"Step on it, Elwood!"
Reed Desplaines worked at the recording studio as a night watchman and as a
general helpmate. An unsophisticated lad, he would regularly meet and greet
studio guests at Boston's Logan Airport at the wheel of the black Cadillac
the names of the people he was to collect dutifully noted on scraps of paper clipped to the overhead visor on
the driver's side of the car only to learn a day or two later that he
had chauffeured and entertained a world-famous rock star. The world-famous rock
stars loved it, thinking that Desplaines was exhibiting a very special sort of
tight-lipped but knowledgeable deference. They would bond powerfully with the
young man, thinking him to be a valuable, irreplaceable, and secret ally.
This was a misunderstanding that the studio went out of
its way to cultivate, and to preserve, without ever notifying Reed of his
importance. Reed's strength was in his innocence, and that innocence had to be
protected at the same time it was occasionally exploited by our high-profile guests.
Take the following story, for example. The events
described took place late one night at Long View Farm, on Reed's night watchman
shift. It was very late at night. The audio control rooms had gone quiet, the guests had
all been put to bed, and he (Reed) was taking a few winks of sleep (very much against
the rules) in front of the living room fireplace. Not for long. A sizzling noise
had jolted him awake, and into a state of full attention.
"Psss... st! Psss...st!!" went the noise.
Reed jumped to his feet, and lurched around the mammoth,
free-standing fireplace into the center of the kitchen. And there it was a
finger hooked around the doorframe of the kitchen door beckoning to him. The
finger hooks and unhooks, finally straightening and pointing itself up towards
the ceiling. Its owner, giggling, disguises his voice to resemble that of
Marlon Brando, playing his role of "Godfather."
"Una..." goes the voice.
Desplaines nods understanding, and wheels about back
towards the center of the kitchen.
"Non," the voice goes again, cracking up
in a renewed spate of giggles.
"Due," the man says, now extending two
fingers up towards the ceiling. "Due!"
Desplaines knows this drill, and addresses the handsome
Long View Bar, which is crafted out of the beams of a fallen barn, and stocked
with imported wines and fine spirits. He knows what to do. The bottle of
Stolichnaya vodka is quickly in his hands, and upended over a water glass. The
glass is filled. A second glass is filled. "Due," Reed
Desplaines says to himself, sotta vocce.
"Due," he says again, less quietly, and
turns back to his friend in the doorway of the kitchen. John Belushi is wreathed
in grins and tousled black hair. He laughs out loud, grabbing the two glasses of
'Stoli' and heading back to his cottage across the pebbled driveway, deftly
stepping over the snoring frame of his male nurse, dietician, and
Essay to be continued.
"There." he said.
It gave me more than that. Ten years later I would find myself writing a monograph
entitled Virtual Reality. It was in that little book that I argued for the right of latter-day
techo-artists to improve upon ground-level sensory perceptions, and to re-present those upgraded percepts
as having been caused by things every bit as real (alas!) as an
out-of-tune rock concert.
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John Belushi: Mark Parenteau Interview, WBCN 12/1978
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