I spend a small fortune on books, biographies in particular. It doesn’t matter whom the published manuscript is about or written by or co-written with, I’m just drawn to them; they call my name, HEATHER, read ME. And in a way, they’ve become my drink, like a big glass of Château Lafite that always gets better with age, needing no introduction.
The bounded lives of Alan Greenspan, Albert Einstein, Hank Paulson, Henry Kissinger, Ted Turner, Barbara Walters, Tennessee Williams, Nelson Mandela, Warren Buffet, and Yehudi Menuhin are just a few that rest on my overflowing shelves of dog-eared pages. There’s usually no rhyme or reason for each biography about to be downloaded by moi: sometimes they’re gifts, sometimes I find them tossed on the street, and other times, it’s just because I don’t know anything about the particular subject—that celebrated person. And the strangest thing, reading the lives of all of these personalities, is that I always learn a few tidbits about New York or real estate matters—how one feels about places, such as their home(s). (Yes, I know, I’ve written about this many times before today.)
With that, Keith Richards entered my life two weeks ago via his memoir, LIFE. I’ve never been a Rolling Stones connoisseur, so I didn’t buy his book; I borrowed it—from the library.
So as I was drinking-in Keith’s borrowed LIFE, I was finding it rather typical and unrelatable (drug-enhanced, über–rocker, blah), until chapter 5. That’s where he got me—on page 187, pulling me in, elegantly and delicate, like only a vintage Rothchild, 1st cru classé can do:
“We spoke to each other the minute we saw each other.”
He was referring to a house: charming, not grand; a thatched, Elizabethan farmhouse surrounded by a moat, located in West Sussex, called Redlands. According to Keith, he was driving around in his Bentley with a list of homes available for sale, and a blasé mission: “Oh, I’m going to buy a house today.” He took a wrong turn and ended-up in the drive of Redlands. An older man there gave him directions and then asked Keith if he was looking for a house to buy. To which Keith replied: Why yes, I am. The owner of Redlands told Keith, if he cared to, he could buy his home. “Because I fell in love with Redlands the minute I saw it,” Keith asked, “How much?” The owner responded, “Twenty grand.” This was around 1 pm and by that evening, after retrieving “the bread” from a London bank, putting the loot in a brown paper bag, “I was back down in Redlands, in front of the fireplace, and we signed the deal. And he turned the deeds over to me. It was like cash on the barrelhead, done in a really old-fashioned way,” he wrote. That was in 1966, and today, he still owns that thatched-pad on Redlands Lane.
Now, I can relate to that! It was after this, that I started to read between the bass-lines of LIFE, no longer focusing on the treble-line chords in the key of “H,” realizing that Keith Richards is an old soul—with music, homes, books, people; sincere and true to the artistry in LIFE, like I am…in a far-off-way.
And of course, I’m nothing like a famous person or gifted guitarist-songwriter, but I do feel a kinship with the man, now that I have read his book. And now, I need to buy LIFE for the humble shelves that line the interior of my abode.
“I lead a gentleman’s life. Listen to Mozart, read many, many books. I’m
a voracious reader. I’ll read anything.” -Keith Richards, LIFE (PG 522, first edition)
Library in Connecticut. Photo by Christopher Sykes
Bonus note: As far as NYC homes, Keith Richards lived in numerous
Manhattan Hotels* over the decades, referring to them as “home,” before moving into Penthouse #1109 located in the Silk Building, 14 East 4th, which just so happens to be on the market today for $4,895,000.00 (post Keith, Russell Simmons and Britney Spears have been owners of this unit, too). CLICK HERE for the listing details. Today, he’s no longer living on the island of Gotham. Since 1991, Keith and his family have called, in jest, “Camelot Costalot,” their permanent residence, located in Weston (Connecticut).
*3.7.14 Update: Keith and his wife just boomeranged back into NYC purchasing a four-bedroom penthouse on lower Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village.
**Jimi Hendrix, another guitarist-songwriter-extraordinaire was a hotel-dweller for years in NYC, too, until he decided to settle down, calling his permanent home 59 West 12th Street in the Village. (Sadly, that apartment is not on the market, today.)