Wild-eyed and soaked, a naked young man breaks the surface of the swimming pool full of party debris—bottles, pool side chairs and an…er, Cadillac—gasps in a lungful of air an attempts to leg it from a cop waiting with a gun in his hand.
With superb comedy timing, the drenched, dark-haired youth slips on a large chunk of birthday cake and is arrested, the swirling red and blue lights illuminating the carnage.
To be fair, most 21st birthdays get a bit out of hand. But when you’re the speed-fuelled drummer of a British band legendary for smashing their instruments on stage in a wail of guitar static, feedback and shattered wood, you’ve got to go one step further.
The Who were the original Jack Daniels swilling, TV-set hurling party boys of music and their drummer Keith Moon was the head lunatic.
With huge amphetamine-dished eyes and arms flailing, Moon pounded out the rhythms on his kit as the sweat flew off him and the drink and drugs set his heart racing. But that was the least of his eccentricities. Oh yes. Moon’s party trick was to flush sticks of dynamite down toilets and another favorite was to launch furniture out of high windows.
So when his coming-of-age birthday came around, the sharp-suited “Moon the Loon” was ready to party hard.
The Who were touring America and stopping at the Holiday Inn in Flint, where they had been on the piss all day with the rest of the band, Herman’s Hermits, who they were opening for and the road crews.
More people began to arrive as the day went on and the drink kept flowing, much of it ending up in the pool as people leapt in fully clothed with bottles in their hands and generally started getting lairy.*
When darkness began to fall, Moon was naked, throwing handfuls of his giant cake at people and having a mental time when the local police showed up to break up the festivities.
It was then that Moon stumbled off and jumped into a limo that was parked up but was so pissed could only giggle as it went backwards, smashed through a fence and sank slowly to the bottom of the pool with him still behind the wheel.
When he swam to the surface he was lifted by the armed policeman and put in jail for the rest of the night.
And the damage from his birthday bash? A $50,000 bill for repairs, a life ban from the hotel chain and the town—plus the legacy of one of the most legendary stories in Rock n’ Roll history.
Moon was big drinking pals with madcap actor Oliver Reed and on his 40th birthday party did a helicopter impression by jumping up off the table and grabbing hold of the whipping blades of an overhead fan, splattering the guests with blood as he gashed his hands.
Reed later reckoned that was the moment he realized his drinking had gone out of control—and six months later, in 1978, Moon was dead after an overdose of sleeping pills. He was 33.
However, that didn’t stop him getting an invite to play with The Who at the 2012 London Olympics from dim-witted officials. How Keith would have laughed.
*Aggressive or rowdy.