Me, Mick, and THE ROLLING STONES

Dec 22, 2010 by

Me, Mick, and THE ROLLING STONES

It was sometime in the spring or early summer of 1966. I was News Director for KAFY Radio in Bakersfield and doing special reports for Television station KBAK in Bakersfield.

As News Director I was tasked with all sorts of strange duties by the general manager of KAFY, Mike Thomas. Mike and I had moved in the same radio circles for years, he in sales and me as a disc jockey and finally news reporter. When Mike came up with a promotional idea for building the station’s listenership it was usually me who carried out his outrageous schemes.

I made the mistake of telling him that I knew the promoter who was bringing the Rolling Stones to California for a series of live concerts. The promoter, Pasquale Bravo, owner of a Mexican restaurant on Oxnard Boulevard in Oxnard, California had a nephew, Mondo Moreno, who was into show business and when he told his uncle, Qualie that they could bring the Stones in to California for six concerts, the restauranteur went bonkers. He was a very rich man and all that was needed to seal the agreement was that Qualie had to put up $180,000 in cash as a guarantee against the box office take. The Stones agents were adamant that they be guaranteed $30,000 per concert. In 1966 that was a big chunk of dough, but Qualie had the cash in the office of the agent the next day and they signed the deal. The larger cities in California were already booked so Mondo and Senor Bravo began to look at medium sized cities with concert facilities big enough to put in a minimum of 5000 fans. They easily booked the National Orange Show Exhibit Auditorium in San Bernardino, the Fresno Convention Center, the Sacramento Convention Center and a facility in Stockton for concerts.

When Mike heard that I knew the promoters he talked me into calling them to explore a joint sponsorship of concerts in the Bakersfield Convention Center. I got them together and went back to reporting the news. A few days later Mike told me they had agreed on a deal for the Stones to come to Bakersfield but the Convention Center only held 2500 people so he got them to agree to do two concerts (something the stones had never done before and never did again.) Mike said, “You’re the one that got us into this deal John so I want you to fly to San Bernardino and stay with them through their concert there and then bring them to Bakersfield,” as if they might get lost or something. I called “Qualie” and he was tickled pink that I was going to be involved. He said,”I’ll have an escort for you to stay backstage during their concert and then you can ride to the airport with them after their show.”

On the day of the concert in San Berdoo, I flew down in a private plane Mike arranged for me. My escort met me at the airport and whisked me backstage of the Orange Show Concert Hall. “Mondo” came backstage and introduced me to all of the members of the band. He also told me I would be riding in the second limousine with Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman would ride in the lead limo. Keith spent a few minutes with me telling me to be ready to run when they finished the concert. He said, “John, when you see us throw our instruments to the floor, run for the limo. Don’t worry about anything but getting in that car. We’ll be along right behind you and you’ll understand why we end our shows this way.” I watched from the wings and sure enough as the last notes rolled over the screaming little girls pushing up against the front of the stage, with security guards pulling some out of the crowd so they wouldn’t be crushed to death, the Stones threw their instruments to the floor and almost passed me en-route to the limos.

Once we were safely (I say safely with tongue in cheek) in the huge automobiles the drivers started to move out of the area. Suddenly a horde of fans came running around the corner of the building and there was no escape. Screaming youngsters banged on the windows, climbed on the hoods and roofs of the limos, all the while screaming Mick’s name. Security guards showed up and began to throw the invaders off the cars and we began to make some headway out of the driveway and onto the side road that led to the freeway.

As we went out of the venue’s back lot, I saw Mondo and Qualie carrying huge plastic garbage bags over their shoulders en-route to their car. I thought, “That’s strange they have to clean up themselves.” I later learned that the bags were full of money. Qualie never told me just how much they made on the tour, but he got a sly smile on his face and said, “Johnny, let’s just say it made us a ton.”

We finally broke out of the crowd of fans, but waiting at the roadway was a string of cars full of yelling kids, hanging out of the windows of their cars wanting to touch the limos. They followed us onto the freeway en-route to Ontario Airport where the band’s chartered DC-3 waited for them. The ride on the freeway was perhaps even scarier than the crowd at the venue. Drivers darted in and out of the regular traffic trying to keep up with us and then they would get ahead and slow down to a crawl, all of the time screaming for Mick to show himself to them.

A couple of California Highway Patrol cruisers came on the scene and we finally got through the gates of Ontario Airport and drove up next to the DC-3. Somehow, a car full of girls had gotten through too, and as we loaded onto the plane two of the giggling little twerps got on board. They flew all the way to Bakersfield with us, spending time in the back of the plane with Mick and Brian and Bill.

Charlie and Keith and I sat forward in the plane and had a wonderful conversation. The girls were not abused in any way but Mick finally tired of their giggling and sent them to forward seats for the rest of the flight. But they had their day with Mick Jagger and enough conversation with the very talented singer to last them a lifetime. I even took some snapshots of them with Mick and Brian.

When we landed at Bakersfield, it was a relief to see that there were no crowds of screaming fans lining the runway. There was only one station wagon full of screamers. My wife was driving and my kids, who were privy to the landing time because I was on the plane too, cajoled my wife into taking them to the airport to meet their heroes.

Mike had two Chrysler sedans waiting for the band but before they could get loaded into the cars my kids came running up to them, autograph paper in hand. I sheepishly introduced them to the Stones and the entire band was extremely nice to the kids and my wife, who was also sheepish. We had assured the band that there would be no demonstrations at the airport, so when I apologized to Mick for the interruption he said, “Hell, John, that was no demonstration, that was your family, we are happy to meet them.”

We took them to the Lion’s Inn Hotel (motel) and Restaurant where Mike had booked rooms for them. Donna had followed us there too so the kids all lounged around the rooms with the Stones for the rest of the afternoon. The concerts were to be the next day so after dinner they were left alone to rest up for what I warned them would be a raucous time in the Convention Center.

Mike and I met them the next morning and along with Qualie and Mondo, we all went to the venue for the first concert which was scheduled for 2:00 in the afternoon. One of the benefits of being a member of my family was that you got to come backstage and mingle with Mick and Charlie and Keith and Brian et al. My kids were in seventh heaven. My daughter, Vicki, nearly fainted when Mick gave her a hug and allowed our photographer to take a picture of the two of them together.

The concerts went off without a hitch and we escorted the band to the airport after the evening show and saw them off to Fresno, their next stop. Qualie and Mondo right behind with with bigger suitcases and bags in which to carry the proceeds. I never learned what the station’s take was from our partnering with the Mexican Gentleman from Oxnard, but from a standpoint of stature, KAFY zoomed to number one in the market and that made Mike a very happy manager. I went back to reporting the news and life returned pretty much to normal. Except for one little last item.

A few weeks after the concerts, a guy shows up at my front door. He had a British accent and he wanted to know if I still had the pictures I had taken on the plane and in San Bernardino. He said, “I’m starting a new music magazine called the “Rolling Stone” and I would love to have those shots for my initial edition.”

I said, You’re welcome to use them as long as you promise to return them to me and give me credit in the story.” You guessed it, I never got the film back and he credited the photos to himself” That was the last time I gave anyone anything that I photographed or wrote until I hooked up with Moments Count Journal. They promised to make me a very rich man in no time at “IIIIIIII’mmmm waiting!”

Editors note: Talk to Uncle Qualie and Mondo!