It was the Summer after graduation. And the night before I would be placed on an airplane heading for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The Army had put me and several other young men up in rooms at the Airport Park Hotel in Inglewood, California. We were all to be shipped out to Basic training in the morning. I joined the military along with three of my closes friends from high school. The day after we graduated we wanted to do something special so we would always remember those carefree days of our youth. We had chosen tattoos. All four of us packed into my ultra clean Vega wagon and drove out to the Sunset strip. We walked into Hollywood tattoo and were ready to mark our friendship with permanent ink. We had to decide what to get. What was the one thing that connected us all and that defined who we were and what we all hoped to become. It was simple, The Swan Song. Led Zeppelin was the one staple in all of our lives. The soundtrack of our life. We spent all those drunken nights on the Colorado river listening to Physical Graffiti. All those make out sessions in the back seat of our cars while Led Zeppelin 2 played through the 8 track. Sneaking bottles of Jack into the midnight showing of The Song Remains The Same on oh so many Friday nights. Those endless Summer days on the beach watching the sun set over the water while “Going to California” played through the ghetto blaster. Those nights we snuck out our bedroom windows to cram into a car and cruise Van Ness Boulevard while Communication Breakdown screamed from the tape deck of the Pioneer. We cried, loved, laughed, fought and lost our minds in clouds of smoke to the strings on ZoSo’s guitar.
So the night before I was to give up my freedom, the four of us picked up a case of Schaefer cans and started popping them open one by one. We walked around the hotel and decided to walk across the street to the Los Angeles Forum parking lot. The A.R.M.S. benefit tour was making a stop there that night. It was around 1 in the afternoon and we were well under way. We ended up friending this guy we met in the lot who worked as a janitor for the Forum. We shared some beers with him, told him we were off to the Army the next day and showed him our tattoos and he found a way to get us inside the building where the musicians were doing their sound check.
We sat in seats rather far from the stage so not to get noticed. We drank our beer and watched as Jeff Beck tuned up. After a bit I got up to go find a rest room. Most of the ones were closed, being cleaned. I walked around in circles until I found one I could use. As I exited the bathroom I headed over to the water fountain for a drink. Standing there leaning over the fountain was the man himself. It was as if a bright light shinned down from the Heavens, doves were let loose all around me, I could hear the angels sing as he rose and turn around to face me. Jimmy Page, I almost expected his eyes to turn red. He looked right at me, no one else around, and said. “How ya doin”. I froze. Unable to speak or even moved. I tried with all my might but it was as if I was embedded in concrete. He gave me a strange look and walked right by me and out of sight. Just then another man came out from behind the backstage area and I said, “Hey that was Jimmy Page” and the man looked right at me and said, “No fucking shit, I should get his autograph then”. It wasn’t until the initial shock wore off that I realized the man I just spoke to was Ron Wood.
Needless to say I spent the next 40 minutes breaking off the top of the water fountain. My friends back at the seats never did believe me. But I sat there still in shock as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton walked out on the stage and practiced their instrumental version of Stairway to Heaven.
My youth was complete. I was ready for manhood. At least I thought so anyway.
The top of that fountain is still on display in my bar among the other souvenirs I have collected along the way.