“Palm Beach Apocalyse Now”
by Russell Buddy Helm
from the FB blog, 1969 Palm Beach Festival
The helicopter landed on the perfectly manicured Putting Green at the back of the Colonnades. Right next to where they shot the TV game show, “Treasure Island” It was a nice Huey type chopper. There was also a fifty gallon open tin drum with a perpetual fire going for the night flights to see. It was cold too. The helicopter came and went like in a combat zone. Partying in every room overlooking the chopper landing and taking off. I was in the Chambers Bros room watching it. Dropping off wounded and fried rock stars and picking up fresh ones to send to the front. As the nights wore on it became more demonic. When we got in it our road manager almost lost his face when he walked around the back. Flying out over the swamp was like going from rich conservative America Palm Beach into the jungle of Viet Nam. From the air, it looked a lot like Nam. We landed backstage and covered over the sleeping hippies with sand from the backwash. It was as hallucinogenic as Apocalypse Now.
Russell “Buddy” Helm
Drummer – Bethlehem Asylum
There was a rock star in almost every suite with the door usually open and people coming and going from one party to another. There was jamming with everyone from the Chambers Brothers to johnny Winter. The Rolling Stones suite was filled with Bikers and groupies waiting for the Stones to arrive. Someone shot a hole in the wall with a hand gun. Janis looked great. Her long legs in that green mini dress. Grace Slick looked glamorous getting out of the limo and hot.The dining room cocktail bar band was taken over by Janis’s rhythm section, mixing with just about every band there 24 hours of jamming in the dining room.
Johhny Winter was sitting on his bed playing his chrome National Dobro and smiling that haunting trancsulcent smile that only him and Edgar can do. They are Texas Albinos. Its like looking into a very nice bright light. His playing was silky and slinky. Slide. Kids huddled around him on the floor in rapt attention, adoring, worshipful. Their offerings were stoned inspiration.They offered him drugs as a sacrament. He smiled and did not partake. He was in his holy chapel at the moment, playing with the great blues masters huddled around him in spirit. Johnny always looked like he was close to being pure spirit with his white hair, white skin, faint eyes. His playing always burning hot.
Nasty Jim Neiman, the bass player with Bethlehem Asylum strided into the room, Buddy the drummer, pulling up the more circumspect rear. Johhny looked up at the costume Jim had assembled; part biker, part American Indian, part super hero, part Jim Dandy. Dark Roy Orbison clip-on shades over his thick coke bottle glasses hid his beady eyes. Johnny sort of recognized him.
“We had the same girlfriend in Atlanta.” Jim assured Johnny that they were in the same circles.
“You must be doing something right- you’re here.”Johnny offered generously.
He started to play some Robert Johnson stuff and the night got positively sacred. As if there was an angel playing the Blues.