Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When a Pirate Is the Voice of Chivalry


The New York Times

October 26, 2010

When a Pirate Is the Voice of Chivalry



It’s the Year of the Woman, all right. In a bad way. Some of the women running in high-profile races are not my cup of Tea. And some of the male candidates could be part of the Little Rascals’ He-Man, Woman-Haters Club.

The misogyny reached its zenith outside a Rand Paul debate in Lexington, Ky., on Monday night when a group of Tea Party toughs roughed up a woman from because she wouldn’t move on.

One man, wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” button, ripped off her wig and wrestled her to the ground with the help of another man, and a third Paul volunteer stamped his foot on her shoulder when she was down.

In a campaign season when many men — and women — are taking harsh stances that could hurt women, a chivalrous voice has at last arrived.

Oddly enough, it belongs to a renegade pirate whose motto is “Keep it dark”: Keith Richards.

You’d think that an only child whose mother killed all the pets he kept as companions would not grow up to be so positive about women.

“I put a note on her bedroom door, with a drawing of a cat, that said ‘Murderer,’ ” Richards writes in “Life,” his new memoir. “I never forgave her for that.”

His mom, Doris, who didn’t like the muss and fuss, reacted nonchalantly: “Shut up. Don’t be soft.”

But the first thing he did when he began making money with a little band called the Rolling Stones was buy Mum a house.

His reaction when the Stones started to attract hordes of “feral, body-snatching girls” was not titillation but terror. “I was never more in fear for my life than I was from teenage girls,” he writes. “The ones that choked me, tore me to shreds, if you got caught in a frenzied crowd of them — it’s hard to express how frightening they could be. You’d rather be in a trench fighting the enemy than to be faced with this unstoppable killer wave of lust and desire, or whatever it is — it’s unknown even to them.”

He continues: “The problem is if they get their hands on you, they don’t know what to do with you. They nearly strangled me with a necklace, one grabbed one side of it, the other grabbed the other, and they’re going, ‘Keith, Keith,’ and meanwhile they’re choking me.”

The shy English Boy Scout and choirboy who started out with “no chick in the world” describes the women he was involved with — from road flings to his manager to his ex, Anita Pallenberg — with candor but generosity.

Even groupies are accorded respect. “You could look upon them more like the Red Cross,” he says. “They’d wash your clothes, they’d bathe you and stuff.”

Learning that there’s a blind girl who loyally follows the band, he arranges for her to get rides from the group’s truck drivers.

“I’ve been saved by chicks more times than by guys,” he writes. “Sometimes just that little hug and kiss and nothing else happens. Just keep me warm for the night, just hold on to each other when times are hard, times are rough.”

The Prince of Darkness who got in trouble with feminists for “Under My Thumb” is, it turns out, a cuddler who loves strong, high-spirited women.

He had the “unlikely role of consoler” for Mick’s girlfriends when Jagger cheated. “The tears that have been on this shoulder from Jerry Hall, from Bianca, from Marianne, Chrissie Shrimpton ... They’ve ruined so many shirts of mine.” Including when Jerry found a note from one of Mick’s girlfriends written backward that said, “I’ll be your mistress forever.”

“Really good code, Mick!” Richards chides.

The guitarist explained in an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross that the band’s so-called “anti-girl” songs could just as easily be about guys.

“Under My Thumb,” he said, could’ve been about a guy under a woman’s thumb and “you’re just trying to fight back.” Besides, he says, he didn’t write the lyrics — Jagger did.

In the book, he explains: “The songs also came from a lot of frustration from our point of view. You go on the road for a month, you come back, and she’s with somebody else.”

The biggest “seductress” in his life was heroin, he writes, which he relied on to anesthetize him from the “blah blah blah” of show business, something he did not enjoy as much as Jagger.

He said he never collected women, like Jagger and Bill Wyman, or “paid for it,” or indulged women who collected rock stars.

“I’ve never been able to go to bed with a woman just for sex,” writes the author, happily married for decades to the former model Patti Hansen, whom he is supporting through bladder cancer. “I’ve no interest in that. I want to hug you and kiss you and make you feel good and protect you. And get a nice note the next day, stay in touch.”

The consummate gentleman. Who knew?

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


No comments: