I just had a wonderful lunch with Tony Funches and his kick ass editor, Melinda Greer. The interview I did back in 2005 with this bodyguard to the rock stars is by far my most popular. I think it’s because his distinctive storytelling style, humor and genuineness really resonate with those who want to know more about Jim Morrison. Tony is no different in person and truly feels like a long-lost friend.
Good news for fans who are eagerly awaiting his autobiography The Ancestor’s Soundtrack…. he’s been hitting the grindstone since May with the help of Melinda whom he met through mutual friend, former Stones tour manager Sam Cutler. Because she provides a much needed structure and critical eye, things are really coming together in an exciting way!
If you think he told some wild stories in our original interview, just wait until you hear what he has to say about the other artists he worked with… the Rolling Stones, The Who, Elton John and Willie Nelson! Like the time he broke up a backstage fight only to find out it was Roger Daltrey vs. a murderous, knife wielding roadie crazed with jealousy over a bed hopping groupie. Good times!
More importantly though, he has an interesting personal story and perspective on a significant time in rock and counter-culture history. There is even a conspiracy chapter in his book as well as a timely rant on the state of the music business today.
By the way,Tony is not the only interesting one in his family to be covered in the book. His mother Virginia was an FAA/FAI Aircraft Electrical Quality Engineering Inspector in Shanghai (at the age of 68 !!) and was even invited to Jimmy Carter’s inauguration for all the work she did to help get him elected.
Getting back to the music biz, both he and Melinda brought up an interesting point… in the 1960s and 70s it was an all cash business. Hence the need for skilled security. Despite carrying suitcases filled to the brim with bills, Tony never carried a gun. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t surrounded by shady characters who did. It’s just that with a well placed look and knowledge of how to handle crowds, he and his team could take care of business in a more effective manner.
When asked if he ever killed someone, Tony gave me this infamous look and calmly explained that he didn’t have to precisely because he “knew how”. But Tony is no thug. Instead he’s a very intelligent, well spoken and most importantly, modest kind of guy.
Honestly, he never would have told his story had people not kept pestering him and whispering in his ear that he really should write a book. First it was an associate that accompanied him on “some business for a client” (the details are tantalizingly vague), then it was Ray Manzarek during a radio interview in Denver, then of course, it was Doors fans after our interview was published.
During our lunch I was surprised to find out that no one before me had ever sought Tony out to hear his side of the story. Not even Danny Sugerman and Jerry Hopkins for No One Here Gets Out Alive which incorrectly claimed he attended and played football for USC. If it was up to Tony, he probably wouldn’t tell his story. After all, he comes from an industry where those who kept their mouths shut and didn’t look to be stars themselves earned trust, kept their jobs and were paid handsomely for it.
Heck, he didn’t even seek such a career in the first place. As a poor political science major, he constantly found himself having to pawn things for gas money. After awhile, the pawn shop owner who was also a small time concert promoter convinced the tall, strapping and physically intimidating Tony to work for him as security.
Tony repeatedly tried to get out of the business but as he says “these crazy white folks kept offering me money”. Lots of it! He somewhat laments all the cash that came into his hands and just as quickly left. But hey, if that’s the price you pay for an interesting life then so be it.
But as Ray Manzarek pointed out to Tony back in Denver, if you don’t tell your story others will and they will get it wrong…. completely and utterly wrong because their motivation most likely won’t be pure. Especially when it comes to cash cow Jim Morrison. Thank god, he (with the help of wonderful people like Melinda) is finally going to right this wrong. Write on, dear Tony, write on!!!
If you want to be a part of this exciting project, please go to Tony’s fundraising page: http://www.gofundme.com/8x4ho4