The legendary drummer passed away 41 years ago today
Keith Moon: Those who knew him, and those who wish they did.
They say ( Whoever "They" are?) that you should never meet your idols or heroes because you are certain to be…
They say (Whoever “They” are?) that you should never meet your idols or heroes because you are certain to be disappointed. While that’s probably true, since who could ever live up to such a billing, these same said experts have never said anything about meeting your heroes’ friends, assistants, and/or significant others. In this particular instance, the hero/slash idol I speak of is the brilliant and manic drummer from The Who, the late Keith Moon, the significant other is the very accommodating and allow me to say, extremely patient, Anette Walter-Lax Hunt.
When you are a teenager, particularly a boy, having an identity is vital for your high school survival, especially if you aren’t considered either good-looking, cool, athletic, or smart. For the rest who are kind of hovering in the middle, the group that constitutes the majority of teenagers during their high school years, carving out even a small level of notoriety can provide one with a partial pathway towards having some sort of reputation. This may allow an individual to be more than just a footnote in a medium to large size secondary school. For what it’s worth, whatever sliver of notice that I was able to carve out in high school was by and large due to my unabridged affection for the storied rock ’n’ roll band, The Who, and in particular, my fanaticism for anything associated with their fabled drummer, Keith Moon.
When Keith Moon passed away on September 7th, 1978, I was only 14 years old, and I was just entering the 9th grade at Plainedge High School. I had never heard of Keith Moon, and my knowledge of The Who basically consisted of the movie Tommy, and the song Pinball Wizard, which I thought was an Elton John song. (At the time, this didn’t really give it a whole lot of stature in my teenage eyes.) When I heard Carol Miller (The iconic DJ on the celebrated New York City rock ’n’ roll station, WPLJ-FM, 95.5.) announce that the drummer from The Who had passed away, I wasn’t exactly moved to tears.
However, as she went on to explain what a great drummer he was, as well as how funny and wild he had been during his brief time on Earth, I did become a little intrigued. Still, at the time, it meant little more to me than when I had heard Elvis had died the year before. I was simply too young to comprehend the significance of what had just happened. As far as I could ascertain, Moon’s passing was just another example of a how a “crazed” rock performer had died from living too hard. For a 14 year-old, that’s typically the most reflective response that you can expect to extract from their still developing frontal cortex. However, it was also at this time that The Who released,“Who are You? and my view of music, rock ’n’ roll, and my enthusiasm for all things Keith Moon, were about to go through a complete metamorphosis.
My first true exposure to The Who, my purchase of their last album with their original line-up. It came in red vinyl, and I had no idea what I had, or if it would even play on the turntable, but play it did, and I fell in love with it. I didn’t even know the difference between Pete Townsend and John Entwistle. I did know who Keith was, and I thought his outfit was hilarious. Little did I know that they had convinced him to sit down because his belly had gotten a little large for a rock star. His untimely death would awaken my love for The Who, as well as Keith. (You Tube)
Unlike today, where a fan of literally anything can get on the internet, and find out as much information about any item that interests an individual as they desire, (For better or worse) my thirst for knowledge regarding the recently deceased Keith Moon would be much more difficult to come by in the dark and dreary pre-internet days of the late 1970s and early ’80s. The best way to proceed at first was to begin to devour Who albums, and discover not only how great the band was, but what an integral part of their sound and success Keith was as well.
If there were two things, in addition to the music, that allowed me to immerse myself in the Keith Moon legend, as well as literally make him my idol, and create for me the identity as the leading Who, as well as Keith Moon aficionado in all of Plainedge High School, it was the movie, The Kids are Alright, a Who biopic directed by Jeff Stein, and the book Full Moon: The Amazing Rock ’n’ Roll Life of the Late Keith Moon, written by Peter “Dougal” Butler, a man who basically served as Keith’s “Guy Friday,” as well as best friend, assistant, and for all intents and purposes his lifeguard and savior for several years. The movie showed Keith as well as the band in their younger days. They were wild, exciting, filled with raw power and energy. Keith and the band performed with such explosive force and passion on stage, you literally couldn’t take your eyes off of them. It was Keith’s ability as a performer that I found the most mesmerizing. Despite the fact that he was situated in the back, he seemed to be playing “Lead Drums” if there could be such a thing. His performance and sound overwhelmed all else at times, and it gave The Who the most distinct look and sound in rock ’n’ roll history.
When you don’t have long blond locks, and a lean, muscular body with six-pack abs, it’s kind of difficult to relate to most lead-singers (Other than “Meatloaf” I suppose, and that wasn’t exactly a look to aspire to.) during the rock ’n’ roll era, but drummers were different. The look they sported was one you could at least hope to imitate. Armed with my $60 dollar drum-kit that I bought from a friend, I began to cut my hair like Keith’s, wear his red Converse All-Star Chuck Taylor’s, and practice making Keith Moon “faces,” as I learned to play. Still, other than the movie, The Kids are Alright, it was very difficult to learn about Keith. That’s about the time when “Dougal Dear Boy” entered the picture.
During my senior year in high school in 1981, it was announced that a new book had come out that had been written by a man by the name of Peter “Dougal” Butler, who had been Keith Moon’s assistant for several years. It was called Full Moon: The Amazing Rock ’n’ Roll Life of the Late Keith Moon. The book detailed many of Keith’s most outrageous stunts and moments, some well-known in and out of the circles of rock ’n’ roll, others known only to “Dougal” based on his close affiliation with Keith. While the book is extremely enjoyable, and at times, laugh out loud funny, the story also presents another side of Keith that many of his fans were not aware of. “Dougal” described Keith’s struggles with drugs as well as alcohol, his sadness that he attempted to cover up through the almost frenetic pace that he maintained, and a strange kind of loneliness that you wouldn’t have expected from a man so famous and well-loved. “Dougal” eventually left his position as Keith’s “guardian,” and ended up working for filmmaker Jeff Stein, the man behind The Kids are Alright. This didn’t sit well with Keith, and Butler’s parting from Keith was not amicable.
As all dedicated Keith Moon fans are aware, Keith had been married to a model named Kim Kerrigan from 1966 to 1975. The two had one daughter named Amanda (Mandy). Moon’s lifestyle made having a marriage difficult to say the least, so Keith and Kim’s divorce should be about as big a surprise as the sun coming up in the morning. However, this is not to say that Keith did not enjoy having a steady girl at home. Beginning in 1974 Keith Moon found that steady girl in the persona of Swedish model Anette Walter-Lax, who barely 44 years later, found herself being given the “Hoffman Files treatment” thanks to the beauty that is social media, and has been kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
The story of how Keith and Anette began their romance could only be labeled as “bizarre” if the romance didn’t involve Keith Moon. Keith, like a lot of celebrities, could be quite bold and assertive when it came to his pursuit of the fairer sex. (Keith was actually in a competition with Rod Stewart for the affections of the woman who would turn out to be his first wife, Kim Kerrigan. Much to his credit, Keith won that contest.) According to Anette, she was in a disco with another man, and all of a sudden, the bouncer came up to the man and tossed him right out of the club. Before she knew exactly what was going on, Keith Moon was now in Anette Walter-Lax’s life, and would be until his death in 1978. Keith asked Anette to dance, and before she could dither too much, Keith told her that he had paid the bouncer $100 to remove her date, and that she was pretty much obligated to at least dance with him. As for the “beau” Anette entered the disco with, she’s not really sure what happened to him, but she believes he has kept this experience to himself.
Keith and Anette arrive for the premiere of the Buddy Holly Story,the night before he died. By most accounts Keith was happy, sober, and delightful company. (Getty Images)
Anette was only 19 when she met Keith Moon, but she already had a thriving modeling career going, however, she gave it up once she moved in with him. While Annette is as aware as anybody of Keith’s public persona as “Moon the Loon,” she’d like people to know that there was most definitely another side to the great rock ’n’ roll drummer. As much as he may have loved the partying lifestyle, Keith could also be quite happy at home. In fact, unknown to many, Keith actually loved to cook according to Anette, and he also enjoyed her homemade bread.
Anette was looking forward to marrying Keith as they had spoken about marriage, but his untimely death put an end to those plans. Anette describes the final night of Keith’s life as “too loaded to think about,” and she states that it is simply something that you never really recover from. She maintains that she considers herself in permanent rehab, and has never really attempted to watch any of the documentaries that deal with Keith’s death or his final hours. She has also avoided reading Tony Fletcher’s fine book on Keith called Moon: The Life and Death of a Legend, claiming it’s simply too difficult for her.
After Keith’s passing, Anette reentered the world of modeling, but she felt that it lost a lot of its “sparkle.” She stayed in London for several years, before eventually returning to her native country of Sweden. (She told me that she’s actually only half Swedish, her mother was of Belgian descent. She said her name “Walter-Lax” is not a typical name in Sweden, and that she’d like to research her father’s ancestry eventually.) She managed to get married to actor Gareth Hunt, and had a son, but later divorced. She has remained out of the spotlight for the better part of the past 40 years, and considers herself a bit of a “Garbo.” While Anette was more than patient and accommodating in answering some of the questions that I had written for her, she struggled in finding answers to some of the more personal aspects of what it was like to live with Keith, and what he was like when the spotlight was off. One can hardly blame her for finding it difficult to develop responses for some of these questions considering the trauma involved in finding your live-in boyfriend dead when you assumed that he was just sleeping.
(True Keith Moon fans should enjoy this rare treat, a drum solo by Keith. It’s rare because as Keith said in several interviews, he found drum solos boring. I’m not sure what kind of program this was, it kind of looks like Soul Train meets Midnight Special, but whatever it was, the audience was definitely digging Keith’s work. I would also point out the goldfish in the drums, (I believe they all died when it was over) and the fact that Keith’s face has “cat” make-up on it. Was he being influenced by Peter Criss of Kiss? God I hope not! (You Tube)
It would be less than accurate to forget the fact that Keith was by all accounts a severe alcoholic as well as being a drug user, particularly cocaine. This was fairly common behavior for a lot of musicians who lived out in California during the 1970s. As anybody who has ever been in any kind of relationship with somebody who is an addict could tell you, life with those individuals is a daily struggle. Anette’s life with Keith certainly was not an easy one to be sure, but her memories of Keith are fond, which tells us that there had to have been another side of Keith Moon that the public rarely got to see.
Anette spoke of her desire to see a documentary made about Keith that goes beyond the public “Moon the Loon” persona that everybody associated him with. Perhaps she will succeed in this endeavor. If I have been of any help in this matter, that would be great as well, and if Anette wants to cut me in since this was pretty much my idea, I’ll be happy to take my share. I think Keith would have wanted it that way. (But probably not.) Just kidding Anette…but not really.