Man, What Are You Doing Here? New Oil Spill Culprit: Billy Joel


Sing us a song, Piano Man – about how you dumped 58,000 gallons of bunker oil into the Bay.

By Joe Eskenazi


The weathervane of blame allotting responsibility for the Cosco Busan oil spill has been spinning like a taxi odometer these days.

There’s the Coast Guard radiomen who failed to inform the pilot of a 900-foot-long ship he was veering into the Bay Bridge, the pilot who dubiously claims every last electronic system on his ship done kicked the bucket simultaneously and a ship’s crew whose proficiency in English may not have extended to “left” and “right.”

Now, however, investigators have found a new culprit: Billy Joel.

The song-and-dance man, who redefined the term “greatest hits” with a series of single-car crashes and Toonces the Cat-like driving in recent years, was inexplicably...

on the helm of the ill-fated frigate the day it ploughed into the bridge.

“Crashing cars became old hat for Billy, like getting busted for drugs did for Whitney Houston or getting married for Jennifer Lopez,” said a source close to Joel.

“But crashing a massive frigate? Billy hadn’t done that yet. And he had to be a big shot.”

Embattled pilot John Cota told SF Weekly he unfurled a series of maps moments before the collision to plot the ship’s course with Joel but was waived off.

“He told me ‘I don’t want clever conversation, I never want to work that hard. I just want someone that I can talk to. I want you just the way you are,’” recalled the pilot.

Assuaged – and somewhat creeped out – Cota continued on his course, with disastrous results.

Of course, Cota wouldn’t have had to pull out the paperwork and compasses and Crayola crayons if the ship's entire navigational system hadn’t conked out – as he claims it did and federal investigators dispute. John Meadows, a lawyer representing Cota, now blames the systemic failures on a case of shipboard arson. Joel, predictably, claimed that he didn’t start the fire.

In an interview with the Weekly conducted entirely in Doo Wop, Joel refused to accept blame for the collision and ensuing environmental disaster, though he cryptically said he wished he'd been able to “get it right the first time.” He lamented the demise of thousands of birds and sea creatures, noting that “only the good die young.”

Joel then turned on his interlocutor, asking the Weekly how we planned on ending this article. And we had to tell him that we just couldn’t think of anything -- and that hasn’t happened in the longest time.

Boat photo | Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle

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