It must have felt so good: he felt like he was all-knowing and all-perceptive, and he would have totally ridiculous epiphanies. He said, [Adopts dour Billy voice:] "I think we are evolved from cartoon birds." What the fuck does that mean, cartoon birds? "I mean look at Daffy Duck. And Donald Duck." And I'm like, What are you talking about? It's like when you're taking – I don't know if you've ever done LSD, I certainly have. You'd see something and you'd have this incredible revelation. But it's not an incredible revelation at all! It's just – you're on acid! You're high! And Billy was high. Billy never took acid. Billy never smoked pot. Billy never took an illegal drug in. His. Life. Ever. Which I found astonishing. He wanted everything legitimated.
But it's really too bad. I wished his dad had lived a little bit longer. He and Billy got civil a little bit at the end. And let me tell you, I took Billy to his dad's funeral. We went late. It was just me and Billy and Sam, the guy who would drive Billy. And Billy crawled into the coffin and wept uncontrollably. And then he got out, and then he crawled back in and wept some more. Because his father was a source of unending – just a tireless source of love. Well, he got tired, but everyone got tired.
The old man [William Ruane, Sr.], I talked to him a ton. He was a great guy, and he'd tell me stories about jazz shows he used to go see on 52nd Street. One time Sidney Bechet bought him a beer. You could totally see that he was Billy's dad. He'd say, "I'll take the first half of the 20th century, and Billy can have the second half." Meaning all the music he liked, versus all the music Billy liked. Billy would talk about his mother, but a lot of what Billy did was he would just . . . shift things around. His anger at his dad was unwarranted. And I'd be plenty pissed at a mom who killed herself in front of me. But that's just the way that went. His mother, she was disturbed as well.
Billy never lied, but he would shave the truth. There would be subtleties. I always thought [this happened] when he was a little kid, and his father divorced his mother, and that's why she killed herself. But no: she been divorced from him for like ten years, and she dumped him because he didn't have enough money. I remember him saying, "She should have waited." Because he got rich, but he didn't make any money until he was 47.
The story I'd heard is that Billy's mother walked into the ocean.