Gallery Magazine, February 1979

by Al Aronowitz
Linda Ronstadt
I know an eighteen-year-old genius named Jimmy Dunbar who thinks the ultimate prize in the ultimate contest would be a weekend with Linda Ronstadt. Not a bad idea for a benefit. Make the contest worthy enough and a chick hip as Linda might go for it. She'd recognize that what was being peddled was her charisma and not her ass. Anyway, the winner would probably turn out to be some kid like Jimmy, who'd spend his whole prize time jumping through hoops for her. Linda's got her situation under control. Do you doubt she's a pioneer, a chick with balls, a credit to her gender?

Name me some other lady in Amer­ica with the kind of chutzpah and lure it takes to juggle a fling with the Presi­dent's son at the same time she's han­dling a romance with the chief chal­lenger for the President's job. Probably you've heard about California Gover­nor Jerry Brown showing up with Linda at L.A.'s Roxy, taking her on a tour of his favorite North Beach cul­tural hangouts in San Francisco, send­ing the National Guard to sandbag her $325,000 Malibu home so it wouldn't get washed into the Pacific, and spend­ing his weekends there while Linda sleepily answered his morning phone calls.

The big public talk is that Linda and Jerry have been quietly going together for more than two years. But did you also know that Linda's one of the rea­sons that Chip Carter got banished from the White House? The D.C. dirt is that Chip apparently was acting too dazzled by all the nose-powdered rock stars a President's son can get to hang out with, not the least of whom was the ultimate prize in Jimmy Dunbar's ul­timate contest.

A weekend with the chick who sang "When Will I Be Loved?" as if she was really hurting. I'd enter the contest if I could afford it. The first I ever heard of Linda was in the Sixties when she was the pretty one with the Stone Poney (sic), except I couldn't reconcile the sound of the name Rondstadt (sic) with that sweet face in the group's picture. She had the same fleshy magic that had made Brigitte Bardot such a throb years ear­lier. Like Brigitte, Linda looked inno­cent and dirty at the same time. Plus, they both seemed real in their photo­graphs. You could look at their pictures and see their bare shoulders and feel the texture of their skin. The smartest pictures Linda ever took were in a Daisy Mae outfit on her album that showed her in the slop with the hogs. Oink, oink. Can you imagine her in the White House? The Republicans have already accused Jimmy Carter of turn­ing the place into a pigsty.

caption:  In 1976, Ronstadt performed at a benefit for Jerry Brown's primary.The First Lady of Rock as the First Lady of what would have to be a rocking U.S. was the suggestion of a cover story about Linda's love life with her bachelor Guv in the May 16 issue of US magazine. It played with the iffy pros­pects of Linda getting hitched to Jerry while Jerry got Jimmy unhitched from the White House. The US story pro­moted a few snickers at 1600 Pennsyl­vania Avenue, where Governor Brown is usually a sobering topic to Jimmy's political heads, who regard Jerry as the only threat to Jimmy's renomination unless Teddy Kennedy decides to run.

Although a late starter at the time, Jerry covered too much ground too fast in the 1976 Presidential primary run to be snickered at, but then it's easy to imagine political heads like Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell, Jimmy's top two thinkers, coming across the idea that Jerry himself might have leaked the US story to stop people from won­dering if he was gay.

What the White House knew that Jerry didn't know was also something the White House was trying to forget. According to Capitol gossip, the twenty-seven-year-old Chip got hung on the thirty-one-year-old Linda be­hind the forty-year-old Governor's back, an embarrassing situation since Chip also had a twenty-six-year-old wife and a six-month-old son living with him in America's edifice rex. To Linda, Chip was a nice kid but no more than kindling compared to Jerry's Pres­idential timber, or so the story goes.

The situation came to a head in the summer of '77 when Chip, unbeknownst to the public, split from the White House in a disagreement with his wife Caron, a sweet hometown peach, to stay with his thirty-year-old buddy, Joel McCleary, one of D.C.'s most popular Carter carpetbaggers and then-treasurer of the Democratic Na­tional Committee. That night or the next, while Joel and Chip were in the middle of getting their noodles straight, someone knocked on the McCleary door. Joel's wife April opened it, and into the weedy reek of the McCleary house walked the Presi­dent of the United States of America, accompanied by his Secret Service bodyguards. Joel got so freaked by this scene, he called a friend on the Coast, where it got put in cinemascope.

Apparently, Chip ended up getting pretty much the standard father-tells-son-not-to-lose-head-over-tail lecture, except he was also made to understand that he was like a member of America's royal family, living in a floodlit display window with the audience willing to watch him go to the toilet, if it could. Since this happened around harvest time, Chip was ordered back to Plains to work in the family's peanut ware­house.

Eventually, he won himself back into his dad's good graces and his White House room, returning to D.C. with Caron and their son in January 1978. He's kept a low profile ever since, working as a fund raiser for Cities In Schools, a private organization dedi­cated to deprived high-school kids and existing on public grants. By June, Chip was getting his own Washington apartment for his little family. He hadn't seen the ultimate prize in the ultimate contest for almost a year.

What I'm trying to explain is that Linda earned her stardom as fair and square as any chick. I remember the kick I got from "Different Drum" which was a Top 40 hit for the Stone Poney (sic) back around 1966, but it took a while for me to realize Linda was the one singing lead. The people out there liked her. They just didn't know who she was. Meanwhile, she'd become a sizzling dressing-room topic on the folk-rock circuit.

She could sing, too. It was my old buddy Bob Dylan who first broke the news to me that Linda was quitting the Stone Poney (sic) to try to make it on her own. The big surprise was that it took her so long. Linda had to put out a lot of albums before she could get the people to listen, instead of just wanting to touch. I remember back in the early Seventies when Miles Davis came back from a gig in Boston complaining that, while he'd drawn lines around the block and Linda was playing to half-­empty houses down the street, she got all the publicity in the Boston newspapers. "What were they reviewing?" Miles growled, "her pussy or her singing?" Miles thought he was just as pretty as she was.

As her producer and manager, Peter Asher, half of a Sixties act named Peter and Gordon, was the one who finally got Linda's image, her act, and her music together. The guitar riff in "You're No Good,' for instance, helped make that record for me as much as Linda's singing. When Linda finally started exploding, it was as a country act. Why not? No fox ever looked as backwoods as Linda did in the slop with the hogs. She was one of the pioneers of a new rock route - going hayseed for their hits so they could sneak onto tight-guarded Top 40 playlists - the crossover trail. The country radio stations knew they needed the fresh meaty glamour drip­ping from Linda's records. They began playing her stuff, as did the FM Progressives.

Linda Ronstadt

At that time, I was putting on coun­try music shows at Madison Square Garden and I called Peter to ask for a booking, a concert for Linda's New York area country fans. No other pro­moter in the city could get this crowd into Manhattan like I could, with char­tered buses and special trains. Peter and I'd known each other since the Six­ties, when he told me he wanted the group I was managing to be his backup band for an Australian tour. I turned him down, but I lived to be sorry. When I tried to book Linda for the Gar­den, Peter just kept putting me off.

I've bumped into Linda a few times, but we've never met. The last I saw of her was in the spring of '77 up in Jimmy Pulis' pad. Jimmy's the owner of Trax, the New York rock club, and he lives on top of JP's, another club he owns. Jimmy's been collecting stars since he was manager of Dr. Generosi­ty's, a famous Big Apple twinitery from the late Sixties, because he knows how to be your best friend when you need one. One night, his pad was loaded with stars, including Linda. Not having been introduced, she and I ignored each other, except that while I was sitting on the couch in a heavy rap with Keith Kevin, the stage boss at the Palladium, we had to move our feet because Linda was trying to get through between us and the coffee ta­ble. Later, while I was standing near the apartment's front door, somebody knocked and I opened it. Linda had locked herself out while talking to somebody in the hall. When I saw who was standing there, we gave each other a little smile.

Now, here's this Washington kid named Jimmy Dunbar who thinks Linda's the only woman qualified to be the ultimate prize in the ultimate con­test. Jimmy's pretty hip. He does things like show up at Linda's concerts wearing a white tux and riding in a white limo, even though he's only an usher at the Biograph, a local movie house. But, then, Linda is inspiring. She's not only the ultimate prize, she's the ultimate temptation. She's also the ultimate winner. What's her score in the contest for the White House? It's a drag that the rules said Chip had to put down when he should've got a medal.

The White House ought to sponsor Jimmy Dunbar's ultimate contest and let Chip turn the giant drum with all the lottery tickets in it, so his mom Rosalynn can pull out the winning name. The money could go to Rosalynn's favorite cause, mental health. Out of a hundred million American men, half ought to be willing to get up, say, a hundred dollars each for a chance with Linda. The contest could be international, like the Irish Sweepstakes. The take would be more than I've ever had the pleasure to mul­tiply, something like five billion dol­lars. That makes Linda a pretty expen­sive lady. But it's her charisma, re­member? Linda didn't just make it on her looks, she made it on her singing. She's the ultimate voice.

The contest would exalt Linda. I'd get up the hundred. I'd borrow it from Jimmy Pulis. What the hell, I never even got a chance at bat with Linda. Once, back in 1970, while I was hang­ing out in the Village with John Sebas­tian, the two of us pulled into No­body's, and there's Linda, the five-­billion-dollar woman, boogying at the bar. She and John throw their arms around each other like old lovers, kiss­ing, hugging, humping, and yatta-­yatta-yattaing at each other, except, while she's busy with John, she turns to me with a quick glance and says, "Who're you?"

I still haven't told her.

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