In the mideighties, when I was on tour with the New Mamas & the Papas, a porter brought two packages up to my hotel room. One contained a book, my father's newly published memoir, but I was more interested in the other package—a flat FedEx letter containing an eighth of an ounce of cocaine. The band, a reconstituted version of the Mamas & the Papas, included my father, Denny Doherty, Spanky McFarlane, and me. We were on an extended tour, performing in city after city for more than 250 days of the year. In each city, a FedEx like the one I was holding awaited me, and I spent all day every day in my hotel room, shooting up coke, coming out only to appear onstage for the nightly gig. Then I'd return to my hotel and do more coke. I was twenty-six years old. I put Dad's book aside, opened the FedEx, and prepared a shot. Using a scarf, I tied off my arm. As I looked for a vein, I felt the familiar rush that accompanied the ritual itself. I knew what was coming. I pushed the needle in. As the coke entered my bloodstream I felt a euphoric onrush of sensation. I was back where I wanted to be.
Only then did I pick up my father's book. Papa John: A Music Legend's Shattering Journey Through Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll was a brick of a book with the title faux spray-painted on the jacket in neon colors. I turned it over in my hands to look at the photo of my father on the back. He was clean-shaven and smiling a newscaster smile, the sanitized, post-rehab version of my father. He didn't look remotely like his hipster self.
Published on September 23, 2009