i saw this photo of gilda radner (aka candy slice and the slicers) today on fb and i experienced a delicious stir of echoes. at some point during the 1970’s in chicago, some friends and i created a literary street gang as an homage to the movie “warriors”. at the time we were working at george badonsky’s “brewery” restaurant. sometime during that period i was downgraded from badonsky’s “tango” restaurant after having rolled a shopping cart with a brewery bartender through the kitchen and into the lower level of the dining room in the middle of a packed saturday night- that dining room was silhouetted by chocolate brown walls that were studded with warhol’s marilyn prints along one side. there was a warhol mao tse tung on another wall. the restaurant resided on the ground floor of the belmont hotel. tango was uber chic with marble floors, live jazz late night, smoked sturgeon and olives stuffed with roquefort, and 350 wines on the sommalier’s list.
that time was a renaissance period in my life. i was a poet, a comic, a fashion icon, a scorned lover, a dancer, and bohemian. i modern danced through disco and punk, rockabilly and retro, leather and scag drag. i remember life seeming as full of possibility and my friendships were fast and very “st. elmo’s fire-ish”. i ran with the gang for over a year- learning to love kerouak, ginsberg, burroughs, wolff, stein, and lessing and spent the wee hours reading the classics, imbibing heavily, speaking with words of violet and midnight. we howled at our poverty and our lives seem now to be not far from the urban backdrop of the musical “rent”- la vie boheme.
during those days, badonsky had a relationship going with a japanese clothing designer named noriko. there were artists and designers coming out of the woodwork in the badonsky orbit.. noriko had acquired an apartment in old town on wells street. she needed some help getting the place together and badonsky hired paul pfohl and i to help her get some baseline cleaning done. we were lowly servers and welcomed both the extra cash and the adventure.
it just so happened that on a particular day gilda radner was in town with her one woman show tour. her career was stratospheric at that moment and the show was a hot ticket. saturday night live had catapulted a bevy of circuit players into the limelight and gilda had a blaze that still glows in my heart- ooops i get lost in the sweetness. her tour manager’s name was dennis. noriko and gilda has some weird intersection and dennis showed up at her place in old town on the day paul i and i were there. we chatted, we three, chatted, cavorted, snorted, and giggled.
the irony of the day for me was the messaging later that night at our prospective restaurants. my manager mentioned to me that dennis had found us very entertaining and was interested in dating the cute brunette. paul had really been a warrior in my life. he had breeding, intelligence, perspective, and charm. he was a stunner in my mind- a complete package. so when i heard that dennis wanted to date paul it seemed to be nature’s way. as i relayed the story to him, he had an identical twin reaction. my surprise and delight though, when i then heard that dennis meant me and not paul, rivaled my first gaze upon “the bearded lady” swinging from the ceiling of the bistro in 1975. i never dated dennis, but it didn’t matter. the folklore was cemented that night.
my writing feels frozen lately when it is pointed towards today, but i feel warm and comfortable when the rear view is lit. maybe the terrain of my brain and my heart were tilled and textured during that time. my imagination was ignited and images and memories were branded into my memory bank with the heat of original sin. i am completely grateful. the memories and the innocence of experience invoke a time when i was not yet able to touch my childhood struggles. only when i overdrank or used would wounds uncover. no this time was exploration and discovery. the creation of a larger world view.
as i peruse these images, i am gobsmacked by what a geek i was. i have been holding this alternative memory of living on the edge and as a trailblazer.well- pop goes the memory bubble. all that is left are the sweet stirs of memory and any polaroids.i might have left of the veedubs…( vw’s- our gay and lezzie street gang- hat tip to the movie “warriors”) all of us gay. in 1978 we started out quoting woolf and kerouac on the street corners by diversey and clark and our fetes transitioned to fuzzy-seeped happenings and pre-happenings at the barbie motel (abandoned 3rd floor apartment located on clark just north of diversey) and paul and jim faucetts place further north by belmont- they had a cat they named renfro which was given cuz he liked to eat flies. our crew got involved with a zany labor strike at the brewery with our main adversary being quincy the assistant manager there. paul, ellen, and i transitioned to a french patisserie located on madison street downtown chicago. that’s where we met sue and joe mondlak, kate janotta, kat camera, our gang – and the need for it- dried up like spilled cider on sundrenched cement- so sweet then- all gone now… most of the polaroids are from the 70’s. the medusa’s shots (with the horse half) are from early 80’s- the last time ellen and i were able to see paul together- he would be gone within 2 years of those colorfu shots- with one of those years being spent in and out of the hospital with aids-related complications.
it’s the laughter…… we will remember… whenever we remember….. the way we were….