Working Out the Kinks

A Kinks fan reclaims her youthful obsession with a rock band and wonders what happened to her comrade in arms.

by Nanette Varian • Editor { View Profile }
Ray Davies photo
Ray Davies, Beacon Theater, New York, May 1975
Photograph: Nanette Varian

I started going to solo performances by Ray and Dave Davies every once in a while. It felt good to have this back in my life while actually having a life. I even passed on a Ray show one year because it had festival seating — meaning you had to stand the whole time, and that just sounded way too uncomfortable.

Then, in 2004, a classic wave of Kinksian misfortune: Ray Davies was shot by a mugger, and Dave Davies had a stroke. Dave was luckier than my father; he’s back in the studio again. And you can bet the last time Ray toured the States, I stood in line for two hours to get a spot up close, then for another two-hours-plus during the show. I felt no pain. Just a dopamine rush of love and gratitude for this brilliant, aging, all-too-human rock god whose music saved my life and sanity more than 30 years earlier.

From what I’ve gleaned on Google, Ruby went on to study social work, and by now might have a PhD. Her political sensibilities appear to have become no less liberal with time. At some point around the mid-1990s she appeared, under her real name, in a documentary about the mistreatment of the mentally ill. Not as an expert, but as a former patient herself. I ordered a copy of the video.

Four people were profiled. Ruby’s part opens with her browsing LPs in a vintage-record store. She and a guy in the shop are talking about music, and he asks if she’s a frustrated rocker. "No," she replies. "A frustrated groupie. And I couldn’t even do that right." Ruby confides that the only time she hung out with Ray Davies, "all he talked about was [his then-girlfriend] Chrissie Hynde." Of course. That would have been the day they met on Hollywood Boulevard.

Her appearance shocked me. Not that she looked bad: She just seemed, compared with my memory of her, drained of color. No more Madeleine Mono glitter eyes. "She looks so much prettier without all that crap on her face," my mother observed. My husband, who’s never met Ruby, thought she was perfectly lovely. On film she talked about her time in a psychiatric ward and concluded, poignantly, with the question: "How can I be smart and nuts at the same time?"

A mutual friend ran into Ruby at a concert not long ago. He said they had a really nice chat. I hope she’s okay now. I wonder what would happen if we came across each other at the next Ray (or, God willing, Dave) concert. Would we shriek and hug and then watch the show together or just cordially catch each other up on careers and births and deaths, then go our separate ways? The latter, I suppose. We really don’t need to stand together again at the foot of a stage. But I do kind of like the idea that she’s out there, somewhere, enjoying the show.

Nanette Varian, a features editor at MORE, has also written for Glamour, Penthouse and the New York Times Syndicate. She likes the site  A lot. Also: Dave Davies; Ray Davies; Kast-Off Kinks.

What Nanette was up to in the eighties: What it Was Like to Work at Penthouse

Originally published in the November 2007 issue.

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