Scientific studies are constantly proving that as long as aging brains stay active and gather new information, they continue to function soundly. In light of this, you may find the reading of this column a good opportunity of learning. The lesson: never browse a flea market after you’ve had a few beers.
The problem is everything looks more interesting than it actually is. Everything looks appealing and fixable and paint worthy and … “Hey! Holy cow! Is that The Mamas & The Papas!?”
The photo had Denny Doherty and John Phillips at either end, smiling with great contentment and in the middle, in front of them, Mama Cass is looking kind of uncharacteristically foxy, but Michelle Philips’ hair is shorter and browner than the honey blonde I remember.
Wow! A wood-framed photograph of one of my favourite rock groups of the 1960’s. California Dreamin’. Monday, Monday. Are you kidding me?
What ‘er the chances of me walking into this sprawling palace of junk and approaching, good lord … The Mamas & The Papas … when a hundred, maybe a thousand people had walked right on by. I had to have it!
The 20-year-old kid in the corner who had easily gotten four or five nights sleep out of his clothes looked annoyed that I would dare speak while he played Grand Theft Auto on what looked like the world’s first computer.
He picked up a cell phone, hit a button and got the boss or his dad or both.
He looked at me and said: “A hundred and twenty-five bucks.” Oh man, an autographed picture of The Mamas & The Papas! These people didn’t have a clue of what this piece of rock history was worth! Beautiful. A real steal. But hey – you still gotta haggle.
“Tell him he’s dreamin’. The wood frame is chipped and the glass is so stained with smoke, it’ll have to be replaced. Seventy-five dollars.”
He called back, relayed the message, said “Uh huh” and put the phone down. “It’s a hundred and twenty-five bucks and now I gotta charge you tax too!”
When I got it home, I cleaned the frame, windexed the glass and hung it smack dab in the middle of my bedroom wall, just to the right of the night stand with my reading light and radio. Perfect!
The next morning, coffee mug in hand, I was sitting on the edge of the bed looking into the almost angelic eyes of a bearded Denny Doherty, the calm and cool member of the band. Right beside him, the normally grungy Mama Cass is looking way, way better than I ever remembered. Her hair, normally lank and scraggly was actually short and perky and … and okay, that’s not Mama Cass. A closer look at the signature confirmed that the large woman in the photo is actually Spanky McFarlane who joined The Mamas & The Papas after Mama croaked. I don’t know how I missed that at the flea market, but I certainly should have noticed that the short, dark-haired skinny girl in front of John Phillips was not his wife Michelle but his young daughter Mackenzie who joined the band in 1982 after her stepmother’s departure.
John Phillips is really John Phillips, but he appears to be standing a tad too close and directly behind his daughter – it’s all coming back to me now – because in her 2009 autography, High On Arrival, Mackenzie Phillips revealed that along with their frequent drug binges, she and her father had conducted a long-term and consensual sexual relationship. (There’s no doubt in my mind that after she found out about the affair, Mama Cass probably choked on that ham sandwich intentionally.)
Now I’m highly suspicious of these people in my bedroom and as much as I hated to do it, I needed to know whether Mackenzie falsely publicized the incestual affair with her late father in order to sell a ton of books or it was in fact true. So I crept up to the frame, removed it from the nail it hung on, turned it around and yup … if you look at the photograph of The ‘New’ Mamas & Papas, John Phillips and Mackenzie Phillips are not wearing pants!!!
Needless to say, I don’t like my chances of getting my $141.25 back from Dwayne and Dwayne Senior at the flea market just because I have been grossed out by what I saw on the backside of the photo. So I moved it from the bedroom to the living room because no matter what you think of the Phillips’ idea of fun for the whole family, it’s one helluva conversation starter.
Obviously, I’m the victim in this car wreck, a disaster which could have easily been avoided if they installed breathalyzer devices at the entrances to flea markets. Long story short: For Sale – A lovely, framed photograph of The Slightly Rearranged Mamas & The Papas. Must be bolted to wall. No peaking. $125.00. No tax. P.S. Mama Cass looks absolutely ravishing.
For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of Wainfleet, go to www.williamthomas.ca