Friday, March 31, 2006

A Kiss in the Dreamhouse

Look. The first guy I dated in Chicago after my break up with Doug was Brian C. Not to be confused with Bryan O. or Brian B. I know a lot of Brians. My name is Brian. Anywho, we met at Berlin. My friends Jody and Karla and I would ogle him every night, wishing we had the nerve to talk to him. He was really tall, and usually wore a black motorcycle jacket with long fringe on the sleeves, which accentuated his broad shoulders, and he had big, spikey, dyed black hair. He had pale white skin, and wore silver eyeliner! He looked fantastic. Especially when he danced in his black leather pants. We would try to dance by him, giving him furtive, longing glances. But he was usually there with a girl. Either a tiny petite one, or a zoftig gal. Both were cool beyond words. Cool in that aloof, bored, perfect way, because they knew no matter what happenend, they would always look fabulous. They could fall out a 10 story window and still look great. You know the type.

So there's the rub: was he gay? was he straight? was he single? We were dying to know. One night we found out that one of the girls he was often with wasn't. Plus in my column. The petite one was actually a very pretty boy, named Leo. Whom I still see around on occasion. And the zoftig girl was caught by Karla making out in the bathroom with a different guy. A plus in their column.

Finally, one night, we get to Berlin, and there is our friend Brad talking to him. He was the type of person to do whatever he wanted, and to talk to whoever he wanted, so it was always a fun time when he was around. After Berlin we would often pile into Leona's for a late night bowl of pasta; 7 or 8 kids with too big hair and too much junk jewelry, smashed, and smashing into one of their booths, laughing too loud and spilling stuff everywhere. Brian asked me out later that night. I think our first date was shopping at Bonwit's. I didn't know how to use the trains or busses to get downtown, so he showed me how to take the train there, and the bus back. Bonwit Teller was a glam department store that was where the Cheesecake Factory in the John Hancock is now. Then we went across the street to I. Magnin (H&M), and Mark Shale (they tore it down to build the Bloomie's mall) and finally, to City. City was an amazing modern furniture store near the Mag Mile. It may sound trite now, but I fell in love the second I walked in, for the first thing I saw was a giraffe-skin-patterned dining table. "That's the coolest thing I ever saw!" At Bonwit's, he bought me an amazing pearl necklace with a jeweled crown pendant. (Sadly, I was to quickly lose it one night when I was bombed out of my mind at a party at a Holiday Inn in Wisconsin. [were you there, Jody?] I searched the snowbanks the next day to near frostbite, to no avail.)

Later, we went to his apartment. It was a gorgeous place on Sheffield by Cubs park. It was immaculate, with low lighting. There was a Zen-like perfection to his cool vintage furniture that was everywhere. It was my dream."What is that?" I said pointing to a big clip holding several pieces of paper.
"Those are ticket stubs to all the concerts I've been to."

He named some of the bands, few of which I had heard of. And most of the shows were in London. He'd been many times. He was just as fascinated with London as I was. But he'd actually been there. And he wasn't much older than me. There was a copy of I-D magazine on his coffee table.

"What is this?" I asked.

"I-D. The best magazine about London. I've kept every issue I've ever bought." He starts pulling stacks from a closet. "Look, Madonna's cover before she was famous here. Want me to make you a sandwich or something?"

"Food? You have food?! I'm way too lazy/broke to have food in my house."

Soon, we were on his bed, making out. I was sneaking glances around his room. The blonde wood bedroom set. The bottles of cologne sitting on black glass. His rubbings of knight's tombs from England. The Siouxsie poster. I had to end it. I had to go home. It was just too much for me to absorb. Too much to take in.

I stopped dating him soon after that. "Why?" I asked myself. "Why didn't I stay with him?" Was it because I had just moved to Chicago, and I was in my own place for the first time, and as perfect as Brian was, I didn't want to give that up? Or was Brian too giving toward me, and I knew he would give me what ever I wanted, and I knew I should be on my own self-supporting path? Or was it because I had just dated someone right before I moved to Chicago (Brian B) whom I was extremely attracted to on every level, (who had set me free to live my dream of a life in a big city) and I was only attracted to Brian C on some levels? Or was I afraid of love, sabotaging my happiness? All, some, none of the above, probably.

I can tell you something for sure, as corny as it sounds: I've been to London many times, I've kept all my ticket stubs and I-D magazines, and I've tried to create that minimalist, vintage Zen in my home, where plenty of food is always at the ready. I guess Brian C wasn't someone I wanted to date, but an ideal of a man and a life I wanted to achieve for myself. And some years ago, I got the priviledge of telling him face to face.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Somewhere in Time

This morning I woke up like Christopher Reeve did when he saw the wrong dates on the pennies in his pocket in Somewhere in Time. But instead 1912, like in the movie, it was 1988, and 1988 was my lover. "1988, COME BACK!! DON'T LEAVE!! love...come back...(sob)"
And 1988 was looking at me, like Jane Seymour did in the movie, while getting smaller and smaller and saying: "What the fuck?! Where are you going?! Why are you disappearing?!"

Turning 40 really messes with your mind.

But it's over, 1988 is over. Never to exist again. My apartment, the furniture, the things I owned, most of the people I saw regularly, my worries, and fears, all gone. Almost, almost, like it never existed. It did, of course. The apartment I lived in back then is still there: 3728 North Pinegrove. I can look into the window where my bedroom was. The room where I had pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Boy on the wall. Where I hung my Verte Valle and my Martinique. Where I spent hours and hours reading i-D magazine. Where I kissed Jeff and Robert. Where my friends Bryan and Doug slept when they visited me. Where I had long talks with Erin on the phone and long talks with Jody face to face. Where Cocteau Twins or Sade would help me to fall asleep. Where Steve would drunk dial me: " WHY!! Why don't you love me?! I love you Brian, I love you. Why can't you love me, TOO!!" I don't know, Steve, I don't know. My skin cells and hair are probably still embedded into the cracks of the hardwood floor! Gross! I want them back! I can still see the place where all this took place, where my life was, but it's not there any more. My life isn't there anymore.
In 1987 the visually stunning John Sex and his gal pals performed at Berlin. He was the darling of Details (when it was a cool NY mag) and Paper mags. I secretly take credit for him performing at Berlin because I would always torture the DJs to play his songs and videos. "Hey! Got any John Sex stuff! He's great!" The rare nights I go out these days, I still love talking to the DJs. Do it the next time you go out. They have a wealth of information to share: The next great band, who's fucking who, the next good party, etc. Anyway, I think I went with Erin and Danny to see John. It took me a long time to get ready, as it usually did. I spent hours on my make-up, not my clothes. I wore the same thing every night. For about a year. I called them my "Andy Warhol" phases. Not that I dressed like him, but when you see photos of him, his clothes look the same each decade. He had a couple looks and stuck with them. It makes sense, really.

So I really wanted to talk to John and hang out with him. My "idea" was to ambush him and put some lipstick on him. (?) Well, he wasn't too thrilled. He graciously turned down my request of a drunken, smeary lipstick-job. I gushed my love of him for a few seconds and slowly slunk away. When people asked how John Sex was that night, I told them his show was great, but "he is kind of a snob, 'cause didn't want any of my lipstick!" John died a few years later. I didn't know him, but I think about him a lot. He was a performer who, to me, wanted a career in show biz on his own terms. He was truly his own creation, derivative of no one. His uniqueness was his charm and ticket to fame. But he is gone. From a moment in time, never to be experienced again. You know what the wierdest thing is, though? It is happening to us right now. Yesterday will never be again. I think that is the greatest gift life has to give us: understanding of it's finality.

p.s. If someone could turn that Boy link pic into a t-shirt, I'd love you forever.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

One of Us is Gonna Die Young

(Warning! The link in the title takes you to a loud, cool rock song!)
In 1987, the year I turned 21, all I wanted to do was to drink. Morning, afternoon, evening. I hated everything and understood nothing: why I was getting fat, why I couldn't keep a boyfriend, why did I work at a salon I hated, why did I make no money, why did my roommate hate my best friend, why were all my friends divided against each other, why my parents never called me, why was it all I wanted to do was drink!
I lived by this bar, Dolores and Eddie's, on Broadway and Waveland, where the 7-11 is now. Next door was the Orbit Room. I drank a lot there. On my way to work around 11am or so, I would see old men drinking in D&E's, as we used to call it. "I wanna do that. I wanna sit in a bar and drink all day." So I did. Sometimes with friends, sometimes not. "Ha! This is great!" The manager of D&E's took a shine to me and my exteme look, and asked me to be a "dancer" there. "Just dance on the bar, kid, all the free booze ya want and 20 bucks." They wanted to attract an "alternative" crowd, so they were always doing crazy promo stuff. So I danced, one night only. To the sounds of Cities in Dust and Sensoria and Lover Come Back. My jeans were really tight that night, and it was very difficult/dangerous for me to get up on the bar to dance. Up on the bar, my hair was so tall it touched the ceiling. They were filming an episode of Crime Story next door at Orbit Room that night, as they often did, and Dennis Farina kept peeking in the open door at me between takes. There was something chilling about seeing him there watching me in his black '60's overcoat and hat while it misted rain.
Well, they said free booze, so I drank. While I danced. I think it was my 10th beer and almost as many shots in 90 minutes that finally shocked the bar tender. "Jesus, kid, whadda ya got, a friggin' wooden leg!?" What didn't shock him was me falling off the bar. Twice.
"That's enough kid, I don't wanna see ya break your neck."
That was as close to Angel as I ever got.
Weekdays, I would go to Hitchcock's. I don't think it's still there, it may be; it was over in the Webster and Racine area. I didn't like my boss during the day when I had to put up with all her crap for the few pennies she threw my way, but I LOVED to party with her at night. We could drink up a storm. We would head over to Hitchcock's a few days a week after work, and terrorize my gorgeous friend Martin. Martin as you recall, painted the beautiful cross-eyed drag queen. And do I mean TERRORIZE. "Marty! Give us some beers! No we aint got no money! Ha ha ha ha ha! Marty! Gives us a pizzas! No! No money! Marty! Marty! We's gunna takes this bag of bar glasses wit us! OK? Great! Marr-rey! Murr-arry! More free bur, beer! More! MOre! Free! Free!" Oh God, we were terrible. I can't believe he or his boss let us come back.
Right before the whole D&E's and Orbit Room block was torn down, my friend Phil (my friend now, not back then; just one of life's wierd coincidences) was hired to paint a huge Edie picture on the side of the building. Edie Sedgwick was a model and Warhol "it" girl in 1966. She was a blue blood, a gifted artist, and a true original with limitless potential. She threw it all out the window and died at 28 because she chose drugs to understand why she was molested, and why two of her brothers killed themselves. Now, that is just my opinion. When I chose not to understand my life, I drank. I just didn't deal with anything. My friend Scott took some amazing black and white photos while they tore the buildings down. Edie's partial image juxtaposed with the rubble. Destrution is something we all understand. It's also something a lot of us like to witness.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Rest In (a vintage) Piece

Ok, Merrie, when I was 10, there was three things I lived for. That every soon-to-be-homosexual boy in the mid-seventies lived for. (Besides candy.) Wacky Packages, Planet of the Apes tv show and Batgirl. Re-runs of Batman came on everyday after school. I would run home whispering under my breath. "Please be a Batgirl one. Please be a Batgirl one." The show's opening music would start out with the trumpet flourish (PLEASE!!) a few dunna dunna dunna dunnas, (I'VE BEEN GOOD!!) and then one: BAAM! (OHPLEASEOHPLEASEOHPLEASE) for Batman's punch at a bad guy, two: BOOH! (MMMMMMMMBATGIRLMMMMMMMM) for Robin's kick, and three: BEEEM! (AAAAAAAAAAAYYEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!) for Batgirl's swinging-in-on-a-rope kick. (Or another punch for Batman if, sadly, Batgirl wasn't on.)
Now don't get me wrong, it was also a good show if Eartha's or Julie's Catwoman (not Lee's, she was too nice) was on, I'm not stupid. So I think it was the girl in Batgirl I liked. I was a boy, and I related to girls. And Batgirl's life just seemed more realistic to me, I guess. When she was pissed off and wanted to do some ass-kickin', she didn't need a mansion with a huge batcave and Batmobile and all that other crap, all she needed was the wall in her bedroom to turn around and reveal her disguise and a motorcycle to get there. "That I could do! I'm gonna do that when I'm older! I'm gonna have a secret identity with wigs and tight outfits and a motorcycle!"
Hmm. Guess I got my wish, sorta. A bicycle, instead of a motorcycle. And you all know I wear wigs. (Wigs in the name of art, not ass-whoopin' or crime-fightin'.)
Oh my God, how could I forget Treasure Hunt! Remember that game show? There was one contestant, and 50 boxes wrapped like presents. They had one chance to pick a box with something good in it. There was something in each box, like a car or a trip or a check, but there were also duds. I can't remember what the duds were, just not good. Like an apple or a turd or something. It was like watching someone's birthday party. I hoped my parents would take the clue from my excitement for the show, and put something in my box that would make me scream and shit my pants like the big winners did. "Buy my happiness!!" Back then all it took was a pair of bell-bottom pants, FYI.
Back to the point, thrift-shopping became my new "I hope it's a Batgirl one".
I was inspired to write this post because I recently found out my favorite thrift store from the 80's closed. It was The Village Thrift on Halsted and Diversey.
Back then me and my friends didn't have a lot of money, so thrifting was perfect because it gave us so much for so little. We met new friends, bonded, found new looks, found a lot of crazy clothes, laughed our asses off, and came home with some great stuff we couldn't wait to show off at Berlin or Medusa's or Smartbar.
In the 80's, if I cared about you, or wanted to impress you, I took you to Village Thrift. In '85 I worked across the street, and went EVERY day at my lunch break. Eating my usual lunch of a giant Snicker's, or giant Oreo, I would think to myself, "Ok, I need a new brooch, black pants from the 60's, a cheap rosary, cool wig, or a vintage old man's dress shirt. Preferably french cuffs. Please, come on, just this once, let me find something good!" I was giddy with anticipation on the walk over. Oh, and heaven help me if the store looked full of new crap. "AAAA! I only have 15 minutes! I need more time!"
On the weekends my roommate Jody and Scott and I would go together. We would always find something black patent leather for Jody: cha-cha heels or long, skinny purses we called "dildo purses", plaid pants and blazers from the 60's for Scott, and I usually always scored something from my wish list. The store grouped their clothes by color, so it was always a race to the black section. "HURRY! RUN! I see people over there!!" Unfortunately, it was usually the leanest section.
The Indian women who worked there were always super-nice to us, and I knew them all by name, though they usually called me miss: "Helloo! Miss Brian!" (you can only correct someone so many times). But cross them or get caught stealing, and you were banned for life. Our friend John was banned. He said it was worth it because he got an amazing leather coat, but I couldn't imagine a worse fate. They never forgave and forgot.
Sometimes I would run into a friend and comment on their particularly great bag, or super-cool coat, and their response was always "Oh thanks, I got it at Village Thift! For one dollar! Can you believe it ?!"
The next day I would run over there a scour the entire store, and not find anything as remotely cool. "Why, why, whynot!!?? I want some cool!!"
I did go to other thrift stores in the city, but the closing of this one really saddened me, because I knew it so intimately. As the years went on, and I would pop in, so many memories would come back. I still have a lot of things I bought from there.( Mainly brooches) Nothing of any real monetary value, but so many countless moments I will always treasure.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bella Lagosi's Fearless

This morning I was listening to Goldfrapp on my headphones. I was really getting into it. "Ooo, I wanna dance! Yeah, dancey dancey. Hey, look at me, I'm "Goldfrapp"! Look at me go! No!, no time to dance, gotta leave for work. And you're OLD now. You're a MAN, not a BOY. Men don't dance before work. And, uh, oh yeah, you're fat."
Ughh. These are the wars raging in my head.
When I was 19 and in Beauty School (in Appleton, Wisconsin), I would get up around 6am, drink strong, black coffee, and smoke cigs and watch Bozo's Circus, usually nursing a hangover. After my shower, I would dance around the house after Dad left for work. I would put on either Whammy by The B-52's, Waking Up With the House on Fire by Culture Club, or Nina Hagen's Fearless, and dance for about an hour before school. I would dance like I was Nina or Boy, or like I was a back-round dancer in a video, or like I was at the Peppermint Lounge in New York. (There used to be a very amateur -looking cable show on on the weekends that was "live from the Peppermint Lounge" and you could watch cool skinny kids dance to the latest New Wave offerings.) It was like brushing my teeth: an essential start to my day. It was fun. You should try it.
Fearless is a great album with a title I took to heart. In Beauty School I dated Doug, an art student at UWO, and before I graduated, he moved to Chicago to go to the Art Institute. I really wanted to leave Appleton. I also really wanted to move to New York, but I didn't know anyone there. So I foolishly, blindly, brazenly, shockingly moved in with Doug. With literally 5 dollars and no job. I had been to Chicago only once before, for an 8th grade trip to the Field Museum. I knew NOTHING about Chicago other than what I saw on Goodtimes, and the night-time aerial shot of the city from the WGN station-identification breaks with that cool black lady's voice-over: "Double-ewe Gee En, Chicaw-gowe" It was like she was trying to match her voice to the majestic, sprawling vision of Chicago at night. She succeeded. It stopped me in my tracks every time.
But I really wanted to be in big city! I didn't care! I just went for it. On April 25th, 1985. Kelly drove me down, and the first thing I remember seeing was Lane Tech High School. I could not believe how big it was.

"Kelly, that's a school!" I said.

"What, do they make every kid in Chicago go to the same school?" She answered back.

We had some time to kill before Doug got home, so we found his apartment by Addison and Racine, and went shopping. She spotted the Century Mall, so we went there. I had to pee, so I searched out the bathroom. I opened the door, and there is this cute blonde guy in a suit taking a crap. Yes, on the toilet, but there were no walls around it. This is the first Chicagoan I've ever met, so I can't freak-out! (Even though I've never seen a grown man pooping before.) So I walk in with my best world-weary, I've-seen-'em-ALL-poop-before look on my face and .....wash my hands. I didn't want too see, hear, OR smell that. I scold myself: "You're in the big city now......people poop anywhere without shame...get used to it."
Later when Doug and his roommate Steve got home, we go out for my first night in town. Divine was performing 6 blocks away at Medusa's! (I had pictures of her hung up in my locker in highschool I cut out of People Magazine.) We tried to get in, but I had no i-d. We drive over to Take One, walk in, and there is Boy singing Miss Me Blind on their giant video screen. But they wanted i-ds, too, so we tried Club 950. They let us in. It was a grungy pub with a dance floor that looked like it saw better days a long time ago, but I loved it. That night Doug and I slept on the floor in Steve's room. I'm not really sure why that was, as I write this, I realize now why Doug moved back to Wisconsin a month later...

My point is, don't be afraid to take those big risks in your life, especially when those risks are dreams. And don't be afraid to let your blubber fly to your favorite tune. Now that takes bravery.