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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keith Richards, mensch

Rolling Stone lead guitarist and songwriter Keith Richards is much in the news these days, with an autobiography on the stands. Even Maureen Dowd is crowing about what a nice guy he is. And she's not the first one, or even the second one, we've heard that from. In keeping with our openness to stories of brushes with rock greatness, here's a firsthand account from Michael, a high school buddy of ours who now lives in Sin City:

I flew up from Antigua one nite, and as we were waiting for the plane to board, in the small airport in Coolidge Field, now V.C Bird International Airport, I found myself surrounded by Keith, Patti, his mother-in-Law, Patti's mom, and their two daughters, Theodora and Alexandra. Toddlers at the time.

As you know, in Antigua, you walk to the jumbo and climb the big staircase, and when the flight was called it came to be that Keith and I were walking side by side, and his family, wife, daughters and Mum in Law walking about 20 yards ahead of us. Keith and I shoulder-to-shoulder and he walking with a cane, straw hat, and the scene in front of us was a Kodak moment. About halfway out the tarmac, smell of kerosene and sound of jet engines starting to turn, I looked at Keith and said, "You must have done something right, mate." He looked at me, and replied, "Don't know what it was."

We boarded the jet, and as luck would have it, my seat was between Keith and Patti's mom and the children. Four and a half hours to N.Y., Dude pounded cognacs and Heinekens. In those days you could smoke (in 1988). One Marlboro after another. Landed at Kennedy, the girls were like four and three, Keith is telling them they have to carry some of their own "bits and pieces" as we deplane. Walking onward at Kennedy, towards Customs, Keith is separated from us, as he is a British subject, and we clear Customs in a different area. We see him met by an American Airlines rep. and we clear through, Patti, the girls, and her mom. I had spent a few afternoons chatting with Patti and her mom that winter at Shirley Heights, a Sunday afternoon soiree popular in Antigua.

So finally, Keith comes through, relieved, and he is chatting with a lady in a wheelchair, telling her where the luggage would be and helping her move towards that direction. The whole time he was collecting all the luggage, he was telling that lady, who had no idea who he was at first, about her luggage, where it would be coming up, asking her what it looked like. Looking after her. Meanwhile, people start to notice he is there, they ask for autographs, he obliges, they ask for photographs, he puts his arm around them like a long lost best friend. I knew he had to be slightly buzzed, but to all these people he was and is, Keith Richards. Mary, our sister, was picking me up, but at least three times he reiterated that he had plenty of room in his car(s) if I needed a lift into the city. "Are you sure, man" -- several times. He made sure the lady in the wheelchair was accounted for, I said goodbye to everyone, and walked out to meet Mary sitting curbside waiting for me.

That following Sunday I was walking in Central Park, and walked right up to a horse-drawn carriage, in which, unbelievably were Patti, the girls, and her mom. Patti, as charming as anyone can possibly be, saying "I knew we would see you again."

Our paths have never crossed from that day to this, but that small, very personal vignette, should give a clear and accurate picture of just how much of a genuine, kind, unassuming, family-oriented gentleman Keith Richards really is. It has been an inspiration to me, many times, when you run across some pretentious twit here in Las Vegas; all the while, I know the biggest of the biggest stars, he a number one Rock and Roll Superstar, was not anything like that at all.

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