Bob Dylan’s ex-wife sits on the bleachers in a smoky little Hoboken nightclub watching her latest son-in-law belting out his latest demo tape to an appreciative but slim audience of friends and scene-schemers. Bob Dylan’s ex-wife’s looks certainly belie her too many years of lawsuits and sleepless months: she’s still slim, dark, and her eyes still sparkle mischievously with the magics of eras gone by.
“I’m here tonight, really, to support him,” she tells me as she glances supportively at the figure anxiously replacing a string in mid-verse. “Of course, I know only too well how much it takes to step out on that stage with only a song between You and,” as her hand sweeps over the dance floor, “them. It’s a rough game. No, wait a minute: it isn’t a game… It’s a way of life, isn’t it? It is life for them, isn’t it? All these singers; all these kids. All their songs. But what can it really all add up to? In the end, I mean?”
Strange to hear Bob Dylan’s ex-wife unloading baggage onto a stranger like me – and in Hoboken. But then, one doesn’t get to be Bob Dylan’s ex by keeping one’s thoughts to oneself, I should imagine.
“You’ll excuse me now, won’t you?” she smiles as a final chord fades from the speakers under-foot. “I must get Peter out of his wet shirt and into a dry cab.” Bob Dylan’s ex-wife pops to her feet and, with a somehow sincere “Take care!” flung at me over a shoulder, rushes around the nearest corner out of view.
* * * * * * * * *
Bob Dylan’s girlfriend called me at 11:30 one night. She wondered if I could possibly make it over later to help her arrange some songs. “I have a show Monday, and I’m absolutely frantic,” she bleets. “It’ll only take an hour or so. I promise.”
Ten minutes later I’m deposited outside her building on one of the Upper East Side’s most uppity blocks. I look up to see her already waving crazily through her Pella windows. A second later, she’s dashed downstairs to haul me in.
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, but the intercom’s on the blink and we’re between doormen. And during this of all weeks! I’m really terribly sorry, but you know what they say about if it’s not one thing it’s another…” I’m scrambling to keep apace as she whisks me through the lobby and up the stairs to her majestic double oak doors.
Bob Dylan’s girlfriend’s apartment is huge and sumptuous in the extreme, despite the fact its lone contents at the moment are a futon, a piano, and a fireplace full of orchids. “I’m sorry there’s nowhere to sit yet – there’s hardly anything to eat yet – but I’ve only just moved in three nights ago and my furniture’s still somewhere between here and the coast. At least I hope it is! With the kind of week I’ve been having, I’ll bet the trucks have broken down somewhere in the wilds of Minnesota and I’ll be living on Ritz Bits for the rest of my life!”
As I glance overhead at the ornate chandelier and, higher still, clumps of Renaissance angels painstakingly painted over the ceilings, I can’t help but realize a goodly percentage of Grand Central Station’s homeless could most comfortably spend their remaining days in Bob Dylan’s girlfriend’s closet.
“Okay, okay. I have half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes, to do on Monday night, and between the fittings and the pre-shoot – what am I going to do about this hair! – I have to whittle down the absolute best set of songs I can before I can hire all the back-up people. Now, I think it’s important above all else to showcase the width, the depth of my repertoire: after all, we’re no spring chickens here! I mean, I’ve been working that Village since I was fourteen! I met Bob in ’65, you know. What a little twerp he was then. You know, sometimes I still call him my little twerp! Anyways, I met him in one of those awful dessert places on Bleecker and Bobby was, how shall I put this… SHIT-FACED. He was drunk, okay? And he was hitting on me for God’s sake. Hitting on me! And I just kept saying to him, “Get away from me you little twerp” – that’s what I used to call him – but he could not leave me alone! All night he’s going “You’re beautiful. What’s your name?” Hitting on me, right? And I was so young and so scared I just wanted to get OUT OF THERE. But Bobby said – and I’ll never forget this – Bobby said “That’s okay. That’s okay. We’re gonna meet together again someday. Out on the coast.” And dammit, nine years later – and just about as many husbands! – I’m out in L.A. searching everywhere for the man, and would you believe it? We got together. We meet again. Just like he said we would! He even let me sit on the couch for that After The Flood [sic] tour. Would you believe it? And you know what? He’s just as big a little twerp today as he ever was!”
By 4 A.M. I was getting hungry and even a little bit tired. Not that I don’t mind listening to Dylanspeak upon Dylanspeak direct from the girlfriend’s mouth as it were…
“I’m awfully sorry, but I don’t want to keep you here all night, but would you believe I don’t even have a clock here? With my luck, I’ve left it out on the coast… not that you ever need to know the time out there! But thank you so very much for coming by so late. And at such small notice too! You know I appreciate it much. But I’m sorry, but I’ve got these damn fittings and that damn cheek thing of mine all day tomorrow, and God, will I ever get everything banged together by Monday night?”
Bob Dylan’s girlfriend saw me into another cab and, you know, we never did get to work on any songs.
Excerpted from “The Mammoth Book of Bob Dylan,” edited by Sean Egan, now available in North America from Running Press Publishers.