By Steven Stock
Peggy might charitably be termed an unreliable narrator, so what follows may or may not be true. The details lend a certain verisimilitude, but Peggy was notorious for inventing details. For all I know she wasn’t even there – as a minor, she certainly shouldn’t have been, but bouncers often found her very persuasive. Anyway, it’s just a story.
May 1978 – perhaps the 15th, the nights are still chilly. Lou Reed is holding court backstage at the Bottom Line. Not in his dressing room (which is either too cramped or simply sacrosanct, hence off limits to the hoi polloi), but in an improvised reception area with five or six picked-over deli trays and three last bottles of Heineken standing sentinel in a vast silver tub. The crushed ice had turned to tepid Croton water hours ago.
Lou is perched on a gray metal folding chair, legs crossed, hunched over and intently studying his cigarette while everyone else studies him. Peggy never sees him take even a single puff – the Marlboro’s sole purpose is to generate ash that Lou nonchalantly flicks on the beer-stained carpet, like a naughty boy daring anyone to offer an ashtray. This being Manhattan, no one is unhip enough to do so, even though there must have been half-a-dozen ashtrays within easy reach.