In the first week of November 1973 I interviewed Peter Wolf, the singer with the J Geils Band, in his suite at the Continental Hyatt House in Los Angeles, or the Riot House as it was renamed after Led Zeppelin trashed it. Wolf’s girlfriend, the actress Faye Dunaway, sat in on the interview and, when it was over, asked me about England, about the royals, about our customs and why our policemen don’t carry guns. She was quite tiny, birdlike, and very beautiful, and she spoke to me in a word-perfect English accent. Maybe she was practising for a part.
That night the JGB played at Long Beach Arena, supported by my friends Slade who did their best in a battle with a partisan crowd. I watched their show from the side of the stage and remained there for the JGB’s set, and after about half an hour Faye, in a pale blue silky dress, turned up, made eye contact and stood next to me until it was over. It’s always too loud to make conversation at the side of stages during gigs so we didn’t talk much but I gathered from her that she’d be at the after-show party, as would I. “See you there,” she said as she wandered off just before the final number was over. An experienced celebrity, she knew precisely when to leave.
The party was aboard the Queen Mary liner which was permanently docked nearby, and when I got there I noticed to my surprise that Faye was sitting on her own. Peter Wolf had evidently not yet arrived or left her alone to be photographed with the rest of the band, and she beckoned to me to join her. We continued our ‘English’ conversation for a few minutes then, to my surprise, Faye suggested we take a stroll together along the deck. As we did so we fell into an improvised dialogue, imagining ourselves as English aristocrats crossing the Atlantic at the turn of the century, perhaps even on the Titanic. Warming to our roles, we linked arms flirtatiously beneath the stars and the conversation went something like this:
“Tell me Lord Charles, how was the conversation at the Captain’s table tonight?”
“It was very agreeable, Lady Faye. The Countess of Avignon joined us and was most amusing. I see you dined with the Duke of Marlborough this evening. How are the Duke and Duchess? We shoot together in the Highlands, you know.”
“The Duke is very well but the Duchess has a touch of mal de mer.”
“Oh, how tiresome. I do hope she’s well enough for the deck quoits tournament tomorrow. She’s a spiffing player.”
It was a hoot. I was thoroughly enjoying this, and I think she was too. We came to a step-ladder that took us to a higher level and I followed Faye’s pert little behind up into a sort of look-out area where we continued our ad-libbing. The truth is we were flirting with each other, but the thought of taking her in my arms was simply too outrageous to contemplate for me. Then we heard shouting from below. It was Peter Wolf. He’d evidently been told that Faye was out on the deck with another man, and he sounded peeved, probably thinking something was going on between us. As if. Faye smiled at me and squeezed my hand. “Thank you, my English friend,” she whispered, pecking me on the cheek, “but I have to go.” She excused herself and went back down to soothe her irate boyfriend.
Musing on this fairy-tale encounter I lingered a while, smoking a cigarette and staring out over the dark blue Pacific, and when I finally made it back to the party both had left.
Faye Dunaway married Peter Wolf the following year but they were divorced in 1979. I never met either of them again.