By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Bonnie's older sister and cousin flanked her, palms up in a come-hither gesture. Dueling beehives of voluptuous, teased black hair. They wore tight white bridesmaid skirts, slit above the knee, and Kleenex-stuffed bras. Three light-skinned, racially ambiguous, tough-lookin' Harlem chicks. "Fans thought we were Puerto Rican Polynesians. That was our gimmick, with Oriental eyeliner." Street fights between black and Hispanic gangs broke out, each claiming the Bonettes as their own ethnic group.
"My father, wherever the hell he is, was white and Irish. My mother, if you must know, was partly black -- but mostly Comanche Indian."
In bed, Bonnie blurts out that she loves me more than she ever loved her ex-husband. But the distant Tycoon of Teen sometimes calls in the wee hours. By the time Bonnie hangs up, she's catatonic. This trance is something Nadia the psychologist is working to break. He can sabotage any record deal she has going, making sure she remains a Golden Oldie.
I'd threaten to go after him, but for the fact that he pays her $750 a week in alimony and is raising their 8-year-old daughter. She chokes up whenever the kid is mentioned. Custody of Bonnie's child was awarded to a notoriously eccentric, reclusive nut. So she felt the court was saying -- in its own ironclad, heartbreaking little way -- that she was a Bad Mommy.
Bill Hector put his golden touch on the teenage Bonettes, producing a series of historically innovative smash records. He made Bonnie lead singer, and wrote lovingly childish nonsense lyrics like "Da Do Bon Bon" for background harmonies.
Then he slowly weaned possession of her from Mama, and married her. The last time her mother came from Harlem to visit, Bill led her into the catacombs of their Bel Air mansion. There he proudly presented an empty glass mausoleum he had built in Bonnie's honor, to enshrine her should she die before him. Mama was mortified.
Bill ended Bonnie's performing and recording career and kept her sequestered on the estate. Barbed wire and an electrified chain-link fence went up around the place.
"But he made me a star," she often repeated. This, she felt, excused anything, earned him a 10-year license to abuse.
No men, especially dogs in the music biz, were allowed near her. "Once we met Elvis in Vegas. He eyed me over real good. Then, my man orders me up to our room, alone, for the rest of the trip, says he's busy with business. But he had no business with Elvis; he knew the only business Elvis wanted was with me."
The only male she had contact with was their masseur. "I had a secret orgasm during each massage. If William knew, he'd have had the guy shot.
"When he left for London, we would sleep together over the phone -- not talking, but keeping the phone line open on our pillows all night, so he could hear me breathe. Once he paid off a doctor to put my leg in a cast, when nothin' was wrong, so I had to stay in a wheelchair for weeks. His jealousy got crazier as he became impotent. By then he had me in my little pixie Santa getup, crawling along the floor on a dog leash, makin' me bark on command."
No one would work with Hector, a pariah in the very business in which he was lionized. "William pulled a gun on Lennon, in the men's room at The Record Plant, and fired into his toilet stall, fed up that John was stoned. After that, John was finished with him, finally realized what a sick motherfucker he was. William always wanted to work with the Beatles. But he realized deep down, no matter what he did, he could never be as great as them. That's why Brian Wilson went crazy too. Anyway, John escorted me down to court, for protection, the day the divorce papers got signed."
"Lennon, the bodyguard and attorney?"
"He took me there in a cab."
"Maybe Lennon could write a song for your comeback album."
"That would be nice." She smiled, redoing her eyebrow pencil in a pocket mirror. "Could you call him?"
His number was not even in her phone book. Nobody's number was in her phone book. Her sister and cousin -- the original Bonettes -- were married, fat, raising kids, long out of the business. They never called. A million cousins never called. Bonnie had practically no friends, except for the gay set designer and this svengali shrink, Nadia.
But I worry about Nadia, the "psychologist." Is a psychologist licensed to dispense medicine? This one does. I accompanied Bonnie to Nadia's "office." The walls were covered with Bonettes photos, album covers, and mementos. Everything but a psychology diploma.
"She's a fan. Damn, baby, you just jealous 'cause you ain't got fans."
"And you ain't got friends. Just fans."
One night she gets that lost-her-mind-onstage look in her eyes, spouting disco lyrics: "'Stayin' alive, stayin' alive, uh, uh, uh.' John Travolta is a definite fox!"
"He looks like a monkey."
"He's a fuckin' star; he's on the cover of the Enquirer. And that's where it's at, babe. When they follow you just to report what clothes you wearin'. You could be my 'Mystery Man.' 'Cause nobody knows who you are. Mr. Nobody."