When I was a teenager in Boston, I joined my first band at the request of my neighborhood pal Greg McKenna, who was looking for a back-up singer for his ska/pop/punk/kitchen sink thingy. We called our outfit Rebbecca Lula and played god-awful places in Faneuil Hall and other deeply embarrassing locations where we were required to play 3 sets a night complete with lame-o covers for $250.
Boston had no shortage of rad rock clubs to play and it wasn’t long before we were complaining to our manager, Creamer to get us real gigs at places like The Rat, The Middle East and T.T. The Bear’s place. We didn’t have a lot of success back then with the first 2, but the booker at TT’s, Jeanne, decided to give us a chance. Monday night, first slot.
“Copy these tickets to hand out to your friends. Yeah, ya gotta write your band name in before you print ‘em up. If enough of these ghetto-ass tickets make it to the door before your set, you may even get 2nd slot next time.” I am paraphrasing of course.
Ah, they don’t make times like that anymore. TT’s made us work for our supper, man, but we didn’t give a shit. We’d be out there hustling those tickets like our lives (and much appreciated free beer) depended on it. As far as we were concerned, if we got 4 extra people to show up, we were golden for the next step up the ladder. Every time we would schlep our gear into the club for sound check, Jeanne (booker/bartender) would whip out one of those huge stinky magic markers (best smell ever?) to draw a giant X on each of my underage hands. It took us years, but we finally made it to Thursday opening slot. And then the band broke up.
When Greg and I debuted our new band, Letters To Cleo, the first people we called were Jeanne and Bonney at TT’s, who by this time had become our friends. I think it’s fair to say that for the better part of our career, TT’s was our home base. I also think that it would be fair to say that if Jeanne Connolly & Bonney Bouley had not believed in us the way they did, things may have turned out much differently for Cleo. Their imprimatur gave us a certain cred, which was critical for a pop band in a sea of tortured grunge.
In 1993, we had a record release party at TT’s for our first full length album, Aurora Gory Alice. It was a swinging from the rafters kind of night; drunken, triumphant and packed to the gills, which unfortunately (but now sort of hilariously) ended in me getting arrested for Assault & Disorderly (i still deny my guilt, but evs….) on Brookline Ave by Cambridge’s Finest. Just as the sun was getting ready to come up, the cops opened the cell door and let me go, telling me someone had posted bail. Guess who? Jeanne and Bonney. Bonney waited at Cambridge Jail while Jeanne ran back to TT’s to mop up and clean out the cash register behind the bar to spring me from the slammer. HA! That’s fucking rock & roll, baby….
That’s the best over-the-top story I’ve got about my years with Jeanne & Bonney. The other stories simply describe the kinds of interactions that 20 year friendships are built on. Some are funny but most are mundane, conversational. Walking into TT’s and being greeted by a huge, beaming smile and a heartfelt hug from Jeanne was a constant that made me look forward to strolling through the doors of that place every single time and it would not be an exaggeration to say these occasions numbered into the hundreds. T.T. the Bear’s Place was home.
15 months ago, my beautiful friend Jeanne was diagnosed with colon cancer. This morning her brother informed us that Jeanne died. I feel so heartbroken right now that I can’t move. There’s comfort in knowing that there are literally hundreds of people who feel exactly the same way as I do right now. She was just so loved.
Her brother David set up a web page for her last month to keep friends updated on her health developments and allow them to post messages that her family read to her every day. He was so generous to give us all such a gift: The opportunity to be included in the final weeks of her life. To be able to talk to her, comfort her. I’m truly grateful for that.
One story that David recounted over the last few weeks was particularly meaningful because it perfectly crystallized the person Jeanne was. This is from Jan 27, 2009.
…The case manager was in later when our brother Tim and my Mother were visiting, and walked Jeanne through were she was at..When she left, Tim let Jeanne know that she did not have to go through anymore chemo or radiation, that she just needs to be comfortable.. Jeanne said,” So this is it?” Tim said unfortunately yes, and Jeanne replied “What a Gyp.”
I swear, I have never heard of a more witty and spot on response to ANYTHING, never mind upon hearing the news that it’s time to let go and die. Whenever I think about this exchange it either makes me laugh or cry. Right now, it is the latter and I fear that I may never stop.
Sweet dreams, gorgeous lady. Thank you for filling the world with one of the best laughs ever, rock & roll and cold beer. Thank you for being such a great friend to so many of us. If there is any meaning to life, it is to live so that the world is a better place because of your existence. You did it, girl! I love you so, and I will miss you.
jeanne and i just before the impromptu cleo set at one of her 1st benefits.
Thanks, Chris. This photo means an awful lot to me.