It's going to be a tough Father's Day for me. My first one without my dad. Bernie passed away three weeks ago from diabetes, at the age of 77.
Whenever someone marvels at the fact that I didn't become a drug addict while hanging around the Stones, I tell 'em I owe it all to Bernie. As I explained in "Under Their Thumb," my dad possessed a sense of self-discipline that he passed on to me by example. He might have had a drink after work, but nothing more. He might have gambled in A.C. or Vegas twice a year, but, win or lose, that was enough for him. And when his doctor told him to give up his beloved cigars, he did so the next day, cold turkey.
Bernie took some tough jobs during the 1970s recession -- like driving a delivery van during the freezing New York winters -- just so he could put food on the table for me and my family. I learned by watching him that you could have fun and pursue your dreams, but that you couldn't shirk your responsibilities and commitments.
I mean, here was a guy who let me quit college to follow the Rolling Stones. While other parents were going, "My son the doctor," he was left to say, "My son the fanzine publisher." I easily could have messed it up and thrown my life away with drugs and booze. But I knew I couldn't let my parents -- or the subscribers to my fanzine -- down. I may have hung out with Keith and Woody till sunrise, but I never forgot that there was work to be done when I got home. Ultimately, I kept my 'zine running for 17 years, thanks to that strong sense of commitment I inherited from Dad. In fact, today (June 3) would have marked his and Mom's 55th wedding anniversary.
Dad was blind for the last few years of his life, so he never got to read "Under Their Thumb." But I'm glad he'll live on in its pages. I partially dedicated the book to him, and I've got a photo in there (different than the one below) of the time he and my mom met Keith. Dad didn't care about the Stones -- "Fiddler on the Roof" was more his speed -- but he appreciated that Keith was an important person in my life and wanted to thank him. He introduced himself at a party -- "Hey, Keith, we're Bill's parents" -- and they got along swimmingly.
Dad taught me to view the glass as half-full. Whenever he'd reflect upon his poor vision -- which he'd struggled with since childhood (unrelated to his diabetes) -- he wouldn't complain. "Well," he'd say, "at least my bad eyes kept me out of the Korean War." He tried to see the good in every person and in every situation, and that's a trait I'll carry with me the rest of my life. So maybe I'll use this Father's Day to celebrate my dad's life, not to lament his death, and it won't be so tough after all.