By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
It's small and dark, and woven rugs depicting JFK hang above the low bar, along with about 50 numbered, ceramic mugs for the use of the regular patrons. The two-room club at Seventh Avenue and McDowell reminds me of a spot I used to hit when I lived in Gotham, and was usually one paycheck away from homelessness. I would go in late when it was good and crowded and crawl along the beer-spattered floor in the hopes of coming across a 20 some hammered patron had dropped. One night, I found 50 bucks and a crack pipe with half a rock in it. Boo-yah!
These days, life ain't as bleak. Still, Jett and I enjoy going low-maintenance once in a while. Sure, sipping Alize and champagne in Snottsdale can be fun, but we like to change the game as much as possible to keep our flava fresh. So the Emerald Lounge it was, where we'd heard some cool bands would be hitting the stage about 10 p.m.
Once there, Jett and I saddle up a couple of stools and order a couple of brew-ha-has from our man Don Baber tending bar. In the poor light, Don looks like a cross between Ric Ocasek and Mr. Spock, and he soon sets us up with dueling $3.50 pints, as the throng starts to thicken in anticipation of headliner Hell on Heels and this other band named Balls.
Next to us, we strike up a confab with Gene Grimwood, who's wearing a white tee shirt and sporting long sideburns and a goatee, and his pal Paintbrush, who's wearing a black Social Distortion jacket and a red tartan golf cap.
"'Sup, fellas," says my lipsticker pallie, nodding her head like one of the guys. "What's the story tonight?"
"I'm here to blow off some steam," answers Gene. "I'm an elementary teacher on the west side, and it's been a rough week."
"I'll bet," I say. "I hope you're not in a bad-ass school where the kids come to school packin' heat?!"
"Not really. They're pretty young still, from 5 to 12. Most of 'em have good hearts. But some have bad backgrounds and different disabilities."
"How about them parent-teacher conferences?" I ask. "Ever had a throw-down with some kid's parent?"
"No, no," says Gene, who reminds me of a pre-Kill Bill David Carradine. "When you walk up to anybody and you have a good disposition, they'll respond in kind."
Looking toward the other dude, Jett says, "So, I'll bite. Why do they call you 'Paintbrush'?"
"I used to have a Mohawk, but I got rid of it for my job," he says.
"Oh, so now you're legit?" I ask.
"I'm not legit," he says, defensively. "Look at these tattoos! I've got 13 piercings in my ears."
"And don't forget that hat, dawg," I say, laughing. "That thing's raw. But it's missing the furry white ball on top."
"Hey, this hat matches my kilt," he says, seeming serious. "But I'm not wearing it tonight, obviously."
"So what do you wear under that kilt, sailor?" Jett asks, smirking.
"Nothing. I don't own underwear. There might be some hanging at my house, but I haven't worn any for four or five years."
"Let me guess: You're single, eh?" Jett cracks.
"Whew," she says, pulling me away. "I wouldn't want to get a whiff of his britches."
We move on to a chick with jet-black hair and white-white skin in a sexy black miniskirt and a low-cut top. Shara's sucking back a golden cocktail and playing one of those video bar games that's a little like Wheel of Fortune, minus Pat Sajak. I help her spell out "Porno for Pyros," and she tells me about the day she spent in Sheriff Joe's Tent City.
"I live about two blocks away, but since I had this DUI, I always call a cab when I go home. Usually I go here first, then Hot Pink, then home."
"Where did you get the DUI?" I ask.
"I was coming home from a place in Scottsdale," she explains. "I spent $4,000, and my lawyer still didn't get me off -- some guy at Phillips and Associates. So I had to spend a day in Tent City."
"Was that scary?" Jett wants to know.
"Very scary," Shara says. "I mean, I'm just a normal girl. I have a good job. I'm a research director at a real estate company. I pay my taxes, make decent money, all that. This was a big tent, double bunks."
Jett's eyes expand, her mind replaying scenes from chicks-in-prison sexploitation classics like Caged Heat or Big Bird Cage, or maybe just the behind-bars sequences of Chicago.
"Gulp, so your tent was all women?" inquires the lezzie Sean Paul.
"Yeah, but you didn't have to wear the pink underwear or the stripes. Since people like me weren't in for long, we just had to wear what we wore in. I layered up, because it was cold at night. The food was really shitty. The bologna was green."
"Did any of the other girls, well, you know . . ." Jett asks, smiling.
"No one bothered me, but there were chicks making out in the bathrooms and stuff. Oh, and they had drugs in there. They'd reach back behind the toilets, move these tiles in the wall, and that's where they had them. I don't know what kind of drugs exactly, though."
"Intents!" I say.
"Hey Kreme," nudges Jett. "Hell on Heels is going on. Let's check it out!"
We stroll to the back and to the left where there's a slightly larger room papered over with fliers for bands like Smut Muffin, Liars Club and Spaz Kitty.
On stage, the power-punk foursome rips it up. But the crowd, smelling of the good ganja, is super mellow. Definitely not an audience-participation night.
Afterward, we kick it with terminally cute guitarist and vocalist Paula Monarch, who seemed disappointed by the crowd response, but was looking forward to recording the first of the group's three-record deal with L.A.-based Bomp! Records.
"You know," she tells me, as she orders a drink, "with those sunglasses, you look like a reject from a rerun of that show CHiPs."
"Gee, thanks. Actually, I was trying to channel a cross between Jim Jones and Luther Vandross, before he lost all the weight."
Monarch laughs and says, "What if I say, 'Everything here's off the record'?"
"That might work if we were actual journalists!" I respond.
Nonplussed, she asks, "So, you guys are partners?"
"Yeah," answers Jett. "I'm Starsky and he's the car."
"Well, you've gotta admit," I state for the record. "That red Ford Gran Torino was the coolest thing about the movie. So, Paula, can I be your first official groupie before you guys blow up and move to L.A.?"
"Are you willing to strip naked at all of our shows?" she asks.
Incredulous, Jett asks, "Do you really want to see that naked?"
Moving the focus off my fat self, I say, "So tell me, how did you guys get on the New Times cover? Come on, you can tell me, you used our music columnist, Brendan Joel Kelley, as a pass-around, right?"
"Yes, I admit it," she pants, batting her eyes. "We made him wear leather briefs and spanked him."
The thought of Kelley getting his fanny whipped by the lovely Paula makes me feel faint. Suddenly everything goes dark. The next thing I know, I'm on the floor and Jett is pouring a vodka red bull down my throat.
By this time, a punk band's up on stage. It's Balls, and it's all male except for the hot blonde lead singer. On my feet again, Jett tells me some skinheads outside have a beef with one of the bands, and they're looking to beat up anyone who walks out.
"Damn," I say. "And I left my Taser in the car."
"Kreme, we've got to get out of here!" Jett declares.
"Well, I'm gonna get another drink. Every man, and, uh, lesbian for himself!"
I march back to the bar and order us two Jaeger shots. There, we meet Mike Red, this tall bald dude with multiple piercings who looks like he can protect us. Jett tells him about the Nazi A-holes outside, and he seems rarin' to go (as soon as he finishes his drink, natch). I come to learn that Mike's a retired professional fire-eater.
"Now, I play guitar for a three-piece called Sound of Birds. We're very slow, very dreamy. That's what we're going for, anyway."
And about chowing down on hellfire for a living?
"I performed with this group Culte du Feu. We did a lot of work for Camel cigarettes, and we opened up for Perry Farrell. You have to get into the vibe of fire. It's a trance-like state, like with fire-walkers. When you're in the zone, it doesn't affect you the same as it would normally."
He puts his cigarette out on his tongue.
"Ouch!" I yelp, feeling his pain.
"Yeah," he says nonchalantly. "The downside is, I don't taste anymore. After four years, my sense of smell has gone down, too. I also lost a tooth from having hard fuels in my mouth, like Zippo fluid and lamp oil. You start to deteriorate, as if you were doing too much crystal over time. So I'm out of the fire business and on to the rock 'n' roll."
"What about the skinheads, dude?" asks Jett, nervously.
"Oh, right," Red says. He finishes his drink and heads out the door to do battle. Seems other guys have headed out to do the same, like some pierced-and-tatted Wild West posse.
Jett looks at me accusingly. "What, you're not gonna help?!"
"Remember, I'm the brains of this outfit, baby," I respond. "One blow to my head, and we're both out of a job. Besides, I'm a lover, not a fighter."
"Yeah, a lover of crullers," sneers Jett.