Saturday, February 27, 2010

1977: Keith Richards busted in Toronto

On this day in 1977, Keith Richards was busted for heroin possession in Toronto.

The setup to the events of February 27, 1977, happened a few days earlier, when Keith, his then-girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith’s son, Marlon, boarded a British Airways jet in London, so Keith could join the rest of The Rolling Stones to rehearse for an upcoming concert recording in Toronto (the famous El Mocambo gigs, used for the “Love You Live” album).

According to a published account by author Victor Bockris, Keith used heroin during the flight and tossed a burnt spoon into one of Pallenberg's bags without mentioning it to her.

When the three arrived at Toronto International Airport, Anita’s 28-pieces of luggage were searched by customs: they found 10 grams of hash in one bag, and the burnt spoon in another – lab tests later confirmed it contained traces of heroin. Pallenberg, 34, was arrested for possession and released on a ‘promise-to-appear’ notice.

The couple joined the rest of the Stones at Toronto’s Harbor Castle Hilton hotel, with Keith attending band rehearsals on the 25th and 26th.

It was, apparently, common practice to have a Stones’ security man outside of Keith’s room 24/7; on February 27, 1977, legend has it the security person on duty received a phone call telling him he wasn’t needed, so there was no one to protect Keith when there was a knock on the door.

Fifteen RCMP officers, including plainclothes constables Bernie Barbe and Pete Hadley, arrived at the hotel with a search warrant; Barbe recounted the events that followed in a 2005 interview published by the Ottawa Sun; read the article here.

According to various media reports, the police found 22 grams of heroin and 5 grams of cocaine in Richards’ room. Keith was taken into custody, where he was charged with possession of heroin with the intent to traffic and possession of cocaine.

Lawyers got involved and Keith was released on bail, returning to the hotel.

Keith reportedly joined the Stones for a rehearsal that night, although things, moving forward, were far from business as usual.

Keith’s currently working on his autobiography, so it’ll be interesting to see how he addresses this day in his history when the book hits shelves later this year. Recent reports confirm that Johnny Depp is directing a documentary on Richards, as well.