I first met Cameron Crowe in 1985 while on the Pack Up the Plantation Tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Cameron wrote the book and screenplay for the movie “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.” Most everybody I knew was a big fan of that movie. I myself thought he’d directed the film but that was Amy Heckerling.
Of course, now he’s famous for writing and directing the semi-autobiographical film “Almost Famous.”
Cameron would come out on the road with us for a week or two at a time and was always taking notes. We had a good relationship and I would razz him about wanting a piece of the movie because I knew he was writing a character based on my silly antics on the road. He’d laugh and say yeah sure man.
Around this time Stevie Nicks was on the tour with us. She didn’t have her group with her but would come out during the show and do “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom and some other songs of hers. One time I remember being backstage at the Tempe, Arizona college football stadium for a big concert with the Soul Lips Nick Lane and Lee Thornburg along with the back up singers Pat and Carol Sue.
We were chillin’ before the show. It was a big space divided by portable room divider curtains so you could hear anything someone was saying in the next space and Stevie and her people we’re in the next one over unaware of our presence just dumping on everyone. They were raggin’ on Pat and Carol Sue saying they couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and shit like that. Pat was a real pistol and wanted to go right through the curtain and kick some ass but I calmed her down and put my fingers to our lips and we listened. It was worth it.
Stevie started ragging on Tom Petty saying how he needed her to sell tickets in Tempe (I believe she is from Arizona) and how his tour was a disaster. She said if it wasn’t for her the stadium would be empty. Yep good ol’ loyal Stevie Nicks. After that we said fuck it, it’s open season on this bitch and her crew of whirling dervishes.They’d been looking down their noses at us for a few weeks.
Stevie was still doing a lot of blow but it wasn’t helping her figure. She’d put on a few pounds and it wasn’t pretty. I have a photo of her bending over on a bus and Nick Lane mugging with his mouth wide open with his arms spread wide. Priceless.
On the way to the San Diego Sports Arena…
This was on a bus trip from LA to San Diego to play the Sports Arena. I don’t know why but the bus was an ancient piece of shit. Like an old worn out Greyhound Bus with rows of hard seats and a toilet in the back left corner. I think Tom thought it was funny because usually it was first class all the way with Tom Petty. Hotels, jets, limos, food you name it, he liked to live large like the next rock star. Luxury tour busses are tricked out and very comfy but not this old bucket of bolts.
And the toilet had an interesting feature. When you locked yourself in it proved to be a pain in the ass to get the door unlocked and get it to open and if someone on the outside was so inclined it was easy to keep them trapped inside.
Lee, Nick and I were hanging at the back of the bus (as we would) near the toilet when who comes strolling down the aisle but Cameron Crowe. He nods and smiles at us and goes in the toilet. I look at my boys with that look in my eye and I remember Lee and Nick saying, “No Z, c’mon give him a break.” Not this time fellas.
I can’t remember exactly how but I rigged it so the door wouldn’t open. Cameron starts lightly knocking on the door and then after a minute or two he starts banging on it. The bus was so old and noisy no one could hear him. We’re having a good laugh and after 15 minutes Lee says, “C’mon Z, why don’t you let him out?” I thought about it and then shook my head no and the pounding on the door is getting louder but nobody hears or has to go to the bathroom.
We arrived at the San Diego Sports Arena and everybody is already getting off the bus. Nick asks if I’m going to let Cameron out and I say yeah just gimme a minute. But I never did. I don’t know how long he was in there but he wasn’t happy about it. He tried to blame us and especially me but I pleaded ignorance and innocence. No one had seen the crime so there were no witnesses. The poor bastard was in that bathroom over an hour. It was the summer of 1985.