I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Part 13



I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Part 13

The pursuit of cool continued on through the fall of ’80 and winter of ’81, going out to clubs with Priscilla, her roommate the Sunbeam Bread Girl, and the Soho News crowd. During that time I acquired a beloved pair of two-tone loafers. The shoe was basically black but the instep was a gray woven material, almost like an old chair. I got some white shoe polish, and after about ten coats, I got it to just the shade I was happy with. Never mind that it was the frostiest time of year and I wasn’t wearing fully enclosed foot wear. They were cool and that took precedence. Despite my grandparent’s persistent hounding to wear proper footwear, risking the possibility that I would “catch cold,” my priorities were not the same as theirs. I had mentally moved off of the shtetl, and despite pistol whippings, had no concerns of getting caught up in a pogrom…with a bad cough. Still I was looking to play drums for someone.

The Rockats went to England in December of ’80 to work on what was to be their debut album. The New Yorkabillies sustained themselves by venturing out to see bands like Buzz and the Flyers and Levi Dexter & The Ripcords, both of whom were searching for that ever elusive record deal. They both had indie label singles, records which still stand up today. They looked great and sounded great. Both bands had top notch drummers (Rocco DeRubeis (Rock Roll) for the Flyers & Patrick Brown (Pat Brown) for the Ripcords) so I didn’t see a spot for me there. I’d have to sustain myself through the acquisition of records and clothes, and constant club hopping ‘till the wee hours of the morning. A night out was not deemed successful unless you exited from a club in daylight just as other people were making their way to work.

March 3rd, 1981, I got a call at work from the Sunbeam Bread Girl. Seems the Rockats were back in town and the recordings didn’t go as planned. They were looking for drummers through back channels. She told Smutty about me and within minutes he was on the phone asking me to come by and try out for the band. The big question on my mind: What would I wear?

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Part 12


I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Part 12

After getting mugged, pistol whipped, and laid, I can’t say I made many lifestyle changes, except to say I doubled my efforts in pursuit of being the coolest man on earth. More late nights out, more stimulants, more clothes. Ya know, good clean fun. Somewhere along the way I acquired a full length black overcoat with a velvet Teddy Boy collar that lasted me several years. Through Priscilla I met DJ Ivan Ivan who spun discs at Danceteria and the Mudd. We ran into each other at Bleeker Bobs record shop one afternoon and he said he liked my coat. That made my day.

Note though that much of life in club land was spent doing a lot of nothing and nursing a beer. You’d hope to run into a friend and enjoy an intoxicant or two, but most of the time you’d just stand around trying to look cool. One night in the Fall of 1980, I took notice of a petite young lady working the entrance to the upstairs space at the Mudd. I recognized her as the girl posing with a saxophone from a set of photos the Rockats did for Italian Vogue. She was really cute, wearing a full length coat of her own and hair like a helmet. I asked her how she made her hair stay that way and she motioned as if using hairspray, running her finger in front of her hair slowly saying “pssssssssssssssssssss”, with the slightest hint of a lisp. She told me her name was Debi M. Within a few minutes she said, “You wanna make out?” I was more than willing.

That night we went club hopping with about seven of her pals. Must have hit at least three clubs. When we’d get to a new club, no one paid…except me. I don’t know if they had me figured out as someone who had money (untrue) or a foolish patsy (probably true), but when the door man would say, “You all need to pay for one” everyone would run through and I would be left standing there.

Once inside, there’d be dancing and kissing, but that full length coat of hers was like body armor. I just couldn’t find my way through or around that damn thing. It was like a chastity suit for God’s sake.

We took a cab home and she made it clear that I wasn’t coming back to her place. Oddly enough she called me the next day to get together. After she stole something from a grocery store, we went and had coffee. She told me she wanted to be an actress and I scoffed, saying “Everyone in NY wants to be famous.” She sneered at me and said “I’m not like everyone else.” We talked about music and I asked her if she was interested in a saxophone my roommate wanted to sell. We agreed on a price of $45. Somehow or another she convinced me to give her the saxophone and she would pay me later.

Let it be known that by using the generally accepted Consumer Price Index numbers from 1980 to 2014, I have calculated that Debi Mazar now owes me approximately $129.67.

I was not the coolest man on earth.

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth, Pt. 11


I Am the Coolest Man on Earth, Pt. 11

Shoes: check. Hair: check. Clothing: check. What now? What else: go out to clubs all the time. We all liked music, dancing, clothes, stimulants…it was how you’d win friends and influence people. Like Ace Face in Quadrophenia, you could be a bell boy in the daytime, but at night you could re-birth yourself as whatever you wanted to be.

But my time as a bell boy, I mean retail record store employee, had its upside. I was able to keep up on the latest releases and dig out old chestnuts. Plus, “samples” always made friends happy. It also taught me the great lesson of blood. As stated in part 1 (see http://bit.ly/1vAO2Or), bleeding is cool.

During a Saturday afternoon lull at the shop I worked at on Lexington Avenue between 85th and 86th, I decided it would be a good time to take a deposit to the bank. I never got there. The two fellows standing by the bus enclosure pulled out a pistol and clocked me with it before I could get there. They were a few thousand dollars richer and I had a knot in my head.

Barely a week later, a cute cashier and I went to see Eight Eyed Spy at Tier 3. One of their guitarists worked at the same shop as us so it wasn’t really a date. Somehow or another, in the cab on the way back uptown, she says something about how she hopes I never have to get held up again, and before you know it…

Through this experience I learned a few lessons that have always stuck with me. First, I learned that getting pistol whipped isn’t like in the movies where people are immediately knocked out cold. I fell to the ground but I was still conscious. I started to get up but the gun wielder immediately pointed the gun at me. It was the international signal to stay put. I fully agreed with him that at that moment it would be safer to stay on the ground until they got away.

The second lesson was facing down guns can get you laid. It could get you killed too, but what a way to go?

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 10

THree Flowers

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 10

Shoes were next on the list. Sneakers and Florsheims wouldn’t do. The red Capezios I bought a few years prior from the snobby sales help were tres outré. Stiv Bators wore filthy white ones but they were sold out. Red made sense at the time. The key portion of that last sentence was “at the time”. Cool is always elusive so you need to keep on your game …or so I thought. Priscilla told me about a shop called the Civilian in the west 20’s. I found a pair of reasonably priced, vintage style new loafers: not too pointy, but with a single dignified stud/faux buckle. They seemed to have an air of Bryan Ferry but not overly formal. Priscilla approved.

But what of my hair? Keep it short on the sides and back, some length up front, and lots of grease. Thick ones like Royal Crown, Dixie Peach, Nu Nile or Murrays were good on the top. Thin ones like Yardley’s English Lavender or Three Flowers Brilliantine were good on the sides and back. The packaging had kitsch graphics on them too. Nu Nile and Murrays were often sold closer to the products for black people and had packaging with people on them sporting naturals. Kind of like I looked in high school. In spite of being sold in the same section as Afrosheen, it must have been used for conking as grease would be too weighty for a fro. These brands are all still available wherever fine hair care products are sold. They all smelled great too. Each scent can still transport me back to 1980, where I was trying to transport myself to 1954. The way to live in those moments was to look forward to the past. Huh?

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 9

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 9

The next step in the pursuit of cool was to acquire cool clothing. I couldn’t continue to wear my Grandfather’s old sweaters or depend on finding more of Jerry’s cast-offs. The ever giving Priscilla offered to take me shopping.

With a fresh $100 bill in my pocket, acquired through some untruth told to my father or some shameful slight of hand, we arrived at the appointed rendezvous spot: St. Marks Place. While I don’t recall the names of any of the shops we hit, we most definitely did not visit Trash and Vaudeville. That was too punk and seemingly too pricey. We may have swung by Cheap Jacks, and later on Canal Jean, which always had bins of low priced clothing lining the sidewalk. Regardless of where we went, by the end of our rounds I ended up with two flecked jackets, one gray with while flecks and one black with red flecks, two pairs of pegged pants, one black and one grayish silver, and two, fifties style two-toned shirts, one blue with white stitching and one tan with brown and metallic buttons. On the one hand I have trouble believing we were able to score this much clothing for $100, but after going through a simple financial analysis, it’s reasonable to see that at $15 a pop plus tax it was doable. In retrospect, even that amount seems pricey, as the racks and bins of $2 and $5 clothing seemed plentiful at the time.

One vivid memory of the experience: at a store on 1st avenue on the south side of St. Marks Place, I dropped my $100 bill. I nonchalantly picked it up while Priscilla panicked: “Careful! The junkies will start swarming!” She obviously knew something I didn’t.

I now had an understanding of how the system worked: retro, used and vintage clothing shops were the way to go. Raiding your uncool parent’s closet wasn’t…unless of course they used to be in a motorcycle gang.

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 8


I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 8

I worked with Haoui at the New School for Social Research in the fall of ’78. He was Howard then. They needed extra people (temps) during registration. The best part was in the evenings when women would come in after work to register. They’d bend over to hand you their check & paper work and you could see down the front of their dresses. If you were lucky they wouldn’t be wearing a bra. It was a value add to a boring low wage job.

At lunchtime I’d go to local record shops. A favorite was a second hand shop in the area called Second Hand Rose. You could get scratchy old Motown & Stax-Volt 45’s for 50 cents. More money would be spent at places like Bleecker Bobs, sometimes $7 for an import LP. I showed Howard the first Devo album with colored vinyl. He was a fan and talked about seeing punk bands in England. We talked about politics occasionally. I had backed out of politics, both as a result of high school scars and perceived punk nihilism. Politics was for hippies and hippies weren’t cool. Not Howard though. As for politics, he said “it’s in my blood.”

A few months later I went to see a band at an Upper West Side club called Hurrahs. Lo and behold there’s Howard at the door. We exchanged hellos. I didn’t get pushy, and in a minute or so I’m let in. I pay of course. I never thought people got in for free unless they were press, famous or local bands. I was a big oh for three on that account.

Over the next two years, I started to see him in local periodicals referred to as “Haoui.” He also moved onto different clubs, and now, two years later, after the Club 57 event, he was at the door of Danceteria. As one of the stylists was a graphic designer from the Soho News, we waltzed right in and didn’t pay. But what did happen was Haoui looked at me and did a double take. He was too cool to say anything like “What happened to you?” But something did happen. Was this what cool felt like?

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 7


I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 7

The ecstatic aura of our “performance” doesn’t last long as we must now wait in anticipation for the announcement of the winners.

*Third place: one of the faceless Elvis’, who happily takes his drink ticket. I offer my humble congratulations. He heads straight for the bar.
*Next, second place: John Sex. He struts his stuff, and little John makes another appearance. He takes his vinyl, the vinyl I wanted, with pride and panache.
*Next, first place: ELVIS AND PRISCILLA! Yes, it is us! We hop onto the stage for one more stare and sneer, but this time I kiss Priscilla. Why? It seemed like something they would have done in real life. But this is better than real life. This is a fantasy world.

Priscilla has her rug. She is satisfied. I’m a winner…in Sid and Jerry’s clothing…

We soon head outside into the hot August night (sorry for the Neil Diamond reference) but not before we bump into John Sex himself. We all laugh at the absurdity of what we just went through. “I couldn’t have beaten a nicer guy” I tell him. I don’t know if he heard me, but he laughed. John may have even kissed me at this point, but I can’t quite be sure. There were a number of nights out in club land in the early 80’s where someone’s tongue got stuck down your throat, regardless of gender or sexual preference. If you weren’t interested in pursuing it, you just laughed and said “bye-bye”. If you were interested, all the better. Time has erased so many memories.

Where to now? The night is still young. Onto Danceteria! We flag down a cab: me, Priscilla and the two ladies who “styled” me. We’re all still basking in the glow of victory as if we all just had great sex. If only…

I had been to Danceteria before, wearing my glasses and a 50’s sweater that had been my grandfathers. He actually wore it in the 50’s…and 60’s…and 70’s. I guess when you lived through the depression, you never forgot it.

I knew the doorman at Danceteria: Haoui Montaug.

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 6

Ann Mag

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 6

Someone officially enters us into the competition. I’m even more nervous and want even more beer. Priscilla just wants that rug. DJ Ann Magnuson is spinning Elvis records at 33…and my stomach spins at 45, ebbing ever closer to 78. Elvis songs continue to play as the entrants start to make their way to the stage. One at a time they strut their stuff. Most seem to do the standard sort of hip swaying, lip curling moves, but then there was John Sex. John lived up to his name. His hips swirled a little wider than the others and his lips curled a little steeper than the others. He also whipped out a secret weapon: Little John. It wasn’t so little actually. He whipped it to and fro. John seemed to love showing his namesake and the crowd ate it up…so to say. John Sex: Snake handler.

Priscilla and I are now summoned to the stage. She all but drags me with her. I see halos of light and blurry, shrieking faces in the crowd. Our friends are shrieking loudest. First advantage: we were the only couple. Second advantage: Priscilla took no prisoners. She gave the crowd a death stare of disdain as only an East Villager could. True, she was from Jersey, but her penchant for the occasional shot of narcotics practically made her an East Villager. In an act of unrehearsed symbiosis, I too chose to stare. Except my stare was similar to that of a deer caught in the headlights. I summoned up my inner Elvisness and turned the stare into a sneer. No swayed hips or curled lips from us. Just the stare and the sneer. The crowd shrieked. Was it because we looked so great or were they laughing at us? We didn’t care nor will we ever know. But we never flinched. We sold it.

We left the stage to more applause. All entrants have displayed their inner Elvi and it’s now time for the winner to be announced. Priscilla still wants her rug. I still want the vinyl.

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 5

Club Elvis

I had never been to Club 57 before. It was at 57 St. Marks Place, ergo the creative name. It was a dark, non-descript, East Village step down. At least it seemed so at the time: In a positive step towards cool I was instructed to not wear my glasses, so nothing was really clear. Seeing clearly is obviously un-cool and unnecessary. The blurry faces have all revealed themselves in time. Artists Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf were regulars and probably there. Performance artist and actress Ann Magnuson was the DJ. And someone named John Sex…well, how do you describe John Sex? John was like something out of a John Waters’ film. Part performance artist, part tongue in cheek stripper and part snake handler. He also had a blond quiff that reached for the stars. That thing must have been at least a foot tall. Size was important to John.

Someone hands me a beer. I take a big sip of foam which gets stuck in my throat causing me to cough all over Priscilla. She sarcastically thanks me in a voice with no emotion followed by an eye-roll. She had seen it all and I still had one foot in the suburbs. It was somewhere about this time that I realized I was REALLY going to have to get on that stage…in front of people…without a drum set in front of me. Another swig of beer would help settle my frayed nerves. This time I avoided the foam and just chugged.

There were prizes that night too. Win, place or show, there was something for everybody. 3rd place was a drink ticket. 2nd place was a copy of ‘Elvis’ Greatest Hits’, which, being a record store geek, I already owned. 1st place was a cheesy velvet Elvis rug purchased on 14th street. Most people wanted the drink ticket. Priscilla cooed with delight at the rug. I wanted the LP, knowing I could re-sell it and buy something I didn’t own. I was obviously the most practical one in the crowd, something which has always stood in my path in the noble pursuit of cool.

© Curt Weiss 2014

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 4

I Am the Coolest Man on Earth Pt 4

Out comes hair grease, a brush and a dryer. A scissor may have even appeared but that detail has been lost in the haze of the years. Clothes? Into the closet to see what Jerry has left. A shirt whose collar will of course be turned up. A flecked jacket fit as well. Pants? A pair of pink, high-waisted, peg-legged trousers appear. I peruse them and a few things stand out. First: the material is of a nature I have never felt. This wasn’t off the rack. I don’t know what it was but it seemed almost as if they were hand made. Second: the stain on the right leg. It was from an iron. Third: the tag. It said “SEX” and in smaller letters “London”. “Is that Malcom McLaren’s SEX shop” I asked? “Yep” said the blonde. “Sid gave them to Jerry.” “Sid Vicious? The Sid Vicious?” Affirmative. I was wearing the pants of rock and roll casualty, Punk Rock poster child and martyr Sid Vicious, from the McLaren/Westwood Sex shop, also worn by New York Doll Jerry Nolan. I had hit a rock and roll triple play. But, a man needs a good pair of shoes. My sneakers wouldn’t do. What’s in the closet? We pull out the most beat up, Cuban heels this side of Havana. For those unfamiliar with Cuban heels, they’re basically short Beatle boots. And for those unfamiliar with Beatle boots, you must be under forty.

A shoe brush, some spit and a rag….then a shoe horn are called for. Somehow I forced myself into the shoes and the ladies squeal with delight. Like Cinderella going to the ball I was transformed. I looked cooler and felt cooler. But was I cooler? Onto Club 57 to find out.

© Curt Weiss 2014