I was telling some old radio tales to a friend of mine, and he asked me if I had any Lou Reed stories. We were both diehard Reed and Velvet Underground fans, and during my brief time in radio I did amass some great anecdotes involving nearly every one of my musical heroes. But no, I said, to my deep regret I had never had a professional encounter with Lou. Then I remembered my teen years and oh yeah, I've got a story.
Presented here, for the first time, is my short, unprovable, NSFW Lou Reed story, from somewhere between 1988 and 1990 - a few years before I started working in the entertainment industry.
I was born and raised in Greenwich Village, back when New York really was the sort of place that Lou Reed songs (and albums!) were made of. There was, for instance, a hotel on St. Mark's Place that offered a $30 "transient" rate, for people renting a room for two hours.
Obviously, there are only a few reasons why one would need a hotel room for only two hours, and in my case it was where I took my longtime girlfriend for "dates" that would be impossible anywhere else, since we both still lived at home with our parents. So, we checked into the hotel, and were told that we would have to wait in the lobby for about 10 minutes while whoever was in the room finished up their two-hour stay.
Yeah, that's right - someone finishes up in that room, and then the next person is checked right in. Like I said, New York was a different place back then.
After a few minutes, a tall, gaunt man wearing sunglasses walked down the stairs, paid the concierge, and thanked him. As a voice guy, and a Lou Reed devotee, I recognized that unmistakable, gorgeous, booming monotone. A look at the man's face, with it's sharply articulated features, erased any doubt: I was about to go do something in a room that one of my idols had just used - though, strangely, alone.
My girlfriend and I walked up the flight of stairs to our familiar room, and it was as clean as ever - which is not to say it was the Four Seasons, but about as good as one might hope for a two-hour hotel room designed for sex and drug users. Because of his history, and because he was alone, I naturally assumed that Lou had been there for the latter purpose.
However - and this is the god's honest truth - there was no evidence of drug use, nor were the sheets ruffled. What the hell was Lou doing in there?
The truth - I have no idea. Lou left one thing behind, and it only deepens the mystery: one carrot, uneaten, sitting in the ashtray. Tucked into one of it's grooves like a cigarette, which was a far more common sight in this particular hotel room.
I honestly have no idea what Lou was doing up in that room with that carrot as his only companion for two hours, and I don't suppose I'll ever know. But that was the magic of pre-gentrified New York City. It was the kind of place where you could walk a few blocks to a seedy sex hotel, and bump into Lou Reed on the way to your room. As for the carrot - it's story remains untold.