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Dancing In The Dark

I hitchhiked to Miami— or tried to— when I was in high school, 14-15 years old. I was apprehended by the state highway police on the New Jersey Turnpike. They called my father and made him come get me. He was pissed off but instead of beating me up, he gave me $20 for a Greyhound ticket. I stayed with my grandparents in Miami Beach and won a mambo dance contest at their hotel. I loved dancing… but disco was never my thing. I was living abroad for the most of the ‘70s, so I missed the worst of it. It never got to Afghanistan or Ceylon and in Amsterdam, people in the clubs I went to danced, but more to rock music.

And the gay clubs, where they did play disco music… were kind of a turnoff for me. Too loud, no chance of getting to know anyone… just kind of a meat market. After checking them out with some friends I was hanging out with, I mostly tried avoiding them— for the rest of my life.

However… When I was living in San Francisco, the neighborhood bar— a 5 minute walk from my house— was a gay country music bar, the Rainbow Cattle Company on Duboce and Valencia. There was a dj and people danced sometimes. I felt comfortable there. I liked country music and I liked the vibe of the place and made lots of friends and I fell in love with a bartender who was also a dj (Lee). That’s him on the right. He’d get drunk every night and wasn’t able to drive home so I’d take him back to my tiny studio apartment and somehow drag him up onto my loft that I had constructed over a darkroom. In my mind he was my boyfriend. Not so much in his mind. It was a bad breakup-- one of the two big heartbreaks in my life. Meanwhile, I had been trying to make a living as a photographer and another photographer and I worked together to create a Rainbow Cattle Company astrological calendar with photos of the employees representing the signs. It was kind of corny, but it sold like hotcakes. I just looked and saw that they still come up on eBay now and then, almost a half century later!

After Lee dumped me, I didn’t feel as enthusiastic about going to the Rainbow Cattle Company every night but the owner bought a rundown old bar on Polk Street and asked me if I wanted to be the dj. It was a drag queen bar with disco music blaring. The new owner called it The Cinch and wanted me to play country music. I took the job and wound up liking it and the resident drag queens all loved it. I played the kind of country music the crowd would like, lots of Dolly Parton... and Stand By Your Man became the bar's theme song that I'd have to play a few times a night. It was a fun place. Turns out though that the owner wasn’t happy at all. I didn't understand that he wanted me to play the kind of country music that would drive the drag queens away so he could get a different, more macho, clientele. I hated that attitude and didn't stick around much longer. My country music connection was fading real fast.

Besides, I was seriously gravitating more towards punk music anyway and I was already working as a radio dj playing punk and new wave music. That led to me being offered live gigs in clubs as a dj. "The Happy Geek" (in the pen-and-ink drawing for a local magazine, up top) was one of the pen names I used when I wrote for magazines and when I was a dj at X’s the dance club, part of the Old Waldorf or Wolfgang's. Look at the reflecting sunglasses. We played new wave music that people could dance to— like Yaz, The Specials, The Units, Billy Idol, the B-52’s, Wire Train, Talking Heads, Until December

There were so many clubs I dj-ed at that I can’t even remember them all. And when BART opened a new station near Castro Street, San Francisco threw a huge party to inaugurate the station and invited me and another dj to spin records all night. Then there was The City in North Beach-- with it's dj station built into a giant juke box-- that I did with Richard Gossett and Beverly Wilshire, two of the most popular KSAN djs, and that was huge but then this guy Jeffery Pollack recruited us to play at a new club he was opening. He paid us a lot of money, the most I had ever made (other than selling drugs when I was in college). There were lines around the corner every night and he was taking his own share of the money out in a wheel barrow. Then he decided he didn’t want people under 21 coming and I said— with Beverley’s and Richard’s support— that we would walk out if he did that. It was the young kids who got the dancing going every night and it was the young kids that the older people came to oogle. Jeffrey reluctantly agreed and I don’t remember why we eventually stopped— maybe because I felt like I had made enough money and because I hated bars and noisy clubs. After that I pretty much never went to another bar or club other than to see a live band.

My name in lights on Broadway, or right off Broadway

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