Used to be kind of bitter
Always had a baby-sitter
But I'm feeling much fitter
Now I'm pretty sweet.
-- The Eels, "Looking Up"
In late June, singer-songwriter Mark Oliver Everett -- he usually goes by just E -- was sitting on a bench in London's Hyde Park, enjoying a cigar. Those are the relevant details. The irrelevant ones, however, caused the fuss, which came next.
"It's the weirdest thing that ever happened to me, which is saying something," Everett said during a midsummer interview before starting a 50-city tour with his band, the Eels. "I was doing a week of international press in London at a hotel. It was the first day. I did interviews, I needed a break. I went to Hyde Park to walk around. I smoked a cigar, sat on a bench. As I was leaving the park, a bunch of police came up -- and they had guns, which is unusual for London. Someone had called the police and given my description as a suspicious character. The description definitely had to be me."
A description of Everett: normal-size, wiry guy, frequently in shades -- and these days he has very short hair and a very long, bushy beard. And let's make it more interesting: There was an embassy nearby.
"I was only described as standing in front of an embassy looking suspicious," he said. "I didn't know there was an embassy around. Why would I? At first, I laughed. Then I saw how serious they were. ... It was a very snooty part of London. Some old English biddy didn't know what to make of the way I looked. I have a long beard like some Muslim men have. That's the extent of it. It was weird to feel victimized, to be judged by my book's cover."