Rock's Old Guard On Best Behavior For Big Night

Despite reps as bad asses of rock, Hall of Famers became model citizens for induction ceremonies.

NEW YORK -- Former free-wheeling hippie and ex-Eagle Glenn Frey holding hands with his two adorable young children.

Free-spirited Mama Michelle Phillips, once a key member of the Mamas and the Papas, eagerly dishing with the press folk about her daughter, Chynna.

And the once elusive, former Creedence Clearwater Revival leader John Fogerty chatting up perfect strangers in the men's room.

This is not behavior I expected from rock megastars of the '60s and '70s with their infamous reputations for bad behavior and non-stop partying. Still, the spirit of harmony and family is what I got Monday night at the 13th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at New York's historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Even Rolling Stone magazine-founder and Hall of Fame Vice Chairman Jann Wenner prepared me for the worst early in the evening with the reminder that the honorees' "era was a time of great success and a time of great excess." So, in turn, I prepared myself for a bunch of geezers falling asleep in their beers.

But what I saw was an impressive group of accomplished performers, distinguished gentlemen and perfect ladies, looking truly touched to be honored by their peers and happy to take part in the ceremonies.

Carlos Santana, legendary leader of Santana, evoked memories of paragons of virtue -- such as baseball great Jackie Robinson -- and reminisced affectionately about family fare such as "West Side Story" as he was questioned by the media.

Mama Cass Elliot's daughter spoke glowingly of her mom as Michelle Phillips looked on, clearly moved by her words. The ex-wife of the Mamas and the Papas' leader John Phillips even smiled a few times at her former husband, whom she hadn't spoken to in years.

Those other legendary ex-lovers-in-combat, Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, behaved like little angels -- if I can borrow one of Nicks' favorite images -- as they played on each other's songs, touched lovingly and even spoke to the press about their renewed friendship since the band recently reunited to celebrate the anniversary of its hit album, Rumours. They looked horrified as the ravenous cameramen screamed their names and beckoned to them during photo opportunities. Nicks, shedding her usual tears of joy, even gazed respectfully at Fleetwood Mac forefather Peter Green (who played guitar in the band during its pre-pop blues era) from time to time.

But the bathroom encounters, they're the ones that really stay with you. Peeing next to John Fogerty, I couldn't help but be struck by his can etiquette. The living legend waited on line for a urinal, partaking in annoying small talk with us pee-ons, and

even washed his hands thoroughly after he did his duty. That's no way for a rock god to behave, now is it?

After all, who will all current and future bad-mannered rockers and hip-hoppers look up to?

In fact, the only hint of discord came at the night's end with the notoriously volatile Eagles who, though clearly pleased to be with each other and extremely verbose with the paparazzi, apparently didn't have manners enough to ask their fellow California rocker-inductees to perform with them in a traditional Hall of Fame jam.

Rumors quickly began flying that there was some behind-stage strife between bands. After all, if the Eagles couldn't play with fellow '70s rock-royalty Fleetwood Mac or even guitar-god Santana, who would they feel was worthy enough to play with them? Had there been another eruption of ill will in the recently mended relationship between ex-lovers Eagle drummer Don Henley and Mac goddess Stevie Nicks? Did Lindsey Buckingham and Joe Walsh disagree on who would take the big lead-guitar solo?

This is what we were all left to ponder as Wenner bid adieu to us after the Eagles' lonely set. Still, I preferred to remember the good vibes of the evening, given all the warmth out there on display in one room for one night.

Are these the musicians our parents feared would have a bad influence on us? The mind boggles. [Tues., Jan. 13, 1998, 5 p.m. PST]