This is a Journal of the last two years of the late Robbin Crosby’s life. Curt Dudley was nice enough to share it. It’s rather long so buckle in for a great read!
By Curt Dudley
I have been waiting for the right time to let some of this out. I have struggled with it since the day Robbin died. I wanted to express some of it publicly June 14th 2002, at Robbin’s memorial service, but the pain was still too much to bear…I felt I would fall apart in front of the 200 odd people (mostly strangers to me) there…so I just stood frozen on the beach & didn’t say anything.
I met Robbin through Photographer Neil Zlozower. I had gone to Neil in search of some professional photos of Robbin in action with his cherished Jackson Guitars. I am a guitar collector and had acquired a few of Robbin’s guitars and I REALLY wanted some good shots of ‘The King’ from the glory days of RATT with the guitars I now own….just makes having them that much more personal & special.
In talking with Neil he mentioned ‘Hey, Robbin is in the hospital just a few miles from here…I bet he’d sign these prints for you and in any case I know he would appreciate the company, just take him a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps if you go’. Hmmm….I took down the address & went the next day. Armed with a few prints, a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps and a silver pen, I went to see Robbin.
Meeting a King
‘Do I know you….????’ Is the first thing he said to me. He had that characteristic ‘King’ tone in his voice. After explaining why I was there, we got to talking. Just some small talk & some superficial talk of the ’80’s & RATT. I was there about an hour and something happened to me that day…I left there with a new appreciation for life. Here was this giant of a man lying there unable to walk or even to sit up (he had just had major back surgery) and obviously in a lot of pain and very lonely…yet he was willing to talk with someone he didn’t even know. When I got up to leave he says …’Hey, nice to meet you, would you mind visiting me every once in awhile’. I promised I would. I left there without any autographs…I just didn’t have the heart to ask.
I was not prepared for the wild ride of emotions I would experience over the next 2 years. I learned a LOT about what is important in life from this gentle giant. I’ll put them in sort of Diary form & only quote Robbin where I remember EXACTLY what he said. They are just snapshots of things I remember and only meant to offer some insight into the last years of his extraordinary life…
Robbin on Spirituality:
One day we started talking about Religion and Spirituality & he gave me his thoughts. “I wouldn’t consider myself religious, per se, I would say I’m more spiritual’. He explained it more in terms of ‘Karma’ and a ‘natural flow’ of things in the universe. I asked him ‘So do you believe in god …or not?’ He said ‘I don’t know, but one thing is for sure…You & I ain’t drivin’ the boat!’ …Classic King.
Robbin on RATT:
We talked often, naturally, about RATT & his thoughts about success, his bandmates & life the road. He had a lot to say about his bandmates…not all of it good . He would say ‘Listen to the EP…that’s the real RATT…we just got too polished after that’. He loved Warren, ‘ He’s like my little brother’ but he felt that Warren didn’t respect his playing after RATT had attained some success. As for Bobby, I asked him one day ‘If you could have ANY drummer play with you on your new project…who would it be? His answer: ‘Blotz….he’s the best there is ‘. What did he think of Pearcy? ‘Pearcy is a punk and only cares for himself….he can’t even sing in key live…we had a lot of problems with that on tour’. Juan was his favorite bass player and a very close & dear friend….although they did have their differences.
El Paso ’96 and War Party
In 1996 Robbin was living in El Paso Texas with his girlfriend, Jolie Gregory’s, family. He had left LA to, in his words, ‘go & get well’. He was using Heroin heavily and things had not gone well for him, as a result, since he had left RATT. He accepted an invitation to go there and spend some time with Jolie’s family and just get away from LA for awhile. While living in El Paso he started playing again…In a COUNTRY band!!! An all original ‘up-tempo’ country rock band It was called ‘Bill & Kev and War Party’ . I’ve never seen anything funnier or cool at the same time. I have the video from a Sept. ’96 gig. The King onstage with War Party at a local joint. Robbin seems rather subdued at first but then after he warms up a bit, he proceeds to just RIP the most killer lead guitar through these country songs!! Picture Jimi Hendrix playing lead through a Travis Tritt song and you have the idea. Also in the video can be seen his beloved black labrador ‘Rosie’ mingling with the crowd. At one point during a song the singer can be heard saying ‘Ladies & gentlemen, Mr. Robbin Crosby’ as Robbin begins a BLISTERING lead!! The crowd is just dumbstruck and looks as if they’ve NEVER heard anything like that before …at least not in a country song! Robbin was very proud of this band…not because of the quality of music or talent…but because it allowed him to regain some lost dignity & start playing live again. He said he was forever indebted to Jolie’s family for helping him get back on his feet & getting him in contact with the local El Paso music scene.
The Ill fated 1996 Reunion
At some point in late 1996 he got a call from either ( I can’t remember which) Warren or Stephen…’Get your ass back here, we’re putting RATT back together’ . Robbin was extrememly excited about the prospect of getting back to LA & putting the band back together. He sold most of his belongings in order to travel light and start fresh in LA. He boarded a plane for LA carrying only the clothes he had and a few carry on items. The night he arrived he met Stephen at a club to talk and immediately got a strange vibe from him. They talked but Stephen seemed distant and cold. He spent the night at a friends house & met Warren the next day for lunch…he got the same vibe from Warren. Frustrated, he finally asked “What is going on …we’re gonna do this , right?” He said Warren said something about ” Well… maybe we’ll let you play on a few songs on the record” Robbin said ‘What the FUCK??? LET ME play on a few songs??? I just sold all my shit to move back here to do this!!” Needless to say the reunion didn’t happen. I asked Robbin ‘Well Why? What happened?’ He started to tear up and said that they thought he was ‘too fat and was still using drugs’. He was devastated and felt betrayed BUT…in typical Robbin fashion… he was realistic about it. He said ‘Well I WAS overweight & still using…so I could understand it’.
Peppermint Schnapps and ‘Gasoline’
It became a habit when visiting him at Hancock Park Hospital to bring a bottle of 90 proof (HAD to be 90 proof!)Hiram Walker Peppermint Schnapps. One of the first things I asked Robbin was ‘Why Peppermint Schnapps? SURELY you don’t actually LIKE it!’ He said ‘Hell NO!…but it’s the only thing I can get away with drinking in here…the nurses
can’t tell I’ve been drinking because it smells like I just brushed my teeth!’ The nurses at Hancock Park were pretty strict about alcohol in the building so we had to be careful. When talking about it around anyone Robbin would say ‘Hey, can you bring me some gasoline?’ His code word for booze.
Isolation & Frustration
I HATE hospitals, as most people do, but from the beginning, I realized that he was extremely lonely & depressed. He told me ‘Virtually no one comes to visit me….’ He told me that the first day and I vowed to make sure that he had company at least once or twice a week. If I couldn’t get away from work for a few days, I would ask a friend or family member to drop by if they could and just talk to him….that’s all Robbin wanted…someone to talk to. He was too proud to ask for help or charity.
He was in this place, confined to bed, 24 hours a day 7 days a week for over 2 years. Realistically the place was just a dumping ground for elderly people who were too sick or incapacitated for family to care for. I must say, they did take good care of the people there but it was a very depressing place to be…Robbin had at least 20 different roommates while I knew him…..I would show up one week & see an empty bed next to his and ask ‘what happened to Don?’ RC would say ‘Oh him…he died yesterday’. This went on week after week & after a while I stopped asking. I could see it in his face the effect it had on him but he wouldn’t really express it.
One thing that really shocked me at first…totally SHOCKED ME….was that his family rarely visited. Robbin talked on the phone to ‘Momma‘ or ‘Daddy‘ almost daily, but they live in La Jolla CA (about 100 miles south of LA near San Diego) and are ‘getting up there in age’ & didn’t travel to LA much. I sensed a lot from what Robbin DIDN’T say about his family, that he had put them thru a lot over the years and had ‘burned a few bridges’. He was….as usual…pragmatic about it & understood. His attitude was ‘Oh, its just too far for them to drive…’ He didn’t ever say much about his family. One of the few things I know is, he was VERY fond of his father and ‘missed the vacations in Mexico with dad when I was a kid.’
Another thing that hit him really hard was that the guys in RATT would rarely come to see him…despite the fact that they all lived within a 1/2 hours drive. He would talk with them on the phone, sometimes Warren, sometimes Bobby, sometimes Juan, and he would hint around that ‘maybe if you are in the area you could swing by’. They didn’t…
I’m not passing judgement on any of them. I’m sure they all have their reasons. He said to me one day ‘WHERE ARE all of my friends? No offense, but isn’t it sad that YOU are my best friend? I’ve only known you a year’. He had a way of cutting to the chase….
The only one of his old friends that did stop by often was his old friend ‘Zloz’ …Neil Zlozower.
Nicknames and Mexican Food:
Robbin LOVED Mexican food and Sushi….those were his 2 favorites. A couple of his favorite places in town were the famous ‘El Compadre’ Restaurant on Sunset Blvd and ‘Casa Vega’ on Ventura Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley. I would often call him before stopping by to ask if he wanted lunch. He would say ‘Mmmm…Ropa Vieja from El Compadre would do nicely…’ or ‘Yeah, Get me some Toro & handrolls (sushi) from Yamakasa on Highland’ He really was a connoiseur of food and the only thing he really DIDN’T like to eat was…PIZZA!! I couldn’t believe it! He said ‘Nah…Pizza just plugs me up…for days!’
He was big on nicknames. It seemed EVERYONE had a nickname. Mine was ‘Schmengie’ or ‘Schmeckel’…I had NO IDEA what they meant until weeks later. It seems they are yiddish terms for the male organ!! We would be joking around & he would say ‘You’re such a Schmengie’ One of the nurses at the hospital was ‘Speedy’ or the next week it was ‘Rompopie’ or ‘Lima Bean’. Another friend was ‘Bloomer’. All of them were meant
as terms of endearment and he had a million of them. A friend told me once that he sort of felt left out he didn’t have one!!
One day he was talking about the ancient Inca Indians from South America and I was fascinated listening to him tell me all about them…their culture, what they ate, how they lived etc. Now I know he was well-traveled…but the Incas!? !!! I must have been staring intently at him because he stopped suddenly and said ‘Are you OK?….or am I boring you?’ I said ‘No I’m just surprised that you know so much about them.’ He said ‘Ahhh….you think I’m just some big dumb rocker who doesn’t know how to read!! Actually you know, I’m fairly intelligent for my size. I’m smarter than the average bear!!’
The Time of Day….
Looking back on my 2 short years knowing him, Robbin never ceased to amaze me with his intelligence, realistic outlook and pure honesty. He was definitely not the sort to ‘sugar coat’ anything….he would always tell you EXACTLY what was on his mind!! We were talking about RATT’s heyday and what it was like to tour the world & meet new people every day in different countries and I said to him, jokingly, ‘I bet that if I had approached you back then, as opposed to now, you wouldn’t have given me the time of day’ He stopped for a second and said VERY SINCERELY…’You know man…all kidding aside… you’re probably right…. but you have to understand… back then, I didn’t HAVE the time of day!!’
Rather than patronize me & tell me what he would suppose I would want to hear…he was honest, forthright and directly to the point. Thinking back on that, I realized just how rare that kind of answer is….
Tawny Kitaen & the ‘Rumpleminze Incident’.
I stopped by one afternoon to bring Robbin one of his 3 new guitars, A bright turquoise Epiphone ‘Wildcat’. I had them because there was no room at the hospital to store them. I walked in & froze in place… There was a pretty redhead sitting next to his bed. I said ‘You look really familiar…’ Robbin without missing a beat says ‘Duh…it’s Tawny, you idiot!’ WOW! I have to admit having had a MAJOR crush on her back in the ’80’s (Remember the ‘Back for More’ video?) and there she was!!
We talked for awhile and she showed a genuine concern for his condition, she hadn’t seen him in almost 10 years!! Whatever personal problems she may be having, I’m here to say she is a sweet & caring person. Robbin called her his ‘high school sweetheart’ and ‘first and only true love’.
After she left ( Robbin had fallen asleep) one of the nurses found a bottle of ‘Rumpleminze Peppermint Schnapps’, A gift from Tawny, in a drawer and went ballistic…So I told her I would take it away.
I had, some weeks before, stopped bringing ‘gasoline’ because I realized I wasn’t helping him get any better by providing him with it. In fact, we argued about it. I told him ‘I’m not bringing you anymore gasoline…it’s not helping you’ He said ‘Oh…so you don’t drink eh?
Gimme a break!’ in a very sarcastic & nasty ‘King’ tone.
When Robbin inevitably went to look for the bottle HE went ballistic because it wasn’t there. He exploded at the nurse for taking his gift. She didn’t tell him that I had actually taken it. Robbin mentioned it to me one day and I felt like crap… I told him ‘She didn’t take it…I did’ He said ‘Dude…that was a GIFT from a very special person…you had NO right to take my shit, and another thing, I’ll do WHAT the fuck I want, WHEN the fuck I want to!!’. Indeed. Naturally, I still had the bottle and returned it to him.
Here’s the kicker.
Robbin called me that night and apologized TO ME as if HE had done something wrong!! ‘Dude I’m sorry I shouldn’t have been so harsh’. That’s just the way he was…I learned from him again, another important life lesson on compassion.
Robbin was a true animal lover. He once said ‘I probably love animals more than I love people, they love you without conditions’. He was one of those people who just came totally unglued and would get all mushy when around animals…you know ‘Awwww…..look at that beautiful dog’. In the late 1980’s shortly before he was married to Playboy Playmate Laurie Carr he got ‘Rosie’, a sweet natured black labrador, as a pup. Rosie remained his constant companion throughout most of the ’90’s and he talked about her often.
On one of our outings one day he saw a black dog sitting in front of a store and perked up ‘Oh my god…Is that ROSIE???….Rosie, here girl.’ It turns out it wasn’t her, but I asked him ‘What ever happened to Rosie?’ He got real quiet & after a couple of minutes of silence he said ‘I don’t really know…I left her with a friend to take care of when I went into the hospital the first time….When I got out of the hospital, he said she had run away & I never saw her again, she was my best friend’. I could tell he was getting emotional and his eyes were moist with tears. He really missed her.
Getting up & Around…
After his back surgery, it took Robbin quite awhile just be able to sit up in bed. He had been in bed so long, immobile, that all of his muscles had atrophied and he had put on quite a bit of weight also. He joked about it a lot. I would walk in & half the time he would have nothing on but his hospital gown…hiked up around his waist! He would say ‘Hold on let Jabba put the ‘magic mushroom’ away!’ You can guess what he was talking about! He had a well known reputation as a nudist as I found out from stories I heard later at his memorial service. He constantly joked around & laughed about it…his spirit was unbroken.
3 or 4 times a week he had physical rehab at the hospital. The 2 rehab guys were known as ‘The Alpha Males’ by Robbin. They would come in & literally have to muscle him into a sitting position and then, with the help of a special board, slide him off the bed & into his wheelchair. Those guys loved Robbin & didn’t even blink an eye when Robbin was frustrated and started spewing TORRENTS of expletives in all directions!
The rehab room was down the hall on the other side of the building. I would sometimes show up when he was in the middle of his session. I would stand back out of the way & out of his view & just watch. It was amazing to see him working HARD just to lift his legs off the ground in a sitting position. The pain & effort on his face were intense. At this point he wasn’t even close to walking yet or strong enough to stand.
I would encourage him to do more. “the more you do, the faster you’ll get out of here’. He would say ‘Yeah, Yeah..I know I’m trying as hard as I can’. One day I overstepped my ‘encouragement’ & suggested that maybe he wasn’t trying hard enough. He let me have it immediately. “Don’t fucking preach to me! I’m doing the best I can!’ I was only trying to motivate him but I guess I hit a nerve with my comments. The King still was ‘The King’!! I took it as a good sign….
One day in November of 2001, I got a call from him ‘Dude, I walked today!! I took about 20 steps on my own!’. That was a MAJOR accomplishment for him. ‘Will you come down tomorrow? I want you to see for yourself’. The next day at 12:00 noon I went & watched as The King took about 20 more steps…with the help of a parallel bar setup. He was so overjoyed, tears were streaming down his cheeks. He said ‘I am getting OUT of here man…. SOON!’ .
‘ Panda Claus’ and Christmas 2001
Early in December 2001 he started answering the phone ‘Panda Claus…Ho HO HO Ho’ in a very low ‘Jabba the Hut’ like voice! It was hilarious to hear….he did it EVERY time he answered in December. I thought he was just in good spirits and looking forward to the
holidays….I found out differently. He told me ‘I don’t care about Christmas..it doesn’t really matter to me, It’ll be just like last year…alone in the hospital…big fun’. Despite his obvious depression, he was putting on the happy face when answering the phone…just so that he wouldn’t bring people down during the holidays. Typical unselfish King. ‘This Christmas will be different’….I thought to myself.
He asked me one day around December 20th. ‘Hey, I hate to ask but do you have a VCR I could borrow? I want to rent some movies, I’m sick of TV’. All he had in the room was a 9″ (!) TV that got only 3.5 channels. Invariably he was stuck watching ‘Oprah’ or ‘Judge Judy’ type shows all day. It was funny cause he would sometimes be totally engrossed in Judge Judy when I stopped by. He would say ‘Sshh….wait a minute this is almost over, Let me see what happens here.’ Totally comical & very un-King-like!!
I told him ‘Well no…I really don’t have a spare VCR…besides your TV doesn’t even have an input for one’. He said ‘Ok it was just a thought…I thought you might have an old one lying around’. I was lying to him…I had already bought him a 19″ TV/VCR combo for
Christmas. and I had put out the word to my family & Guitar collector friends. He started to get ALL KINDS of stuff in the mail, Movies, CD’s, Xmas Cards/letters, A small Xmas tree, flowers….even some frozen chocolate dipped Strawberries shipped from New York! All from people he didn’t know.
He would say ‘WHERE is all of this stuff coming from??? WHY are these people sending me gifts?? This is so wonderful…Do YOU know anything about it?’ I would just look at him deadpan and say ‘Nope…It must be your fans out there that love you’. He said ‘But HOW do they know where I am??’ The look on his face was priceless when opening these gifts…just like a little kid. He made me keep a list of names of everyone who sent something, no matter how small, so that he could send out thank you cards.
My wife & I visited on December 23 and surprised him with the home cooked Steak & Baked Potato dinner he had said he was craving…my wife Tracy cooked it all up fresh & we left immediately so that it would still be hot when we got there. We took our 2 children, Erich 5 & Kayleigh 7 and they sang ‘We Wish you a Merry Christmas’ for him. He was in tears…as they were singing.
I talked with him late Christmas eve on the phone & he was soooo happy….just on cloud 9. Bobby Blotzer & his girlfriend (Misty I think?) had been there that evening to visit and had brought some awesome framed candid photos from the RATT days…you know those
intimate/private shots of them just clowning around on tour!. Warren had also been by & they had had a WONDERFUL visit just laughing & joking around. Those 2 guys coming to see him at Xmas meant the world to him….more than any gift ever could. Just the fact that they cared enough to come & see him. I wanted to tell them that at Robbin’s memorial service but i just didn’t want to intrude on their privacy that day…It was tough enough for them.
This was my most meaningful/special Christmas EVER. A Christmas I’ll NEVER EVER forget. I never realized fully…giving is definitely a lot more rewarding & fun than receiving. I got my best gift ever just seeing him happy…happy like I’d not seen him since I met him.
Another life lesson from ‘THE KING’….
‘King for a day’
December 2001 was a month full of hope & progress for Robbin. He was finally feeling better and his physical rehab was going very well. By new years day he was sitting up on his own and much more alert & peppy largely because the doctors had backed off on his medication. On New Year’s day he said to me ‘This year is gonna be the year of ‘The King’….the year the King comes back…I’m gonna show people I can still do it!’. I fully believed him…he was so full of confidence and energy all of the sudden. He had even written 2 new songs….
If December 2001 was positive for him….January 2002 was a month of contradiction, confusion and sorrow for me.
From January 4th -7th I had a friend in town from Chicago…of course a RATT/Robbin fan! He was looking forward to seeing the King after speaking on the phone with him a few times and sharing Christmas gifts/cheer with him. Robbin liked him already….just talking to him on the phone….and was looking forward to meeting him. He asked me
New Years’ day ‘When’s Sully Comin?’ I picked him up at the airport the night of Friday January 4th and LITERALLY while we were leaving LAX my cell phone rings….It’s King…’Are you guys comin’ tonight?’ I said ‘Well, it’s late, we’ll come tomorrow so you can get some rest‘. He said ‘NO!…I want you guys to come tonight and watch a movie with me’
The first thing he says to Sully is ‘Hey man, glad you could make it….You don’t own any of my guitars do you?’ Sully, bewildered says…’Uhh… no’. King says….’Good. I like YOU then!’ …while shooting me a mock scowl!! We talked & joked for about an hour until Robbin fell asleep in mid sentence around 12:00 am….we quietly left.
The next day was supposed to be a fun day….a memorable day. Robbin & I had gotten permission from his doctor to go out on pass!!!! We got a 5 hour pass. We had it all planned out: we were going to ‘El Compadre’ for lunch and then to the movies to see “Lord of the Rings’. He was soooo looking forward to seeing that movie on the big screen…he had read all of the books and was a HUGE fan of that series. He was also looking forward to getting outside that hospital for the first time in almost 2 years.
I asked another friend, Brad Kelley, to come with me & Sully just to make sure we had enough help getting Robbin and the wheelchair in & out of my vehicle safely. I was in a great mood because I recognized that this day was a big step in his recovery. He was going to get a taste of the outside world again. I was not ready for the 180 degree
turn the day was about to take…
We arrived at 11:00 am and something is definitely wrong….Robbin was incoherent and sweating PROFUSELY. He wasn’t making any sense and kept asking for his father. I had left the room to talk with a nurse & Sully comes running out of the room saying ‘Get somebody QUICK…he’s passed out & turning blue!!’ Within 15 minutes the nursing staff had administered CPR, pumped his stomach & called 911. The paramedics were there immediately….They rushed him away to Cedars Sinai Hospital as the 3 of us were standing there in total shock. We stuck around to see if we could find out anything about his condition but they wouldn’t tell us anything. We 3 decided to go to ‘El Compadre’ anyway & have a few beers for Robbin….but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was just not right. What just happened?? He was fine last night….
Robbin was at Cedars for a week….He was not eating at all in the hospital and looked pale, withdrawn & groggy. He lost 20 lbs. That week. He told me that someone at Hancock had ‘accidentally doubled up’ his medication and that is what caused his problems. I was skeptical, I suspected something far more sinister had caused the meltdown…but I kept it to myself. I went to see him on tuesday and brought with me his 3 new Epiphone guitars that had arrived that monday. I thought they would cheer him up & maybe he could play them a little to pass the time.
He seemed uninterested, apathetic and very down. ”All I want to do is sleep. But I keep having horrible dreams so I can’t even do that’ . His nurse there was WONDERFUL…I wish I remembered her name. She was so concerned about him and was physically beautiful on top of that!! I think she was 25 or so and had absolutely no clue who RATT was!! As always…He had a nickname for her ….’Florence‘….as in ‘Nightingale’.
After getting back to Hancock Park he seemed energized & started in again on his physical rehab with a passion….sometimes. For the rest of January, visiting him was ‘like a box of chocolates’…I never knew which Robbin I would be getting. The determined energetic, hopeful Robbin, or the groggy, sleepy, grouchy Robbin. He had started drinking again but even that couldn’t account for the sometimes dreamlike state he seemed to be in. Then I found out that a few of his old ‘friends’ had started visiting him again. People from his past that should have stayed in his past…. for his sake.
Later that month, we had planned to order Chinese food in & watch the Superbowl together at Hancock Park. That morning just as I was getting ready to leave home, he calls….’Dude, I’m sorry…I’m at Cedars again.’ Basically it was a repeat of what had happened on January 5th. Something was definitely going on….
February/March and Light at the End of the Tunnel:.
During these 2 months he made solid progress, physically, and was getting stronger & stronger. One day in February we finally got to go out on our Pass. I was amazed when I walked in…he sat up and got into his wheelchair by himself…effortlessly. He was dressed in streetclothes, shaved, hair pulled back into a ponytail & ready to go!! We had a GREAT day, we went for lunch at ‘El Compadre’ and when we got there he had another surprise for me….he said. ‘I’m going in there on my own 2 feet…get the crutches’ I thought there was NO WAY he was ready for that.. ‘Are you…sure???’ It was 60 long feet from the back parking lot to the tiny table…but he made it!! Immediately the 2 guys ‘Flaco’ & ‘Chiquito’ that had served Robbin since the RATT days came over ‘Robbin…you look soo good, you look clean, It’s good to see you’. He said ‘Gracias me amigos, Dos Cervezas…por favor!’
After we had ordered Robbin told me a story about those two guys…’You know, when I was really down & out and didn’t even have the money to eat McDonalds…me & Rosie (his black labrador) would show up at the back door & beg for a taco or something….they never refused me. I love those guys.’ Now I understood why he was so in Love with that place. We ate a fantastic meal & had a few more ‘Cervezas’ and even a few shots of Tequila….At one point I said ‘No, no…no more…I have to drive’. He ordered them anyway and ended up drinking them both! He insisted on paying the check…$20 food bill & $40 alcohol!! He left a crisp $100 bill and we left quickly. We had just cashed his Royalty check from ‘Wicken Music Publishing’ and he had a few bucks in his pocket…He was on top of the world. He didn’t have a lot of money but his generosity ruled over all….It almost seemed like a tonic for him to be able to give.
In March he started talking about getting an Apartment and began looking thru the papers & literature from some local places. He said ‘What I really want is one of these quaint local ‘cottage’ type houses…just a 2 bedroom…but I just can’t swing it without a room mate, do you know anybody??’ He ended up settling on a 1 bedroom Apt. in a local landmark of sorts…the mid-Wilshire district ‘Park La Brea’ complex…He said ‘Reasonably priced & reasonably fashionable, fit for a King!’ He made several more attempts at getting a roommate, including a friend from Seattle, but it just didn’t work out. He would say ‘I’ve got to find a roommate…I can’t live alone’.
We started going out on pass regularly, looking for new furniture and furnishings for the place. We bought a set of beautiful black leather couches and put them on hold…waiting for the day he moved in. They were ‘Just like the ones I had in my house’. He had me on the hunt for some small oriental rugs to use on the hardwood floor in the living room area. He was scheduled to move in on April 1st…my birthday!!
A Day at the DMV
On March 22nd we went to the DMV to get him a California ID card. He had not had an ID or Driver’s License in almost 10 years!!! He was very nervous & uptight about going …but he had to get an ID in order to rent his Apartment. On the way there he told me why he was so freaked out about it…’Man I had a Ton of tickets that I never paid…they might not let me get an ID until I pay them, let alone a Driver’s license.’ He said he was prepared to pay all of them if necessary. We started talking about cars too..he says ‘I’d like to get a new car….I’ve been the seeing the TV ads for the new Daewoo ‘Leganza’…that would be perfect, only $139 a month.’ I burst out laughing and he gives me the furrowed brow and a ”WHAT?????” I said…’Oh man…the KING stuffed into a Daewoo…too funny! I can’t picture it!’
We get there, fill out all of the paperwork and go up to the window. The lady says ‘That’ll be $10 for your ID’….He looks at me in disbelief & I ask her. ‘Are their any restrictions on him getting a license?’ At that moment I say ‘license’ he gives me a TREMENDOUS kick in the shin!!! She looks it up in the computer and says ‘No…would you like a book to study for the test?’ He says sheepishly….’Uhhh….yeah’. I never saw a bigger smile on his face when we left there with his temporary ID…
We leave the DMV and he says ‘Lets go to Casa Vega & celebrate!!’. He explains that ‘Casa Vega’ is a place he & his wife, Laurie, used to frequent back in 1991-1992. They would fly down windy Laurel Canyon Blvd. in his Ferrari into the San Fernando Valley from his home in the Hollywood Hills…about a 20 minute drive.
I’ll never forget this as long as I live…we are on the way and we see a 7-11 convenience store. He says…’Pull in there I want a Snapple.’ …’OK, what kind?’ he says ‘Any kind’. He takes 1 big drink and then pours the rest (about 80%) on the ground!! I ask ‘What….are….you…..doing????’ He says ‘Last time we went out to lunch they made me give a urine sample so that they could see if was using drugs out on my pass….they gave me an assfull over the alcohol in my urine….this time we’re gonna take precautions’.
I still didn’t know what he meant. Duh….!
We pull into the ‘Casa Vega’ parking lot which is kinda secluded behind the restaurant. He sits on the tailgate of my 4Runner and says ‘Gimme the bottle’. He proceeds to pull down his shorts right there & starts peeing in the bottle, in broad daylight!! I turned my back in horror/ embarassment and try to shield him from the pedestrians walking down the sidewalk!! I hear over my shoulder…’Oh shit…here take this and empty some’ I take it and run around the side of the car to empty it…I look at him & he’s sitting there holding himself trying to stop the flow and….there’s urine squirting in all directions!!!!! He’s cursing & sputtering ‘Hurry up!!!!’ I get back to him & he’s apparently done….just one problem…THE BOTTLE IS NOW EMPTY!!!! He looks at me and at the bottle & says….’YOU SCHMENGIE!!!…you didn’t save ANY!!???!!!!’ He was sooooo irritated with me the rest of the day. He never let me live that one down….
A Tough Day
On April 1st he called to wish me happy birthday but I could tell immediately something was up. We talked a little…. but he seemed really depressed and VERY emotional. He had been drinking and I asked him “Is everything OK?’ he says ‘No….I know it’s your birthday but can you come…I need to talk to you’.. It’s a 60 mile drive for me to Hancock Park, but I went.
When I get there he is laying in the dark…sobbing quietly. I ask ‘What’s wrong??’ he says to me through the sobs ‘I need you to promise me one thing….I don’t know how much longer I have and when I’m gone, PLEASE don’t let people forget about me…. I’ve screwed everything up, my marriage, my career, my cars, my house, my guitars… EVERYTHING!!….I don’t want people to think of me as a junkie loser…please let them know I’m sorry’. It’s my turn to start crying and the 2 of us are sitting there in the dark in tears. I stayed there about 3 hours & tried to cheer him up without success. He fell asleep around 12:00am & I left for home. I did make him the promise….
Fade to Black….
He finally moved into his Apartment around April 8th (I forget the exact day) and he began to settle in. It became apparent that he was not going to be able to care for himself 24/7 so a nurse was scheduled to visit 2 times a week. His medications were another problem…some of them the nurse could bring & others he would have to go to a clinic across town to see a doctor for them….the wait was usually 3 hours!
He seemed happy but a bit frustrated by his lack of mobility…still he was able to get around the Apartment in the wheelchair and even cook a little for himself. He caught a severe cold the first few nights there & also fell and banged up his feet pretty badly. I would call to see if he needed anything & he would always say ‘No….You don’t need to keep helping me…you’ve done enough’ I told him ‘That’s nonsense….that’s what friends are for’.
In early May I found out that his old friend Patrick had moved in with him…sounds great right? WRONG! Patrick was his old roommate & Heroin buddy. I tried to convince him that Patrick was no good for him & would only tempt him again. He wouldn’t listen…he told me ‘I Love him like a brother and we’ve been thru a lot together….besides, he has nowhere else to go’.
I knew right then that this was the beginning of the end….He would call once in awhile just to say hello but it wasn’t like before. He did everything he could to discourage me from visiting him…’Oh I don’t feel good’ or ‘The place is a mess’. I could tell he was using again…his speech was slurred & he just didn’t sound good.
Late in May he started calling me asking me if he could borrow some money…Now, I knew that he had around $9k in cash when he moved into the apartment only a month before. ‘Robbin….where did all your money go?’. He made some vague references about his ‘medication‘ and ‘groceries’. I would lie to him & say “I’m broke….now is a bad time, I’m sorry’. It just about killed me to put him off…but I was not about to HELP him destroy himself.
On the night of Sunday June 2nd he called & finally cornered me. “Hey, I need you to do me a favor…I need money for my medication….what I want you to do is take my Breedlove (Acoustic Guitar) and pawn it….bring the others to me here. I need at least $300 and I need it tomorrow morning’. I tried to talk him out of it but he insisted. So I did as he asked….
I showed up at the apartment at 11:00 am with the $$$ and his guitars….
Oh my god, Please NO!! Please don’t let it be as bad as I imagined.
It was….even WORSE than I imagined. Robbin ‘King’ Crosby was sitting in the middle of the room, nude from the waist down in a filthy T-shirt, unshaven, unwashed and barely able to sit upright. He had gained even more weight and had grown a full beard. There were several LARGE open sores on his legs as well. He was white as a sheet & clammy with sweat.
He says ‘Awwww, come here & give me a hug….I’ve missed you’. The room was a mess, everything you would expect from a typical bad R rated movie drug den scene. Bottles of piss, cigarette butts, dirty ashtrays & clothes, beer cans….just about every inch of the floor was covered in trash. The heat & stench in the room were overpowering. His beautiful apartment was a shambles…
He could see the horror on my face. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I asked him just one question….’WHY?????’ He was trembling and turned away. He said, stuttering ‘Please… don’t hate me…please’. I told him that I loved him and could never hate him….There were no words left….nothing else I could say would change anything…I thought about trying to reason with him but I knew that he wouldn’t listen
I couldn’t stay…I just couldn’t bear to see him this way. I left quickly & in shock, knowing full well I probably would not see him again. I was frustrated & wanted to do something but deep down I knew that he could not stop. He would not stop….His Demons were just too strong.
The afternoon of Thursday June 6th I got the call from my wife (I was at work) She was crying & just said ‘Robbin’s……..Gone’. Even though I knew it was coming, it still hit me like a ton of bricks…I almost passed out. All of his hopes & aspirations for the future were now meaningless…all of the hard won progress he had made in the last 6 months was meaningless….I just felt so empty. I still feel that empty spot.
On June 14th, Along with 200 or 300 other folks, I made the journey down to Windansea beach in La Jolla to say goodbye to ‘Robb’ as his childhood friends knew him. It was a beautiful San Diego California day, One like I’m sure Robb saw many, many of in his youth. The service started around 6:00pm, Robbin’s father starting things off with a moving 20 minute tribute to special people in Robbin’s life. 10 or 12 friends got up & said a few words…some told stories. It was rather strange to see the 4 surviving members of RATT copiously avoiding each other…they didn’t even LOOK at each other!! BUT they were ALL there and I give them credit for at least saying goodbye. Warren was definitely emotional as he spoke about his friend. It looked to me like he wished he had done some things differently…but that’s just my opinion.
The sun was setting at the end of the service…A bright red ball of fire melting into the sea….The sun was setting on Robbin’s life too. He once told me ‘Don’t feel sorry for me…I lived enough for ten men…I did everything I wanted to do’. I’d like to believe that…I do believe that.
One thing I took away with me that day was the pleasant revelation that there had been SO MANY other people that had stepped into his life over his last 10 years to lend him a hand when he needed it. It almost seems like we were all part of a predestined ‘Team’ that passed along the reins silently so that King could be more comfortable…I felt more at ease knowing that so many people HAD cared…people that recognized a free & loving spirit…despite his flaws, we took him as he was…Warts & all.
I wish things could have been different but I know that I am a better person for knowing him, As is anyone who had spent any amount of time with him. He just had a way of putting out that vibe…of Love.
Love ya King, I miss you…I’ll see you again.
Originally when I wrote the ‘Journal’, it was more than twice as long and after finishing it there were a lot of things that I felt at the time, were either too personal or not really worth including …also it was so long, I wasn’t even sure people would want to read the damn thing! Some of the sections were rambling and VERY long winded….Here’s a sample chapter that was removed.
This one was really the first section written, the section before ‘Meeting a King’ but after the intro, at the Very beginning of the journal. It seemed rather irrelevant and kinda silly because of my extreme ignorance, so I cut it out…the first of many chapters to go…looking at it now I guess it lends some perspective to the overall story.
Like a Dream
After leaving Neil’s I started getting excited, thinking about all of the things I wanted to ask Robbin. I might not get a second chance to talk with him and I wanted to make it count so I actually wrote a long list of questions so I wouldn’t forget anything.
They were mostly things related to the guitars I had, but also some questions about that magical time between 1984-1987 when RATT was on top of the hard rock world…one of the biggest bands from my home turf of Los Angeles.
I felt sort of special because I had what I considered to be a ‘special ticket’ to go & see him. His close friend Neil Zlozower (whom I was also rather awestruck at meeting!) had just given me ‘permission’ to go & see him…Neil said it would be alright, so surely Robbin would take a few minutes to talk with me. Hopefully I wouldn’t stick my damn foot in my mouth!
I had a plan, I would shamelessly drop Neil’s name. You know, ‘Hey Robbin, how are you? I talked to Neil & he said it would be OK to come & visit’
Even though I had been vaguely informed of his current situation, In my excitement, I pictured him just as he appeared on the cover of all those magazines back then, the larger than life presence and the leader of RATT. I figured he would look much the same….surely a little worse for wear because he had been ill….but still largely unchanged.
It was August and a typically warm day in Los Angeles somewhere in the mid 90 degree range…bright & clear with some scattered billowy white clouds and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, what a great day to go & see Robbin, to finally meet one of my favorite guitarists of the ’80’s’.
Driving over, I checked & re-checked the address of the place ‘Hancock Park Convalescent Hospital’. The Hancock Park area of LA is considered kinda upscale and ‘riche’ so my mind conjured an idyllic setting with well manicured grounds and lots of security. I initially drove right by the place, mainly because the area didn’t match my mind’s image of what it should look like!!
I doubled back and found parking on the street in front of the hospital…I was surprised to say the least. It faced a busy, noisy street and there were no ‘grounds’, just a plain looking entrance in a somewhat dingy looking building. This couldn’t be the right place. Could it?
I went inside and a young, attractive Asian receptionist smiled and said ‘How may I help you?’ As I looked around the rather bare & plain lobby, I said ‘I’m here to visit a patient, Robbin Crosby’, half expecting her to tell me there was no one here by that name. Instead, she looked a little surprised and, handing me a clipboard to sign in, said quietly ‘I’m so glad you’re here, he hasn’t had many visitors. Are you a friend or family?’
At this, I felt my eyes shift slightly as I fought to comprehend what she had just said….I finally blurted out ‘Uh, No I’ve never met him, he doesn’t know me’. She said ‘Oh, well OK the elevator is there and he’s on the second floor, room 203’.
On my way up I thought to myself. ‘Something isn’t right, am I in the right place?’, then the elevator door opened and I stepped out. I looked left & right and immediately felt disoriented because there were elderly patients everywhere I looked, crowding the narrow hallway. I had never been in such a hospital so I was completely unprepared.
I walked toward a nurses station and I felt I was in a surreal movie….elderly ladies were grabbing at me from wheelchairs and old men were leaning up against walls seemingly catatonic or mumbling to themselves.
A nurse, without saying a word, pointed to a door near the end of the hallway when I asked where Robbin was. I walked over and with my heart jumping out of my chest, silently entered the room.
There were two beds, one was occupied by an elderly man with sunken cheeks who merely looked at me blankly…I looked to my left at the bed closest to the door and my knees went weak. My throat felt like it had suddenly closed & dried up.
I saw a man whom I didn’t really recognize, a large man with long greasy, lank hair who was sound asleep and snoring gently. I stood transfixed slowly taking in the details.
The darker hair, the sweaty bloated face, the dirty stained hospital gown, the enormous body, the messy small table cluttered with all sorts of stuff, the two get well cards taped to the dingy wall, the faint odor of human waste, antiseptic and sweat.
It WAS Robbin Crosby but my mind could not process the reality…
Without realizing it, I had dropped the paper I had brought with my questions on it….I stood for what seemed like forever trying to figure out what I should do….should I leave? Should I cough? Should I wake him? Should I ask a nurse for help?
In the end, I just stood there… looking from the quizzical look on the face of the man in the next bed, back to Robbin sleeping peacefully.
Robbin…… Is that really Robbin? How can it be?? This is not what I expected…I suddenly felt very foolish and utterly stupid at my naive notions of this man and his very real state. This was not what I expected…this is not what I expected!!
After a minute I silently placed the brown bag containing the bottle of Peppermint Schnapps on the table and left the room. I don’t really remember leaving the hospital…I just remember the tears I felt on my cheeks and the helpless feeling that I had somehow intruded, seen something too private…yet he never knew I was there.
To me it was like a dream. Did it really happen?
It took me a week to gather enough courage to go back…to try again.