The trip from my trailer park to the strip bar usually lasts as long as a quart of beer. I had finished a 40 of King Cobra by the time I pulled the '76 Ford LTD into the midst of late-model German and Japanese cars. I found a parking space, and the motor sputtered to a halt, dumping a cloud of Pennzoil into the air. I killed the lights, flung the empty beer bottle into a nearby lot, grabbed the keys and moved toward the boomy source of an AC/DC ditty.
The facade of colorfully lighted glass brick, purple neon-shaped XXX's and yellow-and-red lights spelling out sucker-bait colloquialisms like Hardcore Girls and Naughty, Nude and Nasty does little to liberate the exchange of sex for money from its oppression, but the gaudiness still makes my heart skip a beat.
The entrance to Bitchin' Babes had a red velvet rope strung between two brass poles, behind which a Jock-in-the-Tux leaned against an open door. He had a toothpick in his mouth and a headful of self-satisfaction. I hated him instantly. His posture was implacably correct. His eyes were too close together, slighted by excess facial fat and pressed into a head which was topped with a Johnny Unitas coif.
"What are you, the doorstop?" I asked, nailing his job description in two words.
"It's five bucks to get in, loser," snorted Jock-in-the-Tux.
"Certainly!" I said in mock cheer and reached into my front pocket, found some sweat-soaked one-dollar bills, counted out five and handed them over. Jock-in-the-Tux was nonplussed with the damp Washingtons.
"Another wise-ass move like that and you'll be my punk bitch," he said, rolling his shoulders up and back.
I stepped over the plushy rope, smiled into Jock-in-the-Tux's sneer and went in. Inside, the smoky haze and garish, purple-and-red hues forced me to stand a moment until my eyes could catch up with the rest of me. Once the murkiness gave in to lines, I spotted an empty stool at the bar. I went over, sat down and had the bartender bring me a beer and a double shot.
"Nine-fifty," said the Jock-in-the-Tux's twin.
I handed him a 10. He trotted off and returned with the change like a musclebound lap dog.
"Thanks, friend," I said, and I could feel him wanting to pound my head in as I slipped the quarters into my pocket. I ignored him, did the shots and had a look around. Two dozen men were scattered at various tables around the room. There were 15 or so naked or half-naked women, some of whom gyrated in private one-on-one ceremonies for white-collar cash cows willing to cough it up. The others patrolled for the same, but generally looked too strained to feign sexiness. A stage in the middle of the room had connected to the ceiling a fireman's pole on which a seasoned but otherwise bored stripper was doing her best to an ancient Zep dirge.
"All right, gentlemen," went the DJ platitude over the sound system. "Up next is the always lovely and sensuous Anna, and gentlemen, prepare yourselves, she is HOT!" An insufferable Fiona Apple throb followed. Then I saw the truth:
The horrendous din turned silent when Anna moved out from behind the velvet curtain. . . . Lord, Mother of Christ . . . Jesus sings in heaven . . . a goddess whose sublime beauty dominated the stage as if it were an altar of worship built specifically for her: Oh, Anna, Sweet Queen of Saints . . . Her skin--golden-hued by virtue of Hispanic blood--glistened in sweet perspiration that I would give my life to, just once, innocently lick from her body. . . . Oh, Anna, blessed Mother of the Skin Trade . . . If I close my eyes right now and never open them again, I will have fulfillment.
Then it was over. Three songs gone in an instant. The horrible DJ started in. I couldn't take it. I was reeling. I stood up; my knees had alcohol wobble. I went anyway. I had to. My blood was rushing. My heart longed. Anna left the stage and disappeared behind a dressing-room door 30 feet away. I felt my body take over. . . . I went for it. . . . I had to. . . . The walls throbbed and the room spun, but I made it to the dressing room. . . . My hand had the knob. . . . I pushed it open. . . . I saw her . . . Oh, Anna, blessed Mother of the Skin Trade . . . A fist crashed into the side of my skull. I felt another shatter my nose. I felt the warmth of the blood down my neck as more punches landed. I heard the laughs of Jock-in-the-Tux and twins. The lights went down. Yes, they went down.
The Power Station
Living in Fear
You may ask yourselves: Power Station? . . . What the . . . ? John 12-steps-to-obscurity Taylor? . . . Huh? Well, at least J. Taylor quit after co-writing most of the "songs." What about Andy Taylor? Rod Stewart, my ass! Too much blow with Michael forget-me-not Des Barres, I say, and the gods aren't too forgiving. Just the very idea that he even played with Des Barres! Just the very idea of Des Barres!
Robert dime-store-Bryan Ferry Palmer, again? Consider this: Fiftysomething dude decked in fancy suits singing about the Power of the Shag and chicks on bikes! Yeeeech! I'll tell ya, I ain't even a girl and I got the willies. Strictly Eurotrash, honey!
When Power Station made videos that M(oribund)TV would play, I suffered through the indefensible T. Rex hatchet job Power Station did and imagined Marc Bolan's head coming back for vengeance--just how appalling to see my sixth-grade math teacher trying to deny his sexless persona by associating with the coke-twin Taylors. Abominable. Avoid, seriously, folks.
Greatest Hits Volume III
Man, I may live in a trailer park and be bummed out, underfed, overread, terminally malcontent and jaded a good portion of the time. Maybe I let Henry Miller, Hemingway (Margaux), Hepburn (Audrey) and Rat Pack-era Peter Lawford have their way with me. I may drop the ball on anything good that ever happens to me, but God forbid if I was ever, ever helium-headed enough to buy into the myth that is Billy Joel.
This is Billy Joel. This is Greatest Hits Volume III (!) on which he has the gall to include both a Leonard Cohen and a Bob Dylan song. This is the man in whose image Michael J. Fox was made. What else do you need?
Just the existence of Night Ranger is penance enough for all of our sins. Jesus Christ on a crutch! By track three of this thing, I had it out of the player and nailed into my faux-paneled wall next to my crucifix. Redemption, baby.
Get the Music Newsletter