Saturday, April 25, 2015
Oswaldo “Bob” Barbosa was a Puerto Rican albino who Alma had met at the IHB. He sported a big blonde Afro, wore metal glasses like Al’s, and was an intellectual type who turned us on to his favorite pastimes: chess and drugs. Although he was sorely lacking in training on a traditional set (his mastery of the timbales finally manifested itself with the New York Pimps), he was our first drummer and drifted in and out of the lineup on a regular basis. He struck up a relationship with Sonia Martinez and they got married shortly thereafter. They remained the First Couple of the Spoiler Empire until they broke up in ’78. Bob was very congenial but was notoriously stingy and went out of circulation shortly after their sons, Jentry and Andre, were born. When I saw the price of diapers when Benny Rock’s daughter was born, it was easy to understand why. Nevertheless, Bob and I hit it off from the beginning, and I considered him a close personal friend until his untimely death on October 26, 2010 at the age of 57.
Many of our new acquaintances happened to be albinos. It’s a rare condition resulting from miscegenation. Mary Vasquez came back in and joined Alma and Sonia in our new dancing group, the Leatherettes. Bob’s sister Lily eventually came in with us much later as part of the Ducky Boys. There was also Ritchie, a strapping fellow who actually bought a car though he was disqualified from holding a license because of his visual impairment common to albinos. At any rate, our infrastructure was growing and it gave us enough confidence to continue our quest for rock stardom.
Spoiler II was more of a bonding experience than anything. Bob got an apartment in Red Hook on the block where Sonia lived, and it became a new hangout for us. Bob and Al grew very close, though Bob and Sonia recruited Alma and me as maid of honor and best man. Bob was the one who institutionalized chess with us. I had played with Israel a while back, and Al was also familiar with the game. We taught Alma to play and, as my practice dummy, she grew to be a powerful player in time that embarrassed quite a few fellows. Years later, with the Ducky Boys, it was common to come by after practice and see as many as four games in progress in a room full of beer and marijuana smoke.
Our biggest score was at Bob’s sister Lily’s birthday party. They got me off my butt and down to the Barbosas, where the entire clan was there for the occasion. The family was as astonished as those attending our first gig. I was swirling the mic at that show and popped Lily in the head. Nevertheless, they found us quite entertaining and it gave me the encouragement I needed to get back in the swing of things.
Psychologically, I was in dire straits. It took me a couple of decades to sort it all out. Here we have an ex-jock, badly out of shape with thinning hair, an untrained voice and no songwriting experience, creating a history of substance abuse. My parents were undoubtedly shocked at what was going on, and it was reflected in their own alcohol abuse. Of course, I can’t take full credit for this, but I’m sure I did have a lot to do with enabling them. I was also in desperate need of social approval though it seemed I was doing my utmost to alienate people. If Lou Reed was being chronicled as being the biggest bastard in rock, I was determined to be the underground’s top son of a bitch. This wasn’t the best way to make friends and influence people, and it would cost us dearly down the line. Fortunately the inner circle stuck with me through thick and thin, bless them all.
Louie eventually returned to the fold and we decided that we were now Spoiler III. I was hitting a personal low, most likely than not being because I was channeling a man whose own career was spiraling towards self-destruction. Lou Reed had turned into a unisexual speed freak that was becoming an underground laughing stock, as was I. The impact was never as deeply as felt as when I summoned the courage to make a play for Debbie Cantrell.
Debbie was a lovely JAP (*Jewish American Princess) who was part of Lily Snyder’s personal harem of female clerks at ISO. Lily was a bad-tempered drunk who took her husband’s death out on every male person in her environment. My opinion was that she may have well sent the poor soul to an early grave. At any rate, Debbie was well-insulated by Lily and Sharon Mauss, a hirsute Jewess who also ruled the roost among the office hens. I still didn’t have the confidence to move in and make my play, and it wasn’t until she came by and ribbed me about Judy one day that I thought I had a better chance than a snowball in hell with her.
I overheard office gossip to the extent that Debbie was dating a married man, something that I may or may not have been able to talk her out of. At any rate, when he ditched her, she had a nervous breakdown and never came back to ISO. Fortunately for me, I had her address on a Christmas card list (no such thing as privacy issues in 1975!), so I sent word that I wanted to visit. I was overjoyed when she invited me over!
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. I brought over a bottle of Sangria, dressed in one of my Lou Reed costumes, and anyone in a solid state of mind would have realized that this was not going to get me to first base. We had a kitchen-and-garden conversation on the front porch that lasted about fifteen minutes before she said goodbye. I was deeply depressed throughout the holidays, and what I nearly got out of it a rock opera. “The Ballad of Debbie Dimples” was influenced by both Reed’s Berlin as well as a novel I wrote, “Angie and the Jets”, inspired by…yep, you guessed it. Neither were bad pieces of work, but didn’t have the kind of polish required from a psych-twisted twenty-two year old. They slipped through the cracks, but you never know what the future holds. As for Debbie, well, she’s history, and I hope she got the breaks I always thought she deserved. She was one lovely girl.
I remained at Insurance Services Office throughout this time, and the repercussions of my evolution were being felt at my workplace. A black fellow named Oscar Madden came on the scene. He was 6’4” with 18” arms, the biggest I had personally seen at the time (I’d pump mine up to 19” first in SA then again in KC). He was an ex-football player, a bully and loudmouth who lifted weights. He began hanging with Jerome and I, but eventually started getting pushy and even popped me on the arm one time. BT Superstar would have not stood for it, but Dizon slunk off as a lone wolf.
I began smoking dope regular at work and it was beginning to show, but I cared less. Eventually Oscar quit the company and Jerome and I regrouped, though things were no longer the same. Instead of going straight to lunch with him, I’d go off to smoke, then meet him later. Funny thing, Oscar and I kept in touch, and he would come by the house to lift weights once in a while. Once he came by when I was away and began flirting with Alma, who kept house when I was out so we could stay open for the band members. My Mom was in the hallway tidying and she was getting upset as the overture continued. Suddenly there was a cry and she rushed to investigate. As it turned out, both women had to haul a 225-pound barbell off Oscar’s chest as he’d gotten stuck. I never saw him again after that.
I’m not sure what the logic was, but after Louie left again we became Spoiler IV. I think it was a case of us being so irate over Lou’s disappearing acts that we decided to wipe the slate clean each time. Only there was such a discrepancy between what we sounded like with and without him, there wasn’t much of a choice but to let him back in. Especially because he had a new riff or instrumental each time he showed up. He was constantly jamming around and picked up every trick he could learn, and that kid was an extremely fast learner. Sherry Smith, one of his successors, was convinced that he slept with his guitar.
I think part of the reason why I had become such a screw-up was because of the fact that the band was going nowhere, and at that point I had put all my eggs in that one basket (where they would remain until the end of the Ducky Boys). By channeling myself into Lou Reed, maybe it was a way to keep Broadway Turk Superstar from taking the blame for failure. It would eventually take Superstar to get the ship back on course, but the Turk would have to be completely reinvented, and this poor Dizon bastard was hardly in shape to get that done at the time.
Anyway, I was still writing songs, some of which would make the lineup a couple of years later, like “Satan”, and some that would resurface decades later, like “Office Man”. Actually I was in an extremely prolific period but couldn’t get a whole lot going due to Al’s limitations. Still, we churned out almost two sets of new songs but there wasn’t enough musical proficiency to make them work. Bob’s arrhythmic drumming style wasn’t helping matters either. We needed Lou’s lead playing ability, and when he came scratching at the door again, well, it was it was a case of the breadwinner back at the widow’s house.
When Louie resurfaced, we decided to call it Spoiler V. I suppose Spoiler IV had become too much of a running joke. This was another transitional period during which Louie and Al were sharpening their claws on one another and eventually forming a good guitar team overall. They would sit in the practice room and smoke dope, then Lou would entreat Al to play some double leads with him. I told them I had written a song called “War of the Worlds” that could use a motif where the lead guitars would be like two enemy fleets meeting on outer space. They jumped all over it but, at that point in time, it was more like the Spanish Armada coming across Huckleberry Finn’s raft. To his credit, Al would have given him a far better run for his money in three years’ time.
Robert Echevarria was another visually-challenged albino kid who drifted into Alma’s IHB network. He was a real grungy fellow who would remind me a lot of a pudgy Johnny Rotten, replete with matted hair, pasty skin, worn clothing, body odor and green teeth. He showed up just in time for Louie to reappear at the Surrealistic Death, and got recruited as the new Spoiler bassist for Spoiler V. This was the first full band we had since the Verdict, and, as the Lord would have it, a gig opportunity came along at El Bolero.
(To be continued...)