Tales From the Tour Bus (2017) s02e03 Episode Script

Rick James (Part 2)

1 Welcome back to the story of maybe the most maligned artist in the history of Motown, and I realize that's saying something.
It's easy to forget that in the heady days of REO Speedwagon and Pink Floyd, the King of Punk-Funk, Rick James, was one of the biggest selling musical acts of the day.
Girl if you like what you see And you want to be with me Baby, shoot me With your love gun Girl any day, anytime That you want me in your mind Baby shoot me With your love gun, sing it baby Put your finger on the trigger Yeah When you pull it back I'll figure That now you're ready for the fire, yeah fire Hold it straight and hold it steady When you shoot me I'll be ready I'm gonna shoot you with desire His biggest song, "Super Freak," started out as a kind of chauvinistic brag about his charmed life, and ended up symbolizing his fall from grace.
Now, it's fair to say more people may know Rick through his appearance on the Chappelle Show than through his music, and that's a shame.
But then again, cocaine is a hell of a drug.
But, we'll get to that.
We pick up the story where we left off, with Rick and his band on the mountaintop, preparing for that long and treacherous trek back down to Earth.
We were bigger than life.
They were just, uh crazy, man.
A little scary, too.
I remember that distinctly.
Mike Judge: Nate Guido Hughes, his brother, Lanise, and bandleader Levi Ruffin came out of obscurity in Buffalo, NY to reach the epitome of funk fame with Rick James.
The cops wanted to arrest Rick as soon as he came out on stage.
That happened everywhere, all the time.
It was so jam packed in Atlanta, there would have been a riot if they even attempted to snatch him up So, they figured they'll wait 'til after the show to get him.
Rick always left the stage towards the end of the show.
But that night, he wasn't coming back out.
He went and changed, put on some overalls, and put his braids in a Rastafarian hat, and he walked out of the building.
He was gone.
His valet put on his boots, his cape, and came out dancing with his back to the audience.
We were on stage cracking up.
And the cops was on the side, ready to pounce on Rick as soon as he left the stage.
(punches, fighting) After they beat the hell out of him, they found out it was his valet, - and not Rick.
- (Levi Ruffin laughs) Dumbasses.
Oh, they hated us.
They fucked him up, man.
I told the guy, "You must really love your boss for you to pull this shit.
" Judge: One unit of law enforcement came to love Rick James, according to Levi, some of the local police back in Buffalo.
At the height of his fame, Rick moved out of his Beverly Hills mansion, and moved his whole band back home.
You know, there'd be a lot of women at the house, uh, drop in girls at any time.
And I guess the cops had heard about us, so they'd come up to the house, knock on the door but, you know, they're plain clothes and they'd come in, like, they gotta flash their badge.
And, uh, they'd come over to the bar we had upstairs there, and they-they would bring all the drugs they took out the fucking lockers, the best evidence cocaine the world's ever seen because they wanted to be with the girls.
And, uh, I kinda understood that, it was like a whorehouse.
Judge: Well, it was a 30,000 square-foot ranch, with 28 bedrooms, a stable of Arabian horses, and 10 jet skis.
So kind of like a whorehouse.
But that shit got old real quick, man.
Because the cops start telling us all these oh my, God, truthful things about what they would do to "suspects.
" "Man, Levi, you shoulda fuckin' been there.
We beat this fucker, man, 'til he called out for his moms.
" (imitates cop's laugh) I'm sittin' there lookin' I mean, that shit ain't funny to me.
Jesus Christ, man.
These are the police, with the best drugs that they're, like I said, the world has ever known.
But, you know they loved coming to Rick James' house.
Judge: By the time Rick and the Stone City Band had made friends with the cops in Buffalo, they had found a new nemesis.
A rival who would push Rick James for the rest of his life.
The artist known simply as Prince.
Rick was the one that chose him to come out and open up on his tour, because he was released from the Rolling Stones tour, because they didn't care for him that much.
Rick came to the band and asked, "What you think about Prince?" Rick's thing was, when he was coming out, there was no Prince.
Now, Prince had some records.
Prince was a little softer.
But that shit was funky, and that shit was completely different.
Because a lot of white audiences came out to see Prince.
And Rick was smart enough to realize that, like "Mmm okay, then we need to have this little kid on tour with us.
" This was his very first black tour.
Black audiences loved Rick from the get-go.
Different from Prince.
The first time we met him, it was in Dallas.
And, uh, we found out that he was gonna be opening and whatnot.
And Rick said, "Here he comes" And-and I'm lookin'.
And he comes in, and I'm-I'm still fucking looking, where is he? I'm thinkin' the cat's gotta be, like, 5'9", maybe 6' tall.
And this little bitty son of a bitch walks in there.
I said, "Goddamn, he's tiny!" He was down here.
And he had on pink high-heeled fucking shoes stunning.
(laughing) That little dude, that's Prince.
You know, us being so tall, I mean, he-he seems like a-a dwarf.
But he was so powerful on stage, you know? I liked the son of a bitch.
He was funky as hell to me.
But Rick used to get mad, 'cause I remember him saying, "That little motherfucker got me working hard.
" 'Cause he was a bad little motherfucker, man.
He was funky.
Daniel: Every show, Rick was on the side of the stage, watching Prince.
Prince was on the side of the stage, watching Rick.
They both understood where this shit was about to go.
I think Prince, if he was in this room, god bless his soul, he would say it: Prince would do his show, then we'd do ours, and nine times out of 10, when we got finished with our show, people forgot who the fuck the opening act was.
We used to kick his little ass every motherfuckin' night.
I mean, we're blowing up shit on stage, pyrotechnics, and shit.
Bitches and whatnot.
We had ballerinas dancing and shit for us, man.
You can't do that.
- "Damn, who was opening up?" - "Oh yeah, that was Prince.
" They would forget when we got through with that ass.
Judge: Prince would push Rick to step up his game in more ways than one.
Rick told me, when I became one of the background singers.
That he was starting a female group.
Judge: Joanne McDuffie was a part-time jazz singer and part-time record store clerk when she met Rick James back in their hometown of Buffalo.
Female groups at the time, you know, there weren't a lot of 'em.
The biggest thing that came down the pipe at that point was The Supremes.
Rick's idea was to create a group of women that were not wearing the same dress, and the same gloves, and the same wig, and the same shoes.
He said he wanted to create a female group.
And I guess he put forth that idea to Prince, and Prince did it first.
Judge: Prince produced the all-girl group, Vanity 6.
Rick, he was pretty pissed about that.
But anyway, I became lead singer for the group that he produce, the Mary Jane Girls.
Judge: Prince also started up another band around one of his childhood friends, The Time, featuring Morris Day.
Rick answered with his own group, Process and the Doo Rags.
Everybody in the house tonight Who feels that you do what's right Put your doo rags in the air And wave 'em like you just don't care Say doo rag (Doo rag) Levi Ruffin: Whatever Prince was doing, we had to do better.
A lot of people don't realize that motherfucker had Rick working his ass off.
I remember that tour so well because Rick was in control backstage.
He controlled everything in terms of there would be no hangers-on that were not approved by Rick James.
Even with drugs, all of that would have been controlled and would have been doled out by Rick.
(laughs) Judge: Jackie Rhinehart was hired by Rick, right before Prince joined the tour, as the merch girl.
She designed and sold t-shirt, and kept a close eye on the King of Funk.
There's an after party after every concert.
And so, he would take at least a quarter of cocaine and throw it up in the air, like how now you see guys pour out beer on the street, or pour a 40 for my friend.
He would do that! And just blow it in the air, and he would say, "To the boom gods.
" (laughs) I used to and I thought that was very funny.
But what was funnier, was to watch the reaction of other people in the room.
Some people would get up and that's when Rick was watching because why would you take possession of something that's not yours.
That's really what he was looking to see, who was prone to be an addict, or who actually may even steal, because Rick's got it like that.
So yeah.
The thing about Rick was, however you treat him, you have to treat the band.
If you brought him an eight ball of cocaine, you better bring two eight balls for the rest of the ban.
And if we're gonna sit here and drink Jack Daniels all night long, bring some for the band 'cause we're all gonna be in the same room.
He even said that to Don King, to his face.
"If we're gonna party, we're partying together, ain't gonna be no partying without my band.
" We all partied together.
Same thing at Studio 54.
Judge: The Super Freak was a VIP at the most exclusive club in the world in its final days.
Ruffin: I loved 54.
That motherfucker was jumping.
Lots of drinks, man, plenty of cocaine, we had whatever the fuck we wanted, man.
We were all able to get into Studio 54 without cards, or without anything because Rick made sure the people in front knew who we were.
Go all the way up to the third floor, and whatever you could imagine was going on.
Men on men, women and men, uh, everything was happening on that third floor.
That was where all the fucking and shit be going on.
People fucking together in the eye, ear, and shit.
I mean, them fuckers up there, freaking their asses off.
There was, like, a balcony and with the sloping seats and shit, and I would go up there and just chill, just sitting there watching, like goddamn.
How the fuck you do that, you know? I remember one night in particular, uh, this one woman had the nerve to come beautiful, beautiful beautiful woman, and she comes in there, and she looks at me, said, "I want the black one.
" Me.
What?! What's this, fuckin' slavery time or some shit up in this bitch? "I want you, I want the black one.
" So, she's sitting in my fucking lap and I'm saying, "This bitch got a lot of motherfucking nerve.
" So what I did was it was wrong of me to do this, but I pulled my shit out, put some cocaine on the tip of it, and I told her, "Suck that.
" And she did.
I mean, this woman's one of the biggest models in the history of modeling doing this shit, I couldn't believe it, man.
I mean, the bitch's got money coming all out her ass, and she's sitting here with this black son of a bitch from Buffalo, because I played synthesizer and sang pretty good, she wants to suck my dick.
Singers do get mostly ass, but if you can play and sing, you get more ass.
That's, uh, don't tell anybody I said that, please.
Judge: While in New York, Rick made a guest appearance on "Saturday Night Live," and met another performer he would produce in the studio.
Eddie Murphy.
Reporter: Eddie Murphy has been in Buffalo for almost a week.
Most of that time has been spent inside of Rick James' recording studio.
The pair have planned to produce Murphy's first singing single.
The plans were helped when the area was hit with the worst snowstorm of the year.
He got snowed in.
I think he missed, like, four gigs, at $50,000 a whap.
Because he was snowed in Buffalo.
We just had fun down in the studio.
Telling jokes, rippin' on each other, man.
He used to do this character with Jheri Curls, and, uh, Coming to America sh, funniest shit.
Levi: Actually, he was imitating Ric, and then Rick actually just recorded him doing it.
My girl wants to Party all the time, party all the time, party all the time My girl wants to Party all the time party all the time She parties all the time Ooh hoo-oo Party all the time The song became a hit.
(laughs) Rick had that touch, man.
I mean, he just has that touch.
Judge: Rick's nemesis also had that touch.
Prince has already made a party song called "1999.
" While The Super Freak was living large with Eddie Murphy, Prince was making a little move to go along with his album, "Purple Rain.
" Ruffin: This motherfucker I feel for-for Rick, uh, back then.
It got to him, man.
Prince put him, in some degree, in despair, and I don't think he handed it well.
Judge: Author David Ritz mined The King of Funk for his inner feelings between the binges.
Rick was jealous.
And I think Prince represented to him the kind of danger of getting old.
Judge: In 1985, Prince gave his first ever television interview to MTV, the channel that was revolutionizing the industry.
MTV refused to play Rick James.
I believe that all the back artists on MTV should pull their videos off MTV.
If they were to play Rick James without adding all the other videos about all the other black artists on there, I wouldn't want my videos on MTV because I'm not gonna be a token for nobody.
And right now, Michael Jackson, Michael's bein' a token on MTV, And so was Prince, who probably doesn't even care.
But I'm not gonna be anybody's token.
'Cause the first thing I am is black.
The second thing I am is a person.
When I see something as blatant as this I mean, I'm supposed to sit by and say cool? I think that stopped a lot of our progress.
It stopped us from being considered for Grammy's, you know, all that stuff.
Judge: Despite taking Prince out on tour, Rick James never quite broke through like the purple one when it came to white crowds.
We're in the South, one of the Carolinas, and Rick, and the band and our crew, we all stayed in the same hotel.
We didn't believe in staying in separate hotels or hanging out separately.
So, anyway, we're down in the bar, we're having fun, we're drinkin'.
One of the patrons in this bar lets off the n-word, and he says it towards Rick.
Now, whether he was calling Rick the n-word or not is not the point.
The point is word came out It's about to get physical, and Rick grabs a bottle, hits it against the table to break it, and it doesn't break There's a little pause, it's like, okay, my masculine shit just didn't happen.
Now what do we do? And then suddenly, it turns into a bar fight.
And there are chairs being thrown all over the place, and it's it's like, oh, this is cool, this is a movie.
The, uh, concierge, he says, "Look, I gotta call the magistrate.
" The magistrate comes about five minutes later, the nicest good ol' boy on the planet.
He comes in, he says, "Guys, "you need to leave.
"You need to check out the hotel, "you need to get your whole group together and y'all need to go.
" Rick's like, "No, man, no, no.
We're not even gonna ever "be thrown out of a place.
It wasn't our fault.
" "He said, "I understand that.
"I know the guy who started the fight.
"He's a knucklehead, and I know he probably just let the n-word just fly 'cause that's what he does.
" He said, "But, come here.
" So we went outside.
The hotel was next to a bridge, and the bridge was really long so on the other side of the bridge, you could see fire and crosses, and they were about to come across the bridge to us.
Lanise Hughes: At that time, there was a guy named Mario, kind of martial artist.
He used to carry a suitcase, and on the top of the suitcase, when you opened it up, it was two samurai swords.
He kept his eye on Rick and the band.
You know, at all times.
Wherever you went, he was there.
Daniel LeMelle: The magistrate said, "You got probably two minutes "to get out of here 'cause I can't stop this.
You need to go.
" Now, we didn't carry weapons, our security carried weapons.
But, Rick had security turn around, get back on the bus.
We rounded up everybody, and all you saw was buses heading north.
(laughs) Judge: All of his life, the King of Punk-Funk had been far more of a lover than a fighter.
William Rhinehart: Women loved Rick.
(laughs) That guy was a a magnet for chicks, and he loved women, man Rick was, uh he was a swordsman.
I think that's why he had his own bus.
(laughs) One night, we're on the tour bus alone, just me and Rick, and he kisses me.
Oh, it was such a lovely kiss! And then he says to me, "Get off the bus! "Leave right now! "I don't want everybody to ever think of you as that kind of woman.
Just leave.
" And he would say this in front of the guys, you know, "Jackie Rhinehart is a lady.
" Judge: Over time, it was his relationship with cocaine that began to change.
Cocaine's a hell of a drug, man.
We swore we'd never let that shit do that.
No drugs, no bitches none of that would separate us, and, um it-it got to him, man.
And, uh man it really got to him.
This one time, we went to the Cow Palace to see Sly Stone.
When we went into Sly's dressing room, Sly was sitting off in the corner and he was freebasing.
And it literally broke our hearts.
Because, for me, that's the legendary Sly Stone.
I know those records backwards and forwards.
And here was the legend of black music and you're sitting off in a corner and you're freebasing, and you have no idea who the fuck's in the room 'cause you're so busy with this glass dick in your mouth.
So, Rick turns to me, and says, "We can never, ever, become that.
" I remember calling him one time, uh, a "weak motherfucker.
" And he just said, "Man, I just can't stop.
" I said, "Man, you weak then.
You got that bitch got " bitch, we called it white bi "That white bitch fucking you up, man.
" "And I can't stop it.
" Then I realized, later on in life, man, he was-he was sick.
He couldn't he couldn't stop, man.
There have been two occasions where Rick technically OD'd.
And we're like, "Oh, God, he can't die, this cannot happen" He finally comes back, he's halfway rational.
He agrees, finally, that he's gonna check into this center and seek some help so he can get this shit under control.
We get all the cars.
We drive his ass from Buffalo to Boston check him into this rehab center.
Look at the place he's in.
It's all fine, it's wonderful, it's great.
We leave, we drive back to Buffalo.
We didn't do our due diligence.
The bungalow next to Rick was another super duper rockstar Steve Tyler.
And they got caught with cocaine wait a minute, I ain't talking 'bout a little bit of cocaine, I'm talking one ounce of fucking blow.
This supposed to be the rehab joint, bro.
God help you.
There was no rehab.
He was just partying.
Judge: While Prince was playing stadiums across the globe, Rick James played himself performing in a parking lot with Isaac Hayes on an episode of The A-Team.
In 1990, his biggest hit would return to the top of the charts, but under a new name.
Hammer-"Can't Touch This") Can't touch this - Can't touch this (Oh-oh-oh-oh) - Ruffin: Hammer called Rick.
Well, none of us really knew anything about this sampling shit they were doing.
And Hammer talked to Rick about just using a little small part of the song.
Man, he took the whole fucking (laughs) takes the whole line.
Stop, Hammer time Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh Rick was pissed.
"How can this dude take my song and just blaspheme it, "and do this to it and do that to it? "And I think the song sucks and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah," until that first check came in.
When that first royalty check hit Rick's pocket, it was a completely different ballgame, because money talks.
Rick deserves that, you know? The guy, uh he never got a Grammy, you know? He didn't get his The only Grammy he got was from "Can't Touch This.
" And I said, "Well, if Hammer's gonna get a Grammy, they should give one to Rick.
" And they did.
Because, I said, "90% of that is that do-do-do-doo, it has a little infectious groove, you know.
" That was "Super Freak.
" Judge: His return to glory was short-lived.
As "Can't Touch This" hit #1 in the charts, Rick began dating 20 year-old Tanya Hijazi.
David Ritz: That seemed to be a beautiful relationship, you know? It got crazy, because it was him and Tanya, and the pipe.
But, uh it was beautiful.
Judge: It got ugly pretty quick.
In the summer of '91, they were arrested in Los Angles on charges they imprisoned and tortured another woman for several days with the aforementioned hot crack pipe while forcing their alleged victim to perform sexual acts.
Let me just be thoughtful about describing this uh because he was tortured he expressed his torture, and so you're back to the Marquis De Sade.
I mean, you've taken pleasure as far as you can go, and now, what you have to play with is pain.
Judge: While out on bail, Rick and Tanya were arrested again on charges of assaulting a music industry executive for 20 hours straight in a West Hollywood hotel room.
I-I don't you need someone with a deeper sense of poetic metaphors than me to do this right, but I'll try, man I think the pipe made him crazy.
Judge: Rick spent two years in Folsom State Prison for assault and false imprisonment.
He was cleared of all torture charges, which would have put him away for life.
I get this call from prison, and it's Rick on the phone.
I have to accept the call, so I accept it.
And he said, "Dude, I just need to talk to you.
" I'm like, "I'm always here for you.
" "But you haven't come to see me.
" I said, "There's no way I'm coming to see you behind bars.
I can't see my king behind bars.
I can't see that.
" I can't see the person that I admire the most in prison because of something stupid.
That doesn't sit right with me as a man.
It was like a kind of a, uh, monastery for him.
And so, you get Rick the monk reflecting on what he'd been doing for the last, uh, 15 years.
But Rick the monk leaves the monastery, and returns to the world.
And the world is too much for him.
He gets out of prison, uh, we-we have a big meeting, uh, at this restaurant on Sunset.
And we actually put the band back together, and it was good until he started freebasing again.
But that's pretty much what happened.
I didn't want to talk to his ass, personally.
You know, we finally get a chance to talk, say, "Rick, how you doing? "Man, I'm good, man" "Man, you all right? Man, you sound sick, man.
" "No, man, holy shit, I'm just a little tired" "Okay, man, like, we're ready to do this shit, man.
"You gonna get well, man? That voice, come on, bro.
" He laughed.
"Ah, ah I'll be ready, man, I'll be ready.
" "Fuck man," I'm saying to myself.
We finally get off the phone, and I hope this don't hurt nobody's feelings out there but, the guys said, "Levi, did you hear that.
" And I said, "Yeah, man, Rick's sick.
" And, jokingly, we said we hope he he don't die before we get through out doing this tour, because he called us in August.
We're supposed to have rehearsals the first week in September.
And he was gone.
He was fuckin' gone.
Judge: James Ambrose Johnson Jr.
was found dead in his furnished apartment a few miles from Hollywood.
He dies of cardiac arrest at age 56, with nine substances, including methamphetamine and cocaine in his system.
Just as his funk was gonna be funkier than anybody else's funk, so would his demise be that way.
Judge: A dozen years later, Prince Rogers Nelson would be found in a similar state in his Paisley Park mansion at the age of 57.
Prince lived to be one year older than Rick.
Goddamn that little motherfucker.

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