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The ending of a great adventure – goodbye Lou.

Posted in Life & Love, and Relationships

File photo of U.S. musician Lou Reed during his concert in Santiago de CompostelaLou Reed died on Sunday. He was an extraordinary man – poet, musician, artist, author. He was also difficult as hell. Giving me some of the worst work days of my life.

Lou hated interviews. And, as he saw it, I was the person who forced him around Europe every eighteen months or so, to give them. We would joust endlessly – and had clear roles: me to get him through – him to come up with every conceivable way to make that difficult. Walking into a wall of knives every day was exhausting and damaging. But I kept telling myself I had to do it, it was my job. But really, I wanted him to be successful.

One tour Lou told me I wouldn’t be needed any more. He had an US publicist now, who would do the job much better than me. I put the final itinerary together, typed it all up and went home happily. Three days later I was in Paris. The girl was gone, and I was on.

That tour was called Magic and Loss: a song cycle Lou had written as a way of working through the deaths of two of his dearest friends. The promotion work proved incredibly emotional for him – and the pieces published at the time attest to the nightmare of those interviews. We had established a code that would clue me in as to how the interview was doing: if he asked me to light his cigarette (the hotels allowed him to smoke ) during my 10-minute check in; it meant he was doing ok. If he asked me to “buy me some Spirits”, I had to leave and return five minutes later. And end the interview. This infuriated the journalists no end. And had them writing nasty things about me: “Ha ha – now you know how it feels.”

In Paris, the concert promoter Alain Lahana explained the rules of engagement to the audience: “Mr Reed will play this song cycle from beginning to end. Do not clap until all of the music has stopped. Do not leave the theatre until interval. Do not shout song requests. He will play a selection of favourites after the second interval. This is an album about Loss. If you listen, you’ll hear the Magic. Merci.”

The lights dimmed and the band went into: “Dorita“: wailing, heraldic guitar and cymbal, spare. The audience clapped. The next song started and finished as planned. The audience clapped. Song three, someone in the balcony screamed: “Loooooooou – Sweet Jane”. Lou stopped playing. “Turn the house lights up”, he snarled. “Who was that? Tell me or the show is over.” Nervous audience members pointed out the culprit. Security escorted him out of the theatre. “Now”, said Lou, “let’s start at the beginning.”

Lou with his beloved wife, the wonderful Laurie Anderson
Lou with his beloved wife, the wonderful Laurie Anderson

The last time we toured together we ended our run in Stockholm. It had been three exhausting weeks and mostly uphill. Lou wanted to go to dinner early, so I left the interview suite to make plans, coming back 15 minutes later to find him gone. I called his room, knocked on the door, asked the concierge if he had walked past. No one had seen him.

On a hunch I followed the service stairs down into the deep kitchens. And walked through the maze of passages that wreath the underground of the Grand Hotel, until I found him: “Hey Lou, it’s this way.” He said nothing, turned around and followed me. We climbed the stairs as I told him about dinner plans, and I walked him to his room. He stopped at the door: “You came back for me?” I nodded. He stared at me for a moment, then said: “I’ll see you at 7.30.”

We travelled home on different airlines but he insisted I escort him to his plane. He gave me a fierce hug and awkwardly thrust a copy of his new book into my hands. I had held off asking for one, because he had been grumbling about how much they were costing him to give to journalists (in fact, we were paying for them. But he was a frugal fellow, so I didn’t put him straight).

“Don’t forget me”, he said and turned away.

I ran to my plane, just making it as the doors closed. Sat down and started to cry. The hostess bought me a glass of champagne and a tissue and said: “Don’t worry, you’ll see him again.” I laughed … “Oh dear Lord, I probably will.”  Then I opened my book, the inscription read: “I love you Sue, Lou”.

Mr Reed had a liver transplant earlier this year. I sent him a message: “Lou, get better tout suite, there is still work to do.” He responded, as dry as ever: “Oh, well ok then: if you say so, Sue.” Neither of us had forgotten.

I love you too, Lou. Travel safe.

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23 Comments

  1. David Bither
    David Bither

    What a beautiful post, Ms. Wildish, and discovering this, how nice to “hear” from you again. Lou’s death leaves behind a different city here in New York…and brings back many memories for me, too, including one of the few concerts to ever move me to tears, seeing the Velvets reunited in Berlin. And of course, his beloved Laurie…thank you for including that lovely photograph. Cheers…..David Bither

    November 13, 2013
    |Reply
    • David! How excellent to hear from you. And to be reminded of the Velvets tour. I remember watching them perform Venus in Furs and ‘getting’ Lou a little better. John didn’t take his eyes off Lou as he sang: and at the end they just stood looking at each other. Then nodded, and went on with the show. Mo was smiling at them like an older sister. I hope life is treating you well!

      November 13, 2013
      |Reply
  2. Paul
    Paul

    Wonderful piece. He’s a special guy and a lucky man to have had you in his corner. Beautifully written too.

    November 4, 2013
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  3. Flossy
    Flossy

    Another beautifully written piece sofagirl. The magic and majesty of those irascible icons.

    November 3, 2013
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  4. Andrew Perelson
    Andrew Perelson

    Great 1st person. Your mirrored his angst with dutiful caring.

    October 30, 2013
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  5. Anders Karlsson
    Anders Karlsson

    Hey Sue!

    Not sure you remember me – I was TM:ing and doing lights for Andreas Johnson back in the days… Found a note on Facebook from Helene Wigren leading me to your blog.

    Not a massive fan of Lou, but of you, I had to read this blog post.
    Stunned by the way you describe your work relationship. I understand it must have been very special and that he was a very special man! Very nicely written…

    Hope to see you again at some point!

    Anders Karlsson.

    October 29, 2013
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    • Of course I remember you Anders!! How great to hear from you. Thanks for the note and I hope to see you again – esp, in Stockholm which I love. xx

      October 31, 2013
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  6. Alan K.
    Alan K.

    Sue! No idea you were such a wonderful writer. Nice one.

    October 29, 2013
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    • Thanks Alan, great subject that’s for sure.
      x

      October 31, 2013
      |Reply
  7. Wow – I am in awe. When I read of Lou Reed’s death I was so sad – it was like the end of my adolescence; little did I realise that you are a living link to a man who will almost certainly be acknowledged as one of the geniuses of rock. His songs will live with me forever, no matter who sings them. Now, before your memory fades, write down everything you remember about working with him. Music historians in the future need first-hand testimony.
    Lou Reed – RIP

    October 29, 2013
    |Reply
    • Oh man, that would be some book. I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell – but I can picture him sitting with Doc Pomus playing the blues. Andy Warhol shooting off the cuff pics, and Nico singing back-up. I’ve been sad this week.

      October 31, 2013
      |Reply
  8. Carla
    Carla

    Hey Sue, I remember it all too, and he certainly provided you with some very entertaining stories of an evening ( so wish you’d told the “measuring the carpet” story). For my part I’ve always found it amusing that many of the world’s celebrated musical icons shout very loudly for world peace/caring for fellow man….and yet can’t seem to find any manners or respect for the person sitting next to them……. odd that……

    October 29, 2013
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    • I hear you – we had our share of that, for sure.

      October 29, 2013
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  9. silvia
    silvia

    Thanks for sharing such private feelings

    October 29, 2013
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  10. Magda le Grange
    Magda le Grange

    Just beautiful and heart warming.

    October 29, 2013
    |Reply
  11. b:)
    b:)

    Thaks for sharing this…

    October 29, 2013
    |Reply
  12. I remember those days of grumblings and plane hopping. And it was all worth it. As you said, it’s the unexpected people who change us.

    October 29, 2013
    |Reply
  13. connie.n.w.
    connie.n.w.

    Yes, I agree with the first commenter. Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. cnw

    October 29, 2013
    |Reply

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