Can a rock star turned Muslim turned recluse find wedded bliss with a hippie turned vegetarian turned stripper? It is not an idle question. Consider the case of Cat Stevens, who two years ago began to embrace Islam, stopped touring and adopted the name Yusuf.
In 1976 Stevens had met Lucy Johnson, a 16-year-old fresh-faced blonde who was tossed out of New York’s exclusive Emma Willard School for smoking marijuana. Backstage at one of his concerts, Lucy slipped Cat a poem (“really tacky,” she remembers) and he took her to dinner. “It blossomed,” as Lucy puts it, “into a one-night stand.” Cat went back on the road and Lucy joined a commune, later settling down to become a stripper named Princess Cheyenne in Boston’s famed Combat Zone.
Lucy met Cat again in May. Now deeply religious, he entertained her for a month in London, where they had frequent dinners with his mother. They studied Islam at his mosque (where she took the name Aisha) and talked of marriage. Lucy did not mention her showbiz career.
In June Cat visited Lucy’s mother in Connecticut. Lucy, already a non-drinking vegetarian, took to preparing Muslim meals in her three-room Boston flat. By July Cat was telephoning her regularly from London. “One night we kept getting disconnected,” recalls Lucy. Cat told her it might be some sort of omen.
Late in July Lucy thought it was time to tell Cat everything and called him to describe her now dormant career as one of Boston’s better-known burlesque queens. There was a sharp intake of breath, then silence. Lucy remembers Cat’s next words: “I’m shocked.”
“He made some noises about my past being past,” Lucy recalls, “but when I told him I wanted to continue with acting lessons, he really freaked out. I don’t want to give up things like backpacking, horseback riding, acting and dancing. He thinks we should give up everything pleasurable.”
For his part, Stevens (who still uses his stage name) acknowledges that he is looking for a bride, but at the moment Lucy isn’t the one. “It would take a long time before she could become a good Muslim wife,” he says, adding that he is courting a woman in London who fits those requirements.
Lucy says she’s still getting trans-Atlantic Cat calls. “He’ll ask me to come over right away, and then call back and say we shouldn’t see each other. He changes his mind when it comes to music, too. I don’t know how he’s going to reconcile his religion with performing, at least for money. He says we should give up everything, but he flies to Washington, D.C. just to get his teeth capped. Basically, he’s a bundle of contradictions.”