On JMG’s review of the Pet Shop Boys single “Did You See Me Coming.” I talk about my favorite PSB moment, shared with Dusty Springfield.
My VERY FAVORITE PSB moment? I was walking down Hollywood Blvd with Dusty Springfield. She had just returned from London, and she told me about recording with the Pet Shop Boys. We were both broke, but I had an Amex, and we decided to see if we could find a place to get a burger that took the card. All of a sudden, as we’re walking past one of the numerous stereo/music shops that blare music out onto the sidewalks, we hear “Since you went away…” We both stopped dead in our tracks. “That’s you!” I said. She smiled in that semi-shy, coy way she had and said, “Does that mean we can have fries with our hamburger?” The moment was surreal because she had been through a tough few years. But somehow her manager Vicki Wickham had got her this song with the PSB. Later in the next year, I met Vicki and Nona Hendryx when they came to LA. And after that, Carole Pope and Dusty stayed at my apartment at the Villa Esther (she loved that name) in West Hollywood for one night. I’m not name dropping, and I didn’t know any of them except Dusty well, but their deep and sincere affection and caring for Dusty was obvious. And, of course, Vicki had been her manager forever.
Dusty and I met in 1985, I think, and our first (and really, our last, “date” ) was the night we got carjacked in front of Mayfair market in West Hollywood.
She told me just to pull up in front, in the no parking zone, because she would “only be a minute.” I would have bought her the store and put it on my Amex if she had asked, and so, I parked where she said. Dusty ran in to get some cat food for her beloved meows, and I watched the back of her platinum blonde head disappear through the doors. I was sitting there thinking, “This is going to be the night of my dreams,” when a guy with a pistol slipped in the passenger side of what was a record company sub-compact car that Dusty had been given to drive for a while during the recording (I think) of White Heat, where she sang at least one Rough Trade/Carole Pope song, maybe two. OR maybe it was the duet she did with Spencer Davis. Anyway, as luck would have it, two things happened after the guy slipped into the car. I negotiated my way out of the vehicle by the time we got to the end of the driveway and were going to turn right on Santa Monica Blvd. (The guy went on to rob 7 more people that night, and what Dusty had earlier purchased at Rexall was part of what got him convicted…another story, another time.)
Anyway, I ran into the store to tell the manager, who called 911, and then I went to look for Dusty in cat food. She couldn’t believe it, but then as we wheeled her cart out of cat food and into cookies, she saw someone I did not know. She screamed “Bruce! We’ve been carjacked!”
Well Bruce Vilanch was startled because…um, I think, not sure, he was having a “food slip” and was caught by Dusty with an overflowing basket of goodies, and it was pretty clear he wasn’t sure what to respond to first–being caught, being caught by Dusty Springfield, or being caught by Dusty Springfield who was talking carjacking. So he said, “Dusty! We meet again! Wanna donut?” They were old friends, and while they laughed and yaked, I stood there trembling at the thought of the gun that had just been shoved into my side on my first real date with Dusty. I think we dated for 3 weeks, before every other word out of her mouth was Carole Pope! She was gone on her! Later it was singer ‘Teda Bracci,’ whom she cared for deeply, despite a relationship that was fraught with drama. In fact, I was the “minister” at Dusty and Teda’s “wedding” at Helene Selery’s house in Tarzana, and used the same Amex to rent a wedding gown on Fairfax for that wedding. News reports said Dusty had bought the gown at a thrift shop, but that’s not what happened. For the Wedding I read from a sitcom script that belonged to an actress I was then seeing who was the star of the sitcom. When I read the part that asked if there were any objections to the marriage, we all raised our hands, including Dusty.
Dusty and I stayed friends through the years , and when she went back to England, we spoke by phone several times; the second to last time was the 4th of July 1998, eight or nine months before she died. We talked about quitting smoking and decided fuck it, all our vices had been taken away, let’s have “a fag.” As you all know, gay people, especially gay men but also gay women, adored Dusty. What you may or may not know is that she adored us back. Gay men were her favorites, and gay women were the “trouble and drama” she couldn’t resist. That, however, never kept Dust from loving all of us.
Sorry to have hijacked this thread, but the Pet Shop Boys, and their song “What Did I do to Deserve This?” were hugely important in launching the last phase of Dusty’s career, and I believe that phase finally gave her the sense of peace and serenity and pleasure that the “hard years” had nearly taken from her. In the end, though, Mary Catherine Isobel O’brien was pretty much just a good Irish girl with a wicked sense of humor and a helluva set of pipes. And she loved the Pet Shop Boys—and that song. RIP MIC O’B. Thanks Joe for putting the PSB video up and letting me walk down a lovely memory lane.
Tarra Thomas Addendum: I’m pretty sure Bruce does not remember me, but I’ll bet you a Starbucks he remembers Dusty and that night!