Spring of 1972 – The Gotama Hair Salon
Chapter 4 of Part 1
Jayne Hodge ran a large and trendy hair cutting salon called ‘Gotama Hair Salon’, just outside Marbella. It was the creation of Marc Tracy and a protégé of Vidal Sassoon, Gavin Hodge, who Jayne married when she was sixteen, after a whirlwind romance. The marriage didn’t survive, but the Gotama Hair Salon did and it was a hugely successful enterprise. The next year Gavin and Marc would open another hair salon, in a shopping arcade on Kings Road, which they called simply ‘Gotama’.
When we arrived at the salon all the hairdressers and clientele seemed very svelte, confident and well groomed, certainly more so than we must have looked at the time, showing up on the doorstep after a few months on the road.
However, this didn’t seem to bother Jayne, who appeared to be an old flame of dad’s. The cool but appraising eyes of Jayne’s staff of hairdressers looked us kids and our bags up and down suspiciously, between their practiced motions of pulls and snips which, along with deep washing, foaming and massage brought their oblivious clientele a step closer to trendy 70s nirvana.
I presume that Jayne had good memories of her time with Tommy as, once the shift was over, she happily welcomed us, locked up the shop and we all drove off to her country house a few miles into the woods outside of Marbella. Ahead of the car, on his dirt bike, rode Marc, who also lived at the house. He was showing off, buzzing and jumping over the woodland road. He seemed to be Jayne’s boyfriend, although it wasn’t clear. It felt that way.
Once we arrive at Jayne’s well appointed beautiful old finca, which has a pool and a large outdoor dining table on a patio beneath vines, where we will spend many lunches and dinners, Jayne shows us to a little guest cabin at the bottom of the garden.
Marbella beach was a great place for kids to hang out and have a healthy life. We spent all day out in the sea getting brown beneath the sun while the hippies socialised and talked about their plans. We soon became brown ragamuffins who swam like fish, only breaking to grab a Spanish omelette and a Fanta or a roasted sardine on the beach restaurant terrace with its reed roofing that never completely blocked out the sun, but that didn’t seem to bother us.
I wake up earlier than my father and brother and spend time exploring the garden. The gardener and I develop a routine where we are the only ones up early and he generously shares a little of his strong black coffee and a slice of bread fried in olive oil directly on the hot plate in his tiny gardener’s shack.
The Marbella Club is a slightly upmarket expat establishment with lush garden landscaping, a lot of sprinklers and oversized sleeping policemen in the long driveway. A place where the foreigners gather to watch English films once a week.
The films are projected in a mess hall with simple canteen seats and today it’s The Blue Max with George Peppard. The place, of course, has a bar, pool and sauna, which is where dad sneaks off to to have a liaison with some new flame while we watch the movie. We have absolute zero interest in either pool or sauna and are happy in a kid-friendly setting watching Peppard dice with death in the air with the seemingly powerful, but volatile, flying machine, The Blue Max.
This is probably where dad first met Joanna Harcourt-Smith and Frankie, a rough kind of East End gangster. In the vernacular, one is a lover and the other a fighter.
Marbella was full of mostly hipsters, Londoners and freaks, with the odd gangster thrown in, adults which we as kids knew how to engage with and move around. Like Marbella today there was a big singles scene and a lot of flirting, so of course, being the best looking guy around as usual, dad was in his element. The adults laughed in all the right places when they heard the stories about letting us roll and – at this point still – not smoke our perfect joints of all shapes and sizes for the house guests at Nellcôte.
What dad told us and which seemed to have a basis in fact, was that he owed the Inland Revenue a large amount of money, although I think Tom had other more subconscious reasons for not wanting to return to London. Like mum’s death and starting over again, which may have seemed just too much to deal with emotionally and too soon. Besides he said he owed the inland revenue a million quid. I can’t imagine what from, but I guess from property deals, certainly not from smuggling. He felt if he returned to the U.K. he could well be arrested and us kids taken away and become wards of court like mum and her siblings and Tara Browne’s and Lord Lucan’s kids briefly were.
As hippie kids the non freaks were to be avoided. Generally the older Spanish guys who dad met would pinch our little cheeks between two knuckles and rattle our heads around while complimenting our father on how quickly we’d learnt Spanish, how cute we were and also what long hair we had for boys. This was usually followed by a smile and an awkward silence from everyone concerned.
Although dad spoke French fluently from childhood and Danish as a young child in Denmark, he didn’t manage to pick up a new language like Spanish quickly or at all. Might have been because as an adult he found it more difficult to learn.
The music was Rod Stewart singing Sam Cook’s Twisting the Night Away. Marc was a likeable guy who dad said used to be David Bowie’s room mate. Once a week he rode his dirt bike thirty miles up the road to Malaga to procure large amounts of sweet wine.
Marc wasn’t happy, although he never showed it to us kids. But among all the sights and sounds of southern Spain, the jasmine vines over the garden dining table, the sun and the pine nuts, he tried to take his life by slitting his wrists in the bath and he had to be rushed to hospital. He survived but it was close and very much a wake up call to everyone in the house.
The first thing a foreign kid would notice on arriving in Spain is the bullfighting posters, they were everywhere. This is before Spain changed – the way the Spanish treated animals in the early seventies was abysmal, as opposed to a decade later or now – and it was a little scary to us kids. One of our first experiences of this was in a taxi witnessing how the driver kept going in a straight line instead of swerving to avoid animals on the road. Like Turkey, Spain has changed so much in this regard.
How did we get from the south of France and Nellcôte to Spain?
Danny Nahoum is a large, very warm and lovely Jewish Frenchman who enjoys French food and smokes large Cuban cigars. He bought and sold expensive antiques and paintings. Tommy knew Danny from London where, like John Green – the man who promised Tom’s trustees he’d watch over him when he wrote them a letter to get money for a flat, which he turned into a gambling den – Danny had an art gallery in Mayfair.
We drove lazily with Danny Nahoum all the way from the south of France along the coast to Spain in his Rolls Royce. I have never before or since ridden in a Rolls and the nearest thing I can compare it to is riding a Mercedes in a land yacht. It didn’t drive so much as float. Danny was a great host and very amusing, looked a bit like George Melly in his older days. He used to pinch and slap himself when he got sleepy driving, which happened a little too often for comfort on the trip. He had a huge house in Madrid, with a short but sophisticated Spanish wife, where we stayed and met the person he adored most in the world, his son Nico. On the way over Tom and Danny discussed mostly art and Spanish masters, which Tom fancied he might find in old furniture shops or houses in southern Spain.
The children’s circus was something that captured both our and our father’s imagination. Like dancers, they tended to work with kids who were in their teens, all of them so strong and happy.
Dad always saw a backstage door as a personal challenge, an opportunity to beguile backstage security and confuse them as to why he wasn’t at the main entrance, until they let him and us in. Tommy charmed the teenage performers, asking if we, his kids, might join the circus troupe. ‘Of course, it is possible, but your sons would have to live with the circus for a length of time and learn to perform well’ one of the older lads told dad. What a crazy idea, but one which sat well with both of us, as well as dad.
Although we never did join the circus, there definitely was an image dad held of me as someone who was fearless and daring or might have grown up to be like one of the handsome teens in that troupe of happy performers.
Like most of the younger kids, at least among our cousins, being the younger one I was a little wilder. The theory is that younger siblings receive slightly less fuss and are not given quite as much attention as the firstborn. All that parental attention can make the firstborn into a more cautious being. I was naturally drawn to climbing and fascinated by balance and dad would encourage me in what I suppose he saw as ways to overcome fears. He would set me tasks. One day in Spain he set me the task to walk out on a narrow pipeline which stretched out a couple of hundred yards across a ravine. Arms to my side and enjoying the challenge I made my way cautiously across until there was a greasy section of the pipe where oil had been leaking and I lost my footing. I slipped and somehow caught the pipe, narrowly avoiding a plunge into the ravine below. I enjoyed it and dad encouraged me. It was all very real.
Although Jake is no sissy – he loves sports and is a hard working guy, especially at studies – I think he considered all of this a bit bonkers. So when I say Robert Greenfield missed the characters in his book, I’m not exaggerating and I don’t want to either over or under project the characters in our small and very interdependent family unit. But the projection of Jake as a streetwise kid is unfortunately not accurate.
Maybe by a need to be so in that environment, Jake was a bit sensitive. Tommy and I shared a certain wildness, for music or going fast in cars, the latter of which my brother absolutely couldn’t stand. He was not about risky behaviour at all. He was too logical a guy to go in for any kind of extreme behaviour. He wouldn’t do something like that in a million years and Tom would never encourage him to either. It just wasn’t his bag. He was left brain common sense and practical, although ironically he would end up becoming the performer.
It doesn’t mean Jake wasn’t physical. He was and we spent enough time on the road or in schools in France tag-teaming some bully or other, like we did in Malaga. At that age however, he hadn’t quite developed the confidence and a certain fearlessness like he did in his late teens. When, oddly, I would become more inward.
For his part, I think my brother always considered me a bit of space cadet.
It was a strange dynamic, though and I sometimes wondered if Tom had me down right. With the benefit of hindsight I think my thing is more about going out there, finding some zone in creativity rather than, say, being a wild man, which I think Tom was. Although I did like going fast in cars. Dad was funny and would show me pictures of really good looking guys and say that’s what you’ll look like when you grow up and I would look at the picture and not see it at all.
I would end up using that getting in the zone for skating and music at school or woodworking. This was in my teens and around the time Jake began to discover his passion for acting, which developed his confidence.
At this juncture in Spain it seemed Dad was always trying to hustle, although not dealing drugs. It was more trying to get back into property and one of his old property partners, John Green, was behind a huge expensive development outside Marbella, with a Moroccan theme.
It was exclusive and had beautifully tiled pools and house designs. There was a strange and wealthy expat community there, a bit like Hotel California, which people whispered about – the bank robber and the woman everyone knew had killed her husband. The problem was dad had burned a very large bridge with John Green, one of his oldest property dealer friends from London, on a project to flip an amazing house in Chester Square. John had sent Tommy down there to sign the contracts, which he did, but because Tom had used his own name he’d then taken ownership. Whether he paid John for the house I don’t know. I presume he would’ve gotten into trouble if he hadn’t. Although John was not a gangster. He was a property developer and art collector and the man who’d been guarantor when Tom wrote to his trustees to ask about buying the small flat to live in, which he then turned into what John Green called a Chemin de Fer, a baccarat gambling place in the West End. What goes around comes around. The house at Chester Square.
The Gangster and the Greyhound
During this period, along with Foxie, a wild fox who would come and visit us in the little guest house where we were living, we had adopted a rather beautiful greyhound. Tom loved dogs as much as anyone I’ve met, but one day out in Marbella he’d lent the greyhound to Frankie, who he may have thought, being a gangster, knew something about racing dogs and who had said he’d take him for a while and train him to race or he’d talk to a trainer. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but was probably the result of a half drunken conversation at the Marbella beach bar.
The issue developed for two reasons. Our father’s mix of rare good looks and wildness at times led to self-destructive behaviour. The easiest comparison I might make is Brad Pitt’s character in the movie ‘A River Runs Through It’. Tommy was a gambler and he was as good-looking as Brad Pitt’s character in the film, where the father and family are clueless as to why anyone with so much going for them should be stuck in those kinds of patterns.
I put his psychology at least in part down to his relationship with his father, a tough and reactionary general in the Danish army during WW2. Tom was gregarious and would forever be jumping out of trees or in other ways getting into trouble with his father, who drank heavily and would take his hand or belt to Tom and from what I hear to dad’s mother, Pamela, too. That is my theory and it was formed much later, around the end of the millenium, when I returned to the UK from the States and Tom, who was very generous by nature, kept saying how much he liked how I was and what I was doing, although in fact I was doing nothing more than drifting.
There he was in the corner and he kept saying, over and over, that he was bad. In my mind I put at least some of this down to imprinting from his father telling him he was in fact bad and beating him.
Tom was quite unselfconscious about his looks. Although he could easily have become a model or an actor his interests lay somewhere else, in being the ‘real deal’, a daredevil, a stunt man – which he was in at least one movie in Spain, standing in for George Segal who had to be seen doing a huge belly flop from the high diving board of a pool in the film, Blume In Love. Tom wanted to be a spy, a smuggler or a safe cracker, which got him and us into trouble all the time.
In this instance the gangster Frankie somehow lost our greyhound, which of course made Tommy and us kids sad.
The problem was, when Tommy drank and especially when he drank whiskey – like his father – he became impossible trouble and that self-destructive streak came out with bells on. Which is what happened when out on the town one night. He came across Frankie and after a few too many whiskeys and while Frankie may have deserved it, Tom unloaded on the wrong guy.
Bear in mind this also happened with Dave Barry, the London gangster who financed Tom’s smuggling from Afghanistan, but this time it was worse. When he arrived back at the house he was very badly beaten. On seeing him in the morning we were in tears. It was like nothing we’d ever seen and very hard to see a parent or anyone you really love in that kind of state. I think we sobbed all the way as we drove down to the beach and he walked into the sea, saying the salt would help to heal him. He was in a terrible state.
At some point we moved out of Jayne’s guest house and into a cool, but unremarkable, traditional expat development complex with a pool and other kids to play with. There, in a slightly more regimented life, we started taking a bus every day to attend a German school in Malaga.
Beneath the shady trees we kids would overturn rocks to find Andalusian scorpions, which we’d pick up on leaves to scare the teachers with.
But, if it’s not one thing it’s your mother and we discovered that in recess the German kids would chase us outsiders, especially long haired ones from foreign countries like England. We got used to it and probably hid it slightly because we didn’t want to bother dad with it, although it was surreal. When we did tell him initially Tom didn’t quite believe the stories. He knew kids like to press boundaries and tease and there was always a bully or two to fend off, but in Malaga it was of a slightly different order, especially as we were two of only four English kids. The other two, with who we’d ride out to Malaga and back to Marbella every day, were a pair of blonde twins.
In the end we had to quit the school, when that schoolboy teasing developed into one of the twins getting a leg broken. So Tommy finally got the picture and pulled us out of the German school, where seemingly they hadn’t been told the war was over.
Joanna Harcourt-Smith and Switzerland. Autumn 1972
For reasons best known to Tommy and Joanna we rented a VW Estate and drove from Spain back through France to Montreux in Switzerland. Once there we checked into a hotel. After some local research to find Keith Tommy phoned him. He came to pick us up the next day in his white Range Rover and took us out to their chalet in the mountains to see Anita, Marlon and their new baby.
The reception was good, surprisingly so, considering all that had happened between Tom and Anita at Nellcôte. Anita and Joanna seemed to hit it off. Keith was always gracious to Tom and likewise Tommy adored Keith, so they enjoyed catching up.
Jake, Marlon and I played in the snow while the adults chatted. According to Joanna’s book the conversation revolved mostly around coke, Vietnam and Timothy Leary, who was calling everyone to tune in and drop out.
He had made a dramatic escape from prison and was hiding out in Lausanne.
There was a mountain range full of virgin snow for us kids to get stuck into and armed with a sled Jake, Marlon and I headed off into close by slopes while the adults chatted around the fireplace.
Marlon by this time was a year or so older and more able to hang out with us than at Nellcôte. We were taking turns bombing down the hills and messing about quite happily when Jake’s downhill trajectory somehow intersected with a road. There were no cars coming but he and the sled hit the road fairly hard and he got off saying he’d hurt his back. We decided to head back to the chalet to report this and when we arrived this seemed to irritate Keith. Although we couldn’t completely understand why. I think the pattern of Jake and Keith’s relationship had been set at Nellcôte.
The upshot of the meeting, at least between Joanna and Anita, was that we were to try and contact the McGovern campaign and offer help from the Stones in the form of money to support his election campaign.
So, as bizarrely and as simple as that, we flew to the States.
Our destination is Joanna’s house in Georgetown, Washington DC. We land at JFK airport and hail one of the classic checker cabs to take us to our connecting flight at LaGuardia. Our first taste of New York is meeting an archetypal NYC super freak cab driver. He’s out there and Tommy and Joanna hit it off with him immediately. They talk about the state of the ‘movement’, Vietnam, the reason for the trip and Timothy Leary.
The way Timothy Leary had escaped from prison was, with the aid of his friends in The Brotherhood, by scaling a wall and crossing a motorway holding on to a cable.
The Brotherhood, of which Timothy seemed to be the centre, from what I can tell were mostly a bunch of smugglers and dealers who would fly light aircraft loaded with contraband and drop it at night over Big Bear Lake, which is a mountain ski resort about half an hour east of L.A.
McGovern was the Democratic candidate who wanted to end the Vietnam war and was running against Nixon in the 1972 election. An example of American Liberalism and a U.S. senator he also was a decorated WW2 bomber pilot and had volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Forces upon the country’s entry into World War II. As a B-24 Liberator pilot he flew 35 missions over German-occupied Europe from a base in Italy. He was seen as the best candidate by the young and more progressive culture sweeping the country and the world.
Joanna’s house in DC was incredibly comfortable and Jake and I quickly warmed to life in America, which for us meant an expansive and expensive life waking up to leafy green avenues early and watching The Banana Splits or Mr. Ed downstairs on a big TV while eating multicoloured cereals. We loved it and frequently pressured Tom and Joanna into take us to McDonalds, which we thought was the business in terms of the ultimate dining out experience for kids.
With the McGovern vs Nixon campaign in full swing a lot of the talk is about politics. There even is a very close friend of Joanna’s who strikes me as that strangest of creatures, a pot smoking Nixon supporter. Extremely straight guy, possibly Joanna’s ex or husband.
We borrow a Camaro and drive up to NYC for a much talked about and long overdue meeting with an old friend of Joanna’s. This is the early seventies, before it was considered too impossible or crazy to try and outrun the police, whatever the driver or car – a lesson Tommy would later learn in London, when he was caught driving the wrong way up the western flyover pursued by a throng of police cars sirens wailing – although on this occasion trying to outrun the police worked. As Tommy gunned the Camaro Joanna ditched the weed and whatever gear they were carrying out the window. That was the trip from DC to NYC.
Exhausted from the adrenalin my brother and I passed out in the back of the Camaro. When we woke up it was night-time and there was a NYC cop knocking his torch against the car window. He asked us where our folks were. Alarmed by all the stories we’d heard – from a specifically counterculture viewpoint – we tried to stay calm as we reassured the policeman our parents had just popped out of the car for a minute, although we actually had no idea where they had got to or when they’d left. Although undoubtedly getting high, I presume they were keeping an eye out for us from an upstairs window of the NYC block of flats we were parked outside, as before too long one of them appeared and placated the policemen by explaining that they didn’t want to wake us since we’d just fallen asleep after a long trip. The cop warned them that unlike perhaps Georgetown New York was not a safe place to leave kids and let them off with a warning.
At some point it seemed inevitable that Nixon would win against McGovern and if the mission was ever really on it became off and we flew back to Switzerland.
Back to Switzerland.
Joanna seemed fascinated and a little obsessed with the counterculture bandito guru figure, so this time we flew into Lausanne and stayed not in Geneva in the little pied à terre she owned and where she stayed while going to finishing school – but checked into the Lausanne Palace Hotel, of all places. An extremely expensive place. Not a smart move, but Joanna was used to the best and for the time being her credit was good there. The bills soon began to mount though, particularly with Tommy and Joanna’s tastes for salmon, caviar, foie gras and the like.
The man sheltering Timothy Leary was a mysterious middle aged gangster figure called Michel Hauchard. Some time before that, while at finishing school, Joanna had had an affair with Michel. They had separated because she was much younger and he was somewhat controlling of her. He still wanted her. Although it’s hard to say exactly what Michel did – perhaps spying or arms dealing or being mixed up with the Corsican mafia – after Timothy escaped from prison and when he got to Switzerland, Hauchard was the man who sheltered him. There was definitely talk of him getting a book deal for Tim, if not a movie deal. I still think it would make a great movie.
All of this was very cat and mouse with Joanna and Hauchard. She sort of had to pretend she wanted to see him, get Timothy’s address on the lake and then ditch Michel.
Somehow Tom and Joanna ended up getting hauled up in front of a judge on some charge, I presume drugs, only for the judge to turn out to be a guy Joanna had had an affair with during her late teens, when she was at the finishing school.
Anyway, because of their shared history, the judge let Tommy and Joanna off and so Tommy and Joanna walked out of the courtroom.
Although Joanna’s book is a great read and truly captures a lot of the dynamism and characters, life is much more random. The structure in the first part of her book is very linear, which I like. She meets Tom, a wild and extremely good looking guy who shares her taste for chemicals and who she claims is like an alchemist at mixing drugs. In the book it is structured almost like a video game, like Mata Hari, but instead of fighting opponents she works through more interesting and challenging guys. In my reverse gaming analogy – where they’re lovers, not fighters – instead of the final opponent there is a sort of alternative leader figure, Timothy, possibly an amalgamation of Joanna’s needs and wants. A chemical, philosophical and countercultural explorer extraordinaire.
It can’t have been easy for our father Tommy to observe this and there is a lot of tension around this part in the book.
At the house by the lake there was a lot of pot smoking going on so I presume that’s what Tom did to get through the situation. Money was also produced, supposedly to procure a boat on which Timothy could escape undercover from the feds, who apparently were after him. Although no one knew how close they actually were.
If Joanna’s book is accurate there was an agent of sorts already in the house, one of the guys we met there. For a cop he certainly smoked a lot of weed.
Whether what was actually going on was just two people eloping together and not the unspoken but contextual understanding that Tim, as a sort of leading figure of the countercultural movement, was a priority above and beyond the mortal concerns of love affairs and allegiances, is open to interpretation.
Tommy had a choice, he could have refused the offer to procure a boat. It was thorny. I liked Joanna and on the drive to Amsterdam, where we would stay with a friend of Lulu’s known as Dutch Peter, seeing Tom wasn’t particularly happy I asked him why he and Joanna had split up. He said she’d done something that wasn’t cool. Something to do with asking him to pull over because she needed to buy tampons, a word which she said discreetly so that we kids wouldn’t hear. This he found offensive, he said casually and then went back to brooding.
After we leave Joanna and she and Tim have started their affair in a hotel in a ski resort, having driven there in his yellow Porsche Targa, they fly off to Lebanon, a place where Joanna had spent time as a teenage celebrity tv presenter. There she shows him the town before they fly to Afghanistan, where their dreams and honeymoon are brutally cut short by U.S. federal agents who arrest Tim and Joanna. They are extradited to the States where Tim is incarcerated and so begins Joanna’s monumental effort to try to get him released.
This latter part is the nuts and bolts of her book. It involves her selling his books, lobbying the authorities, doing stings, deals and rip-offs and ultimately working with people from the ‘other side’. In the end it leads to a dark realisation that, in contrast to what the freaks may have believed until that point, the mid seventies, there may in fact not at all have been two opposing forces batting but one big side controlling everything.
Amsterdam Winter 1972
For our part, my father along with his sister, Lulu, my brother and me drive from Lausanne in convoy to Amsterdam. We have been given a task and some money, on the face of it simply to find a boat for Timothy Leary to escape in, but there is a funny atmosphere. Between dad and our aunt Lulu there are ony few words spoken and dad seems tense. It sort of feels like Tom has been bought off and treated like a servant to deliver to Joanna.
The upshot of the mood among the adults in the convoy is that they spend some of the money on a car, another Mercedes SEL, since Tom and Lulu can always sell it on if they need the money for Tim’s escape boat.
In Amsterdam we end up with a friend of Lulu’s known as Dutch Peter, who’s featured in the book ‘Mr. Nice’. To us he seems like a very nice guy, someone whose couch we are sleeping on. But Peter is a smuggler and associated with a crazy Irish dealer featured in Mr. Nice, who in turn is somehow mixd up with the IRA.
Amsterdam is an amazing place and the house is along a canal. We hang out at the usual freak spots like the Milky Way, eating suspicious tasting alternative food and watch bizarre European art films about lovers surviving on only berries and butterflies.
We stroll along the canals and even as a kid I’m seduced by the silhouette images of the girls in the windows. It is primal and I wonder for the first time if what seem to me to be unusually strong desires – something that Jake doesn’t seem to share – might not one day get the better of me.
One day, seemingly just in order to get out of the house, Peter asks Jake and me if we’d like to go on a trip in his boat along the canals outside Amsterdam. We jump at the chance but little do we know how tedious and slow can be the pace of a boat making its way in and out of locks. After a few hours caught up in an ‘are we there yet?’ mode, we kids finally persuade the adults to get us back to Amsterdam by car and leave a skeleton crew to keep the boat on its way.
Once we arrived home a call informed Peter that the boat has been blown up. Another extremely close call. It had something to do with the IRA being ripped off in a deal.