Big Party at the Crumps: Book Excerpt

By: Barry Finnerty
So here it is. The moment I’ve been waiting all my life for. I step up to the microphone, brush my hair back, pull up my pants a little bit. Tap the mic. OK, it’s on. We finish up the medley with a rousing version of Jimmy Durante’s “One Of Those Songs” with four or five upward modulations at the end. Hardwell points at me. “Let’s go, let’s go!” he shouts. Even a ten second break between tunes is too long for him. And now – it’s Star Time at the Apollo, ladies and gentlemen! At least for a split second in some parallel fantasy universe. I break into my best James Brown impersonation. Which for at least this one first word is quite convincing. If I do say so myself.
 
HEY!
 
I play the first five notes of a C ninth chord, going up: C-E-G-Bb-D!
 
“I said, HEY!
 
The horn section joins in, playing those same notes again. C-E-G-Bb-D!
 
HEY!” 
 
C-E-G-Bb-D again, this time in harmony. You know what those notes are. They are instantly recognizable. World famous. They’re the intro to…
 
“I Feel Good.”  Dadaladaladala. Like I knew that I would. Dadaladaladala. Etc. etc. etc. Awright. We’re rolling now.
 
The crowd is up and dancing. So I do a few more numbers. Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock N’ Roll”. Michael Bolton’s “Love Is A Wonderful Thing”. That is the tune the Isley Brothers recently sued him for. Copyright infringement, they claimed. Bolton fought it all the way. “Hey, I wrote that tune all by myself. I never heard of their version.” Sorry, Michael. Your song had the exact same melody, the same beat, and even the same title of the Isleys’ single that was released in 1964!  I am willing to concede that you might not have consciously known that you were stealing their tune. But a subconscious rip-off is still a rip-off. Pay up, white boy!
 
We do “My Girl”, and then Hardwell sits me down so they can serve the birthday cake that took them the last 20 minutes to slice up. But you know what was amazing? You know who was checking me out and giving me some serious eye contact while I was up there just now? You are not going to believe this!
 
It was Yuvana Crump! That’s right. You probably know who I am talking about. The statuesque blond Hungarian former fashion model and ex-wife of the notorious New York billionaire real estate tycoon, Ronald Crump. I am sure you know who he is. He is the guy whose haircut loudly and unmistakably proclaims: “I am the biggest prick on the face of the earth!” And if his hair doesn’t totally convince you, just look at his face and listen to him talk for about thirty seconds. That will close the deal.
 
One time a few years back we played a job for him down in Florida, at that huge glitzy mansion he bought in Palm Beach that used to belong to the Post Toasties heiress lady. A party for all the real “old money” people down there that he was trying to ingratiate himself with. The parking lot was filled with Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. And the food? Conspicuous consumption at its most ostentatious. The band was playing in a big tent just outside the main house. And, after a time, I had to take a crap. So I got up and walked up the stairs, past the marble columns, to the door, where I was stopped by a servant, a tall middle-aged black man, not coincidentally also in a tuxedo, but his was with white tie and tails. 
 
“Can I help you, suh?” 
 
“Yeah, I’m in the band,” I said. “I just wanted to use the bathroom for a minute.”
 
“Sorry, suh, only Mr. Crump’s guests are allowed inside,” he said. “There are some porta-potties down at the other side of the lawn.”
 
I was incredulous. “But that’s like 300 yards away!”
 
“Sorry, suh.”
 
I never forgot that.
 
It was like he was telling me, “You de yard niggas! You gots to stay in de yard! Only de house niggas gets to go in de house!”
 
Thanks, Ronald, I thought as I trudged the length of three football fields to relieve myself. And back. Thanks for reminding me that all servants need to know their place.
 
This guy is truly a symbol and a symptom of the dried heart and dead conscience of our age. Of the worship of money above all else. People don’t matter. Right and wrong don’t matter. They’re just abstract ideas.  Only dollars and cents matter. Only money, money, money, and continually battling to accumulate more of it. No amount is ever enough. You have to get it all. It doesn’t matter who you screw. Or what you have to do to do it. The only thing that matters is that you are the one who comes out on top. Of that big steaming pile of cash.
 
I read recently that after he bought that apartment building at 7th Avenue and Central Park South – you know, the big one that kind of curves around the corner – that there were a bunch of elderly people that had been living there for over 20 years. They had rent control. So what did Mr. Crump do? He hired some thugs to go around to these peoples’ apartments and intimidate them. To tell them that if they didn’t  accept his settlement offer and move out, that something bad might happen to them. I’m telling you, these bastards will stop at nothing to squeeze every last dollar out of a situation. Even muscling and bullying old people. Yet he is revered in the business community. A shining example of success in America, the land of opportunity. It´s truly amazing how much you can accomplish if your dad starts you off with about $50 million and you have absolutely no morals or scruples whatsoever.
 
But enough about him. The world is full of money-grubbing assholes. In fact, there’s a good number of them in the house tonight! In any case, she’s not married to him anymore. They divorced a few years back. She’s probably four or five years older than me. And still a very good looking woman. Tall and elegant, with that model’s figure. I can see her shoes sparkling from here. Those heels look like they are encrusted with diamonds. Had to cost at least a grand. Probably more. They are definitely some CMFM (IYAB) shoes. I believe you are already acquainted with the first acronym. The second one? It stands for “If You’re A Billionaire”.
 
I’m up at the mic again, grinding out some more rock chestnuts. “Brown Eyed Girl”. “Wooly Bully”.
“Just What I Needed”. “Satisfaction”. The floor is packed. And she’s out there, dancing with some stockbroker type. Oh-oh! She’s looking at me again. I give her a tiny wink out of the corner of my eye. And the quickest smile I can manage while also singing “cause I tried… and I tried… and I tried… and I tried but I just can’t get no!” And holy shit! Yuvana is smiling right back at me! Hmm. Maybe this really could be the start of something big! Yeah, right. In your dreams, buddy.
 
We are now into the only slow number I’ll be doing tonight, Rod Stewart’s “Have I Told You Lately”. Hardwell hates ballads. Except the solo piano ones he plays for dinner music. Which is crazy because people love to dance to them. But he likes to keep everything moving, moving, moving, up tempo all the time. No sense of pace. But he can’t deny that right now, that floor is full. So he is allowing it. This is actually a pretty enjoyable song to sing. I take a nice melodic rock guitar solo in the middle of it, then we modulate up a half step after the second bridge. I can get fairly soulful on it. About as good as it gets on a job like this.
 

But wait a minute. I am not imagining this. Yuvana is slow-dancing with her date on the floor right below the stage, directly in front of me. She’s got her head on the businessman’s shoulder. And as they turn and her face comes into view, she looks right up at me again. Our eyes meet. She smiles. I smile back as I continue singing. But inside I’m stunned. If I was on a regular gig at a nightclub or something, and this happened, and I didn’t know who she was, I would be thinking, “Hmm. It looks like this chick digs me.” Maybe I would go talk to her after the set. Who knows what the night might hold in store, given a situation like that? I could be charming. Suave. Debonair. I could hit her with the number one New York City pickup line: “I’ve got a giant bag of blow. Let’s go to my place.” It has proven effective in the past.
Not much chance of that tonight though. Less than none, in fact. The party is winding down. A lot of the guests are heading for the exits. Hardwell whips the band through a couple more high society dance medleys, and then, praise be to whatever spiritual entity that might exist out there in the cosmos that gives a rat’s ass about musicians, the head maitre’d comes over and runs a finger across his neck. The cut-off sign. That’s it. We’re done. And it’s only 11:30. We got a half-hour reprieve.