Thursday, January 15, 2009

15 Years Gone

This is the third memorial post of the week. That's three too many.

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Harry Nilsson's passing. Which is a complete drag on so many levels, not the least being that he had just finished vocals on an album that we will probably never hear. Wouldn't one more Harry Nilsson album be an incredible treat?

Okay, enough of the sadness. Harry was a celebratory kind of guy. Here's a photo I took of him on February 15, 1979 (well, it was probably around 3am by the time I shot it so that means it was the 16th) celebrating at the Voormann's - a few days later both families were on their way to Malta for the filming of Popeye.

Harry Nilsson
6/15/41 - 1/15/94

Below is a reprint of one of my favorite stories that happened while I was madly trying to finish writing Everybody I Shot is Dead to meet my print deadline. I originally posted it on June 19, 2007. It's definitely my best Harry Nilsson story.

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

As this blog is my witness, yesterday I was writing the text to go with my Harry Nilsson pictures.It was a tough write because there was a lot to say in very little space, but I finished it. And it started me wondering what really happened to that last album he had finished the vocal tracks on just days before he passed away. I thought about trying to get in touch with my friend who I knew Harry through, but then I was thinking, there's really no time to do that. And besides, I was pretty happy with how the text finally came out. Then last night Harry was in one of my dreams but I've been so tired lately, I'm not remembering the details of my dreams when I wake up. But he was definitely present. I know, I know, it's not uncommon to dream about someone when you've just been focused on them for seven hours.

Today I had appointments with both companies that are doing the scans for the book. While I was driving there I got a phone call from one of my movie clients asking something about a previous job I'd done for her. A couple of seconds into the call she said my voice was garbled. We hung up and she called me back. It was still garbled, even though I could hear her perfectly. Then I got another call and the same thing happened. Okay, I need to get my cell phone fixed.

After all my meetings over the hill, I dropped by Sprint - the store near my house where I knew they had while-you-wait repair service. I go in only to find out they closed the repair counter down because there wasn't enough traffic. They gave me a piece of paper with listings of a bunch of repair places and circled the second one of the list. I don't know why they picked the second one when the first one was as close, or closer.

I drove the 3 miles East on Ventura Blvd and pulled into the parking area that was overflowing with cars from from the local gym, thinking I really need to go to my gym. Fortunately, there was a reserved spot open in front of the cell phone repair shop. (Of course there was...I have a parking fairy, but that's another story). I walk in the shop and notice two guys sitting behind the service counter. The guy on the right asks what he can do for me before I even reach the counter. The other guy was online and talking to a guy leaning on the side of the counter. I tell the guy helping me that the mic is not working on my phone. He asks to see it and immediately informs me that he probably doesn't have the part, but he'll look it up.

How am I doing at dragging this story out? Pretty good, eh?

So, while he's tending to that, the other guy turns to me and asks if I know how to spell the name of the restaurant "Pasche." I gave it a shot - P-a-s-c-h-e - but they didn't think that was right and my guy was ready for me with my prognosis so I turned back to him. He said they didn't have the part and couldn't fix my phone. Shit. But the store in Encino could probably fix it since they were a corporate Sprint, whereas these guys were independent and weren't provided with a lot of older (2 years) parts. I then go out to my car to get my list to confirm with him which store it is.

When I come back in the other guy happily reports that they found the restaurant. It's P-a-c-e. "Oh, Pace," I say. Yeah, but it's called Pashay. Does it have an accent on the e, I ask? He shows me on the screen. Yes. And then calls the restaurant. While my guy is calling the other Sprint place to make sure they have the part, I overhear that last part of the other guy making a reservation. I thought he was doing it for the other customer. I wasn't paying much attention until, out of the corner of my ear, I heard him spell N-i-l-s-s-o-n and say it was for four.

I glanced at him and when he hung up the phone I made some smartass comment like, "So, I'm invited to dinner?" as the spelling of the name sunk in. How odd, I thought, as he joked back, "Sure, dinner's at 7:30." Then I mumbled, "You don't happen to know Harry. do you?" "Excuse me?" "Sorry, I just heard you spell Nilsson. Just wondered if you knew Harry."

"I'M HIS SON."

"No shit." As I looked at him a little closer. Of course. He looked a lot like him.

"Yup. Harry Nilsson is my dad."

I immediately went into my "Oh my God, you're not going to believe this but I'm doing a book and your dad is in it..." spiel. I don't think he believed me at first, until I started filling in the details with evidence that I did actually know his dad. And then he had lots of questions, as did I...like "whatever happened to the album he was working on when he died?"

He was as freaked out as I was that I had just been writing about Harry yesterday. We talked about a bunch of stuff and I gave him a postcard on the book. We exchanged information and I told him I'd be in touch so he could see the pictures. And that I'd give his family a print when I got them done and then I left...

...TOTALLY FREAKED OUT.

I mean what are the chances that he'd spell his name on the phone when I happened to be standing there? Hell, what are the chances that Harry Nilsson's son would be behind the counter at a cell phone store I was sent to to get my phone fixed?

Especially since I'd run into the woman who is directing my movie at the scanners earlier in the day. And we had a long talk while she looked at the mock-up of my book. She also had some good news about our movie and we discussed how great things were working out for both of us. I made a comment about how cool it was that things and people were just connecting out of the blue for us and that it was a sign that we were going in the right direction.

So, I'm guessing you think the story is over now, right?

It's not.

I got in my car and as I was leaving the parking lot a song came on the radio.

It was One by Three Dog Night. My all-time favorite Three Dog Night song. They don't play it much on the radio anymore.

Do you know who wrote One?

Harry Nilsson.

And what could be weirder than that?

Someone called my cell phone as soon as I got home. The caller could hear me just fine. Then someone else called. That caller could hear me just fine. And then someone else, and someone else. There's nothing wrong with my phone.

Hi, Harry. Thanks for visiting. Feel free to stop by any time.


Here's Harry's version of "One" (I wish someone had video of him singing this live):



And live in the studio recording A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night in 1973:



Sweet.

3 comments:

Steve B said...

He sure wrote and sang some good songs! Pity we'll never hear what he was working on. I always loved that whole Point thing..There is a video of him singing a part of One at the end of this video...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dswVK5si45M

The Comebackgirl said...

I actually would love to buy this book "everybody i shot is dead"..when i click on the buy the book link it doesnt work..

Chesher Cat said...

Steve - Couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for the link...I'd seen that before but seeing it again brought a smile to my face - the song construction lesson is classic!

Comebackgirl - Wow, thanks for pointing out my error...duh me. It's fixed now and takes you to a book blurb and a link to do the paypal purchase thing. BTW, you are responsible for my half day of procrastination as I've found myself lost in your awesome blog.