I don't know who's been peeing in God's Rice Krispies lately, but too many people I know have been dying. Seems like every time I turn around, someone cool has keeled over here in P-town, usually way before their time: a pal's stepdaughter, a friend of a friend, or someone else I'm connected to tangentially, all in their 20s or 30s. I mean, I'm glad to be alive 'n' shit, but this death thing sucks. The finality of it is nearly impossible to wrap your head around.
For me, the Grim Reaper's winning streak kicked off with the untimely demise of Sid Copeland, the owner of Jugheads, from a heart attack on April 22. Apparently, Sid was lifting weights when his ticker tuckered out, which is probably the best argument I've ever heard against exercise in my entire life. People tell me the guy had some medical history, but all the same, I plan to keep my fat ass away from the gym from now on! Sid was only 33 when he passed, and, unlike many club owners, was almost universally loved by the denizens of PHX nightlife. AZPunk.com has even erected a site in Sid's honor at www.VivaSid.com, soliciting donations on behalf of Sid's widow, Tonya, and their three kids. You can read more about the punk community's reaction to Sid's death by checking out New Times music writer Brendan Joel Kelley's recent obit for the bar owner ("Hard to Say Goodbye," May 4).
What the PHX's bi-Nelly Furtado and I appreciate about the Sidster is that he was the first to grant a home to our fave cavalcade of slutty freakdom, known to one and all as Sadisco. For us, Sid's a cross between King Moonracer, the winged lion who was the ruler of the Island of Misfit Toys in the Rankin-Bass TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Gomez Addams of The Addams Family fame, with the Sadiscoites as his adopted brood of Cousin Itts, Pugsleys, Wednesdays, Things, Lurches, and Uncle Festers.
Jugheads became Sadisco's Spahn Ranch, where Sid's other kids act out their blood-spattered, garbage-strewn Mansonesque fantasies to an industrial dance beat. Over time, this Sadistic Disco's macabre mayhem has proven a guaranteed draw, whether it's held at .anti_space, The Sets, Mardi Gras, or back at its home base of Jugheads, where we stopped by on a recent Saturday night for "Sadisco 54.3: Radio Sidney," a takeoff of Studio 54 with glitter, roller girls and boys, and the occasional disco tune spliced into the noise/EBM soundtrack.
Yes, we've covered Sadisco once already this year, but it seemed appropriate to attend this whacked-out tribute to the man who first allowed Toby Heidebrink (Dr. Squalor), Donnie Burbank (currently "Dr. Fever"), and all of their demented minions to take over his club and turn it into a raunch-filled bughouse for the evening. This first-ever Sid-disco features huge trays of (alas) fake coke; sweaty, half-naked roller-ing around the bar by those wearing old-school roller skates; giveaways of vintage disco LPs and Sadisco underwear, which may or may not have been used previously to judge by whiffing them; gore-covered walls repeating Sadisco's name; and a long, psychedelic documentary of the Manson family murders with Vincent Bugliosi, Susan Atkins, and Squeaky Fromme, being screened on the bar's TV sets. Despite the legality of the faux booger sugar on display, everyone at least acts like they're on something, judging by how touchy-feely they are. Unlike at other Sadisco events, a portion of the door is going to the Copeland family, and there are donation jugs set up all around. At midnight, in the place of the usual naked, ad hoc striptease, there's a moment of silence, to mark Sid's passing to that big ol' waterin' hole in the sky.
As soon as the Jettster and I arrive, we make for the bar, and re-baptize that bitch in Sid's honor by doing a couple of rounds of Jäger bombers. Serving us is gentle giant Chuck D, the general manager of the joint, and one of Sid's best buds when the cat was with the living. He introduces us to Sid's widow Tonya, a beautiful blonde in a tight, black-vinyl outfit. We all pile outside to escape the thump of the industrial music, and Tonya explains that all of the benefits in Sid's honor have helped her keep Jugheads going.
"We're just like you," she tells us. "We're not rich. We're working, trying to pay our bills. I own another business as well, Tonya's Tots on Scottsdale Road, which is a Buffalo Exchange for baby stuff. So I'm running a store, I'm running a bar, and I have three children. It's hard, but Jugheads is Sid. To get rid of it would be beyond me."
"So how did Sadisco hook up with Jugheads to start?" I inquire.
"Maybe you should ask Toby that," she replies. "Toby, come here a sec!"
Toby's also outside at the moment, wildly roller-skating back and forth on his own, dressed in a gold slip, like a one-man AZ Roller Derby. He speeds up to us, and stops just short of running us over. Asked the same Q, he says he owes it all to incarceration.
"I got a DUI -- for drugs, not liquor, mind you," he smirks, as Tonya rolls her eyes at him. "So I go to jail. On my way out, I'm sitting in the exit area, and I'm talking to this guy who was one of the bartenders who worked here at Jugheads. I said, 'You know, I wanna throw a party!' And he said, 'Come on down.' The rest is history."
"We cater to every group that's outcasted by every other club," chimes in Chuck D. "We get people in suits, people in rags. They're all treated the same."
Chuck D explains that he was one of those outcasts at one time, until Sid took him under his wing.
"He was the best guy in the world to work for," claims Chuck D. "It's like he gave me a home and family to come to every day. I'm one of those millions of people who don't have a family to go home to, and Sid made sure that I did. He always took care of me."
There have been other fund raisers held for Jugheads and the Copelands, and there will be at least one more on July 8 for Sid's B-day. As far as the future goes, both Chuck D and Tonya share that Jugheads is looking to build a patio on the patch of land in front of the club, which faces McDowell Road, as the venue is now too small to accommodate many of the acts they host there.
Our little group breaks up, and the Jettster and I dip back into the debauchery under way. The usual suspects are in the hizz-ay, up to no good, as usual: Satanic Angie, offering up her juicy glutes for any and all to smack; amorous Abel in an aqua-blue Afro wig, red hot pants, and green tights; and top Sadisco wench "Ditch," who in the face resembles a young Jodie Foster, done up in glitter, posing on this bed set up against one wall, still laced up in roller blades. DJ Blonde Noize is also present, along with DJ ///she///. The latter is soon on the decks, making the dance floor bump like that Fuse network TV show Pants-off Dance-off.
The J-unit and I knock back several more Jäger bombers, which in turn cause the Jettster to head for the loo to, uh, powder her nose. The club's smoke machine is too much for me, so I step outside to the alfresco living room the Sadiscoites have constructed. There I spy Club Hell's DJ Nfin8, puffin' on one of the hookahs provided by that water-pipe catering service The Den. Personally, though, I'd rather not suck on a hookah unless I know where she's been . . .
Nearby the hookahs, there's this fine dime with raven tresses by the name of Carrie, and soon we're talking. Seems Carrie's a fairly regular Sadisco-goer, but I've never spotted her before, and believe me, I would've remembered.
"So you're a big fan of the club?" I inquire.
"Oh, yeah, it's like live-action Pink Flamingos," she says, grinning mischievously.
"As long as we don't have to nosh any turds like Divine did in that flick," I tell her. "A little bird has already told me that the July 15 Sadisco will be a John Waters tribute. Makes you wonder what the hors d'oeuvres will look like. So are you a student?"
She nods her head. "I go to MCC," she responds. "I'm studying art. I want to teach art someday."
"Who's your favorite artist?" I query.
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"Renoir's pretty good," she says. "It's pretty funny, you know, when Impressionism first came out, it was considered ghastly. They wouldn't let women go to the exhibitions if they were pregnant, and stuff like that. Now you look at it and go, Who could hate that?'"
"These days, they put it on coffee mugs," I agree. "Gets harder and harder to offend people as the centuries pass. Though believe me, I'm doing my best."
I duck back inside to search for the Jettster, who's prolly holding court with other bi-lovin' femmes in the ladies' room. At the bar, I run into this couple in cowboy hats, two artists, this luv-ly lil' filly Josiane Childers, a painter by trade, and this bearded hombre Justin Earl West, who looks like he just stepped out of HBO's Deadwood. West is a steel sculptor locally, and a former roommate of Toby's, who helped Sadisco get started. He, too, credits Sid for allowing Sadisco to flourish.
"Sid was the one man who hooked us up and gave us a place to be," explains West. "He was an awesome human being. I never met somebody who was so accepting of freaks. That's what was cool about Sid -- he let you be a freak, without him being prejudiced toward anyone. And really, that's what Sadisco is all about."