our sex life took a real upswing there for about a month.”

Following their divorce, Ginsberg studied chiropody first by mail and then on line before becoming a licensed chiropodist in mid-1993. “Ever since the Troubadour days, when I was on my own for hours at a stretch, I’ve been fascinated by feet.

“Without them, what would we stand on?”

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