When I first moved to the United Kingdom in 2002 to hang around with my new bride, we discovered that we inhabited the same apartment building (or, as the locals preferred it, block of flats) as Mr. Rick Parfitt of Status Quo. This doesn’t sound like much to an American, as the Quo were never terribly popular here, but in the UK, they’re a very big deal indeed, to the tune of Rick’s large flat having overlooked the Thames, in which his own little yacht, named after one of Quo’s countless UK hits, was moored. He and his ex-wife Patty, with whom he’d gotten back together, often invited us to hang with them at their favorite posh restaurant on the river, The Wharf. Rick would typically get very drunk on vodka, smoke cigarettes in spite of his having had a problem with his heart not long before, treat Patty a little awfully, and tell me how much he loved me, even though he didn’t really know me.
Perhaps a year later, I put together a little troupe, Clear & Present Rangers, to perform the scripted sketch comedy revue I’d written, at a pub in south London, and a little local who’d appointed himself my lieutenant invited a Member of Parliament called Simon Hughes to see the show. Simon turned up with his boyfriend, fell asleep around two minutes into the opening sketch, and then came backstage afterward to tell us how very much he’d enjoyed it. Had there been a baby present, he doubtless would have awarded him or her a big politician’s smooch.
Yesterday I attended a friend’s birthday party in a swanky neighborhood not far from the university we both attended, and there met my first notable celebrity in over a decade, a former member of a group that changed the course of popular music in our time. Having procured a large plateful of complimentary sushi, I told my natural shyness to STFU, sauntered over to him as bold as you please, and introduced myself. I addressed him as Mr. Dolenz, but he said to call him Mickey.
We talked about his being a skilled furniture-maker, and about how he and one of his four daughters make furniture together. He was cordial, but didn’t tell me he loved me, either because he was as sober as a judge, or because he was content with the love of his beautiful and charming wife, Donna, whom I later chatted with at length and learned to be a lapsed American Airlines flight attendant. I told Donna about how my own beautiful and charming wife, the former Claire Fletcher, of north London, used to fantasize about marrying Mickey herself at the height of Monkeemania, when she was nine years old. I did not tell Mickey himself.
(I will not pretend that I don't regard The Monkees' "Dolphin Song" as sublimely beautiful, though I think someone might have worked very much harder on the words. And as the beautiful and charming former Claire Fletcher has pointed out, it contains a wonderful vocal homage to Paul McCartney, as heard in "Lovely Rita.")
I find that I continue to lack some very basic social skills. Specifically, I don’t know how, after chatting with someone at a party, one takes leave of that person without hurting his or her feelings. Many regard me as an asshole —at least when they think about me at all — but I am a highly empathetic asshole who doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings by seeming to have tired of them. When Mrs. Dolenz and I ran out of things to say to each other, I said, “I think I’d better rehydrate,” though I wasn’t actually thirsty, and she said, “Go,” but I worried that I was wounding her a little bit by being the one to withdraw from our exchange. Earlier, I’d had a pleasant extended chat with the birthday boy’s former business partner, and he’d been the one to excuse himself. I discovered that I’d sooner be the one abandoned than take a chance of hurting someone.
Ain’t I a prince?