Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sue


Somewhere around 1985 I decided it was time to perform live again. My band Wax Theatricks dissolved a few years earlier. I was lucky enough to get The Heaters to back me up. The first show was produced by Chuck Auger at the Soulard Preservation Hall.

The hall was packed that night and my nerves were shot from stage fright. There were a lot of people there who were curious as to just how I would pull it off.

As I stood at the side of the stage, waiting to go on, Sue Leonard walked up and put her arms around me. She felt my fear. She looked into my eyes thoughtfully and said, “You know everyone here loves you.” I looked at the audience and realized I knew just about everybody.

I realized I was with family and my fears dissolved. I opened with What To Do, the first song from our last Lp. The song is basically a riff with lyrics to the effect of -Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you, I won’t let anyone hurt you, I love you.

It was a dream gig. Sue stood in the front row for the whole show. I never do cover songs, but I dedicated the Kinks “You Really Got Me” to Sue as an encore.

Sue was Mark Gray’s girlfriend. Mark was the band’s sound man and she went everywhere with us. She slept in cars, went days without sleep, ate crap, and always took care of us. We’d be in some small college town were the audience didn’t know us and we were sure we’d bomb. Sue would lure guys onto the dance floor and soon the place would be jumping. No one could resist her beauty or charm. She was even in the recording studio with us.

When the band split Sue went to Europe. She fell in love with an East German guy named Peter. Peter actually swam across the Berlin River to get past the wall. They told me about a long bus trip they took through East Germany to visit Peter’s family. They were terrified they’d get caught.

When they came to the states Sue came first. They weren’t married yet and for some reason Peter didn’t come when he was supposed to. She was sure he wasn’t coming. During this time Sue and I had a brief romance. Peter showed up and it ended immediately. I ended up really liking him.

Last Thursday Fojammi called to tell me Sue had been entered into a nursing facility in South St. Louis. She had cirrhosis of the liver. I took my son. Sue looked like a trembling little old woman as she tried to eat a piece of watermelon. I couldn’t believe this was the same beautiful, vibrant woman I had seen only last year.

I was horrified. “I’m not dead,” she said. “I’m gonna pull through this.” I asked if a transplant was possible. She didn’t want to talk about it. I really felt like a jerk when I realized her positive talk was for my benefit. It was as if I was feeling sorry for myself about her illness.

She had just lost her dad and second husband in the last year and said she really had no wish to keep going. “Keep trying!” I said. She said what she knew I wanted to hear.

Dominic walked in and was much better at putting a happy face on things than I was. She got Dom to promise he’d bring peaches from a tree in her back yard. Then she recited a beautiful little poem she'd written about her father that had something to do with her peach tree.

Our friend Kay is turning 50 and Sue’s spirits lifted when we said we’d take her to the party in her wheel chair. “That’s something to work toward!” she said. We left it at that.

I was mixing acoustic guitar tracks in the studio yesterday when Fojammi walked in. “I have bad news," he said, "Sue died an hour ago.”

A few years ago the band all went on a trip to the Rocky Mountains. Tracy called us the Manly Men group. Fojammi and I talked about it before we went. We were both broke but we decided we had to go because we wouldn’t all be around one of these days.

When Fojammi broke the news to me he said Sue was the first band member to go.

I still feel like crying.

This is the only pic I have of Sue. It’s from a small picture on the back cover of the Jambox EP. The band Jambox was my brother Patrick, Tony Patti, Fojammi, Geo Ramsey, Sue, Tammy Stone and Annie Byrne.

7 comments:

Killian said...

I knew Sue on the perimeter through her brother Leonard. What a sweet story and a memory that will live on with your blog.

Dorothy said...

Peace be with you Dave. Sue sounds like a very rare soul.

Dan said...

I took that photograph with a borrowed Polaroid camera on the side staircase of the Leonard's house on Portland. We needed a photo of Sue for the Jambox EP cover, and she didn't like her photo taken much. The original Polaroid was very dark and obscured her face almost entirely, which is probably the only reason she allowed it to go onto the record cover. For a later release, I brought out the details as best I could in Photoshop. The ambivalence is there, and some of her haunting beauty. I'm sure there are better photos out there, but I will never forget that summer evening and the slanting light.

Sharon said...

Gee Doggie, I'm awfully sorry to hear about Sue. I remember her and her husband coming into the Oyster Bar back in the day and how close you two were. I found her to be unpretentious and quite lovely.

Doggie said...

Danny this is a perfect pic of Sue. I feel like she's watching me when my blog is up. Her haunting beauty is definitely there!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

We think this Sue is a family friend. It is heartbreaking to read.

Maybe you will call and tell us whether this is Sue Leonard who grew up in the CWE.

We have been searching for answers.

Anne Borman and family
(314) 725-6834

Killian said...

I just realized my error and should have said Charlie and Jim.