Saturday, April 29, 2006

Get the Balance Right


So I know I left a "cliffhanger" a few weeks ago, but I can't continue that story until I tell you this story. I'm a little off "deadline" anyway, so you won't have much of a wait for "closure".
I am trying to tell this tale in the order it happened, but it gets difficult, because it was so long ago, and memories, alas, fade, or pop back into my mind at the wrong time...
I remember going to Paradise for the first time with Scott and Doug, wearing Doug's shoes, because his were one size smaller than mine, so they hurt my feet, but they matched my outfit perfectly, so, of course, I had to wear them. He really didn't want me to wear them, because they were a cream color, and he didn't want them scuffed.
"Be careful! You can wear them if you don't dance in them!" He said.
I was torn. I loved dancing.
" I don't think that would really be an issue at Paradise, Brian. Not unless you have to dance to Laura Branagan or The Pointer Sisters. The music sucks!" Scott said.
"Oh, I see..."
"It's a cool place that was great in 1980, but not any more. It has so much potential to be a really great place, and we keep going back to see if we were there on a 'bad night', but every night seems to be a bad night. I guess we go there now to imagine what it was like, or could be like, than to deal with what is really there." He grimaced, shaking his head.
"Then why are we going again?"
"I want you to meet Tony. And the weekday crowd is ok, I guess."
"Do you have your offering, Scott, or do you need to borrow something? Don't worry, Brian, I got you covered" Doug asked.
"No, I'm all set." Scott said. I said nothing.
Paradise was shabby disco on Broadway, that closed in '88 or so, where that Linen and Things mall is now, near Diversey. It really was a relic leftover from the 70's disco heyday, even though it opened in 1980. Now, don't get me wrong, I love disco, but it was the music of my childhood, and it didn't really fit in with my relax, don't do it lifestyle any more.
I worked with a guy who used to go there back in the day, and he had many stories to tell me when he found out I was going there. (I didn't have the heart to tell him we went there for the kitch and camp value only.) The best 'story' was the one about the night the thousand pound lighting system came crashing down onto the dance floor, killing one and injuring a half dozen. That was usually my day dream of choice whenever I went there: imagining if the music would still be on during the pandemonium of feathered hair and polyester dresses and broken strappy highheels and spilled drinks and "macho men" screaming...oh I could just go on and on in my morbid fantasy world.

Scott and I weren't 21 at the time, so we had to go really early, to get there before the bouncer did. We'd sit in the front bar and nurse a beer for two hours til the dance floor opened.
When the dance floor opened, the coat check opened. Year round. They made you check something. You had to check something if you wanted into the dance area. No choice. And if you bitched about it, you were asked to leave. We called this "the offering". Some article of clothing that wasn't necessary to your ensemble you could "check". I never understood why they just didn't charge a weekday cover or a higher cover, but it was really funny watching people freak out over this rule. I think maybe it was a way to get cute guys to take off their shirts? I dunno.
If you were a regular, they would sometimes ask if your shirt was part of your look, "Um, yeah, my shirt is part of my 'look' " and let you slide. But this wasn't guaranteed, so you had to be prepared. I guess if the coat check guy got his "fix", he was nice. (Kit-Kat bars? Baby casserole?)
This where I met Tony and David. (Yes, Cerda.) Tony and David both worked there. I didn't meet David right away, though. I was so in awe of him and jealous of his look, I was a afraid to meet him for fear he wouldn't like me, and I really wanted him to like me. "Gasp! I want to be his best friend!" I said to Scott.
He was tall and thin and was a speedy blur of all black tight clothes with fishnet hose in weird places and hair extensions, toting his barback tub on his shoulder, and his make up was exactly like Nina Hagen's! (I think I was mainly jealous of his ability to pull off black lipstick.)
Well, not exactly like Nina's, cause he wasn't in drag per say, he still looked like a boy: a Nina Boy. He was able to take Nina's look as an inspiration, a jumping-off point, if you will, and make it his own.
When I was a senior in highschool, my secret shame was that I would tie dozens of different colored bandanas in my hair til it looked like Boy George's hair, and put on Color by Numbers and dance dance dance like I was George at a concert, taking bows and waving to my fans in between songs in my room with the door locked. I always felt sorry for the kids who would dress up like him to see his concerts. There were seas and seas of bowler hats and braids and pouty lips and big white shirts. They looked like they had costumes on, not clothes. George wore those clothes because he was a fashionista, not because he was playing a part in a musical. I could see the difference. Other British bands dressed in a similar way. Visage. Haysi Fantayzee. Etcetera.
I would pretend to be him in my room, but never I had the courage to dress like that all the time, though I wanted to. Besides, George was "George" first. And I wanted people to dress like me!
So when I saw David, it all clicked. You can dress similar to your favorite star; dress with "Bowie undertones" or with "shades of Debbie" to get across the general idea, without it being a costume or being a clone. Your "look" was very important in the 1980's, and it was very important for truly creative people to respect other people's ideas and to be original. Otherwise, you were labeled a WANNBE. The label of death.
David and I are good friends to this day.
Also, Tony (Chris' roommate) worked at Paradise, and through him I got my first "real" job, and met my current close friend and co-worker Anthony.
I guess I owe a lot Paradise and it's inability to live up to it's potential. You never know where your life can be changed.

6 comments:

David said...

I always thought you and your crowd were too arty for me! I just made due with what I had. Times were simpler then...

lewislane77415324 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah said...

Hi Bri,

Just wondering if Mr. Cerda will continue to post on your blog after being quoted in the Sunday NY Times. :)

XOXO
Sarah

BC said...

He'd show up to the opening of an envelope.

David said...

I heard that!

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