THE BLOG

Stolen Guitars and How I Got Them Back

01/25/2011 12:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Towards the end of the summer of 1974, an old pal called me that I hadn't heard from for awhile. His apartment in Queens had been broken into and his guitar and amp had been stolen. And, since I owned about six guitars, he was hoping that I'd lend him my 1966 Fender Telecaster (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/binky-philips/my-greatest-christmas-pre_b_800959.html) for a month or two while he saved up some money to buy himself another axe. Being the saint I pretend to be, I said of course, he could borrow it for as long as he needed. The next day, Dave, my old robbed pal, showed up, hung out, and then took my Telecaster home.



Now, I had just begun my torrid affair with the older A&R woman I mentioned in my Sparks story (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/binky-philips/i-audition-for-sparks-in-_b_717974.html) and my band was breaking in a new lead singer. And since buying my 1958 Les Paul, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/binky-philips/the-holy-grail-i-buy-a-19_b_740875.html) I had become a hardcore Gibson player. Consequently, my loaned Fender Telecaster kind of drifted from my mind for several months. Plus, Dave was a dear old friend; I had no need to be concerned.



But, it eventually occurred to me that it had been ages since I'd heard from ol' Dave.
I dialed his number to let him know that it was high time to return my Fender. A woman answered, and when I asked for Dave, she said, "There's no one here by that name. You have the wrong number... Oh, well, yes, this is the number you dialed. I've had it for the last three months. Sorry, there's no one named Dave here anymore."



My Telecaster was gone without a trace. Very bummer!



FOUR YEARS LATER: I was working a record collector's fair in the ballroom of an old mid-town Manhattan hotel, trying to make some extra money by selling some of my collectibles. As I was packing up at the end of three days, this last-minute shopper asked me if I'd be willing to take less than the marked price for the "Hear, Here" album by The Hollies.

"Yeah, sure, just give me five bucks."

As he handed me the money, he said, "Hey, wait a minute, aren't you Binky? Don't you remember me, I'm Dave's friend, Bobby."

My heart raced, but I somehow kept my cool.



"Oh, jeeez, Bobby, you did look familiar! How's crazy Dave doing? You still in touch?"



"Yeah, I see Dave now and then. He finally moved out of Queens. He's living down in the West Village on Bethune Street in that funky brown brick building just off of Hudson."



"No kidding, Bob... I thought he'd moved outta town. Well, give him my best the next time you see him."



The next night, around 11pm, I was knocking on Dave's door on Bethune St. I'd brought along my aspiring-actor friend, Keith. Now, Keith was about 6' 2" and affected a menacing Dirty Harry persona complete with leather jacket and mirrored shades at night. The door opened and there stood Dave's girlfriend. 

"Hi, Rita, I'm here for my guitar."  

She gasped and started stammering, "Oh...Uh... Dave's not home and..."

Keith, without a word, barged past her and announced, "Bink, it's in the living room and the case is under the couch."

I walked over and picked up my Telecaster. Dave had stripped off its blond finish (I mean, after all, it was his guitar now. He could do what he wanted to it, right?). While Rita stood in the middle of the room, sheepishly silent, I pulled out the case and shoved the guitar into it and snapped the latches shut.



Then, Keith said, in an low Eastwood growl, "Binky, I don't like this place. I want to leave. NOW!"



"Jeez, Rita, guess I gotta go. Say hello to Dave for me."
Motherfucker!



Keith and I walked out of the building, looked at each other, burst out laughing, and walked to a little diner where I bought him a celebratory dinner.



Amazingly enough, as I was standing on the 59th and Lex subway platform a few weeks later, with the Telecaster, who should walk up to me but Dave himself. I hadn't seen him in more than 4 years, and now here he was, 10 feet away, balefully staring at the Fender's case.

He looked up at me and I'm proud to say, I simply stared him down. Without a word, after trying to hold my gaze for more than a few seconds, he turned and walked away.



A few years later, I got drunk one night and took a fancy Japanese magic marker with an extra-wide tip and "painted" the Telecaster black in honor of the one Bob Dylan used during his 1966 tour of England. Yes, I still have it and yes, it's still black.



Ironically, with Dave playing it every day for years, it's broken in and plays and sounds sweeter than ever. Thanks, ass.



The only other guitar I ever lost was, again, on loan. This time, to my fellow Planet, lead singer, Tally Taliaferrow. It was a beautiful and rare white 1964 Gibson SG Junior (Jake E. Lee used the same model when he played for Ozzy). A thief burgled Tal's apartment and my guitar was swiped along with a bunch of Tally's stuff.



I resignedly went through the motions, filled out a stolen item report at the 5th Precinct near Tally's place; actually, the same police station that they used as the opening-shot façade of the station house in NYPD Blue for that show's entire run. And, then, sadly, like the Telecaster a few years earlier, put the Gibson out of my mind.



One afternoon, more than two years later, Anthony Jones, my band's bassist, called me from a pay phone. He was outside a pawn shop in one of the worst areas of Brooklyn,
"Bink, I just found your white Junior! Get out here!!!"



I jumped on the subway, walked into the pawn shop, stared at the white Gibson SG Junior for sale and, sure enough, it was my guitar. I innocuously put $10 down on it, went back to Manhattan, and straight to the 5th Precinct.



I waited for over an hour before a Detective named Monahan finally sat me down at his desk. I told him my story. He looked it up in the files, found the paperwork, and said I should come back the next day, and that I should bring photos of me playing the guitar for ID purposes.

The next morning, with about a dozen photos in hand of me or Tally playing it at CBGB and Max's, I climbed into Detective Monahan's unmarked car and off we went, heading into Brooklyn.



Now, Detective Monahan was absolutely straight outta central casting. A tall beefy Irishman, balding, with a bright red face, a beer belly, a rumpled suit, a no-kidding deeze and doze Noo Yawk accent, and the distinct air that he was wasting his goddamn precious time getting this fag "rock star" back his goddamn electric guitar.



We parked by a hydrant just off Flatbush Avenue and walked into the pawn shop. Monahan showed the owner some official papers, the pawn guy went and got the guitar. Monahan looked at the guitar and then the photos I'd brought with me ("Look, there's the exact chips on the handle [the neck!]" said Monahan), and declared the SG Junior to be my guitar. The detective then said thanks and started to walk out the door with it. The pawn shop manager began to vehemently protest.



Detective Monahan turned back, walked up to the guy, leaned in 'til he stood about a foot from his face, and said, "My friend, I'm bangin' a chick that works for Consumer Affairs. By this time tomorrow, you're outta fuckin' business for fencing stolen property. Here's 'your' guitar back, buddy." and offered him the guitar.

 The pawnbroker shrugged in resignation and said "Fine, take it."

The detective handed it to me. I asked the pawnshop guy where the case was and Monahan growled, "Kid, don't push your luck. I gotta get back to Manhattan to catch bad guys, okay!"



We walked outside and leaning on the detective's unmarked front fender was a middle-aged black guy in a tie and sports coat. "Hey, get you [the n-word] ass off my car!" shouted Monahan, smack dab in the middle of one of the blackest neighborhoods in all of New York City at the time.



"What did you just say to me, asshole?" asked the black guy, eyes narrowing.


"I said... Get... Your... [the n word]... Ass... Off... My... Fuckin'... Car... [the n word loudly and over-enuciated]!"



This was waaay more than a decade before your average urban black kids started using that word as a term of endearment or camaraderie. People were now stopping to watch this going confrontation down.

Shocked beyond words, 

I was standing on the sidewalk with my naked guitar thinking, "Oh my God, I'm about to be in a race riot and my just-recovered guitar is about to be trashed!"



Just then, the black guy jumped off the fender and yelled, "Monahan, you dumb fuck, I KNEW this was your goddamn car!" and he and my Irish cop gave each other a big long hug.

Detective Monahan turned to me and said, "Kid, I'd like you to meet my old partner, Detective Williams."



The two of them howled with laughter and talked old times for a few minutes while I slowly rebuilt my brain and stomach.



The next day, I bought a quart of Jameson's Irish Whiskey for Detective Monahan. I went to his station house, but he wouldn't take it from me.

"Kid, I couldn't live with myself if I took that from you. I was doing my job, okay. Save it for someone's birthday."



I am very sad to say, I foolishly traded that white 1964 SG Junior a few years back, along with a chunk of cash, for a stunning 1961 Epiphone Sheraton. Now, the guitar I got is an absolute beauty, but, I should never never ever have used that Junior as part of the deal. 

Evan Dando of the Lemonheads bought it.

About 24 months ago, I saw a photo of him with it in Spin magazine. He'd put a HUGE chip in the until-then immaculate porcelain white finish, the size and shape of half a fucking cigar down the front of right side of the body. My poor poor baby. In the hands of that dope!



I will go to my grave regretting that move. But, thank you, once again, Detective Monahan, for getting it back to me, anyway.