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Rich Girls, Private Eyes and Australian Robberies

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Some duos are so undeniably chock full of greatness that one out of two is more than enough for a great conversation. It might not apply to, say, Sonny & Cher or Tubbs & Crockett, but there was no question when it came to '80s powerhouse Hall & Oates. We caught up with John Oates just before his big New York concert (Hall, sadly, was laid up with Lyme disease). A mustache-less but nonetheless articulate Oates had plenty to say about old school New York, the music and, of course, the women.

UD: Which Hall & Oates song plays best with the ladies?
JO:
(laughing) Pretty much all of them. Our songs seem to resonate with females.

UD: It all started with "She's Gone"...tell us about women who leave.
JO:
I think it was New Year's Eve of 1971 or '72. I had met this girl at a soul food restaurant in the Village at 3 in the morning—she was a very wild character, wearing cowboy boots and a pink tutu. We hit it off, started going out and were supposed to go out on New Year's, and she never showed up. So I was thinking, well if she's not showing up for New Year's, she's not showing up at all. I started playing the guitar and singing this folky kind of lament.

UD: Any advice on scoring a "Rich Girl"?
JO:
Uh, no, absolutely not, I would say earn your own money. Forget about the other ideas.

UD: You were born in New York and lived here in the '70s and '80s...how has it changed?
JO:
It's absolutely changed a lot. I think New York has lost some of its character. What I liked best about New York was the old concept of the ethnic neighborhoods. That's almost gone at this point with the yuppifization, I guess you would call it.

UD: Where did you like to hang out?
JO:
I lived at West 12th and Hudson, and the Village was the place to be. We started out hanging at Max's Kansas City in the old days in the '70s. All the various places along Bleecker Street. The first place Daryl and I played was at the Bitter End, across from Milk Studios.

UD: You must have hung out with some interesting folks during those days.
JO:
The first time we played Max's, I think we played with Bruce Springsteen, so that was pretty amazing. Things like that would happen all the time. We used to hang out at Andy Warhol's Factory with Andy; we knew him pretty well. It was a pretty amazing time to be in New York.

UD: Any places you like to go out to now in New York?
JO:
The fact that New York has the greatest restaurants in the world doesn't hurt. So like tonight, we're going to Nobu.

UD: You grew up outside of Philly. So, New York vs. Philly?
JO:
They're two different worlds. Philadelphia is only a hundred miles away from New York, but it might as well be Mars. The people in Philadelphia are very provincial and parochial, and they could care less about New York. They don't go there. They don't really think about it. They don't need it. With New Yorkers, everything is all about New York.

UD: What's your favorite city to play in?
JO:
Places like Indianapolis, or Atlanta, or Cleveland—it's just show up and have a great show. There's not as much pressure.

UD: What's your craziest story from touring?
JO:
One of the craziest stories was probably the first time we toured Australia. After the show, a bunch of us went to a restaurant. We're sitting at this table, and the restaurant was basically empty. Through the door walks this guy with a ski mask on and a sawed-off shotgun. He starts screaming, and we thought, okay, we're in Australia and somebody decided that they were going to screw with us. All of sudden he comes to the table and we realize that it's a real gun, and he was actually trying to rob us. He ran over to the other table, and one of the guys at the table clocked him, and we all rushed him, knocked him through a plate glass window. The police came, and it turned out that we apprehended this guy called the 'Rusty Gun Bandit.' He had been robbing places in Melbourne for years. It was in the newspapers; it was like a big deal. Things like that, I could go on all day.

UD: Speaking of those days, any women throw themselves at you?
JO:
(laughing) Yeah, for about 20 years.

UD: And if New York were a woman, who would she be?
JO:
I think she would be some weird hybrid between Gisele Bundchen and Chaka Kahn.

UD: We'd actually like to meet her.
JO:
(laughing) I'm not sure if I do or not.

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