My First Time With Dylan (Celebrities Talks About Bob Dylan) – Part -3

Peter Fonda, actor 
“Screening Easy Rider”

“We had taken the film [‘Easy Rider’] to New York City [in 1969] to show to the main executives at Columbia and to Bob Dylan. Dylan arrived for the screening with two Black Panthers and his manager, Fat Albert Grossman, and we rolled the film. When the lights came back up in the screening room, the Panthers were blown away. Dylan jumped up from his seat with his wife, Sarah, and hurried [Dennis] Hopper and me off to a private room as Fat Albert was trying to stop him. He told us the movie was fantastic, but we couldn’t have his song ‘It’s Alright Ma,’ and we should reshoot the ending — we should have Captain America ram his bike into the pickup and made it explode.

“… In 1994, I learned that one of the reasons he didn’t want us to use ‘It’s Alright Ma’ was that he guessed the film’s impact, and dreaded having to sing the song over and over again, endlessly, by popular demand.” (1969)

(From “Don’t Tell Dad: A Memoir,” by Peter Fonda)


Emmett Grogan, anarchist and provocateur 

“Now Emmett was sitting on the second step of a warped wooden flight of four front stairs that led up and into the funky, screened porch of a pine-walled cabin where a film editor … lived … Bob was sitting on the same step and in him Emmett saw a man who somehow made it through that swamp [of drug addiction] and settled down alive on the other side. A man who had a wife and five kids and simply played music for a living. A plain and easy-dressed man, complicated only by heresy. A physically small man who was strong for his size and not fat at all, but wiry with coached stringy muscles and shoulders that stuck out wider than you’d think. A man with a lot of friends, but afraid of those who weren’t, just the same. A man who kept a matchstick in his mouth to keep from smoking and who was sliding with the knowledge of growing older and leaving the brassy, punk snide of his younger-than-that-now behind him. Dylan was clean.” (Woodstock, N.Y., late 1960s)

(From “Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps,” by Emmett Grogan)


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Cathy Smith, groupie
“Famous sandwich”

“While we were living in Gordon’s [Lightfoot’s] apartment Bob Dylan came to town. That was when the Mariposa Festival was being held on Centre Island…

“Dylan appeared at the door wearing a leather jacket, a wide-brimmed hat and heavy shades. He sat in Gordon’s favorite leather chair — the standard lounging chair with an ottoman for the feet. His wife Sara, who was very protective of Dylan, sat between his legs. They both had halos of dark curly hair.

“Everyone made conversation while Gordon and Dylan looked each other over and mumbled. Finally Gordon asked Dylan if he would like something to eat.

“‘Sure,’ Dylan said, ‘I’d love a cheese sandwich.’

“I rushed to the kitchen and began putting together a cheese sandwich. Then Gordon came in. ‘Make it ham and cheese,’ he said.

It made sense. A plain cheese sandwich wasn’t much to offer Bob Dylan.

And so, using all my culinary skills, I assembled the famous Dylan sandwich: ham and cheese, with butter and lettuce, on whole wheat. It sat on the arm of the chair all night, the lettuce slowly curling at the edges. It turned out that Dylan had recently rediscovered his Orthodox Jewish roots.” (Toronto, 1970)

(From “Chasing the Dragon,” by Cathy Smith)

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Pamela DesBarres, groupie 
“Dead fish”

“After the show, Waylon [Jennings] introduced me to … actual real-live Bob Dylan … Bob put out a limp, damp, world-weary fish hand for me to shake, and I said, ‘I’ve waited ten years for this?’ I was raging drunk and regretted it royally later…” (Los Angeles, 1971)

(From “I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie,” by Pamela DesBarres)

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Jerry Wexler, record producer 
“The music trip”

“I’ve always argued that a producer must serve the artist and the artist’s project, so when Bob Dylan said he wanted me to produce his new album I wasn’t troubled that he was primarily folk rock whereas I was R&B. He’d gone through his acoustic trip, his electric trip, his ‘Nashville Skyline’ trip, and now was interested in keyboards, background vocals, horns, and big textures — the polished R&B sound. He had the songs ready, and needed only the right musical context…

“If I was relaxed around Bob, it was probably because we’d met through our mutual pal Doug Sahm five years before, when we’d spent a weekend at my place on the Bridgehampton dunes. They played their acoustic guitars while I beat the conga, waves crashing on the Atlantic, the three of us bonded by music, memories, and good herb. Bob volunteered as a sideman on the first album of Doug’s I’d produced, and it was an up for all of us. During a break, Bob and I were kicking back in my office when he said, ‘Man, I’ve done the word trip — now I want to do the music trip.’ I knew what he was getting at.” (Long Island, N.Y., 1970s)

(From “Rhythm and Blues: A Life in American Music,” by Jerry Wexler with David Ritz)


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Joe Eszterhas, screenwriter
“Whiskey, coke and women”

“I’d waited in the living room of a Denver hotel suite at eight one morning for Bob Dylan to emerge from his bedroom. A half-full quart of Jim Bream stood on the living room cocktail table, along with three or four broken lines of coke. A pair of black silver-toed cowboy boots was under the table. One girl came out of Bob’s bedroom, then another, then another. They looked tired and sleepy and were scantily and hastily dressed. They said hi in a shy and embarrassed way and then they left. Five minutes later, Bob came out, bare-chested and barefoot, wearing jeans, his hair an airborne jungle, his complexion graveyard gray. He sat down at the cocktail table, took a long slug of Jim Beam, did a line of coke, smiled, and said, ‘Howya doin?’” (late 1970s)

(From “American Rhapsody,” by Joe Eszterhas)

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Etta James, blues singer
“Love of the Lord”

“Another mystery man showed up in the middle of the [Jerry] Wexler [recording] session — Bob Dylan. Like Jesus, he just happened to drop by one Tuesday evening to tell me he was a fan and play Wexler some of his new ideas. Bob had just entered into his heavy born-again period, so Jesus was much on his mind. Funny thing, he asked Jerry — a notorious atheist — to produce his new album [‘Slow Train Coming’], filled with the love of the Lord.” (Los Angeles, 1978)

(From “Rage to Survive,” by Etta James with David Ritz)

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Jimmy Buffet, rock singer
“Boat talk”

“I overheard the talk at the next table. Water Pearl was in the harbor, and everyone was talking about whether or not the owner was on board. She was a beautiful traditional Beguia schooner that had been built on the island and was a home away from home to a Minnesota boy named Zimmerman or to those who don’t know, Bob Dylan … ‘The boss’ was on board and heard I was in town as well and asked if I wanted to come out and see the boat and have lunch…

“We didn’t talk music. We talked boats over lunch … He gave me a tour of Water Pearl, and I can still smell that unique combination of pitch, canvas, and wood that is the essence of a traditional sailing rig … I have seen Bob on a number of occasions since then, but that was the last time I saw Water Pearl. She foundered on a reef off Panama a few years later and went down.” (Gustavia, St. Barts, 1980s)

(From “A Pirate Looks at Fifty,” by Jimmy Buffett)

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Bob Geldof, rock singer and promoter 
“Man in a pub”

“The [studio] door opened. Bob Dylan came in and sat down beside me. ‘Hi,’ he said. He looked terrible. His face was all puffed out and there were black bags under his eyes. He looked as if he had just got up. We started to talk about his last tour of Ireland. He began to laugh as I reminded him of things I’d been told about it. I was sitting there, talking to Bob Dylan. It was like talking to a man in a pub, I thought.” (Hollywood, 1985)

(From “Is That It?” by Bob Geldof with Paul Vallely)

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Brian Bosworth, football player
“Who the hell is Bob Dylan?”

“My agent, Gary Wichard, and I were in the L.A. airport. We were waiting to use the phone and Gary says, ‘Look, it’s Bob Dylan.’

“‘Who the hell is Bob Dylan?’

“That freaked Gary out. ‘You don’t know who Bob Dylan is?’

“Just then Dylan gets off the phone and says, ‘Hey, Boz,’ and introduces himself. I’d never heard of him, but I guess he’d heard of me. After that I bought a few of his albums and now I listen to his music. I like it. Small world.” (late 1980s)

(From “The Boz: Confessions of a Modern Anti-Hero,” by Brian Bosworth and with Rick Reilly)

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John McEnroe, tennis player and commentator
“Getting me wrong”

“Bob Dylan concert in London, 1994: After the concert I was invited backstage. I’ll never forget the first thing Dylan said to me: ‘I heard you can dunk a basketball, and you play great guitar, and I know Carlos Santana wouldn’t lie.’ It pained me to have to disillusion him on both counts.”

(From “You Cannot Be Serious,” by John McEnroe with James Kaplan)

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Gene Simmons, rock musician
“Trading licks”

“I had another once-in-a-lifetime experience when I hooked up with Bob Dylan and ended up cowriting a song with him. We weren’t put together by anyone else — I just looked up Dylan’s number, called his manager, and said that I had long been an admirer. I had never spoken to Dylan, never met him. He came to my guest house in Beverly Hills [Calif.], and the whole experience was very cordial. I spent about two minutes telling him how important he was to music in general and to me personally. He’s a very easygoing guy, but he doesn’t say much. Then we sat down, picked up acoustic guitars, and traded licks back and forth. He had something I liked, I had something he liked, and so on. When we recorded the demo, he was nice enough to come down to the demo studio. Since then I have been begging him to write the lyric, and he keeps telling me that I should do it. Can you imagine that? Bob Dylan is telling me to write lyrics.” (Late 1990s)

(From “KISS and Make-Up,” by Gene Simmons)

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