Another extract from Dear Boy.
It is the beginning of 1976, and Keith is living in Los Angeles, in a three-bedroom house in Sherman Oaks, largely because the mansions of Beverly Hills and Bel Air are no longer affordable to him. He is not a happy man.
A man of extremes, the Keith Moon at ‘home’ in the Valley – confused, insecure, insomniac, struggling with alcoholism, impatient for the next Who tour, dreaming of an acting career while doing nothing of note to pursue it – felt compelled to make up for it when on public display. The occasion that February when Oliver Reed threw a secret fortieth birthday party for his older brother (and right-hand man) David at the Beverly Wilshire became one of Keith’s most exhaustive and explosive ‘performances’.
It can be told factually or anecdotally. As with so much that happened around Keith, everyone has a slightly different recollection. Best perhaps, to leave it to the memory of the raconteur actor who arranged the occasion.
“I invited some people that I knew,” says Reed. (Annette [Walter-Lax – Keith’s girlfriend] recalls it as one of the few events they attended where the Hollywood crowd outweighed the music industry.) “And Keith asked if he could invite Ringo and people like that. I'd always heard about these girls jumping out of cakes, but I'd never seen one. So I got this girl who volunteered to jump out of the cake and introduced her to my brother beforehand at the cocktail party, and there was Keith rolling his eyes, he couldn't wait. We sat the girl next to David, everything went fine, and I got a sign from the man and went into the kitchen, and Moon was up like a rat out of a drainpipe, and the girl undressed and went into the cake. And the chefs helped ice her in.
“We went back and sat down. This huge great cake with 40 candles on it was dragged down, and then boom! Up came the girl out of the cake, with her boobies hanging out of the top tier: 'Surprise surprise!' And with that Keith picked up a bun or a bread roll and threw it at the girl. And with that the man that I used to travel with, his wife picked up a bread roll and threw it at her husband, and then the husband threw one at somebody else and then they all started throwing bread rolls about the place. Moonie then got up and started grabbing all the tablecloths – the pink ones that I'd ordered to go with the pink crockery – and dragged them off the tables. All the crockery went up in the air. He then went and jumped on the table and got these pink chairs and started smashing the chandeliers, and I just dived at him and dragged him across... I dragged him into the kitchens... He had gone completely berserk.”
It had happened in a flash – mere mischief mutating into Moon mayhem, a party ruined, a room destroyed, damage to be paid for, apologies to be made. Oliver Reed had never witnessed anything like it. And for all that he loved his friend and, according to many of those who knew them both, was a bad influence who brought out the worst in Keith, the behaviour shocked him. He could only put it down to drugs. It wasn’t the kind of sudden madness that a few cocktails would bring on.
There was more to it than that. “He'd cut himself. He'd cut his hand. So I held it above his head while they called the ambulance. He was on the floor and someone was keeping his head down and his mouth shut. And then the ambulance fellows came in, gave him a jab, calmed him down and took him to hospital. After which I went back upstairs. The people had screamed and run out because of Moon sprouting blood everywhere and the whole thing was in chaos, the waiters were going crazy, and bodyguards were punching people out... And Ringo was sitting at the table, just shaking his head like he'd seen it all before.”
The bill for replacement of chandeliers, new carpets, crockery and so on ran into tens of thousands of dollars, footed by an Oliver Reed who never dreamed of asking his friend to pay up. “And I’ve never been allowed in [the Wilshire] since.”