Sunday, December 9, 2007
(part 5) ME, TONY, PETER and GORDON
Terry Knight CKLW DJ
Peter Caine was a good guy. He was also a photographer who got hustled by Tony Alamo into taking most of the photos for the Billboard ad campaign. Peter ended up being my only friend and helped me to finally break away from Tony and go to England, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
To this day there is still an unpaid bill at Billboard for most of the ads that were run. Somewhere between $13.000 and $14,000 I believe. You see Tony either couldn't or wouldn't pay for the ads. But what he did do, was find someone else to guarantee to Billboard that the account would be paid. In this case that someone was Gordon Gessler, the son of wealthy diamond dealers in Beverly Hills. Gordon was kind of a goofy guy with a pretty good heart and Tony used him to accomplish Tony's goal, which was to get the ads in Billboard.
Tony succeeded, as Tony was prone to do, and then had a falling out with Gordon once the goal was accomplished. I am by no means blameless in all of this, because I ended up moving in with Gordon's ex-wife Lois Johnston who was 29 years old while I was 19. At the time I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen. Part of the star game is beautiful women, so I was sure I'd made it when I actually moved into Lois's house in Benedict Canyon.
As the ad campaign moved forward into it's climax my record "I'm So Lonely" began getting heavy airplay throughout the mid-west and Canada and started climbing the charts in places like Detroit and Cleveland, Ohio. There was a huge 50,000 watt station in Windsor, Canada called CKLW just across the river from Detroit. A young DJ named Terry Knight took it upon himself to single handedly break my record and make it a hit which he succeeded in doing. CKLW was heard in a wide spread area of the mid-west and the record climbed into the top 5 and I believe made it to # 1 in a number of places.
The point of this is, that now I was in demand. Tony could go to work on more people using the record's success as leverage to bend them to his will. First was Dick Clark at American Bandstand who Tony convinced to put me on the show. Following that a number of other more regional music shows became willing to put me on too, because Bandstand had. Tony was no fool. He knew how to use one success to accomplish another.
He did a lot of things right. It was just that he always managed to do something that was so outlandish that it made the earlier successes nearly null and void. An example would be that as I was out touring around the country Tony sent me and some other people to Denver, Colorado saying we were booked into the Denver Hilton and were expected. He told us that all we had to do was go there and we'd be welcomed with open arms. All of this was true.
We were greeted at the front door by the hotel manager and staff, and then escorted to a suite of rooms. We joked with each other for hours saying we were really in the big time now. Later, at about five o-clock in the morning, we were awakened by loud pounding on the door of the suite. We opened it to find a number of hotel security who were there to remove us from the hotel for fraud.
Here's what happened. Tony had telegraphed the Denver Hilton and told them we were coming and to treat us with care, because we were important friends of, Tony signed the telegram Conrad Hilton. Well when the manager of the hotel in Denver, who I believe was a Hilton himself, found out he had been bull-crapped by some Hollywood conman he was a little bit pissed off. So when I say that Tony did a lot of things right, but always managed to screw it up, this is what I was talking about.
These kinds of off the wall scenarios continued throughout my time with Tony and I will discuss some of them throughout these writings. As you may well imagine I had a tough time trying to understand this man, who on the one hand was making my dreams come true while on the other was scaring the crap out of me by doing things like The Denver Hilton fiasco. For a long time he was able to convince me that this stuff was just a mix up and not to let it bother me. My job, he said, was to "concentrate on the music" and he would take care of the business.
All the while Tony was continuing to smoke pot and began having episodes where he said "God was talking to him and telling him to except Jesus as his Lord or die." This too was bewildering to me, because it came out of nowhere and then would vanish as if it hadn't even occurred. Tony used to say, "it was just the pot talking and that he'd just gotten too high." The real trouble for me was, that whether or not it was the pot talking I began to feel more uneasy with Tony's explanations for why these things kept occurring. Looking back on it now I can see that these outbursts were the beginnings of Tony's eventual conversion into some dangerous cult like form of christianity.
go to part 6