Friday, July 3, 2009

21 Jump-Over-The-Counter Street

In Bob Greene's book "Billion Dollar Baby," about his time as a Plimptonian member of Alice Cooper's band, participating as a journalist, there is a passage about the band members meeting some kids from Akron, Ohio. Now, you have to remember, this is all set in 1974...just a few short years past the Summer of Love ('67) and Mac and Katie Kissoon's immortal recording of "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep ('71.) Different times, for sure.

But in this scene, as the local scrabble mobs around Cooper's troupers, the kids are telling the band that they just know they're going to take all the money they earn from record sales, concert grosses, foreign royalties, and the like, and invest it all in peaceful alternatives so that all men can learn to live like brothers, and put an end to war, and then we can like paint rainbows on our faces and dance in the moonlight...after electing Donovan as Secretary of Defense.

This Donovan, not that Donovan...that one plays on offense.

Anyway, the band members (including Mike Bruce,the guitarist best remembered today for a) not being allowed to plug in his guitar during a concert, so maladroit was he as a guitarist and b) being described by Greene as "being built like a cigarette machine") all acted like yeah, man, that was the plan; all this loot was going right to building a great big sky full of love, peace and happiness for all mankind. But, pointed out the writer, the kids would have been crushed to find out that the band's income went directly to the purchase of apartment complexes and shopping centers.

So much for the dream of the big butterfly dropping petals of love across the nation.

I was thinking of all this idealism because I see the hype is already kicking in for the new Johnny Depp movie in which he portrays John Dillinger, the noted gangster/bank robber/murderer from the 1930s. Depp, who lives in France (!), posits that Dillinger was like a Robin Hood, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. I've been studying Dillinger since I was a kid, and none of this is true. Neither is that other rumor that always goes around, for that matter.

John Dillinger did have a certain flair for the flamboyant public gesture. He knew there was something catchy about vaulting over the counter into the teller's area to scoop up the loot. He would gladly pose with hicktown sheriffs, acting all buddy-buddy. And there were stories about him leaving his overcoat draped over the shoulders of a woman he had, moments before, robbed.

But there is no reason to believe that Dillinger ran around handing out the money he had just stolen from banks in the Midwest to the families of starving farmers and out-of-work accountants. He much preferred lavishing the bucks on ill-bred strumpets such as Billie Frechette, a hatcheck girl who accompanied him almost to the grave, and the purchase of expensive automobiles.

The Alice Cooper Band and John Dillinger were in the businesses they were in for the money, for themselves. Just like any other profit-making enterprise, be it Joe's Corner Deli or General Motors.

Well, you know what I mean.

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