The following story is another excerpt from my piece in “Tales from the Rock N Roll Highway” by Marley Brant.
Unfortunately, this was not our only run-in with international authorities. Since my passport was not revoked, my band mates and I managed to get ourselves to another border: the gateway from Switzerland into Italy. I was no longer using controlled substances to enhance either my performances or any other aspect of my life. But on our little tour bus, I was definitely in the minority. We’d had no problems previously in any other part of the European Community, so our border preparations had grown somewhat lax. The designated smugglers just kept their stashes in their hands, figuring they’d just fake-cough their way out of any trouble. But the Italians were on to our tricks, and they were quick about it. They had the cuffs on before anyone got their hands anywhere near their mouths.
The stash was discovered. And this time we were at a greater disadvantage than with the Canadians, with whom, for the most part, we still share a common language. Here, on the edge of the Italian Alps, we could barely communicate with our captors. We were searched, of course, as was our vehicle, but no other drugs were found. However, when our merchandise woman was discovered in possession of several thousand dollars worth of tee shirt sales, she was suddenly separated from the rest of our party. Later, she told us she had been taken back on our tour bus where she was not only relieved of all the cash, but crudely propositioned as well.
Our entourage was herded into a small hallway off the main border kiosk, where we waited for the better part of an hour. Then three teenaged girls entered the room. They carried on a brief conversation in Italian with the highest-ranking guard, and then they left. We were released shortly thereafter, without our tee shirt money, and without the necessary stamps on our passports. (Because of this, we had to bribe our way out of the country a week later.)
Luckily, the guards had left our equipment intact, but just the same, we were way behind schedule. Or so we thought. We sped the rest of the way into town, arriving at the club in a panic, but the promoter just shrugged. “You’re early,” he said. “They must have actually found something on you at the border.” It turns out, the guards would routinely detain bands for as long is it took to shake them down. If they discovered something quick, you could be on your way in an hour or so. If not, you could be there for a lot longer. And if you were foolish enough to arrive with no contraband at all, it was so much the worse. You would then have no control over what they “found.”
But I always wondered about those three girls. The best I can figure is that they were daughters of the highest-ranking guard. At first, I decided he had been making an example of us, of what can happen to those who choose the path of the illicit drug abuser. But later, it occurred to me that these guards saw bands come through all the time. Maybe they had called the girls in to see if perhaps we were a group they’d heard of. Who knows? Maybe if we were cuter, or could play better, or could write hit songs, the girls would have taken pity on us, and we might have been allowed to keep some of our tee shirt money.