I know an eighteen-year-old genius named Jimmy Dunbar who thinks the ultimate prize in the ultimate contest would be a weekend with Linda Ronstadt. Not a bad idea for a benefit. Make the contest worthy enough and a chick hip as Linda might go for it. She'd recognize that what was being peddled was her charisma and not her ass. Anyway, the winner would probably turn out to be some kid like Jimmy, who'd spend his whole prize time jumping through hoops for her. Linda's got her situation under control. Do you doubt she's a pioneer, a chick with balls, a credit to her gender?
Name me some other lady in America with the kind of chutzpah and lure it takes to juggle a fling with the President's son at the same time she's handling a romance with the chief challenger for the President's job. Probably you've heard about California Governor Jerry Brown showing up with Linda at L.A.'s Roxy, taking her on a tour of his favorite North Beach cultural hangouts in San Francisco, sending the National Guard to sandbag her $325,000 Malibu home so it wouldn't get washed into the Pacific, and spending his weekends there while Linda sleepily answered his morning phone calls.
The big public talk is that Linda and Jerry have been quietly going together for more than two years. But did you also know that Linda's one of the reasons that Chip Carter got banished from the White House? The D.C. dirt is that Chip apparently was acting too dazzled by all the nose-powdered rock stars a President's son can get to hang out with, not the least of whom was the ultimate prize in Jimmy Dunbar's ultimate contest.
A weekend with the chick who sang "When Will I Be Loved?" as if she was really hurting. I'd enter the contest if I could afford it. The first I ever heard of Linda was in the Sixties when she was the pretty one with the Stone Poney (sic), except I couldn't reconcile the sound of the name Rondstadt (sic) with that sweet face in the group's picture. She had the same fleshy magic that had made Brigitte Bardot such a throb years earlier. Like Brigitte, Linda looked innocent and dirty at the same time. Plus, they both seemed real in their photographs. You could look at their pictures and see their bare shoulders and feel the texture of their skin. The smartest pictures Linda ever took were in a Daisy Mae outfit on her album that showed her in the slop with the hogs. Oink, oink. Can you imagine her in the White House? The Republicans have already accused Jimmy Carter of turning the place into a pigsty.
The First Lady of Rock as the First Lady of what would have to be a rocking U.S. was the suggestion of a cover story about Linda's love life with her bachelor Guv in the May 16 issue of US magazine. It played with the iffy prospects of Linda getting hitched to Jerry while Jerry got Jimmy unhitched from the White House. The US story promoted a few snickers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where Governor Brown is usually a sobering topic to Jimmy's political heads, who regard Jerry as the only threat to Jimmy's renomination unless Teddy Kennedy decides to run.
Although a late starter at the time, Jerry covered too much ground too fast in the 1976 Presidential primary run to be snickered at, but then it's easy to imagine political heads like Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell, Jimmy's top two thinkers, coming across the idea that Jerry himself might have leaked the US story to stop people from wondering if he was gay.
What the White House knew that Jerry didn't know was also something the White House was trying to forget. According to Capitol gossip, the twenty-seven-year-old Chip got hung on the thirty-one-year-old Linda behind the forty-year-old Governor's back, an embarrassing situation since Chip also had a twenty-six-year-old wife and a six-month-old son living with him in America's edifice rex. To Linda, Chip was a nice kid but no more than kindling compared to Jerry's Presidential timber, or so the story goes.
The situation came to a head in the summer of '77 when Chip, unbeknownst to the public, split from the White House in a disagreement with his wife Caron, a sweet hometown peach, to stay with his thirty-year-old buddy, Joel McCleary, one of D.C.'s most popular Carter carpetbaggers and then-treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. That night or the next, while Joel and Chip were in the middle of getting their noodles straight, someone knocked on the McCleary door. Joel's wife April opened it, and into the weedy reek of the McCleary house walked the President of the United States of America, accompanied by his Secret Service bodyguards. Joel got so freaked by this scene, he called a friend on the Coast, where it got put in cinemascope.
Apparently, Chip ended up getting pretty much the standard father-tells-son-not-to-lose-head-over-tail lecture, except he was also made to understand that he was like a member of America's royal family, living in a floodlit display window with the audience willing to watch him go to the toilet, if it could. Since this happened around harvest time, Chip was ordered back to Plains to work in the family's peanut warehouse.
Eventually, he won himself back into his dad's good graces and his White House room, returning to D.C. with Caron and their son in January 1978. He's kept a low profile ever since, working as a fund raiser for Cities In Schools, a private organization dedicated to deprived high-school kids and existing on public grants. By June, Chip was getting his own Washington apartment for his little family. He hadn't seen the ultimate prize in the ultimate contest for almost a year.
What I'm trying to explain is that Linda earned her stardom as fair and square as any chick. I remember the kick I got from "Different Drum" which was a Top 40 hit for the Stone Poney (sic) back around 1966, but it took a while for me to realize Linda was the one singing lead. The people out there liked her. They just didn't know who she was. Meanwhile, she'd become a sizzling dressing-room topic on the folk-rock circuit.
She could sing, too. It was my old buddy Bob Dylan who first broke the news to me that Linda was quitting the Stone Poney (sic) to try to make it on her own. The big surprise was that it took her so long. Linda had to put out a lot of albums before she could get the people to listen, instead of just wanting to touch. I remember back in the early Seventies when Miles Davis came back from a gig in Boston complaining that, while he'd drawn lines around the block and Linda was playing to half-empty houses down the street, she got all the publicity in the Boston newspapers. "What were they reviewing?" Miles growled, "her pussy or her singing?" Miles thought he was just as pretty as she was.
As her producer and manager, Peter Asher, half of a Sixties act named Peter and Gordon, was the one who finally got Linda's image, her act, and her music together. The guitar riff in "You're No Good,' for instance, helped make that record for me as much as Linda's singing. When Linda finally started exploding, it was as a country act. Why not? No fox ever looked as backwoods as Linda did in the slop with the hogs. She was one of the pioneers of a new rock route - going hayseed for their hits so they could sneak onto tight-guarded Top 40 playlists - the crossover trail. The country radio stations knew they needed the fresh meaty glamour dripping from Linda's records. They began playing her stuff, as did the FM Progressives.