By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
But last week, during her adorable curtsy, Bonnie continued sinking and collapsed. She had to be carted offstage by the Drifters, on deck.
Bonnie insisted on her own limo for the three-week tour. "Only Eddie Fisher gets a limo," Ray Hayden decreed.
"So I have to ride the bus -- with the musicians," she complains with disgust. "Some of them told me that they had extra jobs -- like being a plumber. Ugh!"
Yesterday I received this paranoid call: "Honey, you better get up there," warns one of Bonnie's only two friends, a gay set designer. "Protect your woman if you love her."
"Of course I love her. From what?"
Hayden has the nostalgia circuit practically sewn up. He can't crack the movies or break a new act into disco radio. He weaves in and out of his tours in a limousine, while his "cavalcade of stars" rides coach.
"Ray will forcibly compromise her virtue."
"That's what Ray Hayden does. He books fading teen-queens on these shitty Vaudeville bus tours. When they're exhausted, depressed, and disoriented by the third week, he offers his limo, slips 'em champagne spiked with elephant tranquilizer or something. And baby, that's when they get discoed. They're never sure what happened. He's raped a few aging Beach Blanket Bingo bimbos and a Mouseketeer or two. He's a nostalgia rapist."
"A nostalgia rapist? I'll kill the bastard."
Although Bonnie is only 30, she claims -- a far cry from prehistoric, but 10 years older than me -- she is now labeled an Oldies Act. Her heyday of hits peaked when she was l7. That "oldies" tag riles her, so please don't say that word; she'll pitch a fit, and I'll be the one who has to sweep up the broken dishes. Being 30 is apparently so grotesque, it's turning her gray.
I grilled her this afternoon, as she made up for the show. "Have you been in Hayden's limo?"
"Did he do anything unusual?"
"Had me autograph an album."
"The Santa cover."
I shudder over the connotation of a wink from a nostalgia rapist. "Baby, I don't think you should get in there again. He's a bad-news motherfucker."
"At least he has class," snips Bonnie, chugging a cheap bottle of sherry upside down over her bee-stung lips as she struts around like a venomous Harlem street hooker. "The tour bus is da pits, babe, and Ray, well, he invited me to Philly tomorrow -- in that nice, warm limo."
"We'll ride the bus."
"What! Baby, my love's goin' down da toilet with you. Tellin' you to your teeth."
Bonnie was all borscht-belt charm during our first few months. After the Rock 'n' Roll Is Here to Stay concert at Madison Square Garden, she felt like the greatest toy in the world. A hoarse-voiced, 98-pound kewpie doll. My own little historical showpiece, spinning round like a giddy ballerina. I defended her questionable honor amongst balding, middle-aged doo-wop singers on the bill that night. Especially the aging Justice Brothers, our "blue-eyed soul brothers," who weren't even real brothers. Their behavior was less than righteous, as they rubbed up against each of her legs, like dogs. Bonnie introduced me, and they looked the other way when shaking hands with her lowly escort, a cock blocker, some young ponce, Mr. Nobody, in charge of fetching luggage and costumes. But it was my responsibility to take care of this toy, to hand-feed it milk and cookies before bed, to put it in its nightie and tuck it in.
She spent a whole night teaching me how to wink. "It's da sexiest thing a guy can do -- if done right." Her own wink was devastating. Then, with utter seriousness, she presented her nurse's diploma and took my blood pressure.
One night, Bonnie sat upon my lap and poleaxed me with Beatles yarns until dawn. How the Bonettes were invited up to their hotel suite in the Plaza. How Lennon tried to feel her up on the night of their first Ed Sullivan Show, seen by 73 million, the defining moment of rock music history.
"You denied John Lennon one measly feel of your tit?"
"He was a fuckin' musician."
For some reason, the Bonettes were aloof to musicians, frustrating the mightiest of rock stars. They swaggered like wet dreams onstage, but Bonnie, the leader and the youngest, was only 17 at the height of their fame. Mama protected the girls' virtue, Mama shooed away the Harlem musicians -- whom she considered as a whole class to be shit.
The Bonettes granted the British groups platonic dates, for publicity. Which was more than they ever did for any Motown group. "We never went out with black guys," Bonnie said. The Bonettes spurned the most clean-cut, church-going gospel singers -- who came abuzzin' round their beehives.
"Baby, we were a sensation downtown at the Peppermint Lounge. Got our 8x10 publicity shots from the Kriegsmann studio, where all da Broadway stars went." She handed me the famous photo. "That was da pose by which all girl groups were measured."