Photo- Robert Altman - © 2004
(Former Star of The Ronettes)
"I like to look the way that Ronnie Spector Sounds" -Madonna
My Claim to Fame?
Here's the incendiary Ronnie Spector 'Santa Claused' up for her 10th annual Christmas Party at New York's B.B. Kings. Like Christmas itself Ronnie's celebration has become a beloved New York tradition as her renditions of
"Sleigh Ride""and "Frosty the Snowman"are simply THE quintessential versions much like Crosby's "White Christmas"and Gene Autry's "Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer ."
Ronnie Spector (Be My Baby) was every boy's fantasy dream. Once in a while you get to live some part of that dream.
When I was a teenager I became The Ronettes' busboy for three whole days! That's three meals a day. I lucked into this role during the mid Sixties at the Laurels Hotel and Country Club which was tucked in the Catskill Mountains of New York. So began my infatuation.
Ronnie possesses the greatest female voice that ever broke through the rock charts. In addition to her astonishing talent is Ronnie's magnetic allure. I think "steamy" is an apt word to describe it. I've never forgotten her. Still love her magic.
I was scheduled to depart New York on Friday when I noticed she was performing her Christmas Party show at B.B. King's the night I was to leave. So much for leaving New York. I extended my stay through the weekend just to see her again.
I arranged to photograph her performance through the club's PR gal but was unable to learn if I could use my strobe. Due to unforeseen circumstances I arrived late and missed the announcement about not using flash. I started to shoot natural light but towards the end of her set I flashed away. In no time the biggest bouncer I have ever seen in my life, Big Poppa, immediately ordered me to follow him back stage. He then tyrannically demanded my film.
"I'm sorry. There is no film. I'm shooting digital."
"Then give me your chip."
"No way am I gonna do that sir." I replied.
Now these chips run several hundred dollars apiece and I already had irreplaceable photos of my friends on this one.
"You better call the cops." I said calmly.
I had really blown it and knew I was in deep, deep trouble. This always seems to happen to me. Best intentions...then...WHAM!
So now we're glaring eyeball to eyeball (well I was looking up- he was huge.) Fortunately a very serious, scholarly type of guy appeared. He looks deeply into my eyes. I plead my case...busboy past; my love for Ronnie and her music. Finally I tell him who I am. Well, at least who I thought I was.
"I know who you are" he replies.
The gent was Jonathan Greenfield, Ronnie's husband of 21 years and also her manager. Somehow I got through to him. Jonathan perceives my sincerity. Thank Gawd.
It didn't take long for us to bond and happily I was invited to pay my respects to the star herself back stage. Ronnie was warm, bubbly and receptive and I was in rock heaven. I rang Jonathan up the next day and offered to "properly" photograph her that night and I was graciously accorded another green light.
Ronnie's lived quite a life, sometimes tumultuous as she was once married to producer Phil Spector. She's fed home cooked BarB Q to the Beatles. John Lennon really dug her. John always called her "Ronnie Ronette." The Rolling Stones used to be The Ronettes opening act. Keith Richards has slept on Ronnie's living room couch. Keith now lives near Ronnie and Jonathan in Connecticut and they still collaborate from time to time.
Ronnie still has it...all the talent, sound, moves and spirit you would ever want. She charmed her SRO audience and we were all in love with her that night. I left the club glowing and actually thanked the Rock Gods for my good fortune. Ronnie- don't ever stop.