Last month I lost a very dear friend to cancer, The Knack’s founder and lead singer, Doug Feiger. Actually, Doug and I were diagnosed with that dreadful invader at the same time, 5 years ago, and we commiserated openly and often. I had breast cancer, which is thankfully, in remission. He had lung cancer that eventually crept into his incredibly brilliant brain and wreaked the worst kind of havoc. I’ve never seen anyone put up such a valiant and courageous struggle, battling that disease like he was in the ring with Mohammed Ali. Knocked down again and again, to rise and face (and make) the music once more. His optimism and grace as he went through rounds and rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, never giving up hope, was an inspiration and a blessing to behold.
The Knack had their biggest success with the poppy perfect ode to feminine power and allure, “My Sharona,” written for Doug’s rowdy, naughty 16 year old muse, Miss Sharona Alperin. Their first album, “Get the Knack,” was so hugely successful, the term “Power Pop” was coined for their pristine thrashing and sexual poetry, and many imitators happily followed behind Doug’s perfectly polished Beatle boots. Thirteen record companies created a heated bidding war, and “Get the Knack” went on to sell over 5 million copies. “My Sharona” was the biggest song of 1979 and has cropped up in endless movies, TV shows and commercials. “My Bologna” was ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic’s hysterical first smash hit parody. When you hear the famous opening drumbeat, you know you’re in for a flawless, rockin’ 3 minute treat. It’s so catchy, it lodges into your head, pounding away all day long. And those words! Doug admits to having ‘Such a dirty mind / Always get it up for the touch of the younger kind,’ My-my-my-yi-Whoa! Oh so wicked back in ‘79.
When I met Doug at the Knack’s record release party, he had already been in two successful bands; and was only 26 years old. My ex husband, Michael, and I became fast friends with the entire group, and bassist Prescott Niles even gave our son Nick piano lessons for awhile. Through the years, Doug became close to my heart, and about ten years ago, we even gave romance a spin. He took me on a whirlwind vacation to his beloved Paris, and oops! Amidst trips to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, we soon realized that we made better friends than lovers, and I came back to L.A. When Doug returned a few weeks later, we picked up our friendship exactly where we had left off, which says so much about Doug’s classy character. We actually became better friends, having discovered another fascinating side of each other. As I write these words, I miss him so very much, I can’t help but cry.
Doug was always the first person to walk through the door at my parties, and often the last to leave. He was witty and wry, and loved conversing about a vast array of topics, sometimes getting into some pretty festive arguments. And the man was the most dandy, snappy dresser I’ve ever known. He had all his vividly colorful clothes tailor-made and they fit his slim frame exquisitely. Silver Nehru suits, orange turtleneck sweaters, ruffled aqua shirts, emerald green trousers, blue-lensed John Lennon glasses, and a shiny smile that always invited you in. Doug was so ALIVE, so aware of the beauty of life; that it made those around him grateful to be here, on the planet with him.
Doug’s brother Jeffrey and sister Beth held a memorial for Doug’s friends and family this past Sunday afternoon. I was feeling brave, and had planned on saying a few words of remembrance, but the instant I walked through his door – and Doug was no longer there – I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. He adored his lovely home and had lived there for many years. His impeccable taste was on display everywhere you looked. He collected Beatles memorabilia, and all fab four of their grinning faces gleamed at us from all four walls. One of my vintage Get Well cards was perched on the mantel. Doug’s shiny Ludwig drum kit sat silently, his guitars were mute, he was gone.
His former wives and girlfriends said beautiful things about Doug, Sharona announcing she was proud to have been his muse. His bandmates, and ‘Knack Brothers,’ Prescott Niles and Berton Averre said their tearful good-byes. Beth and Jeffrey spoke of their brother’s humor, passion and courage. Ringo himself, a longtime pal of Doug’s was in attendance, along with many of his musical peers, who spoke fondly of their respect and admiration. Doug had been cremated, and we scooped up little cups of his ashes and scattered them around his garden, as he wished. I stumbled through the mud to sprinkle the ashes around the Buddha statue he had so recently gazed at; and silently thanked Doug Feiger for being my friend.
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