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BUSINESS TRIP

"Moderation is a fatal thing.
Nothing succeeds like excess." -- Oscar Wilde

When I was in New York on business for Playboy would put me up at the Plaza or the Waldorf Astoria.  But I preferred the Waldorf because the building is such an Art Deco marvel.  I'd wander around by myself at night exploring closed off auditoriums, ballrooms, the swimming pool and the illustrious Starlight Roof.  Every turn revealed a wonder.  Byzantine mosaics alive with dragons and serpents.  Mirrored hallways where coils of cast iron formed trunk and bough and curled off to encapsulate the sections of reflective glass as it branched out and sprouted leaves and blossoms.  Art Deco spiders wove  luxurious webs and vigorous grapevine heavy with fruit entwined along the border.  There were rooms that were thick with gold brocade, flocked wallpaper, Tiffany chandeliers and ceilings painted as elaborate skyscapes.  Inevitably I'd hear the crackling of a two-way radio and security would present itself and demand to know why I was wandering around in closed areas at 2:30 in the morning.

During the day I'd do my Playboy stuff, but during the mid-seventies NYC offered up a throbbing nighttime underground music scene awash in narco-transsexualism and screaming in nihilistic punk resolve.  Who was I to say no?  Besides I had a tour guide.

My friend, Bob Rudnick had a column in Circus, a rock 'n' roll magazine.  Rudnick had always been involved in the music business.  As a radio DJ, as a writer and as an MC, not to mention his own dynamic.  One night in Detroit he introduced me to David Bowie.  He got Joey Ramone to endorse my comic book character, Snappy Sammy Smoot, in the pages of Circus.  With Rudnick I met and hung out with a wealth of rock and jazz musicians during the mid seventies.

Rudnick says "Tonight we're going to CBGB with Legs O'Neil and his girlfriend, Sue Williams.  Some members of Television and Lou Reed's band are gonna jam with Patti Smith."

Legs O'Neil was a NYC punk rock promoter and manager.  His best known band was New York City's in-your-face answer to the "Sex Pistols", "The Dead Boys".  On the following Friday he was opening his own nightclub, the Mudclub.  The Mudclub would reign for ten years as New York's hottest slash-and-burn music club.

We arrived at CBGB before the O'Neil entourage but the Dead Boys were there, fluorescent-colored spiked hair, zippered black-leather jackets, ripped up jeans.  And they were beat to shit.  Black eyes, stitched gashes, bruises, abrasions, busted lips and broken teeth.  Earlier in the week they were all on the subway when an Hispanic youth gang took sport in beating and stabbing them so that they nearly were (really) the Dead Boys.  I played a little pinball with Stiv Bators until Legs showed.

When O'Neil and his crew arrived most of them followed him to the back.  But Rudnick and I stayed at the bar.  There was some drinking to be done and I was on an expense account. 

Leg's girlfriend, Sue, didn't skitter to the back with the boys but slouched into a chair at a table directly across from us.  She caught my eye immediately but she sure wasn't paying any attention to me.

She was thin and small, cute in a sullen way.  Short, dusky hair and large dark eyes.  She was wearing a boat-necked, long-sleeved t-shirt with wide horizontal red and white stripes.  She had on tight black jeans and black spiked-heel boots.

Reflexively, my genitals began to warm and my pulse increased. Hippies are full of romantic meat-hooks on which to impale primal thought.  Punks, on the other hand, engorged with choleric rage and malevolent antipathy, cannot comprehend sentimental drivel and mawkish behavior.   

But consumption was the evening's mandate, so I put aside my primative compulsions and continued my binge with Bob.

Abruptly there was a loud smack.  Loud enough to get my attention over the din of the club and the distraction of the liquor.  I looked over at Sue.  She appeared a little dazed.  Then she whispered something into the ear of a terrifying looking young man who had taken a seat beside her.  He raised his hand, palm out, and brought it down full-strength, slapping Sue across the face, nearly knocking her off the stool.  Again she whispered into his ear, and again he slapped her silly.

This happened two or three times before I was appreciative, cognitively speaking, with just what the fuck was going on.  I moved on the guy and grabbed at his hoisted arm.  I caught him by the wrist and held his arm up high so that he couldn't bring it down or pull away from my grip.  I jerked his arm down quickly, kicked the barstool out from under him, pushed him face down on the floor and pinned his arm between his shoulder blades.  In my peripheral vision I could see the huge mass of a bouncer approaching like an angry dark cloud.  Rudnick assured the bouncer that I was okay, that the unfortunate pinned to the floor deserved pinning and more and that everything was under control.  The bouncer, in deference to Bob's standing, backed away.

Sue, dazed and confused wandered to the back, presumably in search of Legs.  Or some other scumbag with whom to play out her masochistic game.  I sat down with the unfortunate and had an half-hour of fine conversation. He had a band called "Black Sun" and he intended to commit suicide on stage.

The next afternoon, while recovering from the previous evenings abominations, there was a knock on my hotel room door.  I opened the door to Sue Williams.  She walked right in and asked "What the fuck happened last night?"  I was pretty fucked up...I don't really remember.  But the bouncer told me you fuckin' kicked some guy's ass."

We spent awhile talking.  She told me she was an artist originally from Chicago.  She knew my work and thought everything I drew was "too cute".  I said "Yeah.  It's the Disney imprint.  I can't escape it". 

Whenever I'd bring my art to ad agencies they'd say it was "too bizarre".  You can't please anyone in this world!

She was railing and bitching that her boyfriend, Legs, was "A fag!"  Bedeviled by the thought she repeatedly spit out the word "fag!", describing how he would ignore her.  A door was opening and on the other side sat an attractive young punk girl in need of attention.  And, because I'm a hopeless romantic, I was too courteous to refuse.

When she got her clothes off she asked "Wanna see my bullet-hole?" and pointed to a small circular scar under her small right breast.

"Jeezus Christ!" I blurted "What happened?!"

"I got shot by an old boyfriend." 

Then she started bitching about her current boyfriend.

Masturbation would have been more satisfying than the icy intercourse on that day.  As we fucked -- or rather as I pounded away at Sue's physical husk -- she was clearly elsewhere.  Maybe everywhere else.  But, other than her body, she sure wasn't in that bed with me.  Luckily, being male, it didn't matter.  I just went about my business as if everyone in the bed were as busy as I was.

The lousiness of the fuck transcended the ejaculatory event.  So when Sue stopped by my Chicago office a couple of months later, I asked her why she didn't enjoy sexual intercourse with me.

She looked at me, thickly layered in sullen punkgirl mien, sulking (it seemed to me) she said "I only enjoy sex if I'm being paid or being raped."

"I would have been happy to have done both." I replied.