The WHO’s Original Drummer Loved Dressing Up, Especially As A Lady
(re-posted from TGLIFE.com 2005)
With a biographical film in the works, about THE WHO’S late drummer, will his crossdressing end up on film? Tentatively Mike Myers (yes, that’s Austin Powers) is scheduled to assume the role of one of rock’s late greats, but since Keith Moon’s life was so full of music and mischief, will his fancy of lady’s attire make it to the screen also? What I mean is this – Keith Moon’s life was so ‘balls to the walls’, ‘party animal’, ‘rock n’ roll crazy’ that his gender bending forays with appearing in public ‘dressed’, were certainly out-shadowed by his overblown personality. To put it simply- no one noticed, or much cared at all when he was dressed En Fem!
If you have read anything about me, Gina Lance, whether in interviews or in my biography, GET DRESSED! you might have picked up on the fact that I was a rock n’ roll drummer for a decade and a half. And being a drummer, I was also a huge fan of Keith Moon.
A handful of rock bands introduced totally different styles in the 1960’s and a great part of that were the different inflections of the drummer’s in each band. Cream featured the African rhythms of Ginger Baker. The Jimi Hendrix Experience had it’s own sound because drummer Mitch Mitchell was an accomplished jazz musician, and brought that influence with him. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had their unique styles because of Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts, respectively.
But THE WHO was different. Drummer Keith Moon not only played the drums, he virtually attacked them with his whole body, flailing away, and many times turned the percussion section of this power trio into the lead instrument.
Keith Moon, affectionately called ‘Moon The Loon’ by the press, and his peers, got a name for himself by being so over the top. His legend comes with a list of unique footnotes, some included here which were originally published in Hard Rock Magazine.
RAVING TALES OF KEITH MOON INSANITY
By Andy Secher
The most famous of these events occurred during the band's first American tour in 1967. They had been traveling around the country, opening shows for, believe it or not, Herman's Hermits, and it just so happened that their entourage arrived in the unsuspecting town of Flint, Michigan on the day of Keith's 21st birthday. [editor: actually his 20th birthday-so that he would be able to drink for the rest of the tour he reasoned!]. Such an auspicious occasion of course, could not be overlooked by the touring party, and an impromptu party was planned at the band's hotel. By ten o'clock in the morning, both bands and their road crews had gathered around the Holiday Inn swimming pool and were heartily consuming the various bottles of booze that had been given to Keith as presents. As morning turned to afternoon more guests arrived bearing gifts, mostly of the alcoholic variety, and as the sun began to set, the party became a true celebration of insanity. Fully dressed individuals began to jump into the nearby pool, and as seemingly dozens of bottles of various beverages were dumped into the pool's cool waters, Flint, Michigan found itself the home of the world's largest martini.
As the day's festivities reached their culmination, a huge cake, a gift from Premier Drum Company, was wheeled out for Keith's inspection. Even though he was barely able to walk following his day-long carousing, he summoned up all of his remaining strength and picked up the entire cake and dumped its five layers on an unsuspecting ensemble who were sitting together in a drunken stupor. The incident seemed to give everyone a "second wind," and suddenly huge gobs of cake were being hurled from every imaginable corner of the besieged hotel. The main dining room became a war zone, and the lobby soon resembled a confectioner's nightmare. Somehow during these festivities Moon had managed to lose all of his clothes, and as he pranced around bare-assed, the police finally arrived to break up the party. Instead of waiting to be arrested for being the catalyst of this even, Moon, ever the quick thinker, dashed out into the night and jumped into a Lincoln Continental limousine parked in the hotel driveway. As he released the handbrake, he suddenly realized that the car was rolling backwards, and that he didn't have the keys to start the engine. In his drunken state he failed to realize that he could step on the footbrake and halt the car's backward progression, so he patiently sat and waited as the car crashed through the swimming pool's protective fence, and rolled into the water.
As the car rapidly began to sink in the pool's deep end, it looked like the short, glorious career. Somehow, even in his state of insensible stupor, his instincts for survival prevailed, and as the car was about to totally submerge, he took a gulp of air, pushed the car door open and swam valiantly to the pool's edge. As he emerged from his "swim" he was greeted by a police sergeant brandishing his gun. Deciding that valor was still the better part of discretion, Keith again attempted to run from justice, but this time he was felled by a well-placed piece of cake frosting on which he slipped, falling forward and knocking out his front tooth. After finally being apprehended, he was forced to spend the remainder of the evening in the police jail. Upon being released the following morning, the sergeant presented him with a bill from the hotel for damages totaling $24,000, as well as offering a stern warning never to return to Flint. Keith could only offer a gap-toothed smile and think about his next birthday party.
While this tale remains dear to the hearts of all "Moon-men", his renowned ability to destroy hotel rooms has perhaps won him even greater acclaim. Many a time a startled hotel patron has been confronted by the sight of a 25-inch color TV hurtling down towards them, compliments of one Keith Moon. Nothing is safe from the destructive tendencies of the mad Moon; bathroom fixtures suddenly become unfixed, and wooden bed frames are soon relegated into the unrecognizable piles of wood. Keith shows no favoritism in his hotel "victims", and rooms from New York's elegant Plaza to huts in he wilds of Asia have felt the wrath of the demented drummer. One particularly memorable "wrecking" took place in the unlikely locale of Saskatoon, Canada. It seems that during the midst of one of the Who's frequent North American tours, Mr. Moon found himself without a suitable activity to occupy his hyperactive personality. After a few half-hearted attempts to find an entertaining diversion, Keith wandered into town where he discovered a hardware store that carried exactly what he was looking for. He gleefully returned to his room with a new hatchet that he had purchased, and he contently set about dismantling his room. Within minutes it looked like a German Panzer division had used his quarters for target practice, as everything from his dressing table to the television lay in a heap of total disrepair. A while later when a "roadie" came to get Keith from that evening's performance, he was aghast to open the door and find Moon sitting atop a huge pile of dismantled hotel furniture. As he wondered aloud what had gotten into Keith to make him do such a thing, the madman calmly replied, "just tryin' to keep meself out of trouble, mate."
An equally infamous hotel-room escapade found Keith providing a well-intentioned "inn-keeper" with the ultimate definition of "noise" versus "music". Legend tells that Moon was quietly standing in the lobby of a mid-western American hotel, with his portable cassette player blasting out some of the Who's latest work. After a few minutes of this sound onslaught, the normally crowded lobby had become practically deserted. It was at this point that the hotel manager emphatically asked Keith to turn the "noise" down to a respectable level. In disdain for one not attuned to his musical tastes, Moon kept right on playing his tape at ear-splitting levels. This prompted another plea from the manger, again begging that the "noise" be turned off. This dialogue continued unabated for the next few minutes until the hotel representative warned that if Keith did not turn the machine off at once he would be forced to summon the police. At these ominous words Moon made an agreement with the manager. He said that he would go back to his room if the official would accompany him. While this request seemed somewhat strange, it was quickly agreed upon, and the two journeyed up to Keith's ninth floor abode. Upon reaching his room, Moon signaled that the man should wait a moment outside the door while Keith went inside. After about two minutes Moon reemerged, followed closely by a loud dynamite explosion emanating from his bathroom. As smoke began to fill the hallway, Moon turned to the horrified manager and calmly explained, "That my friend is noise. This on the other hand," as he again turned on his cassette player, "is the Who."
Now what about his crossdressing you ask? Actually with the reputation Keith Moon forged for himself, when he was dressed as a woman, people hardly seemed to notice. It was actually some of the calmer moments of his life. He did dress in many varied outfits, and loved costumes of all sorts , but according to Dougal Butler, his personal assistant while Keith was still alive, “Moonie frequently takes it into his head to act the ginger beer, especially if he can get hold of a dress or two”. (That’s English slang for queer or gay.)
He has been described as a loveable transvestite and a rabble-rouser. He lived his life beyond all expectations of most, and mostly to other peoples disdain. When Keith Moon died in 1978, many believe the sprit of The WHO died with him. We’ll never really know whether he considered himself a crossdresser or transgendered, and we certainly won’t know how much more he would have dressed in the future.
Something tells me though it would have been quite a bit. He appeared to Love It!
PHTOGRAPHER: Bob Gruen
Below is a vintage (late 60s early 70s) of The Who playing My Generation, with their signature smashing of their equipment at the end.