I am moments away from meeting the ever-elusive British ex-pat pop star Reggie Bender.
Decades in seclusion, Mr. Bender has begun to make gestures toward the outside world through his ever loyal agent Andrew Marks who has arranged this interview with my editor.
I begged my editor to let me do the exclusive Lady Gaga or Jay-Z interview.
Not an interview with a washed-up geriatric rock star prone to psychotic breaks.
Bender, former leader of 60s Brit band The Giddy Statues, was from my Dad’s generation. Dad was a fan. I’m 23 years old, with no patience for rock ‘n roll eccentrics. However my editor insisted I interview Bender because the reclusive “pop star in exile” asked for ME.
Bender’s first interview in almost 30 years and he asks for a relatively unknown author and part-time music journalist? I wasn’t even a fan. Why me? I would soon find out.
My name is Frank Imdre. I am blindfolded, sitting in a moving black limousine, wearing “interactive headphones”, specially designed by Mr. Bender, that enable me to hear sounds coming from “inside my head”—where my thoughts are integrated with Bender’s music. I am subjected to 2 hours, a punitive length, of what sounds like a whale-on-steroids mating with a loud fuzz guitar.
I must admit: some of the sounds DO seem to be coming from directly inside my own skull. Like a house-of-mirrors in my brain, I’m not sure which distorted sounds are mine and which are Bender’s. This interview already resembles a bad acid trip.
The van makes a sudden turn as my headphones play another song that assaults my senses. I am hearing a glorious crescendo of a piano, electrical humming and what sounds like my voice speaking backwards, forwards and sideways simultaneously, yet the rhythm resembles a Bo Diddley beat turned upside-down. The music and limo come to a halt. Mr. Marks proudly says, “These are Reggie’s latest demos. They will change the way people listen to music forever. “
The chauffeur opens the door and removes my blindfold. I step out of the limo onto a gravel driveway. He hands me a key and points to an ordinary looking farmhouse.
Marks instructs me not to ask Reggie about his past restraining orders, or past court cases involving the 17 year old girl singer or the ‘statuary’ rape case involving the famed marble statue, known as Venus de Milo.
One final restriction: I COULD ASK ONLY ONE QUESTION.
What kind of interview consists of only one question? And what question should that be?
With my senses slowly returning, I walk towards the farmhouse, angry that I didn’t get the exclusive Lady Gaga assignment. And again I wonder, “Why me? My dad wasn’t THAT big a fan!”
I enter the house; the inside looks pristine with whitewashed walls and rustic, simple elegant Shaker-style furniture. There is a long bench near the entryway.
I peak into the next room and I see two chairs. Resting on one chair is a white piece of paper, written on it in pencil is a single word: “Sit”. So, like Alice, I sit.
The house is deathly quiet, so I assume I’m alone. Then by magic (or staging), a blinding light envelops me. I actually believe my brain is on fire and I could see flames coming out of my eyes. My vision is blurred at first, but I can see an indistinct shape take form. My eyesight returns, I let out an involuntary gasp as there before me stood one of rock’s great eccentrics, the elusive Mr. Reginald Bender. He is gaunt and pale, his hair longish and uncombed, and he wears dark classic Ray-Bans. He is dressed in a dark overcoat, even though it’s a humid 99 degrees outside. He also wears white trousers, brown loafers, and orange cashmere socks.
Our interview begins with Reggie asking the first question:
RB: What do you think? Did it look like I appeared from out of the light just now?
FI: Yes it did.
RB: Splendid. That’s how I want my new stage show to begin. First, I will shower the audience with a blinding light. Then I will appear to everyone as if I’m a hallucination from inside their own brains.
FI: That’s very clever.
[I think I see something scurry across the floorboards.]
RB: It’s genius, is what it is.
What are you looking at over there? There’s nothing else in the room. Do you see something I don’t?
FI: I’m sorry.
RB: Then look at me. Stop looking over there. You’ve frightened me.
FI: I’m sorry.
RB: Was it an insect? A bug?
FI: I saw nothing. In fact, it’s a very clean house.
RB: I don’t want to float away, so to speak. I routinely phase in and out between dimensions. The sight of insects usually triggers it. If I see a bug, I’m off. You won’t see a bug in this place. That’s why it’s so clean. I’m getting back to my roots, here in THIS dimension, where the music is.
FI: I didn’t see any insects.
RB: I used to worship them. I slept with them. I ate with them, danced with them. I even wrote a remarkable opus magnum for them! But I didn’t want to spend all me days in the 11th dimension, where there is no music, as we know it. My music, in this dimension, is what keeps me from completely floating away, so to speak. I’m keen on having a music career again, see? So the bugs are out.
FI: My Dad was a big fan of The Giddy Statues—so–
RB: I began to get visitors from the 11th dimension: aliens that resemble 6-foot tall cockroaches, with long antennae. They would enter through a portal in my living room wall. They liked my scones and tea and we’d watch the telly all night.
FI: [I gesture my wristwatch] I should really get going soon…
RB: Sometimes the “bug people” and I would blast The Troggs on my stereo and dance around my living room.
It was groovy, until they told me of their plan to invade the planet Earth.
So this nefarious parallel universe was “leaking” into my living room. It was very weird and trippy. The laws of physics go haywire: floating teacups, creatures floating by me and waving, I could go on and on.
FI: I have a long trip ahead of me; now if—
RB: Sometimes my clock radio hums my moods or its’ numbers are messages sent to me by the insect aliens. This morning I suddenly woke, for no reason, as my clock radio radiated the time-digits “4:44” No coincidence; the numbers are messages to me. May need to save the planet Earth from these “bug people”…again.
FI: Thank you. Yes, saving the planet…that’s very kind of you.
RB: Listen mate. I’ve done it once before, but no one knows it because “SPACE/TIME” wraps around itself when a wave fluctuation from the future meets a quantum wave of probability from the present. Are you following me? You’re not taking any notes.
FI: Sorry, my head hurts.
RB: I’ve learned the future and the past are one. This interview has already happened, see? What you don’t know is that the US Government has used me. Did I just say that? Yes I did, looking forward through the back of my own head.
I’ve evolved into a human wormhole. Things pass through me all the time. Alien beings and objects…folk songs from different planets…strange alien foods. Of course I never touch the stuff.
I’m a national security risk, mate, for the whole bleeding planet. It’s a mind blower if you’re not use to it. You’ll find out soon enough.
Now, Mr. Frank Imdre, ask your ONE question.
FI: Why me? Why did you request ME for this interview?
RB: The “bug people” believe you’re a great author. Your novel, “Twisted Roach” is second on their bestseller list, right behind Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”
They told me they were going to visit you. But, I really can’t say anymore about it. You’ll have to wait and see.
FI: Is that a warning?
[Bender suddenly appears agitated. He removes his Ray-bans for one brief instant and I get a chance to glance at his eyes. I catch myself a moment later, finding myself mesmerized. It’s as if I can see a black hole where his eyes should be. I have no way to prove that this uncanny hallucination is being brought on by Mr. Bender himself, or if I had somehow been drugged.]
RB: Get it, mate?
Suddenly a group of men in dark suits and sunglasses walk in with machine guns and take me away. I am put into a black van, blindfolded, and feel the van speeding out of the gravel driveway.
I am unable to speak because I am terrified—like I’m going to be murdered or taken to an underground laboratory.
I am surprised when, after what seems like 2 hours, I am dropped off in front of my apartment building. The blindfold is removed; it’s dark. I look at my wristwatch, 4:44 a.m., remembering Bender’s rant about coded messages from his clock radio.
I enter my apartment; I’m frightened. It feels eerie that it looks so normal, exactly like I left it. I light a cigarette and grab a beer from the fridge. Then it dawns on me. The men in dark suits, the machine guns, the black van…It’s all part of Bender’s new stage show! He’s rehearsing! That HAS to be it! What a clever, freaky guy. I wanted to interview Lady Gaga but this old geezer may have her beat. My dad was right about Bender’s psychotic genius.
THIS IS WHERE FRANK IMDRE’S INTERVIEW ENDS.
The remainder of this article by Editor, Jonas Filcher:
Frank called me the morning he submitted this interview. He went on and on about Bender and his “psychotic showmanship”. We both agreed the old guy was on the edge. Suddenly, Frank became agitated and began obsessing about a small spot on his living room wall. I tried to calm him down. Then, the line went dead. I called him back numerous times—voice mail. I read the Bender interview he had just sent me, looking for clues.
When I called Bender’s agent, Andy Marks, to ask about Frank, he said Frank Imdre hadn’t spoken a single word during the long drive back to the city. A neighbor of Frank’s reported seeing him one afternoon standing on the roof of his building, keeping perfectly still for hours and gazing up into the sky.
Finally, Frank’s dad and I entered his apartment with a spare key. There was no sign of Frank, only these strange markings on the wall. (Photo included)
The police and other agencies have found no direct link between Frank’s disappearance and his visit to Mr. Bender’s home a month ago.
This is just one more enigma to be added and wrapped into the mystery that we know as the world of Reggie Bender.