IS THAT REALLY BIANCA JAGGER?
So I’m tending bar in the newest, hippest club in the universe. Before the night is over I might even make cigarette change for a celebrity. But I’m still a scuffler who pays child support with crumpled tip money. Le jardin is dead and it looks like I’m going to get stiffed on a Saturday night.
A little after 11 o’clock a haggard dude with a gray ponytail bops out of the elevator. The word spreads– “the DJ is here–” and everybody drops to one knee like he’s Richard The Lionhearted home from the Crusades. He is followed by a hotel porter (this in the days before unpaid “interns”) pushing a hand truck loaded with .45′s and LPs.
“Gimme a Gorilla Flush,” he says.
I look to Jimmy for guidance. “OJ with Seven-up and Perrier, a shot of grenadine and about twenty cherries,” he says. “Washes down the downs.”
I stock the bar. It’s top shelf –Commemorativo Tequila, VSOP cognacs, Wyborova Vodka, which is the height of class, single malt Glens, which are very exotic. Speaking of grenadine, I see three bottles in the carton.
“In most bars one grenadine lasts ten years,” I say.
“This is Sweet Tooth City,” says Jimmy. “You’ll go through all three bottles in one night.”
Jimmy turns an ashtray upside down under the bar and lays a two lines of coke on it. In a few fluid motions he takes two pachyderm snorts, rubs the residue on his gums and lights a cigarette.
“You can give yourself a coming on board drink, man, they’re cool with that,” he says.
What the hell I’m a short timer. I pour myself a triple Martell Cordon Bleu. Jimmy is glittering. I’m glowing. We slap fives.
The DJ goes up on stage for a “sound check,” and suddenly music is blasting out of speakers all over the room. He starts out with a medley of the ’50′s oldies. Another triple and I’m getting goose pimples. With every song another episode from my yearning adolescence flashes before me.
The DJ must be the Pied Piper. People begin trickling in. This is before velvet ropes and snotty doormen take the fun out of the scene. Fifi is at the door collecting admission. Pay your ten bucks and you’re on your own. It’s an eclectic crowd. Some chorus boys from Pippin, which is playing down the street—”we can only stay for a few dances; ” a few tall, blonde foreigners, who tell Addison “you are already very famous in Amsterdam; ” three guys in leather jackets who look like off duty cops; two couples in tuxes and prom gowns–but a closer look reveals they’re all guys; a few red-faced drunks who look like bus drivers, but talk like high school music teachers; a suburban midlife crisis couple–she with the mahogany tan and the polished eyeballs, he with the floral shirt open on the Magen David glittering in the chest hair.
The DJ waits for critical dance mass to be reached and switches to disco. Motown, Stax, Chess and suddenly a Sinatra ballad or even an old tune like Earth Angel…The crowd is his instrument. They go from festive to funky to nostalgic at his command.
The bar is three deep and frantic. No beer drinkers here. Everybody wants an “innuendo”cocktail. A “Harvey Wallbanger” (vodka, OJ, a float of Galliano,) A “Sloe Comfortable Screw”(sloe gin, Southern Comfort, OJ with a splash of Grenadine.) A “Foxy Lady,” (Amaretteo, creme de cacao and heavy cream.) A “Golden Shower” (Galliano, white cream de cacao, Triple Sec, OJ and cream, grenadine optional). A “Comesicle” (vodka, rum, white mint, orange juice and cream.)
After a half hour my fingers are sticky from the grenadine and I’ve got cream all over my shorts. Ira comes back to check the register and looks at the stains. “I’m glad somebody’s having fun…”
There’s a commotion at the door. A blonde transsexual is borne through the crowd…”Candy’s gonna sing…”
“That’s Candy Darling,” Jimmy says.
The music stops and everybody quiets down. From out of the darkness comes a quavery contralto “Some day he’ll come along/The man I love…”
She gets a cheers “We love you, Candy…We won’t forget…”
“Candy’s got terminal cancer,” Jimmy says. “They give her three months, tops…”
For about two hours it’s so busy I can hardly look up.
Suddenly, I get a sane order.
“Two vodka martinis, straight up.”
They look like two kids viping cigarettes and looking wide-eyed at the crowd. But wait:
That’s Sal Mineo
It’s always a shock to see a celebrity. This is the kid from Rebel Without a Cause and Exodus… Curly hair, big nose, thick lips, baby face. It’s gotta be him.
That little skinny chick huddling next to him looks like Jill Haworth, his co star in Exodus. They were on the cover of Life Magazine together. Funny, the things you remember.
I grab Jimmy by the register. “Is that Sal Mineo?”
“Be cool,” he says. “He doesn’t like it when guys flirt…”
I get a queasy feeling. What did I do to make Jimmy think I was gay? Maybe I didn’t slap him five hard enough. I go back through my memory. Once I was running for a bus and a bunch of firemen in a passing engine truck jeered “Hurry up sweetie…” But I was wearing tight shoes that day and carrying two heavy bags of groceries.
I lay down the martinis with my eyes averted.
“That’s on me.” It’s Addison in the middle of the bar. Sal Mineo raises his glass. “Thanks, John…” He holds out a bill. “Here man, thanks…” I take it, eyes averted. It’s a twenty. Jimmy watches to make sure I put it in the cup.
“Hey,” Addison calls.
A girl is waving at me. I walk right past him like a man in a trance. Slim, dark, mocking eyes. A spangled dress. Great legs…”Cinzano and soda,” she says. Very familiar. Is that Bianca Jagger? She hands me the money, grazing my wrist with her nails. Gives me the chills.
“Hey,” Addison calls.
“Are you a basketball player?” she asks.
“I played in high school.”
“You have an athlete’s body,” she says.
I try to graze her wrist in return and drop the change in the sink.
“Is that Bianca Jagger?” I ask Jimmy.
“Where?” he asks. but she has already vanished in the smoke and left me a ten dollar bill.
Addison grabs me. “What’s the matter with you?” He has his arm around a bulky little man in a blue suit. “This is my attorney. Take good care of him.”
He’s got a bulbous nose, thick lips, angry pout like a thwarted baby.
It’s Roy Cohn.
This man was the villain of my childhood. He was one of DA’s who prosecuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the Soviet spies who went to the electric chair. He was counsel to the notorious witch-hunting Senator Joe McCarthy. He was absolute anathema to my left wing family. My aunt burst into tears every time she saw him on TV.
He sees it all on my face. The contempt, the revulsion.
“Cutty on the rocks,” he rasps.
I could make a gesture now. Refuse to serve him. Remind him of how he hounded innocent people, destroyed lives…
He’s with two bodybuilders in white tee shirts, who are knocking back 151 shooters with beer chasers. He puts the change back in his wallet with a pointed look at me. No tip for you, Commie.
People are screaming for drinks.The music is non-stop. The dance floor is a blur. I decide to write a poem called “Disco Dervish…”
Bianca has brought somebody to check me out. A lanky guy in a white dinner jacket over a hairless fish-white chest. He pushes a dank blonde lock out of his eyes.
“And vot do you do?” he asks with a German accent.
“Make drinks,” I say.
He waves impatiently. “Don’t you do somesing creative?”
“I’m a writer.”
“A writer,” he says and turns to Bianca. “Pearfect,” he says. ” And now Mr. Writer make me a tequila sunrise with extra grenadine…”
Jimmy comes up from under the bar so wired he’s woozy.
I try to discreetly point over my shoulder. “Look over there. Is that her?”
His hands shake as he lights a cigarette. “No…”
I turn back. She’s gone. But there’s a twenty under the ashtray…
It’s gotta be her.
NEXT: The End Of A Perfect Evening