I got it later, when I had my own kids. It’s like being first in the line, cutting down the path with a machete. Just the word Dad. This word that we equated with deadbeat, asshole, alcoholic. Now it described Billy, too. He was supposed to find a way to make that word fit onto him. At least, when I went through it, I had Billy to look to. Back then, Billy didn’t have anybody.
BILLY: The voice kept saying, If you don’t have a father, how can you be a father?
That voice…[pauses] That was the beginning of a bad time. Where I was not myself. Actually, no. I don’t like putting it that way—you’re never not yourself. You’re always you. It’s just, sometimes, who you are…who you are is a shitty person.
KAREN: They kissed each other and I could tell Camila was tearing up. Billy picked her up into his arms. He ran her upstairs and we all laughed. I paid the minister guy because Billy and Camila forgot to.
BILLY: I remember laying there in that bed with Camila—right after we got married—and I just wanted to leave. I kept waiting for it to be time to get on the bus, because I just…I couldn’t face her. I knew she’d be able to tell what was going on inside my head if she got too good a look at my face.
I wasn’t good at lying to her. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. People think lying is all bad but…I don’t know. Lying protects people sometimes.
I laid there as the sun came up and I heard the bus pull in and I jumped out of bed, kissed her goodbye.
CAMILA: I didn’t want him to go. But I also would never have let him stay.
GRAHAM: When I got up in the morning, Billy was already standing there outside the bus, talking to Rod.
BILLY: We were all loaded up and the bus driver pulled out of the driveway and Camila had just run down to the front stoop in her nightgown. She’d rushed down to wave goodbye. I waved back but…I had a hard time looking at her.
GRAHAM: He was very hard to read. That morning, that bus ride.
BILLY: That night, we pulled into Santa Rosa, we started getting ready for our show at Inn of the Beginning. But I wasn’t in the right mind.
EDDIE: Our first show of the tour did not go well. And there was no reason for it to go poorly except that we just weren’t in sync the way we should have been, you know? Billy reversed two of the verses on “Born Broken.” And then Graham came in late on a bridge.
KAREN: I wasn’t too worried about it. But you could tell Billy and Graham were upset about how it went.
BILLY: Afterward, we went back to the hotel. Girls started pouring into the room. There was a loaded bar there for us. I had more to drink than I should have. I had a highball glass in one hand and the bottle of Cuervo in the other. Just kept pouring myself a new glass. New glass, new glass, new glass.
I remember Graham telling me to slow it down. But there was too much running through me.
I was gonna be a father and I was a husband and Camila was back in L.A. and we had just played this awful show, and our album had just come out and we didn’t know how it would do.
Tequila quieted the whole thing down.
So when Graham told me to stop, I wasn’t gonna listen. And you know, there’s coke lying around. And I’m doing that. And somebody’s got quaaludes and I grab a few of those.
WARREN: We were in two adjoining rooms at this motel and I was getting into it with this girl over in the corner of the one room. Cool chick—she was wearing a scarf as a shirt—and all of a sudden she jumped up and asked where her sister was. I didn’t even know she had a sister with her.
Somebody called out, “I think she’s with Billy.”
BILLY: Sometime around three or four in the morning I think I blacked out. When I woke up I was in the hotel bathtub…I wasn’t alone. [Pauses] There was a…blond girl, laying on top of me. I’m so embarrassed to be telling you this but it’s true.
I got up and puked.
GRAHAM: When I woke up, I saw Billy standing out in the parking lot smoking a cigarette. He was pacing back and forth, kind of talking to himself, looked a little crazy. I went out there and he said, “I fucked up. I fucked it all up.”
I knew what had happened. I’d tried to stop it. But there was no stopping him. I said, “Just don’t do it again, man. That’s all. Just don’t do it again.”
He nodded and said, “Yeah.”
BILLY: I called Camila just to hear her voice. I knew I couldn’t tell her what I’d done. I told myself that I would never do it again and that’s what was important.
CAMILA: You’re asking me if I knew he was going to be unfaithful as if that’s a thing that you know or you don’t know. Like it’s black and white. But it’s not. You suspect, then you sort of un-suspect. Then you suspect again. Then you tell yourself you’re crazy. Then you ask yourself whether fidelity is really something you value above all else.
Let me put it this way: I’ve seen a lot of marriages where everyone is faithful and no one is happy.
BILLY: At the end of the call, Camila said she had to go and I said, “All right,” and then I remember she said, “Okay, honey, we love you.”
And I said, “We?”
And she said, “Me and the baby.”
And that just…I think I hung up the phone before I could even say goodbye.
KAREN: Camila had become my friend. I hated Billy for putting me in a position to either tell Camila what he’d done or lie to her.
BILLY: Drinking, drugging, sleeping around, it’s all the same thing.
You have these lines you won’t cross. But then you cross them. And suddenly you possess the very dangerous information that you can break the rule and the world won’t instantly come to an end.
You’ve taken a big, black, bold line and you’ve made it a little bit gray. And now every time you cross it again, it just gets grayer and grayer until one day you look around and you think, There was a line here once, I think.
GRAHAM: It got to be a rhythm: get to town, sound check, play, party, get on the bus. And the better we started playing, the more we partied. Hotels, girls, drugs. Over and over. Hotels, girls, drugs. For all of us. But especially Billy.
WARREN: We had a rule back then; we each had five matchsticks. That’s how we’d invite people back to the party after. If they had a matchstick, they were in. We could give them out to any girl in the crowd we saw. Obviously, we tried to steer clear of weirdos.
ROD: Let me tell you what it means to manage a rock band. We’re driving all over hell and creation, roadies and crew and the whole nine. And not one person—not one member of that band—asked themselves how we were always stocked up on gas.
End of ’seventy-three was the oil crisis, there was a gas shortage. The tour manager and I are bribing gas station attendants like our lives depend on it. I’m switching out license plates.
And no one even notices because they’re all sleeping around and drunk and high.
KAREN: Billy turned into someone I didn’t recognize on that tour. He’d pass out in the bus with a girl under his arm, invite girls with us from one city to another.
EDDIE: I mean, Billy had one of the roadies deliver tequila and quaaludes to him at all hours of the night.
KAREN: The album was doing pretty well and our tour got extended. I was talking to Camila about it and she said, “Karen, should I come join you guys?”
I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth fast enough. I said, “No, stay there.”
WARREN: Let me sum up that early tour for you: I was getting laid, Graham was getting high, Eddie was getting drunk, Karen was getting fed up, Pete was getting on the phone to his girl back home, and Billy was all five, at once.
EDDIE: I was backstage after the Ottawa show, having a few beers with the Midnight Dawn guys. Graham was with me. Karen, too. Pete was waiting for his girl Jenny. She was driving up from Boston. I hadn’t met her by that point. Because Pete was always really private. His high school girlfriend never met our parents! So I was excited to finally meet Jenny, see what all this fuss was about.
And then in she walks, tall as hell, long blond hair, wearing this tiny little dress and these super-tall shoes, legs up to her neck, and I thought, No wonder Pete’s obsessed with this girl.
And then right behind her, I see Camila.
CAMILA: I wanted to surprise him. I missed him. I was bored. I was…getting nervous. I mean, I had gotten married, I was six months pregnant, and I was spending the majority of my time alone in a massive old house in Topanga Canyon. There were a lot of reasons I went.
But, yes, one of the reasons was to see if things were okay. To see what he was up to. Of course it was.
KAREN: I had told her not to come. But she didn’t listen to me. She came to surprise Billy.
She was just starting to show. Maybe five months pregnant? Something like that. She had on this big maxidress. Her hair pulled back.
GRAHAM: I spotted Camila and I thought, Oh, no. But I kind of strolled on out the door. Once I was out of view, I booked it. I figured Billy was either on the bus or at the hotel. I wasn’t sure which but I had to take a chance. I ran the two blocks to the hotel.
I should have chosen the bus.
KAREN: She found him on the bus. Part of me wished I could have stopped her and part of me was glad it was going to be all out in the open.
EDDIE: I wasn’t there but I heard she walked in on him getting, well…I don’t know how else to say it…oral sex, I guess I should say. From a groupie.