Deconstructing Pop Culture

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The Day I Bailed David Crosby Out of Jail

August 30th, 2006 by David Kronemyer · 1 Comment

I recently finished reading two books about Laurel Canyon in the mid-to-late 1960s, which are: Walker, M., Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood (2006); and, Hoskyns, B., Hotel California: The True-life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends (2006). When the events described in the books were happening, I was in high school in San Diego. Every now and then I’d get up to LA to see what was going on, but at best I was a remote bystander, so I can’t claim any first-hand knowledge.

My favorite bands, though, were, and are, The Byrds, Love, the Doors, and their ilk. I think Roger McGuinn is the greatest guitar player in the world, and have modeled a lot of my playing technique on what I’ve learned from him (and John Fahey). It probably’s true that one’s musical tastes inextricably are framed during that period of one’s life. At least, mine were. I can’t really argue that these bands are “better” than those of any other era, though it is curious how a lot of people still listen to them, and like them, today. People who like are in high school and college, thus in the process of developing their own musical aesthetic. It makes me feel sorry for my sister, who was weaned on the weak gruel of Foreigner, Journey, and REO Speedwagon.

Anyway, it became clear on reading these books how integral David Crosby was to the entire scene, mainly as a kind of cultural instigator or propellant, who moved the discourse forward. I’m sure there are times when he was kind of a jerk, he certainly’s depicted as such in both books, and I don’t think it’s something he’d deny.

I later got to know him slightly when he was signed to this record label I also did some work for. The record label was a joke, and both Crosby and I knew it, and each of us knew the other knew it (ergo, Paul Grice’s definition of “meaning”), but we pretty much kept it to ourselves. Among other things, this preserved the illusion for those who were committed to the venture; and, kept both of us earning money in the meanwhile.

As a world-weary, cynical musician, Crosby is an expert at mesmerizing unwary record executives, such as the gentleman who ran this label. Crosby had him absolutely hypnotized, what with tales of his interesting and varied life, screwing Joni Mitchell, every now and then he’d whip out a guitar and play “Guinivere,” he’d smile that crinkly smile of his and get a winsome look in his eyes, I’m surprised that the aforementioned record executive wasn’t on his hands and knees giving him blow jobs (or, maybe, he was).

Crosby knew he commanded this effect, and he deployed it brilliantly, to capture and retain power. And money, and various other contractual prerogatives and accoutrements. Such as, for example, not having one, despite chomping through a sizeable wad of label money. In the meantime, I just rolled my eyes, and Crosby would wag his finger at me, as if to say, “Please don’t let the cat out of the bag!”

So anyway, there came a time when both of us, together with a little entourage of hangers-on, had to fly to where this record company was located, for some long-forgotten and definitely irrelevant purpose. I met Crosby et al. at the airport. We got our tickets, and were going through security.

All of a sudden the little machine you put your luggage through started beeping, and before you could say “I almost cut my hair,” a swarm of security guards were standing around us. Crosby had a gun in his carry-on luggage.

It transpires that, for whatever reason, Crosby has a long-time fascination with guns. Me, I’m basically indifferent (as usual), I learned how to shoot at the ranch in Descanso, and actually was pretty good. However, that was when I was 10 years old, and I haven’t touched ‘em since.

Compounding the amusement value of the situation (and all of this is common knowledge, so I’m not talking out of class), Crosby has a felony record for doing various things that probably involved guns, or drugs, or both. Not a good combination, especially at airport security!

I discerned what was happening pretty quickly. I was next in line, after Crosby. I immediately turned around and asked one of our traveling companions, in the nicest possible voice I could muster that still carried a sense of authority and urgency, if he please would remove the rest of Mr. Crosby’s luggage from the conveyor belt, and return it to his car. Like he’s got one, his people probably chauffeur him around everywhere. I didn’t know what else might be in his luggage (and I never asked later!), but I wasn’t taking any chances. One of the sycophants got it immediately, and took two or three pieces off the lead-in area to the scanner. Crosby later expressed particular admiration for this move on my part.

This was like the biggest day in the history of airport security, and all of the guards were rapturous at finally having something to do. And a real, live celebrity, to boot. They handcuffed Crosby, and whisked him off in a squad car to the airport jail, a curious little facility, one of those buildings you drive by a thousand times and can’t imagine (nor do you care) what’s inside. My last words to Crosby were, “You’re gonna stay cool, no matter what!” Last thing we needed was for Crosby, ever the wise-ass, to start mouthing off. I think he got the picture.

I went back to the parking garage, got my car, and high-tailed it over to the hooscow. They were in the process of booking and photographing him when I arrived, so I sat down and awaited developments. Pretty soon, he was led off to a little cell. As he passed by, we shared an apprising glance. I asked the guard if I could have a word or two with the prisoner. He said “sure,” so there I was, talking with Crosby in his little cell at the airport. “You just stay right here,” I said, like he might entertain the prospect of bustin’ out.

I exchanged a few words with the head sheriff, or whomever he was. “How much is it gonna cost to get him out of here?”, I asked. “Well, son, this is a pretty serious offense, it’s a Federal crime to attempt to take a concealed weapon aboard an aircraft.” “I know, I know,” I replied, slowly shaking my head back and forth, in a manner I hoped not only would ingratiate myself with the jailer, but also convey that neither of us could be responsible for what these whacky musicians might do. “Listen,” I said, “nothing happened. He collects these things, and just happened to have it in his luggage. It was a stupid mistake to put it in his carry-on bag, instead of packing it in his suitcase.” [Side-note to self: avoid packing gun in carry-on luggage.]

Well, after a little more of this, the head honcho ended up agreeing, and released Crosby on his own recognizance. I think he later pled guilty to some lesser offense, maybe urinating in public, or something like that. Needless to say, we missed the flight; but, after all of this excitement, weren’t particularly motivated to try and catch another. So we bailed out of the trip, went out and got dinner, and that was that for that.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it!