Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Fabulous Shirt

How long, I wonder, is it before a claim to fame wears off and becomes just a piece of the past to be put to rest. Maybe never. In the 1960's, my friend, Nemo Tooks, played guitar in a band called The Fabulous Cavaliers. It was a fairly good band with a local following. Every weekend, Nemo basked in the limelight, playing his guitar in front of fans (and friends like me who banked on the possibility of assimilating some of Nemo's coolness by mere association). Nemo was a trend setter and owned the first Nehru jacket in the neighborhood. He acquired his name by frequenting the submarine races along the Des Plaines River where he could often be found parked with one girl or another.

One night in 1967, The Fabulous Cavaliers opened for the Strawberry Alarm Clock, a then popular one-hit-wonder. This was at the peak of the Strawberry Alarm Clock's fame, when their hit, "Incense and Peppermints," dominated the airwaves. It was at a warehouse club called The Cellar, and after the show, fans mobbed the Alarm Clock along with The Fabulous Cavaliers as they were leaving the building. Anyway, in the mayhem, Nemo's shirt was ripped from his body. After the "gig" as he liked to call it, I offered my jacket to him, but he gave it back, saying his fans had wanted him shirtless, so that was how he must stay for the remainder of the evening. Later that night, they even let him into Bob's Big Boy ( a restaurant that had one of those "no shirt, no shoes, no service" signs in the foyer) when he explained to the hostess how his shirt had been torn from his back by screaming fans at the show. I never had the heart to tell him, that most likely, the fans mistook him for one of the members of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, because, quite frankly, who knew what those guys looked like anyway.

The Fabulous Cavaliers never achieved any national fame and broke up in 1970, over an argument about chipping in for gas money. The fellas went their separate ways and Nemo eventually carved out a small business that painted lines for parking places in parking lots. He's a good guy, has raised a family, and we're still friends, but whenever we meet new people together, he somehow manages to steer the conversation to the time in 1967 when his shirt was torn off by screaming fans. Very few people remember the Fabulous Cavaliers, but many recall the Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Nemo's torn shirt puts him right there on the same level of remembrance as the Alarm Clock.

I just wonder, is there some 60 year-old woman, possibly now a grandmother, who has a scrapbook with a torn piece of Nemo's shirt taped to one of the pages, labeled "Guitar Player's Shirt, Strawberry Alarm Clock, 1967." If so, then both she and Nemo are content with their memories, no matter how colored they may be.