Gutter Depravity

So I'm kickin' it like a 300-pound Charles Bukowski in the butt-end of the gloriously sleazy Ky's Place, situated in a shabby strip mall on the northwest corner of 32nd Street and Indian School Road, when One-Eyed Josh decides to pull a Sammy Davis Jr. and show me how he earned his handle.

"See, it comes out just like that," he tells me, pulling his left eye out of its socket with two fingers, not unlike the way rapper Houston did it in a London hotel room a while back, save for the fact that the One-Eyed One's left ocular orb is faker than Tara Reid's tits.

"Whoa! I'd never have guessed from looking at you, bro," I say, nearly spewing Newcastle all over myself as I study the plastic eye in Josh's hand and the empty space in his face. "Your eye socket's like a hole in a bowling ball. I'll bet I could fit my thumb in there. How did that happen?"

"I lost it in 1989 protecting a girlfriend in Cleveland, Ohio," my Cyclopean pal relates matter-of-factly. "This guy was fucking around with her in our apartment complex. I told him to back off. One day, he confronts me in the street. Puts a gun to my head and pulls the trigger. Point-blank."

"Wow, did the bullet go straight through?" I wonder, looking around for the J-Unit, who's missing out on this wicked shit.

"Nah, it ricocheted off a bone and took out a window about 75 feet away," he relates, popping his eye back into his skully. "I'm a hardheaded punk-rock motherfucker."

"And damn lucky to be alive," I observe. "Though it makes for a cool bar story. Ever get laid from showing that off?"

"Two or three times a year, if I'm lucky," he replies, shaking his head and sucking on a Bud Light. "That's not exactly good, my friend."

"I think I know just the trashy ho to help you with that problem," I state. "At least for the night. Lemme go see if I can find her raunchy, inebriated ass."

I wade through the passel of busty-lusty roller derby chickalinas who've jammed into this crusty hole on a Monday night to hang with their bud Meleah, the lovely blond bartenderess who used to skate with the Renegade Rollergirls as Annie Chokley before a bad leg break sidelined her and kept her gimpy for some time. We first ran into Meleah at an event at the dog track a while back ("Dog Park Decadence," August 5, 2004), but hadn't heard from her until we reconnected with her on MySpace.

Found out she was bartending at Ky's and drawing a decent crowd for what they call "Meleah Mondays," with DJ "Nekkid" Nate and his sometimes partner Cro-Mag spinning mostly punk and hardcore, but also the odd hip-hop or country track. Meleah extended the invite to get faded and felt up on a school night. And we were all over that like white on rice, Jack.

Ky's is a dingy dive with two pool tables, a long bar, and gold-lace wallpaper that's reminiscent of that at Chez Nous. That's probably because they date from the same era, the early '60s, I'm guessing. The red neon sign out front has been half-dead for as long as anyone can remember, and no one seems to know who the eff "Ky" is or was: Even Randy Grouth has no idea. He's Ky's self-described "activities director" (read: "manager"), the guy responsible for making the long-gone Blue Ox a local punk-rock legend.

Grouth also gets credit for helping turn The Rogue into a cash cow for owner Mark Maertens, first in its punk-rock incarnation, then in its newer, glammier version. Maertens owns The Rogue, The Rogue West, and Ky's, and now Grouth has transformed Ky's into what The Rogue was before Katie Rose and William Fucking Reed became the rage: a greased-up cranny where the rougher, tatted, no-frills crowd can hang and imbibe mass quantities for the price of filling up your gas tank.

"You know how I describe this bar?" asks Grouth at one point in the evening. "Ever see that scene in Pinocchio where everyone starts smoking cigars and turning into jackasses? That's this bar. I like it like that. You don't need a uniform to walk through those doors, or have your hair cut a certain way. Anyone can come in here."

And despite the preponderance of punks, roller-derby dames and assorted knuckle-draggers, just about anyone and everyone does make the scene at Ky's. Could be some dude who looks like Billy Idol and works as a chef at the Penthouse Club, or a cat who resembles Huey Freeman on The Boondocks with the 'fro to match. And why not? Ky's does have a kitschy charm to it, from the black-velvet paintings of matadors and bare-assed bimbos to the painted skateboards behind the bar and the red lanterns above it. The Warriors is playing on one TV screen, and the jukebox is slam full of cool CDs hand-picked by Grouth. Stuff like T. Rex, The Cure, The Clash, Iggy Pop, The Strokes, Joy Division, The Cramps, Bauhaus, and, of course, The Ramones.

Nekkid Nate D-O-double-G is spinning something by The Briefs, followed closely by the Clown Prince of Rap, Biz Markie, with his plaintive '80s hip-hop hit "Just a Friend," when I catch sight of the PHX's supposedly boy-crazed LaLa Vasquez chatting up this va-va-voom vixen Nicole, who has a body shaped like a glass Coke bottle, and a sexy tattoo of an image from the erotic pop artist Olivia on one arm. Seems Nicole bartends here on Saturday nights, and slings ink at Tempe's Rebel Art Tattoos the rest of the week.

"Hey, I thought you gave up chicks for Lent," I crack at the J-girl's expense as I approach the pair.

"Stick a urinal cake in it, Kreme," harrumphs the Jettalator. "I was just quizzing Nicole about the tat biz. Could be a good move for me."

"You mean working for a living?" I jibe, then, turning to Nicole and her figure-8 frame, "How long have you been painting bodies permanently, Nicole?"

"Nine years," she answers. "I guess I've got a little bit of experience."

"I just think it's awesome that we girls are coming up in the tattoo game," enthuses Jett. "Do you mostly end up tattooing guys or girls over at Rebel Art?"

"It's a whole range of people, from kids right out of college to grandmothers," she responds. "It's really diverse."

"What's the wildest place you've ever inked someone?" I inquire.

"I generally don't do anything below the waist," she replies. "I did it once on a male friend of mine, and that was the last time. It's too difficult. I don't know if you guys know this, but your, uh, appendage will tend to shrink up and run away from me when I try to tattoo it. Or it'll go to the opposite side of where I'm trying to go."

"With Kreme here, you'd also need a really, really powerful magnifying glass," snarks the Jettster. "Sorta like those people at the state fair who write your name on a grain of rice."

"Oh, you're a riot, Jett. A real laugh riot," I tell her, then ask Nicole, "Do a lot of guys want that done to their wangs? Sounds pretty painful to me."

"Well, there was this article about two months ago in the College Times on female tattoo artists," she explains. "After that I had all these guys calling asking me to tattoo their stuff. I tell 'em, 'I'll do it for a thousand bucks if your mom holds it.' So far no one's taken me up on it."

"Hmmm," I say, scratching my chin. "Someone else's mom, maybe . . ."

Nicole's got places to go and people to see, so she cuts us loose, and we head back to the bar for refills from Meleah. There we run into our bud Brad Henrich, owner of TT Roadhouse and Shady's, and we tip a jar with him. Also in the hizzy tonight are Amy Bowling of Plush Living in Tempe, as well as two of the most talented painters in P-town: Jason Rudolph Peña and Jules Demetrius, both of whom recently left the Alpha Monster collective to start their own collaborative project called The Minutemen, which they spell "M1NUTM3N," maybe to separate themselves from the border-patrolling dillweeds of the same name.

I score a pint of Newkie Brown, Jett cops herself a bucket of vodka-tonic, and after self-lubricating, we decide to brush up on some of these here roller-derby babes. Soon we're conversatin' with cuties Joann-Thrax and T-Wrexxx. They inform us that the Renegades will soon be appearing on A&E's Rollergirls cable show this March 6! They shot the episode about six months ago -- a bout with Austin's Allstar Army. But the gals won't come clean on who won the match-up.

"I can't give away everything," Miss Thrax tells us. "You'll have to watch the show. I can tell you one of the girls came back with a black eye, and there were a few others who had bruises and scratches. But come see it with us! We're gonna have a viewing party at Sugar Daddy's when the show airs."

"Cool," coos the Jettster, again seeming to forget her new status as a non-bi-breeder-bizzahtch. "I love watching hot chicks whale on each other."

'Bout this time, Meleah finally nabs a break from barkeeping, and we confabulate about her new hubby, and her now crutch-free existence.

"I have a regular, straight job," says Meleah. "But I do this on Monday nights because it's a lot of fun, even though it's rough getting up in the A.M."

"Tell us, why do they call the DJ 'Nekkid' Nate?" questions the J-girl.

"We were in here last Halloween, the place was really dead, and we were kidding around, so I suggested he get naked," chuckles Meleah. "He actually did it! But you couldn't really tell since he was standing behind that DJ area."

"There's an idea: Maybe we should do a whole Inferno where I go au naturel," I suggest.

"And call it what?" queries Jett. "Fatback Mountain?"

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons