‘This guy is so full of himself’: Jo Wood on the night she met her future husband, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood
20th Jan 2020
Sometimes it’s love at first sight, and sometimes things take a little longer to warm up. Here, in an extract from her new book, Jo Wood writes about the night she met her husband-to-be, Ronnie Wood
My relationship with Ronnie began, like lots of the best things in life, at a party. I got home from a shoot one day really tired. I wanted a night in and a bath, but my mate David rang me and asked whether I’d like to come to a party he was throwing. I can always find a bit of energy if there’s a good party to go to, so I told him I was up for it. I dragged my friend Richard with me, thinking, ‘What the hell, I’ll probably know everyone there anyway.’ I just stuck on my Granny’s dress – I was into vintage even then – and a Harris tweed jacket and some beige boots. Thinking about it, I could wear that outfit now. I went along to David and his wife Lorraine’s house on Sheffield Terrace, in Kensington, and there were loads of interesting people in the room. Pattie Boyd was there, Bill Wyman too, and as I looked around the room, I saw Ronnie. He walked straight up to me and started chatting. He just came out with the line, ‘Do you know who I am?’ and then whipped out a copy of the Stones album Black and Blue, pointing himself out on the cover!
I knew who he was, of course, but I wasn’t a massive fan of the Faces or the Stones, so I didn’t really know that much about him. I just thought, ‘Oh my god, this guy deserves to be put in his place for being so full of himself.’ He asked what I did, so I told him I worked at Woolworths, in the main branch on Oxford Street. He looked a bit surprised and asked if I was in management and I was like, ‘Nah, I work on the broken biscuit counter.’ Me and my mate Sue always used that line with blokes who were trying it on. If they were still interested when they thought we worked shovelling biscuits, then maybe they were worth thinking about.
I wasn’t bothered about him being famous. I was modelling and I’d already met loads of well-known people. It was also very different then. There was no big deal about being a celebrity – the word ‘celebrity’ wasn’t even used – and no one was in awe of fame like people are now.
The thing that got me about Ronnie was he was very funny. He kept following me from room to room, chatting away. When I went to get a drink, I looked in the mirror above the kitchen sink and I could see Ronnie in the reflection of the mirror and he was jokingly pretending to hump me from behind! I thought, ‘This guy is absolutely nuts,’ but I thought he was really funny too. He was just silly and I suppose I was as well – in some ways he was like a male version of me. I had never been out with anyone who looked like him.
Anyway, he left in the end and I stayed the night at my friends’ house and went out to work the next day. When I got back that night, there was Ronnie sat in the front room. It turned out he had been outside Woolies for a few hours waiting for me to finish work. My and Sue’s story about the broken biscuits had clearly worked a treat. He didn’t seem to mind too much and we picked up where we’d left off the night before. We just clicked straightaway, got on really well and started to hang out together.
We saw each other constantly for a couple of weeks but then he went off to New York. I wasn’t sure if that was it but then he called from America and invited me to Paris, where the Stones were going to record an album. He said, ‘Meet me at a place called L’Hotel on Friday.’ I managed to find out where L’Hotel was, turned up all excited and asked for Mr Wood’s room number. The man on reception looked down at me and said, ‘We ’ave no Meester Wood ’ere, mademoiselle.’
I couldn’t believe it. I felt so stupid. I was in Paris with no money, no hotel reservation and no way of contacting Ronnie. I kept on asking the receptionist to double-check but in the end I had no option but to admit to myself Ronnie wasn’t coming and to ask for a room for the night. The receptionist shook his head and told me they were fully booked because of the Prêt-à-Porter Fashion Week. I couldn’t believe it.
I must have looked so desperate that he took pity on me because eventually he said I could stay in one of the maids’ rooms. He led me to this tiny little space at the top of the hotel – it was the smallest roomI’d ever seen. I was lying there all night thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to get out of here? I haven’t got any money, I’m going to have to leave my bag and pretend I’m off sightseeing, oh God…’ At 6am I get this phone call from reception.
‘Is that Mademoiselle Karslake?’
‘Yes, I mean, oui.’
‘Are you also known as Mademoiselle ’Oward?’
‘We ’ave a Monsieur Wood down ’ere asking for you.
Shall I send him up?’
‘Yes, that would be wonderful.’
I quickly dressed, stuck on my sarong and, before I knew it, there was Ronnie at the door with a big smile on his face. I went straight into his arms and he started to apologise, saying Concorde had blown an engine so they’d had to make a landing in Shannon in Ireland. While he’s saying that, some other bloke shoves past us into the room. He didn’t even look at me, just sat on the floor at the end of the bed, rummaging in a doctor’s bag.
He pulled out a silver spoon, a bottle of pills and a lighter. In a few seconds he’d crushed one of the pills, heated it into a liquid, filled the syringe and then injected himself straight through his jacket. There was a tiny pause while the drugs hit his system and then he looked up at me with this big grin and said,
‘How very nice to meet you, my dear. I’ve heard such a lot about you.’
And that’s the story of how I met Keith for the first time and our friendship began.
Stoned: Photographs & treasures from life with the Rolling Stones by Jo Wood. Published by Cassell Illustrated, £20 www.octopusboooks.co.uk
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