Sunday 15 September 2019

A fright on the tiles and a lost weekend hitting the water bottle in NY


The Empire State Building and New York City's skyline. Photo: Matej Kastelic
The Empire State Building and New York City's skyline. Photo: Matej Kastelic
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

I have had two bad experiences recently. Two weekends ago, I was bringing breakfast up to the wife and daughter when I slipped on the tiles in the kitchen and went flying. I landed on my head, concussed myself and sprained my hand. I was on my hands and knees on the floor amid the broken breakfast plates when my wife came down to check whether I was dead or not. Later that evening I had to fly to London for work. I felt ill in bed that night and the following day had the worst headache in the history of headaches.

The second bad thing happened the day before I went to America for work.(Do you honestly think my wife would let me go to London and then America if it wasn't for work? 'Here, dear. Mind the baby. I'm off to Long Island for the weekend to hang out with Billy Joel.') I contracted some sort of stomach bug and was violently sick. This sickness continued on the plane to America. In fact, it got worse. I was unable to eat or drink anything other than water. At 35,000 feet, I was starting to get paranoid about what the passengers near me might be thinking of this ghostly-faced person who was leaving his seat every 30 minutes on an eight-hour flight to go to the bathroom.

That night when we went for dinner in New York after meeting the aforesaid Billy Joel I couldn't touch the food in the pricey five-star establishment. I spent all of the following day horribly ill, and not a little depressed, in bed in my hotel room. I found myself awake at 4am, Googling solutions and ringing down to reception to order litres of water, whereupon I sat in bed, jet-lagged and ill, drinking litre upon litre in an attempt to kill the mystery bug causing havoc in my stomach.

That night, we were brought to one of the most expensive restaurants in New York for dinner - Smith & Wollensky on 3rd Avenue - I had a small crab starter and a pint of water while everyone else at the table had steaks the size of the nearby Empire State Building with the wine flowing like the Hudson river. There was also a free bar with a buffet backstage at Mr Joel's concert that night at Madison Square Garden.

A free bar and buffet that I was unable to partake of as I was still horribly ill.

I slept fitfully in my hotel room again that night and thought about going to a hospital in New York if I didn't feel a little bit better by morning. Not feeling better in the morning, I decided against the hospital and instead opted to sit in bed until check-out at 2pm - drinking more litres of bottled water.

At 2pm, a car brought us through New York - a city I had barely seen for the duration of my 48-hour stay - to the airport. On the plane home I ate no food and drank only water. My mood was reflected in my reading material perhaps: an interview with Alan Bennett in The Spectator where he hoped that he wasn't "old gittish" and, when asked about Brexit, said: "The sense of helplessness is new. It seems there's nothing you can do about it. I'm afraid my reaction is that I shan't be here much longer."

New York will never be quite the same for me again. Nor will it ever be the same again, I suspect, for Marilyn Manson. I was sitting in Smith & Wollensky when the news broke that the anti-Christ of American shock-rock had been almost killed by a falling prop at his New York concert. I have never met the aforesaid anti-Christ of American shock-rock, but I have met his former wife Dita Von Teese several times. In 2007, we had breakfast at the Soho Hotel after her spirited burlesque show in a club in London the night before. "I had someone really lay into me last night. He told me that what I was doing was American imperialism. And that it was all a sign that I was riding a bomb! No one has ever turned what I do around like that. Riding a bomb for American imperialism? Did you get that?" She asked.

American phallic symbolism maybe, Dita.

"Yes, it was phallic. But the guy was saying I was so distinctly American with the cowboy look. And I was, like, well we really do have cowboys and I am American and to me being a cowgirl riding a giant lipstick was inspired by pin-up art and Jane Russell 1950s kitsch."

Another idol of Dita's, Bettie Page, had invited her to meet up a few years previously, she said, adding that Ms Page asked if she wanted to go to church with her. "I'm not really a church-going girl ... But wow I was ready to go to church with Bettie Page. I thought that was going to be a once in a lifetime experience."

Dita possibly feels the same about her short-lived marriage to Marilyn Manson. She was, she said, deeply amused with an interview Manson had just given to American rock magazine Spin about their marriage. "I was sleeping on the couch in my own home. I was no longer supposed to be a rock star. I was someone who had to be apologised for. I wasn't prepared to be alone. I came out of this naked, a featherless bird," he claimed. "I was completely destroyed. I had no soul left."

In London, Dita was quick, but not bitter, to point out that Marilyn's whingeathon about sleeping on the couch was "by his choice, possibly because he couldn't bear to sleep in our bed in which he was having an affair with his girlfriend. Which I didn't know about at the time.

"I never put anyone on the couch, believe me," Dita added with another smile. "And that same bed made a starring role in his music video. Our real bed. It became laughable. I was like - wow. It's like a Valentine."

My Bloody Valentine, more likely.

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