Heroes and Villains, The True Story Of The Beach Boys

by Steven Gaines

From pages 398-403:

Dennis had been recording songs for a second solo album at the Village Recorders, the studio owned by George Hormel, Jr. One night in November 1978 he met Christine McVie, keyboardist and singer of the English group Fleetwood Mac, who was there recording background vocals as a favor for musician Danny Douma. McVie was a tall, husky-voiced, blonde woman with hard features - a far cry from Karen Lamm's classic American beauty. Born Christine Perfect in Birmingham, England, she joined Fleetwood Mac after a stint as a featured member of the group Chicken Shack. She later married Fleetwood Mac's bass player, John McVie, only to divorce him in February 1978. Still, the two continued to work together in the group, which would soon hit megastar proportions, owing to both Christine's exceptional talent as a songwriter and the incomparable voice of group member Stevie Nicks. Christine was a loyal, sensitive woman with strong moral convictions, but she was also lonely and vulnerable, living in a huge four-bedroom house in Coldwater Canyon.

She had been romantically involved with Curry Grant, Fleetwood Mac's lighting director, but the affair had run its course. According to Chris Kable, who was Dennis's secretary and later worked for Christine in the same capacity, "she took one look at Dennis and knew that he was somebody she wanted to be with. The night they met, she went home with him and spent the night with him on the boat. It was very romantic, and they were together ever after that night. She told Curry Grant she had met someone else, and he moved out".

The beginning of this affair contributed to Dennis's slide into a completely dissolute life-style. Just before Christmas 1978, Dennis moved into Christine's house. Like many of the women who fell in love with Dennis, she was generous to a fault, and found herself giving him money almost daily. Yet she was wealthy enough that one of their friends described Dennis's role in here live as an "expensive excuse for her to get up in the morning". At first they spent their time between the Harmony and Christine's house, but within a few months with Christine's blessings, Dennis had set up quarters in a small pool house on Christine's terraced property. He outfitted the place with a brass bed and pump organ, cushions on the floor, and an array of candles for mood lighting.

Karen was by now resigned (and a little relieved) about the impending end of her relationship with Dennis. With Dennis's enthusiastic urging, Karen began to visit him at Christine's house, where she befriended her competitor for Dennis's attention. Karen and Christine had one common bond - the misery Dennis was putting them through. Karen, a magnanimous and in some ways wise young woman, gave Christine her support. Karen's spirit helped Christine through many dark times to come.

Still the relationship between the two women was most peculiar. Dennis tried to impart many of Karen's virtues to Christine. For instance, Dennis didn't like the way Christine dressed, and asked Karen to take her shopping for clothes. (Christine dropped over $50,000 in Charles Galley in Beverly Hills under Karen's guidance.) Karen would sometimes visit Dennis when Christine wasn't home, which led to some odd situations. One day while Karen was there, a messenger arrived with a manila envelope from a lawyer's office and Dennis wasn't home to receive it. Karen was nice enough to sign for it. When Dennis arrived home later, she discovered that dennis had filed for divorce a second time without telling her and that the envelope she had so helpfully signed for contained her own divorce papers. When she saw what the envelope contained, she asked Dennis sweetly, "What's this, honey?" But Dennis had no answer. The divorce became legal in June 1980. Karen received only $2,000 a month through February 1983 and $1,000 a month thereafter - not as alimony, but merely to pay back the loan Dennis owned her. Attorney Marvin Mitchelson took $19,000 of it in fees. On the bottom of the dissolution decree was a handwritten note that said, "So sorry, Dennis Wilson".

Dennis lived with Christine McVie for over two years, and during this time his drinking and cocaine addiction increased alarmingly. According to reputable sources, Christine McVie loaned or gave Dennis approximately $100,000 during that period, including a $20,000 loan to make repairs on the Harmony. Said Bob Levine, who had become Dennis's business manager in 1978, "How can a man with any dignity live in a situation like that? Even though she did it without any strings in a very nice manner, he felt like he's a gigolo, sponging off her".

Still Dennis did not have enough money to pay for all the cocaine - at one point he had run up a coke bill of over $10,000 with a hard-nosed dealer. Reportedly, Dennis settled his debt by giving the dealer a 1935 classic Ford automobile - a wedding gift from Karen.

Dennis brought all his personal problems into Christine's life. At one point, on vacation in England, he thought he had stomach cancer. Christine checked him into a hospital for treatment, only to discover he was perfectly healthy. At any time of day or night half a dozen people might arrive at Christine's house at Dennis's invitation for shelter and food. Jack Rieley spent nearly a week with them in the summer of 1979. One day, Dennis's daughter Jennifer was deposited at Christine's doorstep with a suitcase and a note, and Christine took her in. Jennifer's mother, Carol, was besiege with personal problems at the time. "I had remarried and was getting a divorce. I was a having very, very big problem," Carol said. "Jennifer loved living there. She always spoke highly of how nice Christine was. The problem was that Dennis was a heavy drinker. Jennifer started to experience some of the real things that go on out in life. She was exposed to drinks and drinking. After a few months... she didn't want to come back.. she was having a great time".

Dennis's stepson, Scott, also came around the house, and was soon employed as an assistant to Dennis while he was there. But relations between stepfather and stepson were less happy than Dennis's relationship with Jennifer.

With Dennis, any kind of disaster was possible. One night, because Dennis left candles burning in the pool house, or perhaps because of an electrical short, the pool house burned to the ground. There were, of course, romantic moments, as only Dennis could orchestrate them to make up for all the problems. On a trip to Hawaii with Fleetwood Mac, Dennis bought Christine an unset ruby as an expression of his love. He presented it to her in Rex's restaurant in Honolulu, where he got down on his knees in front of the whole band and asked Christine to marry him. Back in Los Angeles, Dennis was showing the stone off to her friends and he dropped it on the floor. It was recovered by Dennis's long-time assistant Chris Kable, who found it in the vacuum-cleaner bag. One July, for Christine's birthday, Dennis hired a team of gardeners to construct a heart-shaped flower bed in the backyard, and even hired a string quartet to play for her. Unfortunately, the bill for the party was sent to Christine. That same night, Dennis managed to take Scott's girl friend to bed, and the entire household was up in arms over the incident.

"He did crap to Christine," Chris Kable said. "He would be gone for days, and he would call her every hour while he was off with somebody else. But for whatever reasons, he didn't intentionally set out to hurt her by his actions".

After an onstage fight with Mike Love at the Universal Amphitheater, where Dennis performed drunk and on Quaaludes, , he was officially thrown out of the Beach Boys, learning of the decision by telegram. Now almost broke, Dennis needed Christine more than ever - he became completely dependent upon her, both emotionally and financially.

Page 409:

Christine McVie's personal life was nearly destroyed by the end of 1980. She had tried, unsuccessfully, to end the relationship with Dennis several times. Each time she asked him to leave, he came back like a sheepish dog, and Christine's heart went out to him. Like Karen Lamm before her, she forgave Dennis more times than she should have, and always let him back in. But by Christmas of that year her neighbors were up in arms over the loud arguing and public scenes taking place in the street, and her own lawyers advised Christine to end the relationship. Sadly, Dennis moved out and rented his own house on Wavecrest Avenue in Venice Beach with his friend Steve Goldberg.

Thanks to Mari for posting this to The Ledge and to Anusha for sending it to us.