ME AND THE ROLLING STONES

In my June 8 print column I vowed not to miss the Robert Plant concert at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino. It would be the Second Biggest Mistake of My Life, I said. It would be almost as bad, I said, as the Biggest Mistake of My Life, which was missing the Rolling Stones in San Bernardino, way back when. It’s a story I’ve told before, as seen here in a column of mine first published in November 2005. Please remember, as you read it, that it’s a six-year-old column. The Rolling Stones are not really appearing “tonight” at the Hollywood Bowl. But they were in 2005, when this column first appeared:

The British Invasion of the I.E.

   I’m heading to the Hollywood Bowl tonight to see the Rolling
Stones.

   They probably won’t remember me.

   I sure remember them, though, and how they managed to gain a
prominent, permanent place in the pop history of San
Bernardino.

   On the night of June 5, 1964, the Stones began their
first-ever tour of the United States with a performance at San
Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium.

   That’s right, their American debut took place right here in
the Inland Empire. Local promoter Bob Lewis had tried gamely,
but unsuccessfully, to book the Beatles for a San Bernardino
date. His negotiations were with a New York booking agency,
which offered him the Stones instead. He accepted the
consolation prize.

   I vividly remember the day of the concert. San Bernardino
radio station KMEN, sponsor of the event, hyped the Stones all
afternoon as “British bad boys” and “the ugliest band in
England.”

   Tickets for the concert, which co-starred the Byrds, were
$5. As it turned out, a less-than-capacity crowd of 3,500 fans
showed up at the Swing, but they were enthusiastic. They rushed
the stage four times as the Stones performed a set of 10 songs,
including the local audience favorite, “Route 66.”

   For me personally, the most amazing thing about the concert,
as I look back on it, is that I wasn’t there. True, I was only
15 at the time, and I had no wheels. Still, I should have been
in that crowd.

   Let me tell you why, and it’s a secret about me that few
know. I was president of the official Loma Linda chapter of the
Rolling Stones Fan Club, probably one of the first chapters in
America.

   I had bought the debut Stones album, “England’s Newest Hit
Makers The Rolling Stones,” the day it came out in April 1964,
two months prior to the band’s appearance in San Bernardino.

   I had responded immediately to an offer, included with the
album, to start a fan club chapter. Soon I received, from
England, a kit that included stickers, posters, flyers and a
proclamation duly authorizing me to form a chapter.

   Which I did. I called it the Loma Linda chapter because
that’s where my family lived at the time. And I named myself
president.

   I must confess, the chapter never amounted to much. I didn’t
do anything with the cool stuff I had received, except plaster
it all over my room. I didn’t muster any recruits, or schedule
any meetings or activities.

   In fact, I not only was the president, I was the sole
member.

   And that’s not the only goofy thing I ever did when it comes
to the Rolling Stones. Let me reveal another little-known
secret about myself.

   The Stones returned three times to Swing Auditorium, in
October 1964, May 1965 and July 1966. And I didn’t make it to
any of those shows, either.

   On one occasion, though, I came close.

   My date and I were torn one night, in May 1965, between
going to the Swing to check out the Stones, or going to see the
new James Bond movie, “Thunderball.”

   Bizarrely, we chose “Thunderball.”

   How stupid was that? We could have seen “Thunderball” any
time. How many chances were we going to get to see the Rolling
Stones in San Bernardino?

   For me, none, as it turned out.

   I still look back on that as one of the dumbest decisions I
ever made.

   Hopefully, I’m making up for it tonight. The Stones are on
their umpteenth American tour, and I’m catching them during
their Southern California swing. They were at Angel Stadium on
Friday night, and they’re at Hollywood Bowl tonight and
Tuesday. Later in the week, on Friday, they perform at Petco
Park in San Diego.

   It’s too bad tickets aren’t $5, like in the old days.

   But you know, a lot of things haven’t changed a bit in 41
years.

   Those guys are still the ugliest band in England.

   And to the best of my knowledge, having never officially
relinquished my post, I still am the president of the Loma
Linda chapter of the Rolling Stones Fan Club.