A Tale of Turbot and The Who

Screenwriter Bill Kerby

When I read this excerpt from screenwriter and frequent Clyde patron Bill Kerby’s new blog last week, I gave a most unladylike hoot right in the middle of Heathrow Airport. It’s in his story of a first-class trip to London in the 1970s when The Who expressed interest in having Bill adapt their rock-opera Tommy for the movies, based on his great work on The Last American Hero. While there, his producer was informed that Billy had just lost his screenwriting credit on the film in Writers Guild arbitration. Here it is in Billy’s own words:

Eli [the producer] was berserk, pacing up and down in his silk bathrobe and his little elf slippers. “This is terrible,” he said. “I sold you to The Who as the guy who just wrote the Tom Wolfe stock car picture, they loved that book, now it’s going to look like I made the whole thing up!” “We’re having lunch with The Who tomorrow,” said Eli. “You can tell them then.”

 Their manager was the first to arrive. Rock and rollers run late, managers not so much. It was a nice restaurant, high-end, one of those places with blinding white tablecloths and soft pastel napkins with squint-making print on the mostly white-space menu. Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, and John Entwhistle arrived looking more like wastrel daylight casualties than rock and roll stars. I ordered some fish I’d never heard of called turbot because it had hollandaise sauce. I’d eat out of the dog’s dish if it had hollandaise sauce.

We were making small talk. Microscopic. The manager apologized for Keith Moon’s absence. It seems their legendary drummer was often off in a different universe. Then Eli leaned forward and said, “Our writer has something he needs to tell you.” He looked at me. Now, they were all looking at me.

 Suddenly there was a commotion at the restaurant front entrance; screaming, yelling, and cackling laughter. Townsend and Daltry rolled their eyes as Keith Moon, wild hair and cape flying, came running across the room, careening off tables, knocking over buss stands, yelling something unintelligible as he picked up speed. Then in full flight, he did a belly-flop on our table, sliding from one end to the other, raking dishes, wine glasses, food and condiments into laps. At the far end of the table, I lifted my plate of turbot and hollandaise sauce as Moon, covered in food, looked up at me with a smile. “Good move,” he said. I should have kissed him because anything I was going to say was tabled (actually un-tabled) indefinitely.”

See more at Bill Kerby’s blog, A Chow Puppy in Hollywood.


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