“She keeps it soft for me”: Catching up with the woman behind the Rod Stewart classic, and her
BY RANDY HARWARD
Maggie May sounds so sweet in the song. Like a predatory angel WHO plucks a young Rod Stewart from his pubescent playground and spirits him away to the fluffy bed where she’ll
make him into a man. Today, at 72, sitting on a patio behind her Tucson, AZ home, she’s embittered and withered.
“He was a piece of ass,” Margaret May Beaulieu says, drawing deeply on an unfiltered cigarette. “That’s it.” Puffs of blue smoke shroud her next words as she crushes the roach on the sole of her espadrille. “I wish he’d never written that song.”
Beaulieu met Stewart at a jazz festival in 1961. “I liked ‘em young – virgins,” she says, “adding
she didn’t expect to find many at a jazz festival because, she smirks, “everyone there was swingin’, if you follow me.” At 16, Stewart was “ripe. He had hair like a baby duck,” she says. She beams, and briefly resembles the benevolent slut from the song. “It was quite soft; at one point I had fistfuls of it, guiding him. After that, it wouldn’t lie down.”
They got together a few more times before losing touch in the late 1960s. But when the singer released Every Picture Tells a Story in 1971 and “Maggie May” became a hit, Beaulieu’s friends wouldn’t let her live it down. “The story got around. From then on, almost every chump I brought home would wake me in the morning by singing, ‘Wake up, Maggie, I think I got somethin’ to say to you.'”
Across her immaculate, zero-scaped yard, a dim-looking chocolate Lab edges dangerously
close to a Sonoran rattlesnake. The hissing viper strikes a threatening pose, standing like a stretched Slinky. Before it can strike, a beer bottle explodes into twinkling amber shards between the animals, which retreat. Settling back in her sunlounger, Beaulieu mutters, “Every fucking time.”
The sliding glass door of Beaulieu’s rambler squeaks open and out steps a woman holding a handbroom and dustpan. “That’s Lizzie,” Beaulieu says. She smiles wanly and nods a greeting before going over to clean up the glass. “Met her in ’77. I was in a transitional phase.” Men, she explains, were looking dumber by the day. When she encountered Lizzie outside a Kiss show at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, the women realized a kinship. “Back then Lizzie went by ‘Beth.’ Watch this.”
Beaulieu clears her phlegmy throat and rasps, “Beth I hear you callin’…” Lizzie drops her tools, covers her ears, and cowers against the couple’s gas grill. “I’m sorry, baby,” Beaulieu calls across the yard, laughing. I wonder aloud whether that’s any way to treat a soulmate.
“Soulmate? Shit. Maybe we were for a while. You’ve heard the song. She only got naggier and saggier. But look at that hair. She keeps it soft for me.”