'Kill him again, he's not dead yet'

Memories of Ronnie Lane, 1946-1997

About three months later, I unexpectedly received a handwritten response. Ronnie thanked me for my support, and we began a regular correspondence, with Ronnie even calling me one night at 3 a.m. just to see if I was sleeping soundly--the Lane humor.

It was soon announced that Lane and his friends (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, for starters) would begin a four-city tour to raise money for Ronnie's cause, beginning in Dallas on November 18, 1983. I freaked. My obscure Brit cult hero was beating a path to my door. Sure enough, Ronnie called me the day before the show and invited me to lunch at his Las Colinas hotel.

When he at last limped from the elevator, I was shocked not by his frailty, but by his remarkably elfin qualities. He was like a human flower with a broken stem. We sat at a long table and were soon joined by Bill Wyman and Jeff Beck. They spent the next hour arguing about an obscure jam session at Steve Winwood's house in 1962: "Ya were too there," Wyman insisted to Beck. "I've got it on me home computah!" They also made fun of Elton John. Ronnie got the biggest laugh with "He's a nice bloke...when he's asleep."

I walked Ronnie up to his room and presented him with an American flag. I told him I'd always wanted to meet Charlie Watts, so he sent me to the room next door. Charlie answered, totally nude and totally asleep. A month later, Ronnie and all his friends were on the cover of Rolling Stone, fully clothed. After the tour's conclusion, I mailed President Ronald Reagan a letter about the tour, informing him of Ronnie's efforts to defeat his disease. A month later, Lane called me to say he'd received a personal letter from the President of the United States. To celebrate his new VIP status, he'd snorted a line of coke off of it; the Lane humor again.

Ronnie and I crossed paths again when he relocated to Houston in late '84. Using tour proceeds of $1 million, he opened an American branch of ARMS and hired a wealthy Houston lawyer and fellow MS sufferer, Mae Nacol, to manage its affairs. In February 1985, I visited Ronnie at his Houston apartment and ended up moving in with him a week later, signing on as his personal assistant. We spent our days swimming at the Y, going to physical therapy, shopping, and eating steaks at Dirty's Steakhouse. Through it all, Lane's humor remained intact. By that time, the disease had robbed Ronnie of any sphincter control--requiring frequent clean-ups--he would break the tension by moaning in mock supplication, "Kill 'im again, 'e's not dead yet!"

Occasionally we would entertain out-of-town guests. I remember watching Ronnie and Ian McLagan sing "Ooh La La"--my favorite Faces song--at the kitchen table. Later that night, the three of us crawled drunkenly to our bedrooms, Ronnie being the only one with a good excuse for not walking upright.

Mae Nacol was a controlling person who had her own ideas about ARMS and Ronnie; after six months of working 15-hour days without a break and repeated suggestions from Nacol that I leave town, I resigned my position as personal assistant and went to work for Warner Bros. Records in Burbank. Less than one year later, ARMS America was closed down by an injunction from the Attorney General for the State of Texas amid lawsuits and allegations of embezzlement and mismanagement. Afterward, Lane relocated to Austin. He quickly became immersed in the local music scene and often played with Alejandro Escovedo, Bobby Keys, and Joe Ely. He also married an admirer, a woman named Susan Gallegos.

I visited Ronnie numerous times while he lived in Austin, and we talked often on the phone. In 1990, my country band, The Ne'er Do Wells, played a few songs during open mike at Austin's Cannibal Club. Ronnie was there heckling us and even came onstage to sing "Ooh La La." As long as I knew him, he received the same phone call every April 1: birthday wishes from Jimmy Page. All of these people who go on about Page being some evil, part-time Satanist (his business, not ours) can kiss my ass; he was always the first and last to make sure Ronnie felt loved and remembered.

Inexplicably, Susan Lane, a Native American, seemed to find Ronnie's "white rock star friends" ever more to blame for their financial problems; if Ronnie's rich friends really cared, the Lanes wouldn't be living in a modest rent house. She also became extremely protective, shielding Ronnie from many of the people who wanted to keep in touch. In 1993, I tried to visit Ronnie in Austin and was told by Susan that he was getting ready to see a band that night and didn't have time for company. It was three in the afternoon. One month after Ronnie's best friend, Ian McLagan, moved to Austin, Susan took Ronnie, unannounced, to live in Trinidad, Colorado, and left no forwarding address. All of us who cared for Ronnie tried--and failed--to contact him. Ronnie always called his friends; it was one of his few pleasures. Suddenly, the phone calls stopped. None of us ever heard from Ronnie again.

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