1997: Cafe Largo
To the magnificent strains of "If You Want To Know Who We Are", from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan, my band made their way to the stage, one at a time. The crowd cheered each dazzling member.
Then, on cue, I would exit the kitchen that faced into the house where Largo owner, Flanagan, waited for me with a long-stemmed lighter. I would pause as he smiled at me and said, "Hello, Darkness, my old friend" his nickname for me. Smiling back, I would bend towards the flame, and take a deep pull. Then I would saunter out into the crowd to open the show with a slow, pulsating 'Jazz Crowd'.
That was me, in the 90's:Smoking.Smoking. SMOKING through the whole set. Ah! Cigs! Beautiful cigarettes! They were such a part of my life in those days. * Where others swore they'd quit the day packs went up to five bucks, I was different. I quit once I hit five packs a day.
That's right. Five packs. 100 cigs a day.
At home, I wrote with cigs constantly smoldering into my piano. I sang with cigs. I played piano with them between my fingers.
So that was a picture of me: songs, ratty hair, sixties suits, Cuban heels, and cigs, cigs, cigs! That's why it seemed like such a perfect idea to leave complimentary cigarette packs on each of the tables at Largo! What better way to express my appreciation to my audience than to offer them each twenty free coffin nails?
With that, I asked fine artist and cartoonist, Pat Tierney, to do a highly romanticized version of me smoking, based on some classic UK cigarette packs. **
From Cigarette Pack Art by Chris Mullen
Pat then did a mock-up that allowed the art work to be effectively wrapped around an existing pack of smokes, printing two per page. He included an effete invitation for the back!
I was excited. The idea was to buy cigarette cartons and spend a few hours gluing the artwork around the individual packs. Leave them on the tables.
Then, poof ! The laws changed. No more cigarettes in clubs.
There went that idea, up in smoke.
*I have long since quit. And, kids, don't start smoking because blah, blah, blah,-and just what the fuck are you doing on my website? Scram!~
**If my musical ever succeeded, I was going to take Pat's caricature to a plastic surgeon and say "See? Like this!"