A Private Matter
On April 28, 2005, I attended the Bob Dylan show at
the Beacon Theater in New York City. I sat in the orchestra section—row E, seat
9. Bill Walton, the former basketball great and current television sportscaster
known for his contradictory criticisms of players, was in attendance. The
audience was mostly populated with white men aged 40, 50, 60, and their wives
who were either approaching, in the midst of, or had recently gotten through
menopause. Dylan's demographic is narrower than ever. I'm reluctant (and
somewhat embarrassed) to admit I fit into this demographic with precision,
though I left the wife at home that night.
Throughout the entire performance, audience members were in dispute. Some
members of the audience wanted to stand, others wanted to sit. I suppose the
position a person took depended on the strength, or weakness, of their aging
legs. I stood for the duration of the performance, not only because it improved
my view of the stage, but because many of the songs required it. How can a
person sit through a rock-and-roll performance? Granted, there were a number of
slower, reflective songs performed; sitting would have been acceptable for these
numbers. But a problem larger than personal preference was at work.
If audience members nearer the stage—in the front rows—decided to stand, it
caused the people behind them to stand. And the people in that row caused the
people in the following row to stand, and so forth and so on. This was
necessary, or else views would be obstructed. For the incline of the audience
floor and the dimensions of the theater to benefit all audience members,
audience members had to be either entirely sitting or entirely standing.
Bill Walton was sitting for a period, but it hardly qualified as sitting. His
height prevented him from being comfortable. He had to cram himself in the row,
his backside not even making contact with the seat. He had to buckle his knees
under him, the kneecaps pressed against the seat in front of him, and his
fundament was split into quatrains on the back of his seat. It was an awkward
sight, but a joy to watch such a large man cheer, encourage, and applaud the
performer, regardless of his incommodious seating.
Eventually Walton couldn't take the cramping any further, or so I figured. His
lumbar had to have been in agony. So he stood. I could hear the audience members
behind me (a married couple in sweater-vests and khakis) grumbling about my
obstruction of their view. But if I sat, my view would also be obstructed. It's
survival of the fittest in our age bracket. Besides, if 6'11" Bill Walton wasn't
sitting, neither was I.
Known for his fashion faux pas over the years, Dylan's wardrobe
was subdued on the spring tour. He wore a black suit with white embroidery, a
divining-rod stitch across the shoulders, chest, and torso. Silver studs ran
down his sleek pant legs. A bolo tie was around his neck, fastened with a
sterling silver ornament. The look of country genteel was a far cry from some of
his previous dress choices, which included: Depression-era work shirts, train
engineer's cap, boater's hat, fedora, pinstripes, heavy-duty eyeliner, feathers,
frock coats, polka dots, hooded sweatshirts, studded leather suits, wigs, masks,
cross earrings, Sunday ties, etc.
Dylan's fingernails were long.
Finger-picking guitarists grow their fingernails long to better their precision.
Growing strong nails, often to a serial killer or recluse-like length, is an
aid, much in the way finger dexterity is, to guitar mastery. The strengthening
of the nails improves accuracy when plucking the gauge .16 round steel wire
The length of Dylan's nails was baffling considering he had given up the guitar
in favor of the keyboard in recent years. Dylan claims this was a decision due
to musical demands needing to be met—to achieve a specific overall sound.
Outsiders claim Dylan is suffering from arthritis in his wrists and can no
longer play the guitar without the hindrance and nagging of excruciating pain.
There are no available sources that can confirm the presence of a nail clipper
in Dylan's tour luggage.
Dylan's hygiene has been put on trial before. Aside from his nails, Dylan's
teeth, lips, and hair have been the subject of questioning. Some have said his
teeth are rotted, yellowed from cigarette smoking, and crooked from lack of
braces during his youth. Skeptics have attributed Dylan's reluctance to smile to
poor oral hygiene. Dylan's lips, meanwhile, are notoriously, perpetually
chapped. His hair has been compared to that of Jewish nomads and bandicoot rat
nests. During this April 28th performance, Dylan could be seen
receding into the shadows between songs to puff out his hair. Perhaps it is
thinning (much like Eliot's Prufrock and Dylan's own Englishman in the song
"Dignity"). This hair maintenance became routine until he donned a cream-colored
cowboy hat halfway through the set.
The backing band wore matching Confederate gray suits.
Walton suffered dozens of injuries over the course of his career.
Ailments and damages were among the chief setbacks Walton faced. He was prone to
injury at all levels of play.
At Helix High
School, his alma mater located in La
California, Walton broke his
ankle, leg, and several bones in his foot. He underwent knee surgery.
At UCLA he developed tendonitis in both his knees and severely injured his back.
In just his first two seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Walton broke his
left wrist (twice), dislocated his toes (two of them) and fingers (also two),
hurt his leg in a freak dune buggy accident, and broke an additional toe during
the off-season, stubbing it on a lawn water sprinkler.
The breaking of his navicular bone below his left ankle was a deathblow to his
basketball career and relegated him to sideline towel-waving and moral support.
He became a Celtic cheerleader in the eyes of many.
Overall, Walton's injury report tallied 27 operations, 13 broken noses, and 10
separate occasions of teeth being knocked out (it has been rumored he now has
porcelain veneers). The numbers are staggering. Walton also estimates he jammed
his fingers thousands of times. Many of these ball-to-finger collisions lead to
the deadening, blackening, and falling-off of fingernails.
Walton often ignored doctor's orders, choosing instead to take an alternate,
herbal, holistic approach to medicine and healing. He applied patchouli oil
rather than Bengay onto his injuries, preferring the "free love" relaxant
perfume to the pain relief ointment. He also relied upon incense, hemp, and
Walton endorsed Anacin, the pain reliever and fever reducer. He appeared in
television commercials advertising the product.
George Recile (Dylan's drummer), in his backwards black apple
cap, was malicious with his drumming on "High Water (for Charley Patton)." Dylan
has been known to point his drummers in a certain direction, desirous of a
particular style. Recile showcased cruelty, leaving welts on the skins of his
toms and snare. Dylan sneered the words: "I'm no pig without a wig / I hope you
treat me kind." The band was reckless, but collected. Dylan even hit a few
clunky wrong notes on the keyboard. It was all in good, clean mania.
In punctuation, parentheses are among the most frequently used
brackets. Parentheses contain additional information that, if taken out, would
not alter the sentence. The bracketed information isn't always necessary, but is
typically included for an alternate reason—to serve some other purpose. One
could argue parentheses are the most popular of the brackets, edging out
contenders such as box brackets, braces, and chevrons. Parentheses are certainly
the smoothest—the suavest—of the brackets. An example of parentheses usage would
be: "Bill Walton (a hippie) compiled 1,034 blocks during his NBA career."
Parentheses should be used conservatively, though they sometimes are not
(William Faulkner). Some readers relish the supplemental information parentheses
supply. For others, it acts as an interruption—a rude one, at that. What is
included within parentheses is not always of interest to the reader. Parentheses
are sometimes referred to as "fingernails" (for their shape).
Casual listeners may be put off by Dylan's current singing voice.
Dylan, 63 at the time of the April 28th performance, has the voice of
an elderly man, his vocal cords ravaged from endless touring, faulty care, and
frequent usage. This isn't to say Dylan doesn't make do with what he still has;
in fact, his voice excels.
Dylan sings with the growl of a guttersnipe. To the casual listener, Dylan may
sound as though he's singing through a stoma. The singing may resemble a dry
heave—the driest of dry heaves, a throat aching for air. He belches. The voice
is gruff, raspy, hoarse, and croaky. He growled "Down Along the Cove," sucking
the sap dry from its original tune. The voice is at turns nasal. Some speculate
Dylan purposely cripples himself, feigning a deviated septum. Others say the
deviated septum isn't phony at all, claiming Dylan's cocaine use during the 1975
Rolling Thunder Revue tour is the culprit (a Jansport backpack full of the white
powder was maintained on the tour bus). They say his nose cartilage is damaged,
if not completely turned to dust.
The fact remains that Dylan's singing is masterful. He whines, he grumbles, he
grates, and wails to perfection. He adjusts his voice to fit the song he is
singing, often altering his cadence and inflection to adhere to new song
arrangements. Many of Dylan's most heralded tunes have been rendered
unrecognizable, leaving inattentive audience members puzzled, lost, and, in some
Another noteworthy aspect of Dylan's current performances that may disappoint
casual listeners is his harmonica playing. It no longer sounds as if his mouth
harp has been repeatedly dipped in a tall glass of tap water, but instead in a
vat of hardening cement. Dylan doesn't blow those long, ghostly notes like he
Dylan, stage right, abandons his keyboard, negotiates through cables, and
stumbles forth to center stage. He grips his microphone, wraps the slack of the
cord around his elbow, and holds the microphone against the reeds of his Hohner
Marine Band harmonica (made in Germany). Dylan's showmanship is displayed during
these harmonica solos (the two most memorable solos were on "Señor (Tales of
Yankee Power)" and "I'll Remember You"). He bends his knees to a semi-squat,
extends an arm out with a limp wrist that points in sync with the beat,
resembling a rapper in mannerisms and pose. He appears as a lion tamer—just
replace the microphone and harp with a bullwhip and an upturned chair. The
manner in which Dylan contorts his body leaves him looking like Lee Harvey
Oswald in Robert H. Jackson's (of the Dallas Times-Herald) 1964 Pulitzer
Prize-winning photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Oswald. Dylan is bent and
defenseless, though still composed—like he's handcuffed to Detective Jim
Dylan's breath control isn't what it once was, so he resorts to short huffs into
the harp. These are abbreviated blows rather than drawn-out notes—calculated
sighs, inhales, and exhales like a steam engine's laboring chug. Dylan isn't
confined by a neck brace harmonica holder anymore, but he restrains himself
through his blowing. He is selective with the air he chooses, rationing it
modestly, accordingly, bending notes to the brink of breaking.
Bullet in the belly
Give a blow
Take a blow
Bullet in the belly.
Walton left his seat and started up the aisle towards the
vestibule in the middle of "Blind Willie McTell." I wanted to follow, but
hesitated. The version of "Blind Willie McTell" the band was playing was too
good to abruptly leave. Making for the exits would be sacrilege. The version of
the song included a menacing guitar riff, a riff like a flick to a pressure
point on the body. It was torturous, but inescapable. It was a blistering
rendition. Blistering, as in it could have very likely left skin swollen, filled
with blood, puss, serum, and other fluids. It bulged like a burn; puffed like an
exposure to poison. The song shredded the skin's deep tissues.
But I needed to give chase.
I followed Walton, eventually watching the men's room door shut on his 6'11''
frame. I entered the lavatory. I saw Walton on the far wall. He stood tall over
the urinal, dwarfing the unit. I came up behind him.
"Hey, don't get that flush handle wet, okay?"
He jerked around. He must not have heard me enter—he was startled. I think he
may have forcefully stopped pissing.
"Pardon me?" he garbled.
"I'm a long time fan of yours," I said.
List for 4-28-05
1. "Drifter's Escape"
2. "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)"
3. "Down Along the Cove"
4. "Girl of the North Country"
5. "High Water (For Charley Patton)"
6. "I'll Remember You"
7. "Tangled Up In Blue"
8. "Tough Mama"
9. "Floater (Too Much To Ask)"
10. "Blind Willie McTell"
11. "Honest With Me"
12. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
14. "All Along the Watchtower"
(Three parenthetical song titles)
Walton suffered from a speech impediment for much of his life. He
was a stutterer. Walton is from a long line of speech disordered ancestors. His
grandmother was ailed by Reinke's Edema, her husky voice often mistaken for that
of a man's on the telephone. His uncle's career in vaudeville was cut-short by
Bogart-Bacall syndrome. And his great-grandfather was dysphonic.
When faced with post-game reporters in the team locker room, haranguing him
about his radical political opinions and former protest arrests, Walton would
shy away in shower stalls—pulling his knees to his chin and covering his face
with a towel. He not only feared the bad press his beliefs would set off, but
also the act of simply having to speak to the hostile reporters. Walton was
close to becoming a full-fledged victim of selective mutism.
Walton was cured at the age of 28 thanks to the therapy of a former athlete and
legendary New York-area sportscaster, Marty Glickman. Walton's journey from
stutterer to Emmy award-winning sportscaster is considered a success story. It
has led to a career in motivational speaking (for booking, contact the
Washington Speakers Bureau at 703-684-0555; ask for Michael Menchel, event
(Dylan's management is strict when recruiting band members. They conduct
thorough interviews to ensure the applicants and hopefuls are not fans of Bob
Stu Kimball - lead guitar
Donnie Herron - electric mandolin, violin, banjo, pedal steel
Tony Garnier - bass
George Recile - drums
Denny Freeman - guitar
Elana Fremerman, violinist and fiddler, was absent from the fray—the
donnybrook—that was the band's raucous performance. Fremerman was a staple at
the spring tour shows until Buffalo, when her appearances started to become
sporadic. She was present in Buffalo, missed two days later in Boston, and then
continued this pattern of irregularity until she ultimately vanished by the time
the New York shows took place.
Fremerman's absence could be cheaply attributed to Dylan's chauvinism (Dylan has
faced accusations of sexism for certain lyrics. See: "Is Your Love In Vain?"
from the 1978 album, Street Legal, where Dylan sings: "Can you cook and
sew, make flowers grow / Do you understand my pain?." See also: the chorus of
"Just Like A Woman" at The Concert For
August 1st, 1971; he revised the lyric to include: "She bakes just like a
woman." See also: "Sugar Baby", from 2001's Love and Theft: "There ain't
no limit to the amount of trouble women bring").
Reports have surfaced that Fremerman's marriage (she has since dropped her
maiden name in favor of her spouse's more mundane "James") and subsequent
pregnancy led her to leave the tour. This is in direct opposition to another
possibility, one that proposes she was a subject of Dylan's womanizing. Dylan's
affairs with female band members (especially backup singers) are well-documented
(see: Clydie King, Carole Childs, Carolyn Dennis).
Apparently, James (formerly "Fremerman") is now playing gypsy music across the
Bible Belt and Grain Belt.
Robert Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald's older brother, visited him
in the Dallas jail.
Robert: "Lee, what in the Sam Hill is going on?"
Lee: "I don't know."
Robert: "Look, the police have your pistol, they have your rifle, and you've
been charged with the shooting of the President and a police officer, and you
tell me you don't know?"
Lee: "Okay, okay. I'm a fan of his. He's a handsome Catholic."
Robert: "A handsome Catholic?"
Lee: "Did I stutter?"
Later, Oswald ran into reporters in the hallway of the police station.
Reporter #1: "Did you shoot the President?"
Oswald: "I have not been accused of that. In fact, I didn't even know about it
until you asked me that question."
Reporter #1: "So you have nothing to say about the assassination of the
Oswald: "I was a fan of his. He was a handsome C-C-Ca-Catholic.
Reporter #1: "A handsome Catholic?"
Oswald: "Did I stutter?"
Reporter #1: "Yeah. You did a little there."
Later still, another brush with the press took place.
Reporter #2: "Did you shoot the President?"
Oswald: "I didn't shoot anyone."
Reporter #2: "Then why are you in police custody?"
Oswald: "They're taking me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet
Union. I'm only a patsy!"
Reporter #2: "So you have nothing to say about the assassination of the
Oswald: "I was a fan of his. He was a handsome Catholic."
Reporter #2: "A handsome Catholic?"
Oswald: "Did I stutter?"
Reporter #2: "No."
—Walton, a long time Grateful Dead fan, has attended 657 shows and counting. He
sat in on drums during a performance in Egypt. The band has honored him and
dubbed him "Grateful Red."
—While on the Portland Trailblazers (1974-79), Walton carried his gym clothes to
the arena and training facilities in an onion bag. He also wore a headband and
had a Donald Barthelme beard during these years. The beard was orange.
—Bill's full name is: William Theodore Walton III.
—Walton used acid (lysergic acid diethylamide) in the 1960's and preferred to
ingest tabs from blotter paper than to snack on gelatin squares containing the
—Walton has an affinity for tie-dye clothing, but thinks hippies triumphing
flowers are silly.
—Walton wears a size 17 shoe.
—His second marriage is to Lori Matsuoka. She is of either Japanese or Hawaiian
—A grass aficionado, Walton uses Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Fertilizer with 2%
—Walton won the Naismith College Player of the Year Award three years in a row.
—Walton often criticizes basketball centers and power forwards for shooting
lay-ups rather than dunking, urging the athletes to "Throw it down!"
Walton shook what must have been a bladder's worth of urine from
his phallus. From my position in the bathroom, I couldn't see the size of his
penis. I wouldn't be able to verify the correlation often made between height,
shoe size, basketball players, and endowment. I wasn't looking. I couldn't catch
a glimpse. Not that I would want to see his penis for anything other than
statistical reasons, of course. Walton zipped his pants and turned around.
"Do you know what JFK's last words were?" I asked.
He ignored my question and headed to the sink.
"Excuse, Mr. Walton, Bill. Do you know what his last words were?"
"What were they?"
"You don't know?"
"You don't want to guess?"
"His last words were: 'I'm going to need more cordozone, gentlemen.'"
"That's Irish bull. Hogwash."
"Okay, okay. The truth is there are conflicting accounts. One account describes
somebody saying to him: 'Mr. President, you can't say that Dallas doesn't love
you.' And JFK said in response: 'That's obvious.' Another account said his last
words were: 'Oh, God. I'm hit!' So would you say the true last words were the
former or the latter?"
"I'd go with the latter." He turned the hot water faucet on.
"You probably never use a ladder, Mr. Walton. Am I right, Bill?"
"You're so tall. You can just clean your gutters from the ground—reaching up."
For musicians who can't read traditional sheet music, tablature
was developed. Tablature, or simply "tab," is an easier notation to grasp,
working especially well with stringed instruments. Tablature contains fret
diagrams and symbols indicating which fingers go on which strings.
On their way to winning the 1973 NCAA Basketball Championship,
the UCLA Bruins (led by Walton) beat four competing teams. The NCAA Men's
Division 1 Basketball Championship ("March Madness") is based on a bracket
system. UCLA had a bye in the first round. In the second round of the
tournament, UCLA defeated Arizona
UCLA defeated San Francisco
in the West Regional, Indiana in the first game of the Final Four, and Memphis
in the Championship game. UCLA "broke" the bracket.
The 1973 NCAA Championship was held in St. Louis, Missouri. In the game, Walton
made 21 of 22 shots, scoring 44 points. This is widely-considered the greatest
single performance in Final Four history. He made his coach, John Wooden, proud.
Oswald on the slab. In the morgue. On the autopsy table. A
divining-rod stitch across the shoulders, chest, and torso. Sewn and stapled up.
Stitches stretching from armpits to navel. (In an uncredited photograph.)
Halfway through Dylan's set, the back curtain drew open,
revealing a starry sky backdrop. The set design was vaudevillian. The stage
lights were turned down and the stars were illuminated, glimmering. It was a
tawdry touch. The backdrop didn't match the song Dylan broke into: "Tangled Up
In Blue." The gaudy stars may have foreshadowed a maudlin rendition, but this
wasn't the case. The sojourn through time and space, through romances and
kinships, that is "Tangled Up In Blue," banished any cheap sentimentality the
audience might have expected. Eyes welled like hammocks in a summer
The original Boston garden had hardwood parquet floors. The
parquet floor consisted of 247 panels. The floor had many dead spots. With
instruction from coach Red Auerbach, the Celtic players learned the exact
locations of the dead spots. If the basketball was dribbled on a dead spot, it
wouldn't bounce—the ball would thud. The capacity of the Garden was 14,890.
Functioning as an exposition hall, John F. Kennedy spoke at the Garden in 1960.
According to legend, a leprechaun hangs around the opposing team's basket,
knocking their shots from the hoop.
The Beacon Theater has marble floors in the lobby. The theater was designed in
an Art Deco style by Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager. It seats 2,800.
The front corridor of the theater is covered in murals of elephants, camels, and
traders. The Beacon Theater hasn't had any leprechauns or presidents.
Walton turned the cold water faucet on as the water got too hot.
He pressed the button on the soap dispenser and caught the pink, antibacterial
soap (or so I presume it was antibacterial, judging from its color) in his
opposite palm. It was a large palm. It would probably take a gypsy fortune
teller an entire month's time to read his palm, even in the comforts of her own
covered wagon. At the time, I wasn't sure if Walton believed in chiromancy.
"Can I examine your simian crease, Bill?"
"My what?" He looked at me in the mirror, a baffled expression on his long,
fair-skinned face. I still don't know whether or not Walton trusts palm-reading.
"You wore the number 32 at UCLA," I pointed out.
"Right." He continued to lather his hands in the sink. A number of bubbles
rolled off his wrists.
"And you also wore 32 on the Trailblazers, on the Clippers, and then number 5 on
"I think the number on your jersey should've been C2020H25N3O."
He rinsed his hands, turned off the faucets, and flung the drops from his hands.
"That's the formula for LSD."
"I know what it is," he asserted.
"Hey, hey, hey. I didn't know you were a chemistry major. I thought you were a
botany and agriculture major."
"You should've had that number—C2020H25N3O.
I bet they wouldn't let you, though. Because of the subscripts, right?"
He ignored me again. He looked at himself in the mirror and gleamed his huge,
rectangular, pearly-white teeth.
"Seeing as how you dipped into psychedelics in your heyday, did the
hallucinations ever cause any confusion for you in the key? Seeing trails ever
result in three-second violations? I bet all those lines on the court and the
lines in your mind collided in all sorts of zigzag patterns, huh?"
A.J. Weberman's resume stands as the following: pest, stalker,
garbage picker, invader of privacy, leading Dylanologist, radical, leftist
political journalist (claimed the JFK assassination was the CIA staging a coup
d'etat as a result of Kennedy's handling of Castro), LSD advocate (Walton and
Weberman once shared some—they tore a tab), leader of the Rock Liberation Front,
and the creator of the Dylan Word Concordance, a system wherein Dylan's lyrics
are studied for hidden meanings ("chicken" means "heroin," "toothbrush" means
"guitar"). Weberman also pioneered Garbology. Garbology is the study of a
subject's trash. The ethics by which a garbologist works have been put to
debate. A garbologist such as Weberman rummages through their subject's trash
bins in search of scrap evidence to support theories and increase their personal
knowledge. Garbologists tend to be fans of the obsessive variety. Weberman
rummaged through Dylan's trash at his 94 MacDougal Street townhouse home in the
during the early 1970's. Dylan once tried to combat Weberman's refuse scouring
by placing dog poop in the trash. Dylan smeared the pet feces over several of
the garbage bags and twist ties. The effort proved futile.
Weberman felt Dylan owed society something more than the domestic, subdued music
he was making at the time. Weberman felt Dylan was obligated to ignite the
people through kinetic art. Dylan had long claimed he was no savior.
Weberman's pestering and bothering developed into harassment. Weberman organized
marches onto Dylan's front sidewalk demanding he become active in the music
scene again—active, as in politically. Weberman also pestered Dylan with
telephone calls. These telephone calls were recorded (by Weberman), eventually
leaked, reproduced, and subsequently immortalized. The audio of the telephone
conversations has become a storied artifact in the Dylan canon, sought after by
fans of higher degrees, inspiring folklore.
The Weberman Tapes, as they came to be called, emerged in 1977 on the
reputable Folkways Records label, release #FB 5322 (Broadside #12). The document
was pulled from the shelves due to lawsuit threats. The bootleg was released
again in 1988.
The original bootleg was titled Bob Dylan vs. A.J. Weberman, subtitled
"The Historic Confrontation." The front cover is a black and white photograph of
Dylan, repeated five times in a row. The Dylan in the photograph is zombie-like,
with his arms outstretched ahead of him, wanting to strangle and possibly feast
on living human flesh (Weberman flesh). The 1988 bootleg was titled Robert
Zimmerman vs. A.J. Weberman, subtitled "Grudge Match!" The cover of this
second pressing has headshot illustrations of Dylan and Weberman, the latter
with a pig snout. Between the two men is a Star of David with a rotary telephone
at its center. The back cover had a photograph of a man in red and black flannel
wielding a chainsaw above his head. The man is wearing a latex pig mask and is
charging down a burnt sienna hallway.
The Dylan/Weberman saga came to a head when Dylan jumped Weberman and beat the
living shit out of him on the street. Apparently, Dylan had had enough. No
charges were pressed.
Since the physical altercation, Weberman has kept his distance from Dylan and
his home, but has continued with his theories, speculations, and conspiracies.
Weberman has claimed certain lyrics from the 1970 Dylan album, New Morning,
when played in reverse, say: "Please don't expose me." This has never been
verified in a courtroom or elsewhere. Weberman has claimed Dylan is dying of
AIDS. Dylan was hospitalized on May 25th 1997, ill with
histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is a fungus that often strikes AIDS patients.
This was evidence enough for Weberman. He sought lyric references as proof.
Dylan's people said he caught histoplasmosis from a chicken in Arkansas. This
statement confirmed Weberman's suspicions ("chicken" means "heroin"). Weberman
concluded Dylan contracted the AIDS virus from sharing infected heroin needles
during the 1960's.
During an NBA on NBC telecast in early 1993, Walton claimed his
shot-blocking capabilities were the primary defense to opponent scoring while he
was on the Boston Celtics, not a mythological, conniving leprechaun sitting atop
the rim of the basket. Walton's fellow color commentator, Steve "Snapper" Jones,
questioned this claim. He said: "Weren't your knees shot by the time you played
on the Celtics, Bill?"
I'd agreed not to hassle Dylan anymore, but I was a publicity-hungry
motherfucker... I went to MacDougal Street, and Dylan's wife comes out and
starts screaming about me going through the garbage. Dylan said if I ever fucked
with his wife, he'd beat the shit out of me. A couple of days later, I'm on
Elizabeth Street and someone jumps me, starts punching me.
"I turn around and it's like—Dylan. I'm thinking, 'Can you believe this? I'm
getting the crap beat out of me by Bob Dylan!' I said, 'Hey, man, how you doin'?'
But he keeps knocking my head against the sidewalk. He's little, but he's
strong. He works out. I wouldn't fight back, you know, because I knew I was
wrong. He gets up, rips off my 'Free Bob Dylan' button and walks away. Never
says a word.
"The Bowery bums were coming over, asking, 'How much he get?' Like I got
rolled... I guess you got to hand it to Dylan, coming over himself, not sending
some fucking lawyer. That was the last time I ever saw him, except once with one
of his kids, maybe Jakob, and he said, 'A.J. is so ashamed of his Jewishness, he
got a nose job,' which was true—at least in the fact that I got a nose job...
—from a Mark Jacobson
article, "Tangled Up In Bob," Rolling Stone magazine #RS 866,
"Say, were your parents tall?"
"What business is this of yours, if you don't mind me asking?" I wondered
whether Walton preferred to dry his hands using the blower or paper towels.
Turned out he preferred paper towels. He grabbed some out of the box mounted on
the wall and began patting his hands dry—patting them as if they were priceless
"I don't mind you asking," I said. "They were tall, huh? Probably as tall as
those Greek goddesses on each side of the proscenium arch. Over by the stage,
"I'm not blind. I saw the statues."
Walton yanked more paper towels out and rubbed his hands. I could hear the
coarse paper towels grinding against his freckled skin.
"So what was the shot you missed?"
"In the 1973 championship game. You made 21 out of 22 shots. Your remember that,
"What was the shot you missed? A jumper? I don't imagine you'd miss a lay-up, a
"Really now." He was flustered. "I don't remember."
Walton crumpled up the paper towels and shot them into the waste basket. They
went in. Swish. Well, a waste basket doesn't have a nylon net, so it didn't
swish. It didn't make much of a sound at all. But the crumpled paper towel went
in the waste basket without hitting the rim of it.
Walton made for the door, but I shuffled into his path.
"Who is the more important Hibbing, Minnesota native: Kevin McHale or Dylan?"
Walton nearly pushed me, but resisted. I was much shorter than him. He could
have toppled right over me if I wasn't careful. His hands were still damp too. I
was wary of that. After all, he had just urinated. But I have to admit, there
was a part of me that wanted his germs to come in contact with my skin. Sort of
a souvenir, you could say.
"Listen," he said. "Listen, listen to me now. Don't take your familiarity with
my career for granted. Don't take advantage of it. Your opinion is null. Here
you are accosting me in the men's room..."
"I'm not accusing you of anything," I interrupted.
"Accosting! Accosting. You're accosting me."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I heard accusing. You mumbled a bit."
[I]t's too bad it's just my songs, 'cause I don't know if there's enough
material in my songs to sustain someone who is really out to do a big job. You
understand what I mean? I mean a fellow like [Weberman] would be better off
writing about Tolstoy, or Dostoyevsky, or Freud...doing a really big analysis of
somebody who has countless volumes of writings. But here's me, just a few
records out. Somebody devoting so much time to those records when there's such a
wealth of material that hasn't even been heard or read; that escapes me.
[Andrew Marchand of theNew York Post interviewed Walton.
The interview, "5 Questions For Bill Walton," was printed in the April 29th
2005 issue of the New York Post. The following are questions #4 and #5.]
Q: Do you think you have cut down on the hyperbole or overwhelming statements
A: I would hope that I am different and better every show. I am a firm believer
that consistency and predictability are one of the last bastions of the
unimaginative. I love working with Mike Breen, Mike Tirico, and Snapper Jones.
That's what I loved as a basketball player. That's what stimulated me for 15
years—my relationships with my teammates.
Q: You must be proud of what you have accomplished.
A: Learning how to speak, it is the greatest achievement of my life. Marty
Glickman was the man who taught me how to speak 25 years ago. Now they are
searching the world to find someone to teach me how to stop talking.
Dylan ended the set with "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." The
revamped melody emerged slowly—the new structure didn't become apparent until
the second verse. The son and one of the repeating opening couplet
were sung higher and quickly, like Dylan was a strangled chicken. He rushed the
remainder of the verses with stammering abbreviations, then he supplied ample
time and space between each separate hard in the chorus, prior to issuing
forth a scarring, rumbling hard and a long, drawn-out rain's. He
then rushed the final a-gonna fall. For clarity, a verse and chorus was
executed as such:
And it's a hard............it's a hard............it's a hard............it's a
It's a HARDDD raaaaiiiinnnn's a-gonnafall.
Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music
Dylan filled the wordless spaces of the song with campy Pierrot
movements. He glanced to his right, jerking his neck violently, and quickly
turned the toe of his shoe outward. They were brief flashes of what some would
call showboating. But Dylan's tongue was so deep in his cheek he could've caused
Excerpts from Transcription of Dylan/Weberman Phone
Conversation (January 6th, 9th 1971)
[Weberman was reading an article he had written. The article concerned Dylan.
Weberman wanted Dylan's approval. Dylan was speaking on a wall-mounted, ebony,
D: "I don't want to say I don't have my thing together, man. I got my thing
W: "So why don't you do the thing?"
D: "Well, I want to get back to that statement first."
D: "I don't want to say that I don't have my thing together."
D: "See, you, you can't make something else up, but, uh, don't leave that in
W: "What should I say then?"
D: "Let's see. What's the statement? [pause] How bout, uh—let's see—how bout..."
W: "You said you don't have your thing together. You said, you know, you're not
D: "Oh yeah. Right. I'm not ready to go play concerts, man. That's it."
W: "All right. 'I'm not ready.'"
D: "That's not the same thing as saying..."
W: "All right."
D: ."..I don't have my thing together."
W: "'I'm not ready to go play concerts.'"
D: "'I'm not about to...'"
W: "'I'm not about to go play concerts.' All right."
D: "'...at this time.'"
W: "Right. I don't blame you, man. You know, you, uh, you know, you don't want
to be part of the scene. You know, uh, all kinds of terrible things could happen
to you in that hour, man. You know."
D: "No, man—like, what for? Why should I go play for twenty thousand people,
W: "It would be more than twenty thousand."
D: "Hey, I've been there before."
W: "You make people happy, man."
D: "I've been there before, I..."
W: "You make people happy."
D: ."..I've done it before."
W: "You set the whole trend in rock, man."
D: "I did."
W: "If you started doing things like that—"
D: "You should've been at the Isle of Wight, man. I'd just like to see how much
you'd still be talking..."
W: "The Isle of Wight..."
D: ."..if you were at the Isle of Wight."
W: ."..was a capitalist rip-off, man. I'm not talking about that kind of scene.
D: "Were you..."
D: ."..at Woodstock? [pause] Were you at Woodstock?"
W: "I wasn't at Woodstock, man."
D: "Well, then you never..."
W: "I'm not talking about Woodstock."
D: ."..seen those kind of things."
W: "I'm not talking about a free concert, man. I'm not talking about that. I'm
talking about a benefit, you dig? At Madison
Garden, or something like that, man.
D: "Go, go on. Let's finish the article."
D: "Man, I'm gonna do an article on you, man. I think I'm gonna write a song
about you too."
W: "Well, I could use the publicity."
D: "Yeah, well, that's one reason why I wouldn't, man."
D: "But, uh, I got a good song, man, if I ever want to do one."
W: "What's it called?"
D: "It's called 'Pig'."
W: "I'm a pig, eh?"
W: "Aw, bullshit. I'm a..."
D: "Yeah, man."
W: ."..pig, man."
D: "Yeah, man."
W: "You're the one who's a pig."
D: "Oh, no. Not at all."
W: "Oh, yeah, man."
D: "Not at all. [laugh] Man, not at all. I don't think I'm gonna write it,
though. Just because of that publicity thing. I don't dig that—at all. But, I
got the song, man."
W: "You're killing me."
D: "I'll sing it for you. [pause] Well, I don't have it finished, actually."
W: "I'm a pig, man?"
D: "Hey, man..."
W: "I don't have a million fucking dollars, man."
D: "Wait, what does that have to do with it?"
W: "'Cause you have a million fucking dollars, man. See, you ain't, you ain't
that much better than the cat who..."
W: ."..has nothing, man. You dig it? The cat who's walking around the Bowery,
man. It's true. Like, you know."
D: [whisper] "Whaaat?"
W: "In some ways you're better, but you ain't a million dollars better worth.
You know what I mean? Like, in times like this, like, you know, when you have a
million dollars in this society, man. It means that other people don't have it,
you know. Don't you dig what I mean? Nobody should have, like, a million
dollars, man. Nobody should be allowed to accumulate that much wealth, you know,
that much surplus wealth, when, uh, people, uh, when there are other people
around that don't have shit. You know, and not 'cause of their fucking skin
color, man. Not because of, uh, of anything else. 'Cause they're despised,
'cause they're not like straights. Like hate anyone who's different than them in
any kind of a way. Right?"
D: "Yeah, man. I think you're over—you're overlooking..."
W: "No! I'm telling you, man!"
D: ."..a lot, man. You're overlooking a lot."
W: "I've had friends, man, I've had friends, that got a lot of money together,
you know, and, uh, I told them, man, you should put some of this fucking money
back in the community—most decently—but don't fucking, uh, you know, they didn't
have peanuts compared to you, man. You know, and I told them to go fuck
themselves if they're gonna fucking rip off, uh, the, you know, people not
putting anything back. But you're just a capitalist—that's all, man. 'Cept,
instead of producing, uh, you know, instead of producing, uh, uh, cars, or guns,
you produce, uh, you know—records, music."
D: "Hey man, that's, uh, that's something, though."
W: "It's something, man. But lately, it's nothing."
W: "But not only do you keep the money, but you...the lyrics themselves have no
kind of, uh, redeeming value, you're, they're just—in fact, they're reactionary,
you know. You're just, uh, every, all the shit is hitting the fucking fan, and
you're singing: Hope it—looks like nothin' but rain."
D: "That's a good song, man."
W: "What are you?—a weatherman?"
D: "A what?"
W: "A weatherman."
D: "Do you mind?"
W: [singing] "Looks like a-nothin but rain."
W: "But I wanted, uh—if I want to fucking, uh..."
D: "Is your tape recorder still on, man? Is it still running?"
D: "Oh, it didn't breakdown?"
W: "Uh, no, no. It's a good one."
D: "Yeah, well, I ain't gonna call you no more, man—just because of that. I
mean, I don't trust ya."
W: "Why? Don't tell me you didn't tape record my conversation."
D: "No, man. What do I want to do that for?"
D: "You're a pig, man."
W: "I'm a pig? You're the fucking pig, man. I fight!"
D: "Yeah, you fight to go through my garbage."
I barred the door. I didn't want to let him escape. Opportunities
only come around so often.
"Don't you think when a former player chooses to become a color commentator or
analyst for a television network some of the mythic standing that player has
vanishes?" I asked. He scratched at his head. "Do you find it hard to sleep at
night knowing you've switched sides? Do you ever hesitate before asking a player
a question during a pre- or post-game interview? Ever hesitate before making a
comment on a play a player makes? Ever think back to your playing days? Have
your injuries and the premature end of your career left you bitter? Are you
bitter? Do you like chicory? How about centaury? I bet you like centaury. Do you
like endive? Olives? Radicchio? Dandelion root coffee? Do you still smoke
marijuana? Would you rather me refer to it as pot? The legalization of
pot—should it happen? Do you wash your own dishes at home or does your wife do
it? Is your wife Japanese or Hawaiian? Are you of Irish descent? If so, did that
impact your decision to play for the Celtics? Do you believe in leprechauns? Do
you always wash your hands after you pee? Are you guilty? Do you ever feel
guilt? Are you any better than me? We're missing Dylan. But before I let you go,
can you define 'bastion' for me?"
I let Walton pass. He didn't say anything else to me. Not even a goodbye. He
didn't answer any of my questions either. That was kind of rude.
The encore performances were equally brilliant. "Mississippi"
was well-received and "All Along the Watchtower" was punk through-and-through.
Dylan was howling, letting his voice go the distance with the knowledge he
wouldn't need to use it again—to strain it again—for another 22 hours. Once the
reverberations died down, the band lined up at center stage. They didn't bow,
wave, nod, or deliver any gestures of graciousness. Their gratitude was
expressed in their stoicism (I guess). They had just been on a voluntary ride
through hell. They'd taken the risk. They stood straight; Dylan slightly keeled.
As the curtains closed, Dylan stared out into the audience and made eye contact
with me. He might not have seen me, though. His vision has been the subject of
speculation. Some say Dylan's sight has diminished and the entire audience, even
when giving him a standing ovation with rowdy applause, is a big blur to him.