Torn Between Two Lovers: Keith Moon & Waylon Jennings

Torn Between Two Lovers: Keith Moon & Waylon Jennings

Please note the following piece is taken directly from my ongoing article series at  Thank you to PKM for letting me share my stories!

Could any two musicians appear to be more different than the solidly grounded country music “outlaw” Waylon Jennings and The Who’s manic, sometimes maniacal drummer, Keith Moon? Pamela Des Barres found something to love in each of these men and remembers both fondly here.

I was torn between a few lovers surprisingly often in my youth.

In 1969, I thought I was in love with Jimmy Page, enthralled with Zeppelin, and for a while it appeared he was also mad for me. But at one point after Mick Jagger convinced me that Mr. Page was not being true to me on the road, I ecstatically dallied with him, and was torn between those two fellows for a few months.

It actually became a bit of a theme.

During this flaming back-and-forth, I first saw Waylon Jennings play the Troubadour, and my lust was awakened for a new kind of man. My friend Gram Parsons had turned me on to real country music (that’s all there was back then, now it’s mostly poppy pap…or is that pappy pop?) which included an album called Jewels by Waylon, featuring the killer tune, “Sweet Mental Revenge”. So I snagged some snazzy cowboy boots, a fringe jacket and two dozen daisies to waltz into this enticing new world — waaaaay out of my hippie-hearted flower-child element.

OCTOBER 5, 1969 – Waylon Jennings had a show tonight and it was just INCREDIBLE! I threw daisies all around his feet and he was taken aback in a good way. I wonder if anyone ever did that before? My taste is so extreme. The difference between Zep and Waylon seem like two wildly different worlds, but I can be in both of those worlds, and relate to each one. Amazing for sure. But when I’m stoned sometimes I think I feel the fine line between sanity and insanity. But I only see it at odd flashes.

Well, thank goodness I only peeked into total madness at odd flashes, eh? But even though I was immersed in rock & roll, country music was starting to simmer and burble inside me. And, in retrospect, I doubt if anybody had ever tossed daisies around Waylon’s booted feet before.

DECEMBER 10, 1969

I WANT WAYLON JENNINGS! I told him I loved him after the show, and he said “You’re an angel, really an angel…” True and honest smiles floating at me as he sang. How could I make LO-O-OVE to him??? Beautiful man. ACTUAL MAN. I’ve been complaining to myself that Waylon is the only person I’ve truly flipped out over that I haven’t been able to reach.

Since he was in town recording at RCA, he played the Palomino Club a couple weeks later and I made sure to sit directly in front of him, sans clothing. It was actually Waylon Jennings who enticed me to parade around in my underwear, a fashion choice I continued to employ way before Madonna was out of grade school. I’m surprised I was allowed through the door in my black lace undies, lacy bra, garter belt, sheer black stockings and high spiked heels. They were probably stunned into submission as I sauntered down front and snagged the seat smack dab in front of the stage, while the gathering cowpokes stared at me, jaw-dropped and slightly horrified.

You know what happened not too long afterwards, right? Waylon grew out his hair. His friend Willie grew out his hair, and the outlaw movement began. All started by a little hippie girl in Hollywood. Haha!

I was used to preening androgynous long-haired, velvet-clad rockers, and was decidedly out of my element as studly Waylon ambled onstage with his hand-tooled guitar, black leather wristbands around both wrists, his hair swooped into a greasy pompadour. But it’s always been about the MUSIC for me, baby, and I was feeling bold and bawdy that night, two feet from Waylon in my underwear. He spotted me almost immediately, and after a stunned couple of moments, launched into his set, avidly eyeing me, often smiling, even cracking up at one point as I gazed at him like a wanton siren. I’m still incredulous when I recall my brazenness that night at barely 21 years old.

After the show, Gram introduced me to Mr. Jennings at the bar, and he squinted at me from under his black cowboy hat ringed with silver conchos, “I’ll tell you what,” he drawled, “I could barely get through my set with those panties starin’ at me.”

A few weeks later, he was back and so was I. Right down front, wearing a pink silk chemise — underwear from the flapper 20s — tossing roses onto the stage. This time I was invited to his session at RCA after the show, where I planted myself on the couch as Waylon and his band blasted through a blazing version of “Honky Tonk Woman”. When he hadn’t made a fuss over me by 4 AM, and I’d given him enough come-hither looks through the studio glass, I gathered up my velvet cloak and headed for the door. As I neared the elevator, I heard footsteps clomping behind me, and turned to face Waylon. “Where’re you goin’ baby? What’s your phone number? I’ll need your address too.”

I was used to preening androgynous long-haired, velvet-clad rockers, and was decidedly out of my element as studly Waylon ambled onstage with his hand-tooled guitar, black leather wristbands around both wrists, his hair swooped into a greasy pompadour.

January 28, 1970 – 4:30 AM.

Well, Waylon Jennings will supposedly be here in about an hour. They had a couple more songs to finish – so good! Such an amazing talent. Jimmy Page also called today. He’s wiring me money to get him those Crowley books. Gosh, I sure hope I know what I’m doing. I wonder if Waylon will really show up?

At 6:30 AM, I opened my lavender door to find Waylon standing in the dawn light, squinting at me curiously, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, black leather wristbands and all. It didn’t take him but a few seconds to have me mashed against the wall, his mouth all over mine, handily pulling my skimpy clothes off, walking me backwards toward the bed, where we thrashed around for hours – a tough cowboy and a tender flower child, uniting in the best possible way, proving that passion speaks the same language. “You sure know how to please a man, baby,” he marveled, shaking his head, “little hippie girl wore me out. I tell you what.”

Before he left that evening, he wandered around my apartment, looking at all the pictures on my walls of long-haired musicians, a quizzical look crossing his face, “You really like all this long ha’r and everthang?” I assured Waylon that, yes, girls loved running our hands through long hair, and besides, it was sexy! He picked me up off the floor, kissed my forehead, tipped his cowboy hat and was gone. Whew.

You know what happened not too long afterwards, right? Waylon grew out his hair. His friend Willie grew out his hair, and the outlaw movement began. All started by a little hippie girl in Hollywood. Haha!

I continued to see Waylon whenever he came to town, which was often, and in between tangling the sheets, we talked about our lives, two worlds colliding in the sweetest way. He never mentioned that he’d married the lovely Jessi Colter, and I had no idea, since I never saw a wedding band. That’s how we knew a fellow was married back in the dark ages, dolls. So don’t blame me. Years later, when I met his son Shooter, he told me that he considered me his “long lost weird aunt,” and that Waylon spoke of me frequently. Hopefully not in front of Jessi. But I was touched.

In London in early 1971, I wriggled out of a tight spot, and an engagement when my mentor Frank Zappa asked me to be in his groundbreaking film 200 Motels, to be shot at Pinewood Studios. I had been staying with Sandy Sanderson, bassist in the Pink Fairies, but had fallen in love with young Tony Sales back in Beverly Hills, so was awash with relief when I could move to a hotel in the wilds of Windsor. (I was also mortified that I was breaking Sandy’s heart. Torn yet again)

Along with Ringo Starr and my friends in the Mothers of Invention, Keith Moon was also in the movie, playing a roving nun (yes, a roving nun), and he picked me up and carried me off the set after my big scene.

January 26, 1971

Keith said he thought I’d get a lot of acting roles after he saw my scene today, because my facial expressions were ‘incredible.’ Speaking of Mr. Moon, he quite came on to me, asking me to come to his room. I demurred.

We struck up a friendship, which turned into something else altogether when he came to Los Angeles later in the year with The Who. I was living at the Zappas’ house as Moon and Dweezil’s nanny and Keith called me there about a party that night. It gets a bit complicated here, because I had just started seeing Don Johnson, but that’s another story for another column. Keith wound up in my little guest house by the pool, and I soon discovered his penchant for “dressing up,” as he dug through my closet, trying on anything that would fit him. He even squeezed into my leopard print heels and kittycat panties, and I put on his tight flares and T-Rex T-shirt, and we suddenly became each other. He certainly enjoyed role-playing, a new one on me, but I jumped right in as he became a priest seducing a schoolgirl, a director pouncing on his starlet.

November 17, 1971

He’s so out there. We did some great sexual improvisations. A rich older lady trying to get the gorgeous young steward, a hooker accosting a virginal kid from Connecticut, and 2 teenagers making it for the first time. They went on for hours. He complimented me like crazy, even said he loved me a couple of times. He talked about his head – the universe and his place in it. Funny things really get him off. Very revealing. Actually he’s not a very happy individual. Tears of a clown.

When Moonie called on my intercom way too early the next morning to come fix “breaktess,” for her and Dweezil, Keith soon joined us, entertaining the brood with his nonstop madcap eye-popping hilarity.

When he next came to town, it was obvious I was his LA girl, and we were inseparable. He was a generous fellow, enjoying shopping jaunts, buying me whatever I fancied. It wasn’t all jolly, however. One night at the Sunset Marquis he awoke from a nightmare, screaming “I’m a murdering fuck!” over and over until I jammed enough placidyls down his throat to conk him back out. He told me the next day he’d accidentally run over his roadie after fans surrounded him in a pub and he hadn’t known his friend was on his heels and backed over him in the melee. He never got over it. I believe it was the main reason he drowned himself in whatever drink or drugs were available, and why he pretended to be anyone but himself sometimes. It was quite a tumultuous ride. I was always exhausted, but extremely pampered and very well fed.

When he came to town to perform Tommy with The Who, he insisted I stand on stage right next to the drum kit. Not on the side of the stage, mind you. Right next to the freaking drum kit while he bashed away. See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me.

Despite his lurking sorrow, Keith was a total impetuous imp most of the time. My favorite tale is one I tell on my “I’m with the Band Rock Tours”, when we take a little detour away from Hollywood proper to the stuffy civility of high-rise Century City.

By 1973, Keith had worn out his welcome, banned at every single hotel in Los Angeles, but Mr. Moon had a very interesting ace up his lacy sleeve. After he and his road manager, Dougal, picked me up for the week’s visit, we went straight to one of Keith’s favorite spots, Western Costume, where he decked himself out in a red velvet cape trimmed in ermine. We then headed to the Century City Hotel, the historic curved masterpiece where many U.S. presidents have stayed and approached the check-in counter.

“I have Mr. Keith Moon here,” Dougal announced with high-falutin’ authority. “He is a Count from Takistan (a made-up country name) and he’d like to do you the honor of staying in your penthouse suite.”

One night at the Sunset Marquis he awoke from a nightmare, screaming “I’m a murdering fuck!” over and over until I jammed enough placidyls down his throat to conk him back out. He told me the next day he’d accidentally run over his roadie after fans surrounded him in a pub and he hadn’t known his friend was on his heels and backed over him in the melee. He never got over it.

I stood calmly next to Keith, as he posed regally, trying not to burst into giggles, while the hotel personnel bowed and scraped, humbled by the royalty before them. Needless to say, we were escorted to the tip top of the hotel, very fancy-pants indeed, and once again, Keith had gotten away with it.

One evening after a relatively decent sleep, and breakfast fit for a Countess, Keith told me he had a surprise for me, and to please stand out on the balcony that overlooked a massive fountain in the middle of the Avenue of the Stars. He then tip-toed away, rubbing his hands together in gleeful anticipation. Uh-oh.

As I stood on the high balcony, waiting for who-knew-what, I spied Keith trot across the wide street, grasping a huge orange box. A huge orange box? Oh nooooo! A huge orange box of TIDE LAUNDRY DETERGENT! He pranced around the fountain, dumping the entire contents into the jetting water, and darted back across the street, winding up on the balcony next to me just as the first bubbles started shooting into the air. It was as if Lucy Ricardo had taken acid and performed one of the wacko stunts that made Ricky rave in Spanish and pull his hair out, as the foam frothed out of the fountain and down both sides of the wide street. As we watched from high above, bubbles aimed for the heavens and foamed all over the snooty cars rolling down the avenue, eventually stopping traffic altogether. Keith could barely contain himself, rollicking and chortling, tears spurting from his huge brown eyes. He opened one of his 100-year-old bottles of cognac in celebration, and we got ecstatically tipsy. Yet again, he’d gotten away with his perfectly timed prank. But who would have believed that Count Moon would have done such a thing?

The next time Keith arrived in LA to host a huge rock festival, amazingly he charmed his way into the Beverly Hills Hotel, where we resided in splendor for a week or so. After another trip to Western Costume, in which he procured several oddball ensembles, he donned his final outfit, a Marilyn Monroe wig and skintight sequin dress to announce the Bee Gees. During the entire day and well into the night, we performed little skits, becoming all kinds of circus performers in various stages of duress, lost in a private, kooky world of our own.

I worried about him endlessly but was so worn out I looked forward to bedtime which, as I mentioned was fraught with Keith’s frightmares. I was finally getting a peaceful snooze during our last night together, when he sat bolt upright in bed and shouted, “Hurtling elephants of a sort!!!” (his mind in a nutshell. Haha!) At the airport the next day, he disappeared, momentarily freaking Dougal out, and returned holding out a huge stuffed elephant for me — a parting gift — so I wouldn’t forget him. Fat chance, eh, dolls?

He turned out to be a truly gallant gentleman, one who tipped his hat to a lady and kissed her on the forehead one last time.

Meanwhile back at the ranch… Waylon was playing the Troubadour again, so I took off my favorite clothes and enjoyed his set along with Willie and my all-time hero, Bob Dylan. Waylon was considerably shaggier and less greased-up, perhaps having taken my advice about the sexiness of long hair, and watched me like the horndog he was throughout the killer set. He actually forgot a few lyrics, he was that steamed up, so I felt kinda haughty myself.

We wound up back at his hotel, where he played me some of his new songs, (swoon) then proceeded to, as he’d promised, “shove me through the wall.” Those were his speed freak days, so the aforementioned shoving lasted a very long time, until he started sawing logs right on top of me. As much as I adored Mr. Jennings, I eased myself out from under him, trying not to wake up the beast, and sneaked out the door. A few steps down the stairs – oops! — I’d left my fave Granny Takes a Trip coat! “Where’d you go, baby?” Waylon wondered as he opened the door to my tapping, then popped a few more little white pills before we picked up where we left off.

January 31, 1974

I had such a glorious time with Michael, we went to Luchow’s and had an incredible dinner, violins and romance, gooey eyes and posing. God, what fun we had. He makes me want to OPEN UP. He’ll be in LA when I’m there but will probably bring his “sort of” old lady. He asked me to marry him even. What’s going on? Crazy, witty poseur.

It seemed I’d finally met my match on a movie set in Manhattan, playing myself in a low-budget film called Arizonaslim. Keith Moon hadn’t shown up for his role as “British Rock Star,” and Michael Des Barres was in town with his band Silverhead, tracked down by the producer. Michael was also an actor, and along with my heart, he wound up stealing the movie. He left his “sort of” old lady back home when he came to LA and we became engaged, even though he’d been married to her for three weeks, a small matter that I wasn’t aware of at the time.

Being the true-blue woman I’ve always been, I set about telling my current amores that I was no longer in the market for romps in the hay.

When Dougal picked me up for my next round with his boss, I told him on the way to meet Keith at a recording session that I was now engaged, and he slowly shook his head, looking grim and saying, “He’s not going to like that.” And he didn’t. But before I got the chance to give him the news, he met me at the door, down on one knee and kissed my hand in a courtly manner before ushering me into the studio gloom.

Harry Nilsson was at the helm, fiddling with the knobs, and there was Ringo! And…and…Lord-a-mercy! There was the serious Beatle, John Lennon! He was leaning against a door frame glowering into the distance, when Keith proudly introduced us with pomp and circumstance. “Pamela, this is John, John, Pamela.” John looked me up and down with disdain and sing-songed our names – “pamelajohnjohnpamelapamelajohnjohnpamela…” until they were meaningless letters strung together for no reason at all, and I was mortified. So was Keith but he tried to seem amused by John’s Lost Weekend antics. Ugh. Ringo remembered me from 200 Motels, and we had an intriguing chat about the state of music. He actually said, “Where are the new groups to take our place?” Good question beloved Beatle.

In my diary I wrote that “Keith and I went through 90,000 trips,” about my engagement to Michael, and that’s a mild description of his bellowing, outraged disappointment. I said we could still be great friends but he wasn’t having it.

April 19, 1974

Mr. Moon finally left town. I heard about his local appearances everywhere, and I felt his pull the whole time he was here.

On the other hand… when I told Waylon about my betrothal, he kissed me on the forehead and said he wanted to shake the hand of the “lucky hoss” who won his angel. Of course he had Jessi Colter to go home to.

It may seem strange that I was “dating” (we didn’t call it that back then) two such seemingly disparate characters at the same time, and in retrospect, maybe it was a bit extreme. Keith fit more comfortably into my usual realm, but there was no one on earth any madder than that particular hatter, and I feel good that I was able to soothe his shattered soul for a little while. I surely loved him.

And I’m so glad I dipped my toes (and other body parts) into the seemingly dangerous countrified world of the manly mystery that was Waylon Jennings. He’d often begin his sentences with “I’ll tell you what…” and you’d wait for his twinkling, squinty-eyed proclamation like it was loaded with buckshot wisdom. He turned out to be a truly gallant gentleman, one who tipped his hat to a lady and kissed her on the forehead one last time.

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