|"Not all who wander are lost." -- J.R.R. Tolkien|
Mick & Joe in Bangkok
The director for the Stones tour film contacted me about a week before the scheduled BKK concert, and asked to me come down and volley suggestions for what they could do with each of the Stones to show them getting off on Bangkok. I flew down, they wined and dined me, said they liked my ideas and I thought that was that.
So when they called again and invited me to take Mick out on Bangkok's Chao Phraya for a river and canal tour I was surprised and, of course, nervous. In the end, the strangest part of meeting His Satanic Majesty was the build-up it got from 'his people'. For film purposes, they wanted me to be the first person to greet him as he stepped from the elevator at The Oriental. He was supposed to come down anytime between 3 and 4pm, so they had me stand in front of the lift - which was reserved for him only - and watch the light sitting on the 16th floor, the Oriental's penthouse suite. They said that when the light starting moving down the numbers, it meant Mick was in the lift on his way down, so I needed to 'prepare' myself mentally for meeting him and be standing in the right spot.
I stood there for nearly an hour, staring at the elevator light while the director and producer kept saying things like 'Remember, just talk to him like he's a human being, it'll be alright. No need to get nervous, etc" and "Right after you shake his hand and are introduced, step to the left and stand over by that telephone till we put a mic under his shirt, then wait for him to walk toward the door, then walk briskly around him to arrive at the pier before he gets there". Meanwhile they both look like they're about to jump out of their skins, they're so nervous - and they've been filming the band for 10 weeks! About a half hour into this vigil I thought I was going to puke, they'd made me so crazy. Then the lift bell rang, Mick walked out of the lift, looked me straight in the eye, smiled, introduced himself and I knew this was going to be fun.
Mick was, to sum up my overall impression, Eternally Hip & Surprisingly Introspective. We talked one-on-one for two hours - while the cameras were rolling and when they weren't - and he was charming, witty and easy. He gave me some brotherly advice on life, fame and love. We covered Bangkok history, his favorite Stones performance in India, the war in Iraq (he said "it's not over till someone says 'we surrender'" and then the next day the Iraqi ambassador to the UN said as much), his previous trips to Asia, how Jerry Hall always has shopping uppermost on her mind when she travels, what it's like having kids ('do you have kids?' he asked; 'not yet' i answered; 'that's what all men say, not yet, if it were up to the men in this world there'd be very few kids'), and where in Bangkok I was going to take him to hear some live R&B that night. He also asked for a recommendation on a place to dine that night, and I suggested Supatra River House.
When I came back to the Oriental Hotel later that night for a possible night-time adventure with Mick and company, we got the news that the Stones' private plane had just been hit by a truck on the runway in Bombay. No one was hurt, but the rest of the Stones and their 150-strong entourage (minus Mick and his mini-entourage, who came in a couple days early on a THAI flight) couldn't make it in time for the concert originally scheduled for the 10th.
Mick took it all in stride, and decided to stay on and take a Southeast Asia vacation. That night the Stones' film crew and I went down to Ad Here to jam and party. I sat in with the house band on guitar, while the cinematographer played good blues harmonica. We held a table for Mick, who called a couple of times during the evening and said he was on the way. In the end he didn't show. I heard later that he ran into Angelina Jolie at Supatra River House -- when two pairs of lips like that meet, I guess fate takes over.
Mick called me the next day while I was riding in a cab on the way to the railway station to catch a train back to Chiang Mai. He apologized profusely for not making the gig. He also said he was going to charter a plane and fly to Samui, and then Cambodia and Laos for a week or so with two of his kids, who were arriving in Bangkok that day.
A few days later Mick rang me from Luang Prabang, 'Hi Joe, it's Mick, how's it going? I'm flying back to Bangkok tomorrow, wanna show me some nightlife?". We met again the next day at The Oriental's Bamboo Bar, then went upstairs for drinks in his vast 16th-floor suite. I was floored to note that one cocktail table was piled with guidebooks I'd written or co-written, including Lonely Planet's Thailand, Laos, Chiang Mai and Myanmar titles. A Mac laptop, linked to the hotel's broadband connection, was picking up KJAZ from Los Angeles. After a chat and a brace of Heinekens from the not-so-mini-bar, the three of us (Mick's current girlfriend, fashion stylist L'Wren Scott, came along as well) set out in earnest to explore Bangkok's legendary night-time scene.
The story ends here, however, as I promised Mick I wouldn't write about our night out together in Bangkok. I don't blame him ...
Returning to London, Sir Mick confesses to a secret ambition.