FIVE-THIRTY a.m., and every restaurant and bar in the Lake Geneva Playboy Resort is closed. Not a bunny in sight. Room service is sleeping, and Ron Wood is ready for dinner.
This is what's known as living on Rolling Stones Time, which is half a matter of swapping the a.m.'s and p.m.'s around and half a matter of embracing unreality. The best part about Rolling Stones Time is that, in America, the aureole of money convinces the rest of the world to adjust their clocks to yours.
And so the 24-hour cook in his condo around the corner is cooking capon. Wood's supply of champagne has been left on the jet, 60 limousine miles behind, but the tequila is torrential. Wood is bopping and singing along with a Clyde McPhatter tape and smoking cigarettes down so short they glow like rubies between his fingers. He is undismayed by the report that his lady has put the capon dinners to warm in the oven, plastic covers and all.
He corpedoes onto the sofa. "I wish somebody would invent drugs," he says, raising an innocent eyebrow. Five-forty.
Ron Wood, one of the Rolling Stones' two lead guitarists, is rich, 31 and captain of his fate. For the sake of promoting Wood's new solo album, and for the overwhelming joyous hell of it, some of the most respected names in contemporary music have tossed six weeks of their summer into the suprise tour of 1979 -- the New Barbarians (who roll into the Capital Centre on Saturday).
At the center of the storm are Wood and his Stones doppelganger, Keith Richards; jazz/rock bassist Stanley Clarke from Return to Forever; Faces keyboard whiz Ian "Mac" McLagen; sessions saxophonist Bobby keyes, and Meters drummer Joseph Modeliste -- known as "Ziggy" or "Ziggaboo."
Dropping in and out throughout the tour will be such friends as Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Ringo Starr, Bob Seger, Dickie Betts, Jimmy Page and -- expected in Los Angeles -- Bob Dylan, who wrote the single Wood has just released.
Among the musicians who tried unsuccessfully to extricate themselves from commitments when the tour blew up were Jeff Beck, Willie Weeks, Lindsay Buckingham, Carl Palmer and David Crosby. Neil Young, an early enthusiast who gave the group its name, suddenly lost interest, as is his wont. It is, as one of the Columbia Records publicists describes it, "the Rolling Blunder Revue -- or maybe, the Rolling Wonder."
The band travels by chartered jet, sets up headquarters for a week at a time at luxury hotels, and spends money gloriously. That's how Wood planned it. "I wanted to do this in style."
In 1979, the rock tour has come of age. There is no trashing of the jet or the hotels. The wine on the plane is imported; so is the beer. Backstage the crew is served a hot prime-rob dinner, not barbecue and cold cuts. The hordes of groupies have given way to the steady girlfriends who travel with Wood and Richards. Monies are calculated every day and the books are open to band members all times, by Wood's order.
The helium-filled egos that bumped about the stages on earlier all-star tours are conspicuously absent. A stately, low-key consideration prevails. Mick Jagger, who has offered Wood advice on phrasing and the care of his voice, has discreetly stayed away from the tour's official opening night. In the same way, Wood has made sure that nobody thinks of the Barbarians as "the Ron Wood group -- like Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. The band is an entity of its own."
This tour is a kind of vacation from what these guys really do for a living -- writing, producing, working hour after hour in the studio. This is a chance to run wild, to experiment with a new style, to test out a future in a different line-up.
"Ah, it's great!" says Wood fervently. "It's only rock 'n' roll."
Rock chic has not hit Ann Arbor, Mich. In factno fashion of the past 10 years seems to have left much impression on this quintessential college town. The shops in the arcade and around the university green display University of Michigan shirts and pullovers, conservative sweaters, penguin knit shirts and suburban shirtwaists. Rhaki is popular: and shapeless, soft blue jeans, but no tight, lean, French jeans.
In Ann Arbor -- or "A," as the natives call it -- the Dettoit car syndrome is very strong. The 14,000-seat stadium the Barbarians have chosen for their tryout is named Chrysler Arena, which seems almost modest if you've seen the cars on disply in the lobby of Detroit Metro Airport.
The speed and make-do character of the tour is expressed in little ways backstage. Several of the equipment boxes are stenciled "Small Faces," a band Wood and McLagen shared with Rod Stewart years ago. A few have hastily painted "Ron Wood" signs; two say "Eagles." They are addressed Hollywood, Dallas, New York. One of the roadies is a jazz promoter, another a former California soundman working the spotlights as a favor.
Last pieces of the set are being spray-painted out in the parking lot. The stage is all red, covered with a fibrous material that looks less like an enchanted forest than a Japanese B movie version of moon rock. Spotlights are lined up on either side of the stage like cannons. All afternoon, while the sound is adjusted, one of the roadies beats the bass drum, blow after deafening blew. Unperturbed, two of the crew take a 30-minute break, napping in folding chairs.
By the time the Barbarians take to the stage at quarter to nine, 45 minutes after the scheduled starting time, the crowd is wired. Frisbees stoop and soar, even after the lights go down. The volume reverberates under the ribs like a cardiac convulsion. Much of the time the vocals are maudible, but nobody seems to mind. They are enchanted by Richards, leaning forward from the hips like a marionette, feet rolled in on the arches, guntar hanging pearly to his knees: and by Clarke, feet planted solidly, two-thirds leg. An hour and 15 minutes of purist. London-redneck rock 'n' roll and they are limply ecstatic. The omens are good.
As the choreography of such things go, there is one monent of sheer corps, do baller perfection. Within 30 seconds of the last chord, all five limos are loaded and moving out, in a manager's dream.
The jet, standing by in Ypsilanti, comes with three stewardesses, a polit and a handyman copilot. The main duties of the attendants are to straighten up between fights, restock the food and make drinks. Before everyone is on board, the favorite junk focds are laid out: M&Ms (plain and peanut), individual candy bars, pretzels and potato chips. The real food -- fried chicken, miniature pizzas, coid cuts and egg rolls -- will be delayed until after takeoff.
The jet has been split into four continuous sitting areas, with little groups of two or three chairs to a sofa. Each section has a different decor, the bar being in blue-to-purple arches. "It's a wonder there's anything left of this jet," says Wood cheerfully. "Zeppelin had it last".
It's rough hop to Milwaukee and the next caravan of cars. One chauffeur is sent scrambling in the rain to each of the other cars looking for a joint. By the time the cars sweep into the Playboy club, all's right with the world.
"Do you have anything in the trunk, sir?" the chauffeur asks.
Ron Wood looks like a Frank Frazetta drawing: hawkfaced, mobilemouthed, with lines like gashes carved from his nose down beside his mouth. He wears two earrings in his left ear. His habit of incessantly roistering his hair up on end gives him the air of a warrior in plumed helmet. Wood is pleased with the analogy; he likes Frazetta's "muscular women and magical men."
He is wildly restless, intent for brief stretches on a spectrum of ideas. He loves mustical trivia. He slumps, he Iolls, he acts out the stories of his life with the Stones. His love of "camping" runs back to Rod Stewart ("You'd be amazed how many people thought me and Rod was poofs") and is a standard part of the Jagger act. He screws up his face as he recalls the Stones' appearance of this "Saturday Night Live" season when Jagger snuck up and kissed him on camera. "I kept my eyes closed and said -- that was no dream, that was reality!" Wood laughs helplessly.
He has been playing with the Stones for four years, and has his share of Line Illigible Richards were accosted in a hotel by Line Illigible "You must be Brian" Brian Jones who died in 1969. How Jagger got drunk and scrssored up his favorite shirt -- and Richards almost slugged Jagger. How in Toronto last week, the Canadian police kept running drug-sniffing does through the jet and their bags.
For all that, he says. "The Stones is the best working atmosphere I can imagine." Within a week of the Bar harians' last concert, he will be back in the studio with the Stones. But it never hurts, as he admits, to work in front of your own band. If the Rolling Stones ever disband, the barbarians would be retroactively bankable.
Five-forty-five. Rolling Stones Time is the next fog over from the Twilight Zone. Members of the entourage, in groups of two or three, are wandering through the drizzle in the endless driveways of the Playboy complex, ringing wrong doorbells. Hilarity takes hold; people begin jumping into puddles instead of dodging them, strut-jogging 100 yards or so. Out of the darkness, Wood zooms up, tequila bottle in hand, and asks, "Hey, can you show me where my house is?"
On and on, while the Sears conventioneers and the Singer sewing representatives and the little grayhaired ladies who drink strawberry daiquiris in the Bunny Hutch sleep, deliciously scandalized, in the naughtynice arms of their fake-fur bedcovers.
The tour publicist has fallen asleep too, on the couch. Wood forages in the cook's room and returns with an armload of bunker rations: tomatc soup cans, sandwich bread.
At one end of the room, Janis Joplin is wailing away on the cassette player; at the other, Randolph Scott stares heroically out of the television. Center ring, Wood is flipping cigarettes into the air and trying to catch them in his mouth. He misses three times, catches the lighter instead and then, with a careless sneer, whips it straight between his lips.Humphrey Bogart in sneakers.
So it's going on six and he's still winding down for dinner. His voice is fading and he's got three interviews tomorrow, which he'll postpone because he doesn't plan to get up before late afternoon. He's got 16 more giant arenas to play by May 21.
Ron Wood raises his glass to the world. "I could see this becoming an annual thing," he says. CAPTION: Picture 1, no caption; Picture 2, Ron Wood and Keith Richards: A chance to run wild. By Linda Wheeler -- The Washington Post; Picture 3, Ron Wood: Humphrey Bogart in sneakers.By Henry Diltz