Dennis Perrin: Obit For A Former Contrarian:
Bright spring afternoon. Hitch and I spend it in his fave D.C. pub just down the street from his spacious apartment. At the long polished bar, he sips a martini, I swig Tanqueray on ice offset by pints of ale. The pub's TV is flashing golf highlights while the jukebox blasts classic rock. We're chatting about nothing in particular when the juke begins playing "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens. Hitch stops talking. His face tightens. Eyes narrow. I know this look--I saw it on Crossfire when he nearly slugged a Muslim supporter of the Ayatollah's fatwa against Salman Rushdie. I saw it during a Gulf War panel discussion at Georgetown when he responded to some pro-war hack with a precision barrage of invective, followed by the slamming down of the mike, causing a brief reverb in the speakers. And here it was again.
"No," he said, shaking his head, exhaling Rothman smoke. "No--get rid of that!" Bartender asks, "Excuse me?" "Get rid"--gesturing to the music in the air--"of that." "Can't. Someone played that song." "Well, f--- it then."
Don't know if Hitch is serious. Yes, his anger about the fatwa is real and understandable. And the fact that the former Cat Stevens, Yusef Islam, endorsed the mullahs' death sentence clearly enraged him. But getting shitty over "Moonshadow"? "You know," I say, "Yusef Islam renounced everything about his past. He hates Cat Stevens more than you do. He gave away or destroyed all his gold records. If you really want to show your disgust for him, embrace Cat Stevens. Play his stuff loud and often. Whistle 'Peace Train' or 'Oh Very Young' when you pass the local mosque." Hitch listens, head down, fresh Rothman lit. "No. Never. F--- them both." "Moonshadow" ends. Pat Benatar--or was it Whitesnake?--takes over, and we resume drinking.
That was about 12 years ago. Another lifetime. Back then Christopher Hitchens was It to me--my mentor, more or less...