Sunday morning at 2:30 a.m., I drove up to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to pick up my parents. They'd been on an American Airlines flight diverted from Heathrow Airport Tuesday to St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. For five days they waited while pilots of other planes — particularly Sabena Airlines — squabbled with their American citizen passengers about returning to Europe since foreign carriers weren't allowed to land in the U.S. anymore. Five days of listening to American Airlines operators claiming to know nothing at all about the diverted flights or when they might return to New York.
Finally, after ascertaining from the security manager at St. John's airport that the flight had at last left (the American operators still pleading ignorance), I arrived at the entrance to JFK. It was pitch black out, no traffic, an occasional car speeding by into the airport. I came with expectations of round-the-clock Israeli-type security: bloodhounds, soldiers with machine guns, a demand for photo ID, etc. I anticipated a long wait and explanations. What did I get?
JFK lay open as if it were an abandoned shopping mall.
At Terminal 8, the American international arrivals, I pulled up in front of one lone car with the engine running. The man inside, who had ID tags on, told me: "You can't park here. They're towing, and it's $65. You have to go in the parking lot. See those sharpshooters on the roof?"
I looked up, and saw no one.
Still seeing no one, I decided a post-midnight towing wasn't worth the trouble, and found my way to the lot. As I drove, a zipper sign was blinking the warning: "Be Prepared to Stop for Police Check." But there were no cops and there was no check.
I walked into the American Terminal. Doors wide open. A few people milling about. No one stopped me. A janitor was sweeping around the baggage carousels. There wasn't a single person of authority present.
Familiar with the terminal, I took the escalator upstairs hoping someone would know where my folks' flight was landing. Again, no one. Halfway across the concourse, near the closed Brookstone, there was a group of people checking out a departures listing. I asked them if they had any information, and where someone from American would be? "They're not here," said a woman. "Maybe in an hour." Everyone shrugged.
It was a strike out, so I headed to the men's room and passed an open janitor's closet left unattended. In fact, the whole place was unguarded. I started to think of all the places a terrorist could leave a present for unsuspecting passengers. The possibilities were too many to count.
As I left I asked the janitor if he knew what was going on. He told me all the flights had been moved to Terminal 4, the international building. At the exit to the parking lot, I mentioned to the woman locked in the cashier's cage that I'd seen no security in Terminal 8.
"That's no good," she said. "They could blow us all up."
At 5:30 a.m., without explanation for its lateness, the American flight arrived. It was five days off schedule, but everyone was all right. And the Sabena passengers? Apparently they rented a bus and tried to drive to Nova Scotia. But hurricane conditions forced them to turn back to St. John's. No one's heard from them since.
The Latin Grammys never did take place. Forced from Miami to Los Angeles, they were eventually cancelled because of last week's events. The result was a lot of stranded record execs and stars in Hollywood, all hanging out in the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel.
For CBS executive and Mariah Carey tormentor, Tommy Mottola, the week began with a return to roots. Most people do not know this, but Tommy was once a pop singer. He performed under the name T. D. Valentine. So it wasn't too much of a stretch on Monday night when Julio Iglesias pulled him up out of the audience at a benefit dinner and invited Mottola to sing along. Apparently Mottola was very energized by the experience, and didn't embarrass himself either.
Meanwhile, back at the Four Seasons, both Sean "Puffy" Combs and Elektra Records chairman Sylvia Rhone spent a lot of quality time — at separate tables. Each was heard vowing to charter private planes so they could return to New York. Neither one of them, according to my sources, seemed to realize this was impossible. "There was a lot of hot air in that bar all week," reports my source.
Some people took matters into their own hands, but realistically. Joel Katz, the music biz lawyer and onetime head of the disappeared Kane Records, got so fed up that he chartered a luxury bus. Katz, pal Don Perry, and a radio exec are on their way back to Atlanta even as you read this, reliving the old days of cross-country touring. I hear they're stopping in various small towns and trying to convince locals they're the Monkees all grown up.
A couple of rock stars can't just get along. Go figure. Elvis Costello has been pestering Prince, the Artist still known as, to license him a few lines from the song "Pop Life" to be included in Elvis's song "The Bridge I Burned." Costello asked a couple of years ago and was shot down. Now "Bridge" is included in Costello's excellent reissue of his album All this Useless Beauty (Rhino) and Prince said 'no' again. Costello obviously didn't like this response. He writes in the liner notes: "As the song says: There is a mocking bird in the twilight of infamy."
Costello's old pal, Nick Lowe, has a new album out too this week. It's called The Convincer, and it's quite wonderful. Lowe was once the prince of punk pop, but now that he has white hair, he's made three terrific albums' worth of blue-eyed soul in a row. He covers Johnny Rivers' neglected "Poor Side of Town," and salutes Gene Pitney on "Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart."
Music for adults. How lovely. Between these two guys, plus Luka Bloom and Glenn Tilbrook, we have it made this fall!
Not everyone is holding hands and singing "Kumbaya" in this time of strife. On the night after the bombing, the staff at Etats Unis, an overpriced New York restaurant, literally fought with us when something on the bill for dinner was questioned. Instead of compromising on an exorbitant $35 per bottle corkage fee for wine brought in, they proceeded to yell at my dinner group. One waitress announced, "You're not welcome here anymore." Nice to see they have their priorities straight. Frankly, she shoulda put a cork in it.