An Ex-Bob Dylan Girlfriend Takes Us Between The Sheets
by Larry Getlen, reposted from New York Post (here)
Given the popular image of Bob Dylan — poet, sage, the voice of a world-changing generation — he might be the last person you’d expect to see in the middle of an “Animal House”-style food fight.
But Britta Lee Shain, in her memoir about her time in Dylan’s circle — which included a lengthy seduction by Dylan followed by a brief affair — tells of exactly that, showing the playful, mischievous and womanizing side of the musical icon that the public rarely sees.
“Bob swoops up a [large] slice [of cake], circles the table, then plasters the gooey dessert in my face,” writes Shain in “Seeing the Real You at Last.” Later, after she returns fire, Dylan “picks up the champagne bottle and pours it over my head.”
Shain, an aspiring screenwriter and lifelong Dylan fanatic, began dating Dylan’s road manager, Ernie, in 1985.
While she and Ernie wound up living together, Dylan hung over their relationship like a specter, endlessly flirting and, in time, digging at her relationship with his friend.
As the three of them took in a movie — Dylan liked to see movies made by or starring people he knew — Shain says he asked her, when the two found themselves alone, what she saw in Ernie.
“His question catches me off guard,” she writes. “Is Bob Dylan coming on to me? I stammer. ‘Oh, Bob,’ I wind up gushing, ‘I think Ernie’s the smartest guy I’ve ever known.’
“ ‘Smart!’ Dylan grunts. He sucks his teeth, loudly. ‘Ernie?’ His heated dark features darken even more.” After, she describes him has having “disappeared into his disappointment.”
Still, Dylan’s words — as they always do — had their effect.
“For days afterwards, I weigh everything Ernie does,” she writes, “and it all seems pretty stupid to me.”
Along the way, Shain got to know more of Dylan’s inner circle, including his first road manager from the ’60s. He shared with her that in the early days, Dylan “was so broke in New York he sold his body for 20 bucks a pop” and also that he had used heroin.
As the flirtation progressed, Dylan introduced Shain to his ex-wife, Sara, and Shain presented herself as “Ernie’s girlfriend.”
“ ‘Oh, Breeda,’ Bob sighs, shaking his head, as I’m halfway out the door, ‘you know that just isn’t true, at all.’ ”
Much of the pleasure of this book comes from the funny, quirky, humanizing details Shain drops about the singer throughout.
Dylan — who had a home in Trump Tower at the time — was off to a party with his girlfriend, Carole, and several friends, including Shain, when he asked where they were going.
“To Bruce Willis’ house,’ Carole says smugly.
“‘Bruce Willis”’ Bob says, horrified. ‘If I’d a known that, I’d a never agreed to go!’”
After critics lambasted shows on his 1987 tour, he read one of the reviews while a glowing article about Michael Jackson, featuring a picture of him and his chimp, Bubbles, stared him down from the opposite page. “Maybe I ought to get me a monkey,” said a dejected Dylan.
The famed songwriter had some unique ideas for movies.
After exterminators were called to his girlfriend’s home, he was so impressed with them — “one young woman in particular” — that he decided he wanted to produce “a movie about termite inspectors.” He enlisted Shain to do a five-page report on their lives, but after getting it to him, the topic was never broached again.
He also thought about doing a film called “Nazi Whores,” about “the Jewish women who escaped the concentration camps.”
Shain and Dylan brainstormed casting ideas, including “Cher, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Lange, Debra Winger, Theresa Russell and Melanie Griffith.”
The pair had many heartfelt conversations. Dylan revealed to her that his Christian phase had been “inspired by his divorce from Sara” and that the breakdown of the marriage had been his fault.
“I knew I’d done wrong,” he told her. “You see, there’s just women you have to f— because they demand it.”
But just as his marriage had been disturbed, the same was true of his time with Shain.
After they finally hooked up on tour — while both Ernie and Dylan’s girlfriend were away — he told her, “There must be a hundred ways to do it. Would you like to learn them all with me?”
But a hundred turned out to be too many for Dylan to practice with just one woman. Shortly after they connected, during a time when she described them as “inseparable,” Dylan had “flown in a bimbo,” and Shain “hit the ceiling.”
Likely the result of plans made before the two connected, it led to Shain, Dylan and the “bimbo” lying on Dylan’s bed, “him holding me, her fuming.”
“ ‘What about all three of us,’ Bob asks me.
“I’ve done my experimenting,’ I tell him.”
The pair eventually declared their love for each other, and Dylan discussed them as a possible long-term item as he despaired over Ernie’s impending return to the tour.
After they [Shain and Dylan] finally hooked up on tour —he told her, “There must be a hundred ways to do it. Would you like to learn them all with me?”
But after he got her to commit to running off to the Caribbean with him, Shain told Ernie they were together. Ernie – who had
returned – left the tour, told Dylan’s girlfriend, and just like that, Dylan sent Shain packing. As she pleaded for an explanation, he ultimately told her, “Sometimes I do bad things.”
Several years later, Shain was going to 12-step meetings. In one, a women she never met before mentioned what a bad idea it was to get involved with a famous person, because you see reminders everywhere.
Shain mentioned that her famous heartbreak had been Bob Dylan, and asked the woman who hers had been.
The look on the woman’s face told all.
“‘Oh God, I hope yours wasn’t Bob Dylan,’ I blurt out. ‘He’s slept with everyone!’
“She cracks a crooked smile.