Monday, September 04, 2006

The Damned Don't Cry

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One October day in 1985, in the slow, somewhat lame salon in Lakeview I worked in, my friend Tony came to see me.
"Girl! Can you do my hair tonight? We're having a big party at Limelight; Marilyn is performing! Can you believe it?! My boss is in town, and I want to impress him! Rumor has it Marilyn is being forced to perform here, because of a huge bar tab he owes the London Limelight. Here's a pass to get in!" He said.
I was a little disappointed Marilyn had a mohawk in the photo on the invite, but he still looked amazing. (I wish I had saved it! When my friend Ava got a job in the offices there, a few months later, she would let me dig through all the invitations they saved, to try and find one, but, alas, to no avail...I have a few others, though.)
"Huge bar tabs? How glamorous! Sure! Come back at 5!" I said.

I first saw Marilyn when I was a teenager in the midwest, in a short documentary called Stepping Out in London, which HBO would sometimes air between features in the early 80's. It starred mainly Steve Strange from Visage, as I remember, and featured a not-yet-famous Boy George, and Marilyn. It was about the New Romantic/Blitz scene and their music and crazy fashions and nightclubs in London at the time. I would giddily check the movie schedules each week, and try and figure out when they had enough time to air it, because it was never scheduled; they would just pop it on every now and then. (Much to my chagrin.) It was actually made to run as a short before the movie Alien. I don't follow the logic for that, but...
I remember the movie beginning with Marilyn walking down the street in cha-cha heels, tight jeans and a black sweater. Somehow, with very little make-up, but perfect bleach-blonde hair, but he was the reincarnation Marilyn Monroe. I was riveted, and seriously made plans as to how I could runaway to London, so I could hang out with them. Words cannot describe the breath of freedom this documentary blew into my stifling, narrow-minded, smalltown life. I didn't know Marilyn had made a record he could perform at Limelight, but I couldn't wait to see him in person.

Later, when Tony came back, and I was making his hair as tall humanly possible, using the edge of a super-hot iron and cans of Aqua-Net, he whispered some news to me:
"I told one of my bar patrons you are looking for a job, cause she is opening a new salon in the DePaul area. She's fun and cool, so I think you should talk to her. You gotta get out of this place!"
He gave me her number, and I promised to call.
My life was in so much turmoil at the time, I didn't know if I could handle any more change. But I needed to do something, cause I made so little money at that salon. The turmoil started when Jody and I got into a huge fight/misunderstanding with Scot and Brad, after Brad had come back, and we moved out of the apartment and into Jody's friend Kip's place, off Belmont near the lake.
Kip's large apartment was definitely a huge step up from the slum we lived in, but I loathed Kip. He was a trust fund kid who pretended he wasn't, and a black-hearted snob. When Jody was around, Kip was fun to be with, but he had such a scary, secretive nature, I dreaded being alone with him because he liked to turn everything I said around, and into more fodder for his gossipy games. Whenever he went on one of his one-upmanship rants, because my experiences/life/friends were so inferior to his, I took quiet solace in the unspoken fact that I had a perfect complexion, and most people liked me, while he bore the cross of huge and painful facial and bodily skin problems, and most people didn't like him. I hated turning but I have perfect skin and everyone likes me into a subconscious mantra, but he left me no choice; I had to do something! (I would never have stooped to his level and told him those things to his face.) He also had an annoying "club" he created and imagined everyone wanted to be in, for 'cool people only', which I was refused membership to.
Why that made me so mad, I'll never know.
While Jody and I lived there, I put Pierre et Gilles and Siouxsie Xeroxes on the wall in our bedroom, we slept til 5pm every weekend, I sewed pants out of old curtains for us, and read every Prisoner: Cell block H book I could find at the thrift store. I was hooked on that PBS show as a kid. Oh yeah, and Jody almost killed us both in bed one morning, because she fell asleep with a lit cigarette. I slept right through the mayhem, and was confused when I woke up with a giant burn hole in the middle of the futon. She felt horrible, and promised never to do it again. (I was secretly elated, because it was so Edie-esque.) I asked her the next day why she didn't wake me up so I wouldn't burn to death, and she said she tried, and then said that I sat up and looked at the fire for a second, mumbled something, and went back to sleep.

"Such is the life of an elf..."

My turmoil grew even greater when I sadly decided I needed to move back home. I just didn't make enough money, especially now, with the big increase in my rent. Jody and I had a long talk one night about this, and she refused let me move, and said she would help me out financially. (I wouldn't be in Chicago today if it weren't for her generosity.)
I put all that aside as we excitedly got ready to go to Limelight to see Marilyn. The club was packed, so I was grateful Brad was working there, cause he got us into the VIP lounge. He and I had made a secret pact to pretend to be mad at each other, so as to not upset Jody and Scot, one night while doing drugs in the enrtyway of my new apartment. The glamorous occasion was good cover for his friendly actions, for don't all glamorous occasions over-ride any petty quarrels?
He told us about the photo shoot in the basement with Marilyn, and how great he was, and how no one expected the show to start til about 2am.
We sat around for hours, getting wasted on free long islands, courtesy of Tony, waiting for Marilyn. When he finally did get on stage, wearing uninspired clothing and hair choices, he sang Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky. (This was before Doctor and the Medics had their big hit with it. I always wondered who decided to cover it first, and if Marilyn was jealous of their huge success with it.) He seemed a little nervous, I think, because the crowd to see him was so big, and he wasn't sure if we were there to 'bury him or praise him'. He did get booed when he left the stage after that song, because that's the only one he sang.
The next day I called Consita, the owner of the salon Tony told me about, and we hit it off well, so we set up a time for me to 'audition' a haircut for them. That went well, too, so I gave my two weeks notice at work.
A few nights later was the Adam Ant concert for Vive Le Rock at the Aragon. Jody was running late, and parked her car in a permit-only space while she ran in to get me. During the five minutes it took her to do that, her car was towed. We freaked-out, and tore the apartment apart to find the 90 cents we each needed to take the bus there, for we literally had no money. I could sense Kip's barely masked glee at our misfortune as he pretended to help us look for quarters in the couch. We eventually did come up with enough to get there, cause Kip 'found' some money in his room, but not enough to get back home. We decided the five mile walk home in the cold rain would be worth it, cause we would get to see Adam. The concert had little in the way of an audience, but excess in terms of showmanship and energy. He looked so sexy in his so-ripped-up-they-were-barely-there jeans and t-shirt. Jody and I floated out of that concert, oblivious to the weather. Soon a car load of friends we didn't know were at the show stopped to give us a ride home.
A few weeks later, I start work at my new salon, on the first of November, and walked right past the writing on the wall, because moments after I came in the door, what does Consita do, but launch right into an hour long behind-the-back attack about someone she had just hired. My stomach started turning, because I knew it was going to take me years to get out of this mess...

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