One night close to Christmas, Stone headed out to buy presents for his young son, Sylvester, whom he had with Kathy Silva, a model he married on stage at Madison Square Garden in 1974.
“I had about $2,500 to spend,” Stone recalls. “By the time I get [to the store], I had spent it all on drugs. Yes, I did. And when I getting close to little Syl’s house, I thought, ‘Oooh, man. I never should have done that.’ When I saw him, I said, ‘I spent your money up on drugs. I spend it up on dope.’ ”
Over the years, Stone has dropped tens of thousands of dollars on his other hobby: automobiles. In his early days, he drove a Jaguar XKE he painted purple. There were Hummers, a London taxi and a beloved Studebaker, which Stone asked to have painted in exchange for this interview. (The Post declined.) A few years ago, he would cruise around LA on a bright-yellow, custom three-wheel chopper. He was known to give cars to friends.
By 1980, the group’s popularity had declined enormously from its heyday. Stone appeared on an episode of “The Mike Douglas Show” and promised, “I’m going to do one more album real quick, and if it’s not instantly platinum, bye-bye.” Sly & the Family Stone’s 10th and final album, 1982’s “Ain’t But the One Way,” flopped.
Stone kept his word and mostly vanished. He was arrested a few times in the 1980s for cocaine possession and performed sporadically, but his days of sold-out shows and magazine covers were gone. A 1987 performance would prove to be his last for 19 years.
He finally reappeared during a 2006 Grammy tribute, shuffling on stage, his posture hunched and his neck bent as a result of a fall he suffered at his home. He arrived midway through a medley of his classic hits, played the keyboard and sang for a few bars, waved, then inexplicably left the stage before the song concluded.
Today, Sly is disheveled, paranoid — the FBI is after him; his enemies have hired hit men. He refuses to let The Post into his camper, but, ever the showman, poses flamboyantly with a silver military helmet and a Taser in front of his Studebaker.