- Book Title: Baby’s On Fire
- Author: A.F. Henley
- Publisher: Less Than Three Press, LLC (May 6, 2015)
- Book Length: 204 pages
- Genre: Gay, Romance
- Reviewed by: Diane
- Posting Date: May 10, 2015
Welcome once again to the Baby’s on Fire blog tour and giveaway! We’ve been taking a virtual peek at some of the rumors, gossips, and events that came along with the new rock culture of the late sixties and early seventies. While the Beatles have been heralded as the group that paved the way for the free-spirited advancements of rock, there is one band that’s been given the not-so-quite-as-joyous title of marking the end to an era of more innocent times. To quote Ralph J. Gleason, in an Esquire magazine article, “If the name ‘Woodstock’ has come to denote the flowering of one phase of the youth culture, ‘Altamont’ has come to mean the end of it.”
Who is this notorious band? And what did they do to garner such an ominous rank?
** Please note that none of these posts are indicative of the main characters or the instances in my novel Baby’s on Fire. They do, however, give a very clear indication of what the MCs would have been experiencing both time-wise and with the reactions/mindset of the people around them.
Author Guest Post: The Rolling Stones and the Stabbing Death of Meredith Hunter
There was an estimated three hundred thousand people that attended the Altamont Speedway Free Festival. It was held on Saturday, December 6, 1969, at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. Folks were calling it “Woodstock West,” filmmakers were on site, and the venue was brimming with talent: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Rolling Stones. Unfortunately, peace, love and brotherhood seemed to have been left behind at the original Woodstock, and violence increased exponentially as the event carried on. People were injured, vehicles were stolen, and the property damage was incredible. It got so bad in fact, that the Grateful Dead decided not to play, and cancelled their appearance before their scheduled performance.
Rolling Stone magazine wrote, in a narrative on the event, that: “That’s the way things went at Altamont—so badly that the Grateful Dead, prime organizers and movers of the festival, didn’t even get to play.” It was, according to the article, “rock and roll’s all-time worst day, December 6th, a day when everything went perfectly wrong.” There were four births reported during the festival, and two deaths – one, a drowning in an irrigation canal, and the second, the now famous stabbing death of Meredith Hunter.
By the time the Rolling Stones got on stage, the crowd was crazy. Mick Jagger, who had arrived by helicopter and only been on the ground for moments before he was struck in the head by a concertgoer, was obviously agitated and seemingly intimidated by the activity. He appealed to the crowd for peace, more than once, and when a fight broke out during their third song, Sympathy for the Devil, the Stones were forced to stop the set and let Security restore order. The Security for the event? … The Hells Angels.
It was when the Stones continued to play that one of the more drug-ridden guests got in a scuffle with some of the Hells Angels, and then attempted to get on stage. Meredith Hunter, only eighteen at the time, was “… crazy, he was on drugs, and … had murderous intent,” reports Rock Scully (one of the managers of the Grateful Dead), who was at the top of the stage. “There was no doubt in my mind that he intended to do terrible harm to Mick or somebody in the Rolling Stones, or somebody on that stage.”
Hunter was punched, chased away, and then returned to the stage. Although Hunter’s girlfriend, Patty Bredahoft, attempted to drag Hunter away and begged him to calm down, witnesses claim that Hunter was furious, irrational, and so high that he could barely walk. Hunter drew a revolver from out of his jacket, was spotted by Hells Angel Alan Passaro, and Passaro quickly drew a knife, charged Hunter and stabbed Hunter twice, killing him.
The incident was caught on film by Eric Saarinen, who was on stage taking pictures of the crowd, and also by Baird Bryant, who had climbed up on a bus. Saarinen wasn’t even aware he’d managed to get the footage until it was screened two week later. While there are only two stabs visible in the footage, Passaro is reported to have stabbed Hunter in the upper back five times. Witnesses say that Hunter was also stomped on by several members of the H.A. while he lay on the ground.
Hunter’s autopsy confirmed that Hunter was on methamphetamine when he died, and though Passaro was arrested and tried for murder, he was acquitted by a jury, who concluded the Passaro had acted in self-defence.
So, why didn’t the Rolling Stones stop the concert? Why didn’t they do anything about the stabbing? Mick Jagger answered those questions during film editing of the event. Although they were aware of the fight, Jagger says they weren’t aware of the stabbing. “You couldn’t see anything, it was just another scuffle.” Apparently, Jagger felt that if they abandoned the stage, the crowd would have gone even crazier than they already were.
Was it just a crazy guy acting out a ridiculous impulse? Had Hunter previously considered his intentions and come prepared? Did the choice of security detail make things worse? Did the availability of drugs at the event end up being a major cause for the violence that day? And could the Rolling Stones have done anything to stop it if they’d tried?
Those are all questions we might not ever have the answers to. But they’re definitely questions that have not only changed how management handles concert preparations today, but also changed how a society viewed the music industry as a whole.
My huge thanks to Gay.Guy.Reading and Friends (GGR-Review) for having me today, and a special thanks to you, my friends, for joining me. 😀
Until next time!
If, like me, you have more than a passing acquaintance with this strange, wild and freewheeling time, then you are going to be in awe of the author’s ability to put you center stage in the time we all dub the age of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
Toggling between twenty year intervals, Baby’s on Fire tells the story of twenty-year-old Gerry Faun, a starstruck young man caught up in events that have him living his dreams. He’s naïve and earnest, a good boy who can’t come clean about who and what he is, though his sister knows but keeps his secret close. When he’s drawn backstage, into Maxx Starlight’s orbit, it doesn’t take long for him to become the darling, the boy toy boyfriend. Co-opted, and nearly corrupted by the “loose morals” of the day, he’s found out and kicked to the curb by a father who refuses to accept him.
The object of Gerry’s affection is Mark Devon, a British sensation with no impulse control and a phalanx of toadies who convince him he’s the end all and be all of the pop rock universe. Mark as Maxx is mercurial, an idol to adoring fans, buying the hype and living life unfiltered and divorced from reality.
The forty-one-year-old Gerry is still that young man, burdened with age and memories and a persistent, niggling realization he never completely grew up or grew away from the idol he fell desperately in love with. When Fate wreaks havoc on his life, opening a door behind which lurks the man of his dreams, Gerry gets a second chance. But not all second chances work out the way you expect.
This is a marvelous character study, replete with mind-bending authentic details of how it felt to grow up in the 70’s, and how it feels to reach a time in your life when there’s more behind than ahead, when keeping your head above water should be enough, but never is.
I loved Baby’s on Fire, unreservedly, and give it my highest recommendation.
The Book Description:
In 1974 Gerry Faun gets the break of his life—an opportunity to meet gorgeous, openly bisexual, glam-rock idol Mark Devon. Mark’s world is new, exciting, and Gerry finally gets to explore the side of his sexuality that he’s kept hidden. But the press is everywhere, and when Gerry’s father gets wind of what’s going on behind his back, Gerry ends up on the street. Mark offers to let Gerry come along with the tour and Gerry jumps at the chance. The tour is a never-ending party—and the start of what seems to be a perfect relationship for him and Mark. Until Mark’s manager decides Gerry isn’t worth the trouble he’s stirring up.
In 1994 Gerry is finally coming out of some tough times—he has a job that pays the bills, a car that hasn’t quite broken down, and a small rental in Jersey City. After a decade of barely getting by, if life was as good as it was going to get, Gerry figures he’ll manage just fine. It would be easier if he wasn’t still haunted by the man the media won’t let him forget, the man who stole his heart and then broke it… the man that’s shown up pleading for a second chance.