I’ve been talking on the phone to a dear friend of mine, Rita. I’ve known Rita for over two decades. She’s always been a great friend, has many tales to tell. I met Rita back in the day when I was pursuing the dream of being a rock and roll star. My brother Frank was friends with Rita’s brother Richard. Frank knew I was wanting to form a band and heard that Richard’s wife Loren, and his sister also wanted to form a band. We all had hung out at McSwells but never met.
I knew Dave Bell, from my brother Brian. Dave played drums. With Loren and myself on guitars, Rita on bass and Dave on drums, we had a band. Somehow I came up with the name, The Nift. It was a nonsense name, it really didn’t mean anything. We wrote a couple of songs, I wrote a song called ‘I’m Your Bathysphere’. Loren and I collaborated on a song, I wrote the music originally and Loren contributed lyrics about Botticelli’s Venus and Elliot from E.T.
Rita wrote a song about Johnny Thunders, whom she went to high school with in the sixties. Rita was quite the teenybopper then. She was a major Rolling Stones fan, but the Who were closest to her heart. She would hang outside wherever the band was staying and she’d see the band go in and out. When the Who were fighting and apparently, word has it, was often, they would be extra nice to the fans.
Rita has tons of stories about the bands she used to follow. She could give you the lowdown on Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich. I keep trying to get her to write a book. Her other brother, Ron used to work for Colombia Records in the sixties and has photos of all these events and happenings. I once was thisclose to convincing her to get those pics and she would tell her tales and I would write them up.
Never happened. The world would not hear how John Entwistle and Keith Moon spotted her walking down the street and Entwistle scooped her up with he and Moon singing Lovely Rita at the top of their lungs. I suppose the world will wait.
The Nift broke up. Nobody could ever get their shit together and it all fell apart. We only had about 4 songs and two of them were covers, ‘Anytime At All’ by the Fabs and ‘Gloria’ by Them. We never played live. Steve from McSwells even offered us a gig but we couldn’t get it together.
We all remained friends though. We’d see shows, bands, go to galleries. Rita lived in Chelsea on w22nd Street. A tiny shoebox of an apartment. I’d stay there on occasion when she’d go on vacation. When she first moved there Chelsea wasn’t as gay as it is now. It was a crummy neighborhood. Now it’s rainbows everywhere, which is nice, I’m not complaining.
The last time I stayed there, it was for a few days. I hardly left the apartment. Each time I did I was compelled to suck in the gut, so to fit in with the Chelsea boys. Never worked, hence my staying in the apartment a lot. She also had cable, which at that time, I didn’t.
A few years ago Rita was at work in a pharmacy in midtown when some guy came up to her and asked her a question. That question led to a question about Rita in the sixties. It turns out the guy was the Who’s roadie and still is. Probably a tour manager by now. He was surprised to see her after all these years, and she was surprised he remembered. The next day some guy with deep blue eyes comes in and makes a beeline to Rita.
Pete Townshend. He walks up to Rita and says, “It’s you. I can’t believe it”. Rita taken aback says she can’t believe he remembers her, after all it’s Pete Townshend. Pete, ever so humble said that they always remember the fans who were there before the Who made it super-gigantic. He gave Rita passes to the Who’s upcoming shows at the Garden. Very sweet.
Rita moved at the end of the nineties to a new high rise on very west 42nd street. Nice place, very modern. Definitely not a shoebox. I helped her revamp her resume today and we plan to have dinner sometime soon. Now if we can Loren and Dave…