Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Palladium

art by Keith Haring

He took me to the Palladium. It was the summer of 1985 and the famous old concert hall was the new Studio 54. I wore a pink strapless dress and black high top sneakers. His friend came with us. There was a huge crowd at the door. Either your name was on the list or it wasn't. If you weren't on the list, the bouncers decided whether you were Paladium material -- we stood out there for a long time, watching people go in, watching people try to pay the bouncers to get in, it seemed fairly hopeless. "Go up there, and blow smoke in the bouncer's face. Show him plenty of cleavage -- you got that, that'll get us in." So I lit a cigarette, an Egyptian cigarette in black paper with a gold filter, it was a Dunhill, the last of a carton I'd gotten from Katina's dad, he imported cigarettes, he had this warehouse down on Wall Street, filled with Dunhills and clove cigarettes from Jakarta. He gave me party colored cigarettes, gold filtered cigarettes, they were beautiful and odd, I wasn't supposed to smoke, I was a lung case, but these cigarettes were too beautiful not to smoke. So I pushed through the crowd and planted myself in front of the biggest of the two bouncers. He looked down at me, right down my dress and then I blew smoke in his face, "You, you can go in."
"And my friends?"
"How many?"
"Two, my boyfriend and his pal."
"Yeah - them too."
There were red carpeted floors, and footlights, and mirrors and the music got louder and louder as we tunneled into the old cavernous theater. We were New Wave spelunkers. There was every imaginable kind of person in there -- girls who looked like Madonna, Madonna herself might have been there, but it would have been impossible to discern her from all the impersonators. There were drag queens and boys in leather, there were aging models, and aspiring scene kids. Stockbrokers in suits on the make for girls and for boys. Gorgeous transvestites who made the drag queens look like fakers from Las Vegas. The dance floor vibrated and sweated and seized -- there was no air, none at all, just cocaine, and hashish, and champagne, and Keith Haring paintings EVERYwhere! He was the toast of the town and they had turned him loose to grafitti the whole place -- he even painted the inside of the stall doors in the bathrooms. Oh the bathrooms! A crush of girls and boys and straightening of dresses and moussing hair and more cocaine and hashish and champagne, and then in the dark corners junkies shooting up. I was like a little kid in that place -- I had never seen such humanity. It was a night city, it was a space ship, it was some sort of New Wave Ark, it was like the bar scene in Star Wars, you know the one, on the rebel planet, where they find Han Solo? And the creatures fight and a cyclops drinks some sort of boiling blue beer in the corner . . . it was like that, only on roids, completely out of proportion to anything I had ever witnessed. I was like Alice -- I had eaten the cake and now I was very, very small and the Rabbit was calling to me, only he was Boy George.
My boyfriend did lots of cocaine, and so did his friend. I didn't do any, the stuff terrified me. I just drank champaigne and smoked the rest of my Egyptians. We didn't dance much -- the dance floor was like hell, really, it seemed something like suicide to go out there. As the night wore on, we climbed high into rafters and curled up with eachother on black velvent sofas and there was lots of sex going on all around us and we just listened and absorbed and wondered if the sun was coming up.
Leaving was like falling out of a Fun House. We went out some back alley door and it slammed hard behind us, and the sun was indeed coming up. We walked to Washington Square and sat on benches in the cool steamy summer morning that the City was giving to us. We bought a joint off a big Rastafarian in a black, green, and yellow tam. We ate pancakes and scrambled eggs in some diner and then went back uptown to my boyfriend's parents apartment. It was their City apartment, they had a big house in Greenwich. We slept all day and then took the train back to Connecticut around dinner time.
He broke up with me a week later on our one month anniversary. I called him on the phone and said, "let's go out tonight."
"I can't go out." he said
"How come?" I asked.
"My front teeth fell out."
"What?!" I laughed, I thought he was kidding.
"Really! Its not funny. Its from the coke." He hung up on me. I never heard from him again.

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