It was late last summer when Santi Guarnera got the phone call. Michael Ward, an old Army buddy of his, was on the other end of the line. He wanted to catch up, to see how his friend in Colorado Springs was doing.
There was a lot of ground to cover. The two had barely spoken for a quarter-century. There was no big fallout, no big fight, just a slow falling out of touch.
They first met in the 1960s at Fort Lewis in Washington state, as a pair of young men awaiting their overseas assignments. Together, the two were shipped off to Korea, and though they were in different companies, they were stationed at the same base, where they quickly became friends.
"He was a regular Joe," Guarnera says. "We had fun. Got into trouble."
In the mid-'70s, they ran into one another again. Guarnera was a civilian, living in his hometown of Colorado Springs, and Ward was finishing up his Army stint in Security.
Eventually, though, Ward moved away, and his friendship with Guarnera again faded. So when Ward phoned to catch up, and later to say he was planning a visit to Colorado Springs, Guarnera was taken aback a bit.
"I hadn't thought about him in a long time," Guarnera says.
There were other surprises. Over the phone, Ward spoke of the extensive rsum he had built in the music industry. Since the two had last connected, Ward had apparently become a producer and a session musician, working with artists like Rufus and Chaka Khan and Glenn Frey. Ward said he had won two Grammys: one for his work with Rufus and one for his work on Beverly Hills Cop.
He explained it all, in damning detail, and for one lone reason: After all these years, he wanted to give credit where credit was due. He wanted to thank his friend Santi for inspiring him.
"He said it was my encouragement that got him into music," Guarnera says with a shrug.
Ward was also going by a different name now. He asked Guarnera to call him "Hawk," the name he said he'd taken up as his own in the music business. And he said he'd prefer Guarnera keep his real name secret.
Much of it didn't make sense. Some of the time frames offered by "Hawk" implied that he had been involved in music before the two knew one another. So why was this the first Guarnera was hearing of Ward's time as a teenager spent touring with Joan Baez? Surely, Guarnera assumed, as a young 20-something in the Army, "Hawk" would have bragged about that.
Even more odd: Until his phone call, Guarnera had never recalled Ward having much of an interest in music. Guarnera himself was a bass player; aside from banging on a set of bongos from time to time, Ward never played.
It all came as a surprise. Yet Guarnera took the high road with it, choosing to believe "Hawk."
"He was a friend," Guarnera says. "Why would he lie to me?"
That's where this story gets a little tricky. Was "Hawk" really lying about his past? Or was he simply embellishing?
Is there a difference?
Unknowns, hurt feelings and a lot of confusion surround "Hawk" and the nine or so months he spent in the live music scene in Colorado Springs. Few people know what to make of his stay.
At this point, they'd almost rather not know. They'd probably prefer to forget the whole ordeal, to forget that they might have been conned.
The King solver
It was in May when David "Hawk" Wolinski got his phone call. The man on the other end of his line identified himself as Joe King.
"Do you know me?" King asked.
Wolinski, sitting in his Nashville, Tenn., home, was silent. The name didn't ring a bell.
King continued on. He explained who he was a blues musician from Colorado Springs and why he had begun this call so precariously.
See, King was convinced that he had solved a riddle, and that Wolinski would want to know. Through another musician he knew in town, a bassist named Santi Guarnera, King had met a man identifying himself as "Hawk, the Grammy winner."
The "Hawk" in the Springs was a pompous, older man, bearded and gray with a heavily wrinkled face and droopy eyes. His aging body, riddled with an unspecified "fatal disease," required he use crutches to maneuver himself from A to B.
King smelled bullshit from day one. Granted, he had reason to be on guard: Hawk was stealing King's music partner, a singer from Manitou Springs named Fairlight Moriah. He was usurping her from her project with King, Plastic Mojo, and asking her to join the local blues super-group he was putting together, Ah Storms Ah Comin'.
King pressured Guarnera for Hawk's real name, but never got it until an April 29 Business of Music seminar, when a clerical slip-up on event literature identified Hawk, against his wishes, as David "Hawk" Wolinski.
A volunteer for the event had come up with the name via some cursory Google research. And though Hawk protested its inclusion on the day of the seminar, denying that he was David Wolinski and maintaining that Hawk was his legal name, his complaints came too late.
With a clue in hand, King continued his own research. Before long, his efforts yielded a Tennessee phone number for Wolinski. So he called; if Wolinski and "Hawk" were one in the same, King thought, surely Wolinski would recall meeting King.
Wolinski was certain he hadn't. So King continued.
He told Wolinski about the Springs' "Hawk," this man's list of accomplishments and the similarities between those accomplishments and the ones listed in an online bio King had found for David "Hawk" Wolinski. He explained that the Springs' "Hawk" wouldn't let Guarnera tell anyone his real name. And that when he had Fairlight ask Guarnera if his friend's real name was David Wolinski, Guarnera not only denied it, but was curious as to how King had been so far off-base.
Wolinski didn't have much to say. Yes, those were definitely his accomplishments. And yes, he most certainly went by the name of Hawk.
Wolinski, speaking a few weeks later, admits identity theft is rampant in today's age. Still, he never expected to be a victim.
"I had some pretty good success," Wolinski says, "but nobody really knows what I look like. Nobody knows my face."
When Wolinski called the Colorado Springs police to explain his predicament, he was told there wasn't much they could do for him unless Wolinski could prove the man going around town calling himself "Hawk" had used the identity to benefit monetarily.
"They said anybody can call themselves anything they wish," Wolinski says. "He hasn't attacked my bank account yet. Or my credit card I only have one. But he better not. If he does anything like that, there could be a Sopranos moment."
A dresm come true?
It was easy to take the "faux Hawk," as King has now taken to calling him, at his word especially considering that people wanted to take him at his word.
With Guarnera as his escort, the mystery man established himself in the local scene, taking in shows around town and introducing himself to the musicians. He spoke at length with the artists who intrigued him, and spun a web of stories for others who would come to act as his advocates.
Within a few weeks, Hawk had filled the lineup for Ah Storms Ah Comin', his "all-star touring" band, with local musicians Guarnera, Fairlight, Jeremy Vasquez, Dewey Steele and Frank Perez. Hawk had promised them what amounted to a musician's dream: They would be flown around the country playing blues-style covers of Beatles songs one night a week to packed houses in major cities, and they'd make enough cash that they wouldn't need to work day jobs.
For Fairlight, who was pregnant throughout much of her interaction with Hawk, the pot was further sweetened. He promised that she could take her newborn boy on the road, and that someone would watch her child offstage as she performed.
Coming from a smooth-talking man with credentials that seemingly checked out, it was a great deal. Still, some things didn't add up.
For a millionaire who claimed to be looking to buy a house in Manitou Springs, Hawk sure seemed frugal. He stayed on people's couches and in spare rooms for weeks on end. He invited guests to dinners, often in circumstances that implied he would pick up the bill. But he always passed the check over at the end of the meal, and he never offered to pay a penny of rent.
Also suspicious was the amount of time Hawk required from the band members. The band's first practice lasted five hours, Fairlight says. In that time, the group only worked on three songs.
"It just got really boring," she says.
As more and more information began coming out about Hawk's background, she found it harder and harder to believe in him.
Then, before the band's debut performance at Old Colorado City's Thunder & Buttons II on June 12, the members were met by Stephen Brunette. A lawyer with the nonprofit Pikes Peak Blues Community, Brunette was present at Hawk's request. He explained to the band that Hawk had, indeed, misrepresented himself by embellishing much of his experience in the music industry. He also confirmed what the band members already knew: Hawk was out of town, and wouldn't be making it to that evening's show.
"It hurt my feelings," Fairlight says, tearing up and blaming her hormones, still elevated from her pregnancy, for her emotions. "I'm completely bewildered by it. I don't know why he did this. "
Still, she says, she should have been wiser.
"Why would you come to Colorado Springs to start a band?"
Private investigator Tim Shull, a friend of Fairlight's, looked into Hawk's background for free. He wishes he knew more, and is hoping someone who was involved with Hawk will decide to pay him to continue his research.
"I've never worked anything like this before," says Shull, who served with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office for 24 years, "but I've worked identity theft. I would like to proceed and write up a report and present it to the district attorney's office."
He says he just needs more time to prove Hawk benefited monetarily from his claims. But he understands that even some of those musicians who got burned might not push him to continue.
"You're messing with some strange people here," he says. "Very liberal they don't want to see anyone get hurt. Me, I like to see people who've committed crimes get punished."
Wolinski, who says he's never met a Michael Ward, still isn't sure what to make of the whole deal.
He's spoken with King, Shull and Brunette. What he's heard worries him, but all he can really do at the moment is confirm that he is not the "Hawk" who cavorted around here under that name. In fact, he says, he's only been to Colorado Springs once, and that was back during his days as a touring artist in the 1970s. He remembers next to nothing of that trip.
"Are you crazy?" he asks. "If you remember anything of that time, if means you didn't work at that time. There's no way you can remember that shit."
Wolinski has, however, confirmed that about 80 percent of the accomplishments listed on Fauxhawk's bio are not his own, meaning they're either lies or embellishments of the truth. Perhaps most likely, they're a mixture of the two.
"He probably just thought he could mix it up," Wolinski says. "There's plenty of shit he could put on that's cooler than this ... he obviously didn't do his homework."
For instance, he notes, "Fauxhawk" ignored Wolinski's work with Michael Jackson, Chicago and Quincy Jones.
As for the other Hawk's Rufus references: Wolinski was the keyboardist for the band (known best for its song "Tell Me Something Good" and for launching lead singer Chaka Khan's career). And, in 1983, he and his bandmates won a Grammy award for "Ain't Nobody," a song he wrote. Wolinski won his second Grammy two years later for his work on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, on which appears his song "Don't Get Stopped in Beverly Hills." For both awards, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences simply credited Wolinski as "Hawk."
Among other things, Wolinski is irked by the notion that Hawk was offering up advice largely that you have to spend lots of money to make lots of money under his name and rsum. Even before King clued him into what was happening in Colorado Springs, Wolinski had started working on a book offering his own advice to up-and-comers in the music industry.
"That kinda pissed me off," he says. "I have the greatest advice in the world. What the fuck? If you're going to give advice, make it good."
It's Saturday afternoon at the Indy when I get my call.
Speaking by cell phone from an undisclosed out-of-state location, Michael Ward/Hawk doesn't sound too apologetic about his time spent here. In fact, he claims the whole thing is a misunderstanding.
He maintains that most of the accomplishments he took credit for are, in fact, his. And he is adamant that his work in the industry was largely as a "ghost," meaning he was paid to work on projects without being credited.
He says it's a double-edged sword, though, and the contracts he signed also preclude him, or anyone else, from saying he was a part of a project. He regrets having allowed himself to verbally take credit for his work, and, in a separate e-mail response, writes, "this is the role I accepted when I accepted the roles as a ghost in the industry ...
"I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of anyone who I have worked with or who I have not worked with, without risking the chance of the possibility of exposing projects that I have worked with. By holding a complete and total non-disclosure position, it will safeguard and wipe out any possibilities of me causing a breach of contract."
It's a slick response. Of course, as many have noted about this Hawk a name he continues to use he's full of slick responses.
(Wolinski's retort: "The guy's a fucking idiot.")
"Hawk" further maintains that he is not, nor has he ever claimed to be, David Wolinski. And he insists that he plans to continue his work with local musicians, creating some form of a blues-style Beatles cover band.
"I think Colorado Springs is probably the greatest place on Earth," he says. "It's the most beautiful place on Earth. I like the people there. For a smallish town, with so little population, the amount of wealth and very talented artists and musicians is amazing."
So, it's no surprise, then, that he promises to return to Colorado Springs in the near future. In the meantime, he does harbor some regrets. For instance, he says he should not have claimed to have been a Grammy winner. Of course, he maintains that some Grammys may not have been won without his contributions.
He also says he will not be fazed by the change of heart by many of his former friends in town.
"For the few who are angry at me," he writes in his e-mail, "I will not bear anger in return to them. I accept their anger. Maybe in time their anger toward me will dwindle. If they remember the success I brought them, then they would NOT be angry."
'I still believe ...'
His last comment is a vital one.
Carrie Goodman, president of the Pikes Peak Blues Community, says not everything Hawk did here was negative.
"I've seen some good things come about as a result of Hawk's influence," she says. "He inspired some things that otherwise might not have occurred. He inspired a music project that might not have occurred. I think Hawk's influence was positive."
Rick Laurenzi, a local filmmaker who took Hawk into his house for an extended period, echoes Goodman's sentiment.
"He did show glimmers of great common sense," Laurenzi says. "He did have a good business acumen. I still believe in the concept of The Beatles as the blues."
Furthermore, Hawk was able to offer Laurenzi some assistance in making industry contacts for the soundtrack to a documentary he's currently filming.
"He does seem to have some connections," Laurenzi says. "It's not some kid dreaming up in his room about putting together a blues band."
Laurenzi says he's surprised to learn that locals are only now realizing that Hawk had embellished his rsum. He says he realized that stuff early on and never really minded any of it; he didn't fall out with Hawk until Hawk extended what was supposed to be a two-week stay at Laurenzi's house into six weeks.
"I had firm words with him in May when I could not get him to leave," Laurenzi says.
When he was finally able to get Hawk out of the house, it seems he got him out of town. Laurenzi hasn't spoken with Hawk since that day. But even now, he says he doesn't know if Hawk necessarily deserves the anger of local musicians.
After all, no one can prove Hawk benefited from implying that he was someone he's not. Aside from energy and a few dollars spent here and there, did local musicians really suffer?
Laurenzi can't say for certain. And neither can he, nor anyone else, peg a motive. As far as Laurenzi can tell, Hawk wasn't getting rich off his lies.
"What game is he trying to play?" Laurenzi asks. "I really can't tell."
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