Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hey You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the Ninth Circle Part 3

Honestly, I think that it was my fault when I got kidnapped from Uncle Charlie’s. There was a patron who would find out I was working and make sure that “he was there”. I started to see him every night I was working. This went on for several months, at first causing me to think that he was just always there. Uncle Charlie’s had its regulars. Afternoon and night, you could rely on the same people to be there nightly hanging out drinking. 


I did think that he was a really nice guy. I would laugh at his jokes and tell him that I was flattered when he would tell me how “cute” I looked or when he would bring me a little gift. The fact that he would tip me heavily every time I brought him a drink would make me look around for him when I started my shift. 


I was even flattered when he asked me to work a desk job at his construction company. When I asked him what I would have to do at this desk job, he responded with a wink, “Answer phones.” 


“Right,” I thought to myself, just answer phones. Is this because he could tell how lovely my voice was as I screamed at him over the loud bar music night after night? Truthfully, I paid a lot of attention to him because, like I said, he would have order five drinks and tip up to twenty dollars per drink. The night I got abducted he was tipping fifty per drink. At fifty dollars a tip, I paid extra close attention to his stories.

Everyone in the bar was laughing the night he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. He had been drinking and decided that I was going to go home with him. When he marched me out of the bar, the crowd was laughing even harder. Even though I was screaming “Help, this is serious, I am really being kidnapped!” no one did anything. They must have doubled over in hysterics when he pulled me through the door and started running up the block. All the while I was fighting and struggling to get free of him.

When we get to his car, he fumbles for his keys while pinning me to the door with his body. He gets the key in the lock, opens the door, and pushes me in. I watch out of the passenger window as two bouncers and assorted staff tackle him and slam his body on the hood. 


Suddenly it becomes a blurred sea of faces bouncing off the passenger window. Every time someone jumps in, he flicks them off like a fly at a banquet. I climb into the drivers seat and push open the drivers side door and climb around a swirling mass of arms and legs that have travelled over the hood and ended up on this side of my escape. Suddenly, his bright red face comes within inches of mine; someone’s arm is around his neck cutting off his air. “Get back in the car!” he gurgles to me. “Fuck you,” I respond and slide out of the car.

I run through the mass of people who have gathered and head back into the club; the manager has called the police by this time. When the police show up, they don’t want to take a statement from me and they let the guy go. They figure that this is going to be a lot of paperwork and it’s low on the crime list. “Another brawl at a gay bar. Alert the media,” says one of the cops out of the side of his mouth.


The next night when I show up for work, the owner summons me to his office.  He yells at me for leaving the club during my shift the night before. I explain the kidnapping, the cops, etc., but he is mad that a good paying customer won’t be back.

To make it up to him, the owner gives me a new chore. He wants me to bring people into the club. “I really don’
t understand,” I say. “Where am I supposed to find them? I have seen the same people here night after night.” I have yelled out “Merry Christmas,” “Happy New Year,” and “Happy Thanksgiving” to the same motley bunch every holiday. Sadly, new faces appear only on the weekend. “Well, we need to get more people in the club,” he snaps and dismisses me with the wave of his hand.

I am not alone in my first task. My friend Mitch and I get the job of decorating the club for Halloween and then handing out fliers for a party. I met Mitch at another bar I worked called The 9th Circle and got him a job here at Uncle Charlie’s. Mitch and I are the perfect people to be given this job; Halloween is a favorite holiday for both of us. 


We are given a budget and we run to the store and buy plenty of day glow paint, cobwebs, lights, and assorted skulls. We have decided to make the video room into a graveyard (sadly, lately not too far from the truth on a nightly basis). I get to the job of painting tombstones all over the mirrors and Mitch installs yards of cobwebs. We have only one day to start and finish the task. The club will be filled in the evening, because in the Village, Halloween is a huge celebration. I mean, just give gay men the chance to dress up and become anything they want to be, and the sky’s the limit.

I paint what feels like hundreds of tombstones and my arm is tired. I have written most of the staff’s names on the grave markers and Eric (one of the newest waiters) tells me that he can’t find his name. Eric stands at about 6'7" and his arms dangle from his shoulder sockets. I write, “Eric the Fish” in bright red paint on a grave and call it a day. He demands to know why I call him “Eric the Fish?” Just the fact that he gets annoyed when Mitch and I say it is enough joy for me. I finish up and run home to get into my costume. I have worked for weeks on it and it is perfect.


Most everyone in the club is planning on going as a sexy nurse, sexy kitten, sexy pirate, or sexy construction worker. I, on the other hand, am going as Piper Laurie from Carrie. I have taken two ratty falls and combed them out so they are enormous. I attach them to my head. I’m wearing a big pink muumuu that billows when I walk. I am impressed with what I have accomplished and get the desired effect when I walk down the street brandishing the knife above my head. “Oooooohhhh, you go scary girl!” A scraggly looking Queen strolls past me.  Then Sexy Batgirl calls to me as she passes. “Work it out Mama!” I am feeling good and looking fabulous when I enter the club.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the Ninth Circle Part 2

One of my first jobs in NYC was working at a Gay bar named Uncle Charlie’s. Uncle Charlie’s was located at 55 Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village. It was a quiet storefront located on a neighborhood street. 


What you couldn’t see from the front door was that Uncle Charlie’s was large and had four bars under one roof. There was also a dance floor in the middle of one of the rooms. It was a room that played videos and had mirror-covered walls. Everyone who worked there referred to it as the “Stand and Stare” room because there was very little dancing going on and a lot of standing and staring going on. In every room there was a television playing comedy videos and music videos. Every now and then a full movie would be shown.


Deep in Vogue” by Malcolm McLaren was a big hit at this time. When Willi Ninja, the star of the video would walk in, I would make Scott or Charlie, the DJs, play the video. Willi would get embarrassed and give me a little wave. Willi was a great guy, and I loved talking to him. 

Around this time, I moved into a carriage house on 13th street between Greenwhich and 7th 
avenues. Café de Bruxelles was on the corner (another place where I worked as a waiter) and the Gay and Lesbian Center was diagonal from my front door. Uncle Charlie’s was further up the block and was across from the Dew Drop Inn. I was “Jack of all trades” at Uncle Charlie’s. I worked as a cocktail waiter/doorman/occasional bartender and expert rat killer/dodger. 


Charlie’s had two owners at this time. One owner was an old queen named Gary who would arrive at work during the winter in a ratty old fur coat, his face overly suntanned, and have a “boy du jour” on his arm. Usually this was some skanky call boy who ordered the staff around because he was dating “the boss”. Little did he know that his power would only last the one night, or until Gary got bored. To my knowledge, the longest a twink stayed around was about a month. 


The second owner was silent. He wasn’t physically present in the club. He was actually on the run from the police for murdering his lover. It was a huge torrid story, one we were not allowed to mention while on the premises. It did however make it into the papers, and every now and then the FBI would check in.

The silent partner did, however, have his son, Seth (who didn’t want to be there) running the business and counting the money in his absence. Seth was married with a wife and kids at home. This was the last place he wanted to be. 


Seth would often call you into the office and try to intimidate you. The office was in the basement and you had to walk down long crooked stairs (well actually half stairs/half slide for booze). He was usually on the phone when you got there and he would signal you to have a seat. Then, in between pauses with whomever he was talking on the phone, he would tell you what he expected of you that night. That way he rarely had to come upstairs and make an appearance during the evening. When he was done with you, he would wave you away with the flip of his hand and continue his phone conversation.

One of my favorite bartenders who worked there was Steve. Steve was sweet and kind, and usually drunk by the time the night was over. He would also overpour a drink so you could join him in his drinking. He loved to make B52s and Mind Erasers. Steve looked like an L.L. Bean model, and was actually an actor on the side.

Another one of the bartenders was named Joe. He was also an actor, but unlike Steve, most of the patrons had seen his work. He was the star of “
The Pizza Boy: He Delivers” and yes it was exactly what you imagine it might have been. He was the guy in the film who ordered the delivery. We were warned that if you ever wanted Joe to give you drinks or not make your night really bad, you were not to mention his film resume anywhere around him. He was this big Italian jock with a crooked smile and a thick Brooklyn accent. He was also one of the dumbest people I have ever met.

Every now and then someone would run out of liquor and whoever was not doing something would go get it from the basement. On the way, there was a maze of beer boxes of stacked to the ceiling. One of the favorite games of the employees was to toss glass bottles of beer at each other as someone would enter the maze. If you got to the end of the maze first, you would grab loose beers and throw them over the boxes into the maze. The beers would hit the floor and explode like mini grenades, showering whoever was in the way with sticky foam.

Also living in the maze were rats. Now, I’m talking NYC rats, smart, cunning, and scared-of-nothing NYC rats. They would dive at you on your way through the basement. The cellar doors opened onto the street so our busboy David could bring the garbage right outside. Rats seeing a good thing would scurry inside and set up home in the basement.

David the barback (a runner who stocks the bar with ice and alcohol) was nice but a little odd. He was my age, but told everyone he had fought in the Vietnam war. He dressed every night in army fatigues and carried a large knife. The knife was for the occasional waiter threatening and rat beheading. Our manager Jeff actually had been in Vietnam and would have “flashbacks” during work. These usually caused him to stop working and stare blankly into space. 

Our front door was protected by John; he was a really nice guy who modeled his look on “
Super Fly”. He sported a large Afro and had a black belt in Karate. John refused to show us any tricks because in his words, “Karate is no joke.” During the fall and winter, we would add Alan to our family. He would set up a coat check in a little cubby across from the front door. The word was to never go into Alan’s booth unless you wanted to get felt up and believe me, no one wanted to be felt up by Alan.

One time while I was working a shift, a patron who had been coming to the club for several weeks decided that he was going to take me home. He took my tray, threw it to the floor, tossed me over his shoulder, and made a run for the front door. This guy was 250 pounds 6'3
'', and had the thickest Russian accent I’d ever heard. Everyone thought it was a joke until I started screaming and he pried my fingers off the door jamb as he dragged me out the door.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Enter the Ninth Circle Part 1

Don’t get me wrong, I honestly love New York City. However, I think that I liked it better when it was scary and full of crime. Not like it is today. Today it is clean and full of safe things to do. What I’m talking about is back in the 1980s. 1984/1985 to be exact. Back then New York City kept you on your toes. 

There was a time when you used to run across Times Square, quickly weaving in and out of hookers on the stroll. You would see dealers selling drugs. Marijuana, Crack, Whack, Speed, and Smack was dealt out in the open. Every now and then someone would get ripped off and buy the occasional bag of oregano (so I hear) or packet of sugar and a fight would break out. It didn’t matter, cops wouldn’t show up. Various peep shows lined the main strip and had plenty of visitors in and out of their doors. They would advertise with a broken blinking sign that for 50 cents you could see a (dandy) show. Now it feels like that was a hundred years ago. 
Back then you would spend every minute of every day looking over your shoulder to see who or what might be lurking in the shadows. 
Back then, if someone was running towards you, it was usually a sign that they were going to snatch your bag, or stick a knife into you, or worse. These days when someone is running towards you, they are doing just that, running — running towards you wearing sneakers that are probably worth more than your bag. When did jogging become such a big thing? When did working out become such a lifestyle? 
Since this was the ’80s, I had the look of the time. Everything was big and overdone. I had what I would call a “Flock of Seagulls” hairdo, named for a band who was known more by how big their lead singer’s hair was and less for the quality of their music. To achieve this look, I would take a hand full of Dippity Doo hair gel, slop that on my head and pull it into what I can describe as a large unkept birds nest. Then I would spray it with half a can of Aqua Net Hairspray to keep it in place. For clothes I wore t-shirts, leather jackets, and tight pants with a short black boot. I was totally in style.
My first apartment in New York was located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This was one of the scariest neighborhoods I have ever lived in. My apartment was 36 blocks from the subway and one block from the projects. We shared the building with a taxi service. My roommate was a modern dancer; I almost never saw him. He was always in his room and rarely came out. By rarely, I mean every couple of days or so he would run out to use the bathroom or grab something from the fridge. I would often hear him moving around in his room, but I would rarely see him. 
I found the apartment through The Village Voice. Turned out it actually belonged to a friend of a friend of a friend, but I found the initial listing in The Village Voice
It was a small two-bedroom with a kitchen, a bath, a park around the corner, and when I showed up, plenty of homeless people lying on my stoop. 
It was a busy neighborhood, and I would see so many people just hanging around, not working. People knew my name without my telling them and would scream greetings to me out the window on my walk to the subway (along with various other phrases). 

Hey! You! Get Out of My Way! Leaving Home Part 15

School went by very quickly that day; it seemed as if everyone knew that I had no place to live. So very many people came forward and offere...