happy me

happy me
"I'm not pissed yet"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meeting my favorite actor and one of my favorite singer/songwriters....2 completely separate stories I’m gonna tie together.....

Here goes nothin’....
It’s the mid ‘70s and my band Jiva (Geevah) is flyin’ high. Our eponymously titled LP was “in the can” (done) and some test pressings were made. Our Label owner and executive producer, George Harrison had invited Ringo into the studio several times to hang out with us during the sessions and we got friendly with him. He’s was riotous fun and a great hang! Ringo ended up inviting us to his house in the hills above Sunset Blvd. for a big party he was hosting. Of course we accepted, not really knowing what to expect.
We arrived fashionably late (but not too late) and the shindig is in full swing. First thing I notice is David Crosby crossing the front door in search of a joint or some such substance and the next thing I see is Plant and Page (yes THAT Plant and Page) sitting on a “conversation pit” couch with about 5-6 women (big surprise!) in a sunken living room. The first thing I think is “I need a drink, quick! Hell, 3 drinks!” After about 3 or so cognacs (nobody counted back then and I was pretentiously “cognac cool”), I found myself by the pool sharing a joint with and picking Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones’ brain about recording technique and other recording geek topics, having a great conversation when I really had to go to the bathroom. I excused myself telling him of my need to pee and wanted to continue our conversation when I got back. I walked through the front rooms and around the corner down the long hall that led to the bathroom and there, standing all alone, was my favorite actor of all time, Peter Sellers! As I’m walking down the hall, I am desperate to make some kind of conversation, feelling very shy and overwhelmed. He looks as though he’s studying a painting on the wall across from the bathroom door, hands behind his back, waiting to use the bathroom. Now, if you’ve never seen his film “The Party” it’s high time you did! 
Suffice it to say he plays a bumbling Indian actor, accidentally invited to a big film producer’s dinner party and pure insanity ensues. Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite Sellers films and funny as shit! So I get this idea and say in a Hindi dialect, “That is a very nice painting you are looking at. I was admiring that painting not 45 minutes ago!”
He didn’t miss a beat and answered right back in the same dialect, “Yes! It is very nice, but I have been waiting for bathroom LONG TIME!” as he literally screamed it through the bathroom door! Three guys come out, (obviously just finishing up some lines of cocaine, yes my children, COCAINE!) and offer up apologies to “Mr. Sellers” (so sorry...blah, blah, blah....) and “Mr. Sellers” goes into the bathroom. A few minutes later there are three other people waiting in line behind me and he comes out, gives me a smile and walks down the hall to rejoin Ringo’s party. I go in and pee and coming back out. As I am walking back into the fray, there he is at the end of the hall wearing that famous “Peter Sellers cat-that-ate-the-canary grin”. I think it a little strange until he says to me, “You do that dialect very well, young man. Are you an actor?” I told him I had been on and off since age 9, but I’m also a musician/singer/songwriter and my group, Jiva, had just finished up our first album. He says, and I quote “You mean you're George’s band? He gave me your music and I’ve been listening to it all this week! Are the rest of the boys here? I’d love to meet them!”. My. Jaw. Drops. To the floor. I answer back “Why yes! Yes they are! Stay right here and I’ll round them up!” I frantically run around the party gathering up “the boys” and one of our managers Jack Reed practically screaming at them “Peter Sellers wants to meet you guys” And it was like WTF!!?? They follow me over to where Peter is (at this point I’m thinkin’ it’s “hey Pete, hey Mike!”) and he proceeds to tell us how much he enjoys our music and asking us how we enjoyed the process of recording, who were the writers of the songs (back then, we had decided to share the credit, ala Lennon/McCartney, so it was Lanning/Hilton/Strauss as writers with our drummer sharing in the publishing....and Reedo, if you are reading this, you were the glue and set the groove, my brother, and deserve more credit then you ever got at the time)
So, Here we are sharing with my favorite actor of all time stories, like the time George kicked Sly (of Sly And The Family Stone fame) out of the studio after surprising us with inviting Sly into a session, knowing we were big fans. Super disappointment Sly was, with an entourage of 6-8 people, all coked out of their nuts and then Sly sits at the console and starts trying to direct the session, all while lining up coke for his minions! After quietly pulling Sly aside and asking him and his people to leave, George shyly apologizes to us for inviting him “I didn’t know he was a traveling circus” if I remember correctly, was what George said....(Side note: in all of my years in the business of show, I’ve never met a more beautiful soul than George Harrison....but he did NOT suffer fools gladly! And he was one hell of a funny human being!!!) 
But yet again, I digress. We are hanging out with Peter for what seems like over an hour when Miami Steve Van Zandt, Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan, all from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band (Bruce wasn’t there...at least not to my knowledge), pull me aside and ask, “Can you introduce us to Peter Sellers?” (I have since reminded both Max and Steven at different times several years later that I had introduced them to Sellers at Ringo’s house and of course they remembered meeting him but didn’t remember me introducing them, of course!....ahh, the glamorous life!) I remember thinking “is this really happening??” Here I am introducing my new best friend Peter Sellers to one of my favorite bands (courtesy of George, we had seen them recently at The Roxy on Sunset during the “Born To Run” tour...they were spectacular!! A true force to be reckoned with in rock and roll...) 
We party on into the night and around 3-4 am Peter can’t find his limo driver so we end up giving him a ride home in our Van!!
I remember thinking “I can die now”....I’ve worked with a Beatle and met my favorite actor and HE likes OUR music!!! Wow...just....wow!!! (a semi-fictional account ended up in a novel of a dear friend of ours, writer Chris Corbett called “Coast Highway” a good read you can find online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble) 
So, I told you that story to tell you this one.....
Years later, one of my best friends (since high school I had known and loved all the Hiltons like a second family...we grew up, all of us, playing music together) and old band mate from Jiva, Thomas Hilton, and I had loosely reformed into “Cosmic lightning Bolts Of Reality, Manifesting On This Plane For Your Enjoyment” (yes, that was our name....we tried to pick as unpretentious name as we could :o) with another friend of ours, drummer Steve “Coyote” Tomaino. We played this place called “The Sagebrush Cantina” on a regular basis for several years, from the mid 80s to the late 90s.
One Saturday afternoon we are setting up for a 4-8 pm slot when I notice someone watching us set up. It’s Bruce Springsteen!!
He’s casually leaning on the side of the entrance, and I walk over to him, introduce myself and say, “You know Bruce, I introduced Peter Sellers to some of your E Street mates at Ringo’s house back in the 70s”. He says “No shit!” and asks me which ones and asks me my name and the name of the band. He gets a huge kick out of our name laughs and I say, “We also have something else in common you don’t know about. We’ve both written songs for Dave Edmunds”. Again, he says “No shit!” (Bruce had written “From Small things Mama, Big Things One Day Come” for Dave, also one of my faves from Dave!) and I said “Yup! But I’ve written 2 songs for him and you only wrote one!” He burst out laughing at that and decided to stay and listen to our entire first set, telling us we sounded great and wishing us the best before takin’ off. (Dave ended up recording a third song of mine called “Beach Boy Blood (In My Veins)” a year or so later, but that’s a whole other story!) Yup! I have had some life, don’t ya’ know!

PS: Several years after that while living in NYC, around 2005, I am doing one of several benefits for "Rockers On Broadway", a charity event created by my friend, Donnie Kehr and Pete Townsend when they were working on "Tommy" on Broadway together and co-produced by another dear friend Cori Gardner. It was themed "A Celebration of The 60s" and it was to benefit "Broadway Cares, Equity Fights Aids" and "The Path Fund" which provides music education for under funded schools. Steve Van Zandt was one of our special guests along with The Rascals. We were doing some photo ops and I was standing next to Steve waiting to take a picture when I leaned over and whispered to him, "Remind me later to tell you about the time I introduced you and your band members to Peter Sellers at Ringo's house in '75" and started to walk away. He grabbed my arm and said, "What the fuck did you just say?" I repeated myself and he shook his head and said " Wow, Ok!". Later I turned in a version of Joe Cocker's "Space Captain" and as I walked off stage, one of the assistant stage managers came to me and said, "Mr. Van Zandt would like to see you at his table right now". Well, who could refuse an offer like that, especially since I set him up? I spent the next 15 or so minutes at his table explaining the whole story to him! He was very amused and pretty amazed after all that time!
M. Lanning 02/22/12


  1. A long way from the Hollywood argyle apartments, eh? Great story, Michael. I smiled all the way through, love...

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  3. Sally! oh Lord, yes! thanks for your indulgence! my family and i have always had a propensity for having crazy, sometimes absurd things happen to us.....it's almost an uncanny calling and we all believe it was because our mother taught us to be inclusive....it's a blessing and a curse sometimes, i guess, but ultimately a blessing! love to you as well, Sally..... :o)

  4. What great stories! Cosmic lightning bolts of reality indeed!


  5. My 1 degree of separation from that party is worth a close encounter of the first kind with aliens or the bacon brothers. Love it.

    Thanks, Mikey

  6. "Yes, yes, that very good blog. I read long time. It is like cosmic lightning bolt of reality to my eye. Very much I laugh."

  7. Good to read the Long version, bits of your story stick with me but much of this reading today seemed wonderfully new. Love, Joy and Peace - -