Tag Archives: Clubbing

‘Suicide Note And The Amateur Dramatic Society’. Part II. By Richard Racket

9 Feb

Suicide Note And The Amateur Dramatic Society. Part II.

By Richard Racket.

 

SS portrait late 80s

My suggested soundtrack to this continuing saga is ‘Enigma Elevation 7’  from Steve Swindells’ Enigma Elevations Album.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to: over my hangover, at least, and all the love. It’s enough to make me want to live forever.

Yeah right. Back to reality with a bang. I felt truly, awfully mercenary opening those envelopes, hoping that there was maybe money inside. Being broke destroys everything: Your confidence, dignity, self-respect, pride and your good health.

Sometimes, you can wake after a sexy dream feeling momentarily terrific, before sinking back under the duvet with the awful realisation that pennies must be counted, bills and bags of laundry must be ignored – and stress-reducing leisure pursuits must be postponed until your ‘budget’ has crept past the £10 mark, depending on the generosity of friends, family… and fate.

Back to the first person.

The loneliness and hopelessness is further compounded by the fact that the phone is, yet again, cut-off, which makes you feel like you’re marooned on an urban desert island.

You can’t invite people to join you for a humble repast because: either there’s not enough food; or when you find a pay-phone that’s actually working, you encounter multiple cheery-toned rejections in the cruel, inhumane form of the answerphone.

You don’t want to leave a message because people can’t call you back, which makes you feel pathetic, like a total loser.

Consequently, you find yourself spending an awful lot of time alone, which only increases the paranoia, feelings of inadequacy, lack of self-worth and adds to the general demise of your fighting spirit, resulting, I guess, in your disappearance from peoples’ radar screens.

The only wreckage to be found is your piddling, or possibly brilliant, scribblings and jottings, which might make your life seem worthwhile. All that work, all those hours, all that intensity and poetic enthusiasm teased from the dark night of your soul (which is always 3am – as I believe F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote).

All that effort, all that striving, all that chasing and selling and smelling and meeting and chatting and battling and… bullshit.

All those promises and wind-ups and tricks and double-crosses from bosses and tossers, all those crosses you bore… but that doesn’t mean that you’re a bore. Does it?

On a slightly lighter note, there is one advantage to not having a phone. Most of my calls seem to be from people wanting something. Sometimes, they even have the temerity to demand what they require of me without even enquiring after my well-being. Nice.

How incredibly thoughtless and rude, as if I were a free, one-man agency for every aspiring two-bit researcher, socialite, would-be club runner, journalist, singer, actor, musician, painter, rent boy and cleaning lady in London. Generally, I’m happy to help people with advice or connections, but what about me?

MY career, MY needs, My income, My happiness? Good old Ricky, always there when you need him. So confident, always smiling, in charge, happening, major, Mr Man, on top, out there…

‘That’s Ricky Racket…’ people would whisper as I walked by in my own little world, as if I were actually famous. Hah! I’ll show you famous. I’m only marginally more famous than Van Gogh was in his lifetime – and the only thing I’ve cut-off (but not intentionally) is the goddam phone!

Have you ever tried to have a proper conversation in one of those call-boxes that are open to the elements in a howling gale (my open-plan office, as I jokingly refer to it, with more than a tinge of bitterness)?

Apart from the elements, the roar of traffic, or Concorde passing directly above you, there’s inevitably a queue, either before or after you, and that’s only if the call box is actually functioning.

Have you ever tried to set up a meeting from a call box? Apart from the inherent psychological disadvantage, which automatically diminishes your natural assertiveness, as the people whom you wish to speak with are always in meetings (or pretending to be).

‘Can so-and-so call you back?’ Asks the receptionist, secretary or PA (if you get that far up the chain of command), who is usually called Sharon.

‘Erm… well, I’m waiting for a line to be put in as I’ve just moved to a new flat… ‘ You trail off, realising the absurdity of it all, and give up.

 

And that point, a minor indulgence like brunch at Bar Italia in Soho, would soothe your troubled breast.

Reading the paper, doing the crossword, people-watching, munching delicious delicacies and sipping cappuccino… but no, you’ve spent the last of what little money you had talking to answerphones, Sharons and walls.

It’s 5:30PM and it’s already dark, cold and windy. I’m feeling horny. This is not practical. I don’t WANT to feel horny, even though it’s the most natural thing in the world, especially for us allegedly sexy Scorpios.

PWAS (people with AIDS) can have safe sex, just like anyone else, if the other person is willing to take the risk (which is why sex with a fellow PWA is less stressful). But… I haven’t told anyone, and even having safe sex without telling someone that I have AIDS would be grossly deceptive.

I guess it will have to come out at some point soon.

My balls are aching with all that unreleased cum. I take a long bath and wash my hair, then reluctantly decide to have a wank, just to ease the pressure. A succession of faces, bodies and bottoms flash across my mental screen. Stolen moments. Thighs and whispers. Memorable nights of real passion. Dirty/wholesome, meaningless/loving… SEX.

God, I miss it. I suppose masturbation is, in a way, the ultimate self-indulgence and tends to be the only sexual activity that induces something approaching a feeling of guilt in me.

That’s strange.

Is it because I feel I might be wasting moments of love? Or that mummy or daddy might walk in on me (I added that one for creepy laughs)? Or is it because it’s somehow mundane and lonely?

I catch sight of my body in the mirror – something of a masturbatory cliché in itself – and note that the stomach, aged 40, is still doing a reasonable imitation of a washboard and that the bum is quite round and pert.

Boys on the bed 1

Some friends hanging out on my giant bed

 

I wish my pectorals were more pronounced, but that’s my fault, I should get into swimming or ‘gymming’, but that costs money.

I idly brush my left nipple and there’s a perceptible inner reaction (my nipples have always been hard-wired to my dick, unlike many men – I guess it must be something in the homo genes). More faces from the past flit across my consciousness like warm shadows… so whom shall I invite into the bathroom for virtual intimacy today? They come in one-by-one, peeling off their pants, or running shorts (mmm, my favourite, especially with the smell of fresh sweat) to reveal the warm, dark curves and the soft hairy crevasses beneath. Aghhhhh! I’ve come in about 30 seconds.

I blink as if I’ve just awoken, wash the spunk off my dwindling tumescence and get out of the bath, feeling unburdened, at least temporarily.

Then I have a shave and tell myself in the mirror that I’m OK.

I’m carrying on… for now.

The flat is a disaster area. The floor hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks, there’s a pile of washing up and dirty clothes, towels and bed linen are overflowing from the laundry basket. I just can’t face doing something about it – and it ain’t nothing to do with my physical condition.

Oh nostalgia – the days when I could afford a cleaner! It was a small price to pay for the mental stimulation of a pristine flat. Now, the more I let it pile up, the more depressing it becomes.

I want to go out somewhere. I want someone I like to come and eat with me, talk with me and be with me. I’ve got post-birthday blues. The former centre of attention is now all alone and feeling sorry for himself. The child within, the child without. Without company. Without love.

The carnival is over within these walls, within my mindset, within my heart.

I haven’t been to the launderette for weeks – the cash flow dribble dictating that somehow eating was more important than clean sheets. Being something of a clothes freak, however, I’ve usually got something clean to wear. Now I have a little money, birthday presents from friends; but I can’t face doing the washing today – I want to treat myself.

SHIT! OF Course! I’m brain dead! It’s the ‘Sue Summers And Sake Party’ at Anna’s place. I nearly forgot!

Help! I need props! I don’t have any sex toys! Maybe I can improvise with some phallic articles?

I’m off to buy cucumbers and carrots!

This has immediately made me feel immeasurably better… I’m already giggling to myself with the thought of how stupid we’ll be. Sigh…just like old times.

 

**********************************************************************

November 1949.

“Ooh…uh… aaaaagh… that feels soooo good. Yeaaaahhhhhhh!”

Dick bucked and groaned.

Stephen gulped and hungrily swallowed Dick’s semen.

Able Seamen.

Crash! Suddenly, the cabin door was flung open. Burly arms grabbed the unsuspecting pair and hauled them to their feet from the bunk, as they tried to pull up their underpants and trousers.

They knew that they were busted and that there was no point in protesting, so they stood and hung their heads, like naughty schoolboys who’d been caught smoking behind the bike shed… but this was much more serious.

Their two pieces of irrefutable evidence drooped and shrank, as if to cement their humiliation, which was only made worse by their realisation that bringing up the rear, so to speak, of this unwelcome boarding party, was Admiral Peregrine.

Now we’re in for the high jump, they thought in unison, like an imagined scene you’d never, ever, see in one of those post-war, black and white, British movies.

 

Celia eyed the various shades of green in their room with distaste as she flicked through a copy of House And Garden (which Miss Platt, the landlady had ‘handed down’ to her, once she’d finished reading it), sitting on the only piece of furniture in the room which could lay claim to being welcoming – a battered, faux-suede armchair, which she’d draped with an antique shawl that an aunt had given to her, in an effort to make their ghastly digs more homely.

‘Pristine Christine’ read the headline above some archly posed pictures of some minor starlet’s dream palace in a Surrey suburb. Celia grunted dismissively at the actress’s bland, nouveau riche décor and thought: at least our place is real.

She’d had enough ‘reality’ to last a lifetime in the month that Dick and her had been married – and in Denmark before. The de rigueur honeymoon period had never even happened. End of story.

Being married seemed to entail her mostly being alone. She patted the small bulge in her abdomen which was the first product of this liaison – this loneliness – and imagined loving and nurturing their first child, as a pleasant distraction from the mundanity of struggling to survive.

She was discovering things about Dick which were as sobering as he was drunk most nights.

Staggering in in the early hours, waking her from crying herself to sleep, demanding to fuck her, then falling asleep halfway through his limp impersonation of an inebriated missionary (position).

What little money he gave her was barely enough to cover the rent and to buy food to cook on the single gas ring which sat on the floor by the yellowish-brown-tiled, boarded-up moderne fireplace in front of which there was also a battered, single-element electric fire.

‘Out of the frying pan… into the fire.’ She sighed, as she knelt on the brown lino and cooked sausages for their dinner, awaiting his return, which could have been anytime.

She heard footsteps on the wooden stairs and annoyed herself by leaping up and patting her hair as she checked her appearance in the cracked mirror above the mantlepiece.

‘Perfect little wife…’ she whispered to herself in a nursery rhyme voice, scowling at her broken reflection.

A few moments later Dick slowly opened the door, looking tired and ashen-faced.

‘Dick… whatever’s wrong?’ She took his coat and fedora hat, absentmindedly brushing a hair off his lapel as he sunk onto the bed, sighed deeply and undid his brown brogues, throwing them on the lino.

‘It’s all over!’ He said, putting his head in his hands, messing up his beloved coiffeur.

She sat beside him and put her arms around him, waiting for him to explain what had happened.

‘He took a deep breath and said: ‘I’m finished with The Navy… I… I’ve been chucked-out, dishonourably discharged…’

‘But Dick.. why… what happened? What did you do that was so awful?’

‘I didn’t do anything, sweetheart. I was set-up… and spat out. Just like that!’ He made a futile gesture with his hands and and shrugged his shoulders.

Naturally, Dick wasn’t about to tell the truth. She wouldn’t have believed him anyway – after all, he was a married man, so he couldn’t be ‘that way’.

He’d had to pull a few strings to make sure that there was no publicity about the Court Marshal: Admiral Peregrin’s rather thick string, in fact, along with a cat-o’-nine-tails that Dick administered to his rear. Rear admiral. The admiral, putting his uniform back on, had been grateful… and apologetic.

‘I’m so sorry, my dear, beautiful boy, you know Captain Blonde is such a spoilsport, but one has to go along with it. Mustn’t rock the proverbial boat, eh what?’

This attempt at making little pleasantries was lost on Dick, who was merely relieved, not only of his duties, but to get the hell out of this vile old queen’s quarters, safe in the knowledge that his secret was safe… for now.

Criminal acts, not having two pennies to rub together, loneliness and the struggle to survive were not supposed to be in Celia’s curriculum vitae. They were forced to do a ‘moonlight flit’ from Miss Platts’ boarding house; which she ruefully had to admit had given her a certain satisfaction.

Dick brought the battered Austin Seven to the back alley, having instructed Celia to keep watch for the landlady, then she’d thrown their possessions over the back fence and her husband – this is my husband? – had thrown them in the boot and on the back seat – and they were off, to Birmingham – where her cousin Nelly (who was also pregnant) had agreed that they could stay with her and her mentally retarded (that’s the term people used in those days) husband in their small house in Acock’s Green, a grimy, smoke-ridden, working-class area of the city – having been told a pack of lies by Dick.

‘Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it sweetheart, he’d urged her.’

Celia’s far-from-little head was growing in bitter experience by the hour.

She stood at the side of the road clutching her coat collar to her throat with one hand and disconsolately waving the other with its thumb raised, to hitch a lift, as the cars, vans and trucks thundered by in the cold drizzle in Warwickshire.

Dick leaned against the boot of his broken-down car, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, rather like James Dean in ‘A Rebel Without A Cause’.

‘Hitch-up your skirt a bit, old girl, then someone will soon stop.’

She reluctantly did so and within a couple of minutes a truck screeched to halt fifty yards down the road. It started to back up, but when Dick emerged from the shadows, it halted abruptly, then sped off into the inky darkness.

‘Oh Dick, this is BLOODY AWFUL! Wailed Celia, feeling utterly frustrated, cold, tired and disillusioned. She’d surprising herself by swearing.

‘Can’t we at least try and get the old wreck started again?’

‘I don’t know what’s wrong with it!’ He said, shrugging his shoulders, ‘Why don’t you just keep trying to thumb a lift?’

Celia stomped over to the stricken vehicle and opened the bonnet.

‘Oh that’s a laugh… ‘ snorted Dick, stubbing out his cigarette with his shoe ‘… and now she’s a bloomin’ mechanic!’

‘The fan belt’s gone!’ She announced with a grim smile, then, balanced on one leg, she unclipped a stocking from the other, then pulled of her shoe and the stocking as Dick looked on, nonplussed.

‘Where the hell did you find out about stuff like that?’ He asked incredulously.

‘During the war… I used to watch the airmen tinkering with their cars…’

She nearly lost her balance. Then lent on the wheel hub, tying the stocking where the fan belt had been and added, with a certain breezy satisfaction: ‘There – that should do the trick, there are only about twenty miles to go!’

‘Sometimes you amaze me.’ Sighed Dick, his lazy macho pride slightly wounded.

They arrived at the dreary-looking Victorian, terraced house in Acock’s Green just after Midnight.

The area looked rather like Coronation Street, the as-yet-unheard-of soap opera.

Celia knocked gingerly at the door, as the house was in darkness. Sounds emanated from within and the hall light went on. Her cousin Nellie appeared, dressed in a pink candlewick dressing gown and brown slippers, her smile conveying relief as she ushered them inside with their battered cases.

‘You finally made it, thank goodness you’re alright, what happened?’

Everyone was talking at once as they dumped their belongings on the floor of the sparsely furnished dining room.

‘Now don’t you worry, my sweets, leave all your stuff there for now, I think what we all need is a nice cup of tea.’

Celia took a deep breath, comforted by her cousin’s down-to-earth homeliness.

The doors of the serving hatch from the kitchen to dining room were suddenly flung open from inside.

‘Hello folks!’ Said Cedric, her husband loudly, in a reedy Birmingham accent, then slammed the doors shut as abruptly as he’d opened them.

Nellie smiled ruefully and raised her eyebrows and whispered: ‘Don’t mind him, he means well.’

This was the first of many performances of that particular routine to be witnessed by the new arrivals. It soon transpired that Cedric insisted on living in the kitchen, sleeping on an old camp bed. The ‘hatch show’ was basically his only form of communication.

Despite this bizarre ritual, after just a few days of acclimatization, Celia felt more secure than she had for some time.

Nellie was a true friend: warm, caring, motherly… and pregnant with her first child, just like herself (how her husband had managed it didn’t bear thinking about – and why had she married such a strange creature?). This was not the time for questions, only answers and practicalities.

Having her cousin there to share their impending births was a comfort beyond belief, although the house was dismal, cold, and draughty.

Nellie had no concept of design or décor. The house, which she had inherited from an elderly maiden aunt, was pretty much the same as it had been for forty years. Everything was brown. Shit brown.

The relief of having her own space – the spare room was quite large – and relative security was enough to bring out Celia’s natural, cheerful and resilient creative spirit. Soon, she was able to persuade Nelly to let her ‘brighten up the place a bit’ with bits and bobs which she would source very cheaply from local junk shops and markets.

The fact that Dick was continually absent, supposedly looking for a permanent job, was dealt with philosophically. The cousins had much cause for shared laughter concerning their husbands’ shortcomings and idiosyncrasies.

Within the space of three months Dick had flitted in and out of various jobs, ranging from an electrician to an undertaker, a television salesman and a clerk in a betting shop, doing various dodgy deals, gambling, womanising, petty theft and hanging out in Gentlemen’s Public Conveniences along the way.

However, even he had become more relaxed and grounded and Celia was happy to note that his natural charm had reappeared, along with his seductive grin.

He was quite a hit with Nellie’s neighbours as well: running errands, fixing leaks and generally performing the role of local man-about-the-house. Especially the bedrooms. His sex life with Celia was now nonexistent, as her bulge became bigger and the birth was imminent.

Her sexual needs, however, were tempered by the glow emanating from the heartbeat and movements in her womb.

Lawrence was safely delivered by the local Midwife in June, swiftly followed by Nellie’s Rupert in July.

They had a joint Christening, as both mothers attended the local Anglican church regularly.

Everyone, including Celia’s parents Gladys and Henry (who had recently moved to the city of Bath) and a gaggle of dull, lower-middle-class relatives in their ‘Sunday Best’ duly witnessed the official naming of the boys by a Vicar who was straight out of central casting – perhaps for an Ealing comedy – complete with goofy teeth and a tendency to misread the texts.

Next came a reception of sorts at the house in Acock’s Green, where little men in ill-fitting suits, sporting pencil moustaches, and rotund matriarchs with tight little perms, which looked like they’d been formed from clay, wore twinsets in pastel shades, fake pearls and horrendous floral, swirly frocks.

They were sipping tea in dainty little china cups and eating cucumber sandwiches and Celia’s homemade fairy cakes and exchanging pleasantries with the Vicar, whilst cooing at the two babies in their Moses baskets, when suddenly, the doors of the kitchen hatch were flung open and Cedric exclaimed ‘Hello Folks’!

Some of the children stifled giggles and a few tea cups rattled in their saucers in the brief silence which followed before Cedric pulled the doors shut, then everyone carried on making small talk and exchanging trivial pleasantries… as only the post-war, British lower-middle classes could.

 

**********************************************************************

October 31st, 1992.

It’s 8 O’Clock and Hercules hasn’t arrived yet, damnit!

I reluctantly throw on a warm jacket, grab my phone card and head for my open-plan office… the call box down the road. Much to my annoyance, Hercules answers the phone.

‘What the hell are doing there?’ I ask, irritated. ‘I thought you were coming straight after work… the party starts at 9 and it’s in my honour, well, along with Stephen Redford, who’s birthday it is today. There will be plenty of sushi to eat; I’m starving, and Anna will be pissed-off if we’re too late.’

‘Oh God, I’m leaving now, I didn’t realise the party was so early,’ says Hercules in his usual gentle and unassuming manner,’ and I’m looking forward to meeting your very own Mrs Madrigal.’

I laugh at the comparison, although Anna is not actually a sex change (whoops, sorry about the spoiler if you haven’t read the books).

Hercules has amazed me recently by revealing his love of the brilliant ‘Tales Of The City’ series by Armistead Maupin. I wasn’t aware that he read anything!

‘The Bunch’ (as-in ‘wild’), which is how this group of my close friends describe ourselves, all relate to various characters in the books – I suppose I must be Mouse. It was Anna who introduced me to them, and I was instantly hooked. Hercules was very impressed when I told him that I’d met Armistead Maupin on two occasions, when we’d both been performing (him reading, me playing the piano) at AIDS benefits in the late 80s.

Hercules arrived, slightly breathless, at nearly 9 O’Clock.

‘The bloody cab driver went the wrong way and I ended up in poxy Peckam. So I refused to pay him and got out and had to get a bus!’

‘A bus! My goodness, the indignity!’ I say sarcastically, pouring us a glass of cheap, Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon (actually, quite drinkable) each.

‘Happy belated!’ He says, clinking my glass, and pecks me on the cheek, looking intently at me with his enormous, warm, caramel-brown, liquid eyes.

‘Peckham-On-The-Cheek!’ I say with a chuckle. He looks slightly confused.

‘Well, you know that there a little tributary of the Thames called the River Cheek which runs through Peckham, where you were recently stranded!’

‘You silly man!’ He laughs, then throws a sizeable lump of black hash on the red, formica, 1950’s kitchen table. ‘Now make yourself useful and roll us a big fat spliff before we head off to Mrs Madrigal’s!’

I suppose Hercules is the nearest thing I have to a boyfriend right now. He’s only 21, strangely beautiful, sometimes too effeminate (which turns me right off), and very shy. He sports a shaved head – it’s a good symmetrical shape – and wears funky (as opposed to prissy) designer clothes (Chipie, Armani, Chevignon etc), as he works in a ridiculously over-priced menswear boutique called The Study in South Molton Street in Mayfair. He gets paid a basic wage plus a generous commission on the sales he makes, so he’s not short of a bob or two, as he’s very charming, if a little shy

He’s told me that his father is African/Greek (how unusual is that?) and owns a newspaper in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, where he grew up, and that his mother is French/Sengalese – hence his exotic beauty. He came here to study at the renowned St Martin’s School of Fashion and graduated last year and is working whilst he looks for backers for his first womenswear collection.

Naturally, I’ve seen his sketches, and he’s very talented.

His mother is apparently a bit of a raver (she’s MY AGE!) and lives in Hackney with her second husband, whom Hercules has been trying to seduce by doing the vacuuming wearing just a skimpy pair of Nikos briefs, bending down to reach into corners, showing-off his small-but-perfectly-formed, round posterior. His stepfather has yet to ‘rise’ to the challenge, apparently.

His telling of this story actually made me feel slightly, well, jealous, whilst finding it amusing, regardless.

I’ve been seeing him for nearly a year, maybe once every couple of weeks or so (which makes us fuck-buddies, I guess).

We have wild, safe sex, usually off our faces. His body is like a Greek statue, in mahogany-coloured marble.

He gives me absolutely no indication of his emotional requirements, makes no demands, doesn’t seek attention.

He’s recently begun to show more warmth, as if he’d previously been afraid of the consequences of cuddling, slowly building a more emotional base? Who knows?

He fascinates me – except when he gets a bit girly.

We smoke the joint that I’ve rolled and I show him the ‘dick noses’ that we should wear to make our entrance with, wondering if he’ll be too shy to wear one.

As we head towards the tube at Elephant And Castle in the rain and cold, he suddenly offers to pay for a black cab to take us to Anna’s place in Kilburn. I readily concur, but after several roar by on the Walworth Road – with their ‘vacant’ yellow lights on – having observed that I’m with a BLACK man (who would obviously ‘do a runner’, or mug them) I suggest that I should ‘play the white man’ and that he should hide behind the bus shelter. Sure enough, one screeches to a halt immediately and we jump in triumphantly, sniggering.

As I ring Anna’s doorbell, I put on my dick-nose, he hovers behind me, holding his nervously.

‘Dahhhling!’ Screeches Anna, throwing her arms around me and thrusting her hips into mine in a pretend-lustful manner. She looks terrific, dressed as rock-chick groupie, in black leather and lace.

‘Meet the lovely Hercules!’ I say, as she ushers us into her flat, where ‘Shit On My Finger’ by Millie Jackson is playing at full blast on the stereo. ‘The Bunch’ all seem to be there and are dancing in sex-shop costumes and joshing, as usual, trading pretend insults.

‘Where the fuck have YOU been faggot?’ Demands David Hackney, grinning and grabbing my crotch. Hercules looks slightly taken aback. I wink at him, to reassure my fuck-buddy that’s it’s all part of ‘The Bunch’s’ usual ritual. David’s dressed as a sixties pimp, wearing mustard-coloured Farah hipster slacks, and a purple satin shirt with a huge collar, worn open to the waist, revealing an enormous and particularly unpleasant fake-gold medallion.

Anna’s bisexual, first ex-husband Jerry Judge sidles over – he’s flown-in from France, where he’s the editor of Paris People magazine. He casts an admiring eye over Hercules and looks back at me questioningly. I shrug my shoulders with a wink, as if to say, yes, he’s with ME! Hands OFF! Hercules hovers uncertainly.

I don’t blame him. Meeting this lot for the first time would be testing for anyone, no matter how gregarious they might be.

‘This is Hercules!’ I announce, pulling him into the circle, ‘and this…’

I wave my hand mock-dismissively around 

‘… bunch of degenerates are some of my OLDEST friends!’ Everyone groans at this tired ‘old’ in-joke, but that IS the joke.

‘Come and get some Saki and have an ENORMOUS line of Charlie in the kitchen! Shrieks Anna, grabbing the now broadly-grinning Hercules by the hand.

Anna’s two-bedroomed flat is co-owned by her second ex-husband Jason Toogood, who is the father of her nine year-old daughter Jasmine, who’s generally known as Jazz.

Anna had kick-started his career by making him art director on big-name pop videos that she had produced in the early 80s. From there he progressed to directing them, then commercials, then Hollywood and movies.

Elton John’s manager once told me that the only reason that he’d ‘made it’ in LA was because all the gay, Jewish film producers fancied him. However, unlike Anna’s first husband Jerry, he wasn’t bisexual and I’m *ahem* sure that he didn’t lead them on at all.

The flat is a spacious and well-proportioned Edwardian conversion, with large, sliding patio doors leading out from the main bedroom onto a patio and a lawned garden with a large tree, where Jazz had asked me to build her a large tree house, inspired by the classic movie ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ which I’d given to her on video for Christmas. Unfortunately, I never got around to it, blaming the distinct shortage of bamboo growing on the railway embankment.

Anna is happy to have somewhere to call her own home, after several years of struggle and uncertainty. She’s HIV positive.

Until recently she was running a charity for women living with HIV and AIDS called Female Focus, until it was taken-over in a coup by a pair of PC lesbians (a demographic which is, ironically, the lowest-risk regarding ‘the gay plague’) , leeching-in on the burgeoning AIDS industry.

‘You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties!’ I sing as Anna pours warm Saki into shot glasses and Jerry, who’s dressed in biker’s leathers, offers us large lines of coke on a mirrored tray.

Clementine appears, dressed in a nifty peach-coloured satin slip and gold sling-backs, looking amazing for her 45 years.

‘Hercules, meet Clementine Casely-Smith!’ I intone with fake grandeur, followed by a loud snort as I ingest the coke: ‘She’s older than your MOTHER!’ She mock-scowls at me, then smiles demurely at Hercules and introduces us to her latest toy-boy, who’s dressed in a pink rubber mini-skirt, and is sporting a black bobbed wig.

Soon, David Hackney, who is one of the foremost fantasy film critics in the country, is urging Hercules to give him the inside dope on a celebrity party which he recently attended, thrown by the 90’s answer to Greta Garbo, an actress called Inga Thompson, where he spent the evening talking with Joan Collins (very camp), Sylvester Stallone (he’s tiny) and various stars of stage and screen.

‘But tell me how Joe Flirt tried to pick you up and offered to take you to the States!’ Insists David, having been given the low-down the day before by your’s truly, on the phone. I’ve been astonished by Hercules’s ability to effortlessly hang-out with the rich and famous – and was slightly pissed-off that he hadn’t asked ME to accompany him to said bash. He shoots me a you big gossip look.

Joe Flirt is probably Hollywood’s most bankable, young male star and sex symbol of the 90s. He’s supposedly rampantly heterosexual.

Evidently, he likes youngish black men – just like me.

Hercules is not the first of my bed-mates to have been approached by him either. I once had a wild night with one of Grace Jones’ live stand-ins (hence the apparent ultra-fast costume changes), who’d been chatted up by Joe Flirt when Grace and her boys had hitched a ride to New York on his private jet.

Hercules seems to be enjoying all the attention and ‘The Bunch’, for once, are being really quite nice to Hercules, as if they’ve psyched-in on his self-consciousness, which I have been trying to break down gently, over a period of time. I want him to be confident and self-possessed – and, I have to admit, more masculine, which is a bit of a long shot.

Anna lurches elegantly towards us, smiling benignly, glass of saki in one hand and a joint in the other. She’s enjoying herself; releasing the tension of the last few months – her relationship with rich socialite Kenneth (call me Kenny) Cockburn (pronounced in the english, upper-cass way: kohburn) all washed-up. On Ice. Finished. Or maybe not. So no more pre-dawn trips to the seaside for Anna and The Bunch in his Bentley convertible.

For now, she doesn’t care, she’s flying, having fun.

Just like old times.

‘He’s an old softie really, that Ricky Racket!’ She exclaims into Hercules’s ear in a stage whisper. He smiles enigmatically.

‘Don’t believe that hard, cynical front that he gives out – it’s bullshit, darling, he’s sensitive and kind and caring and… ‘ She raises her voice theatrically ‘… I juss lurve him to death!’

‘Anna is just gushing again.’ I say, patting them both on the bum.

Hercules looks blissed-out and Anna is like the cat that got the cream, the saki, the smoke and the coke.

The doorbell rings. Someone lets in Tonski (Best Drug Dealer in London award, 1992), his wife Alana and Eddie, another dealer who’s reputedly the son of a major gangster (and therefore higher up the food-chain than Tonski: his ‘wholesaler’ I would imagine).

This is opportune, as cocaine supplies seems to have dwindled somewhat.

‘Darling!’ Purrs Anna, squeezing my arm, ‘Could you be an absolute angel and zip down to the cashpoint for me, I’m FAR too off my face!

I agree and she whispers her pin-number in my ear then intones loudly in her mock-Queen Of Hearts voice: “We feel that more class A drugs are required immediately!’ Then adds, before doubling-up with helpless mirth, ‘Orf with their heads… as we’re all orf ours!’

I glide off towards the cashpoint in the November drizzle on an imaginary hover board (imagine if such a thing existed!) powered by saki, hash and cocaine, having pressed a mental ‘save’ key to remember Anna’s pin number.

Her flat is just around the corner from the dubious merits of Kilburn High Road, a never-ending cartoon strip of trash shops, pawn shops, betting shops, greasy spoons, old-school pubs, kebab-and-chicken-take-aways and, curiously… a Marks And Sparks. It’s seemingly populated by Irish hookers, homeless people with dogs-on-strings, junkies, drug dealers and begging Romany women. It’s hard to believe that there’s so much prosperity in the nearby tree-lined streets, which are filled with handsome Victorian and Edwardian houses – mostly converted into flats.

I reach the cashpoint, check there are no mugger-types in the immediate vicinity, and am amazed when it generously gives me the £100 that I’ve humbly requested. It makes me nostalgic for the days, back in the 80s, when my own account regularly delivered such amounts without question.

I put the money safely in a zip-up side pocket in my cargo pants, pull the hood on my jacket over my head, as the rain is getting heavier, and wander back to the party, musing about people who’ve never used (with the emphasis on used) recreational drugs. It may be difficult for them to comprehend the therapeutic benefits which can be derived by someone who, like me, has a good mental handle relating to the partaking of various illegal substances.

Allow me to ellucidate.

If you’ve spent the majority of the past year in tense suspension – waiting, pushing, hoping, praying, surviving and basically believing in yourself and your abilities… then, getting off your face, out of it, high, bollocked, smashed, zonked, mashed (and all the other ever-changing colloquialisms that describe this state of being) takes the form of a welcome release, a virtual holiday, a breath of air to blow away the cobwebs of struggle.

Because of your rich experience in this matter, you find that you are always ‘on top’ of said situations, unless you deliberately wish to reach a cut-off point –  which could be described as planned amnesia, I suppose.

That particular combination that I have snorted, smoked and imbibed does not induce paranoia in me at all, largely due, I guess, to the saki, which has a mellow, warm, calming effect.

Cocaine never makes me edgy (probably ‘cos I’ve never been ‘strung-out’ on it – and I don’t believe that it’s physically addictive, just habit-forming, because it can give people with low self-esteem the belief that have snorted super-powers), but oddly enough, smoking dope on its own without alcohol (red wine preferably), can lead to me questioning everything about myself in a most irrational manner.

So I don’t.

I depends on one’s metabolism, I guess – you could say that there are two distinct ‘types’ amongst dope-smokers: those, like me, who find that it triggers creativity, stimulates the intellect and sexuality; and others, who it makes all floppy, dopey, stupid and sleepy, banishing all deep and meaningful thoughts from their minds, preferring to drift down a shallow stream (not necessarily of consciousness) to the sea of oblivion.

I always seem to find unexpected rapids and waterfalls around the next curve, and enjoy a bit of metaphorical white-water-rafting and then, when I reach the sea, I scan the horizon looking for new adventures, then turn around to see a beautiful, half-naked stranger (male) emerging from the woods behind the dunes on the deserted beach walking towards me, with arms outstretched.

A person exhibiting their shallow metabolism’s beatific, stoned smile and hollow, self-conscious cackling, reminds me of people with no direction in life who’ve been brainwashed into becoming Seventh Day Adventists, or who follow some bogus guru or whatever, and are high on their belief that it’s good for them and their low self-esteem. To me, they’re just cannon fodder for manipulative masters-of-their-own-universe who make a career out of exploiting stupid people.

I’m so lost in my thoughts that I suddenly realise that I’ve walked way too far down the road – well, all the houses look the same – then turn around and go back, allowing myself a self-derisory chuckle.

Back in the living room I pronounce in a stentorian fashion: ‘The machine refused to give me any money – it said you didn’t have ANY!’

Anna looks momentarily stunned, almost believing me, before I whip out the £100 and throw it on the carpet snarling: ‘Grovel bitch!’ She gathers up the money, after everyone pretends to steal i, and stuffs it in her bra, like a gangsters moll, helpless with laughter. I follow her into the kitchen with my hands around her waist, singing ‘Hi Ho, hi ho, it’s off to coke we go!.

Keiron Davies is sitting at the kitchen table rolling a huge joint, dressed in a white Victorian lace frock and sporting a huge black wig and huge pair of fluffy rabbit ears above his ever-mischievous visage. Just like me and Clementine, he never really made it creatively – in their case in the film industry – and after five years of trying to break through in Hollywood, with his brilliant scripts.

He’s now back in the backwoods of Wales – running a video shop.

‘We’ll all get there in the end Keiron,’ I say, reassuring him, maybe reading his mind, ‘So what’s your latest story? I ask. Hercules listens transfixed as he takes us into his latest magical world of mystery and monkey business .

We talk about talent and managers and agents and all the hoops we have to jump through in order to even begin to make any headway.

We get in deep: not silly, druggy deep, but real baby. Telling it like it is. Mutual support, admiration and understanding. Emotionalism is not an issue to be avoided, like in a professional manner.

Why can’t we get at least ONE away? Is it because we make people uncomfortable with the truth?

He seems surprised, relieved even, and points out: ‘That’s the first time we’ve ever talked like that.’

‘Nah… really? Impossible, after all these years’. We’ve know each other since the mid-seventies. Maybe he’s right.

After this, my memory banks go into meltdown and a delightful blackout ensues, until Tonski’s voice enters my consciousness announcing: ‘Hey Ricky – our cab has arrived man!’

You may recall that Tonski and his wife life near me in The Elephant And Castle. ‘I wonder if he’ll take five people?’ I wonder aloud, my natural organisational abilities springing into life, despite my drugged and drunken state. I leap unsteadily to my feet.

‘Offer the driver a couple of quid to wait for a bit.’ Says Tonski, slapping his recumbent wife gently on the cheek to bring her to life, pressing a £20 pound note into my hand; then poking Eddie, who’s fast asleep, in the ribs.

I run out into the now pouring rain where the inevitable Orange Datsun is waiting, with its equally predictable African driver, who happily agrees to my request, once I show him the money.

Somehow I manage to muster the flock and we squeeze into the cab for the journey South (giving the driver directions all the way, as per usual) which seems to take minutes – cocaine always makes the mundane enjoyable – and I invite everyone in for Chilli Con Carne.

*********************************************************************

November 1953

 

SS and Rob in pram (cropped). 1953

I display an early grasp of the Elvis sneer, aged 7 months

Not surprisingly, I don’t recall a great deal about my first birthday, in Handsworth Park in Birmingham, but another photo taken on that day exists (I just can’t find it) showing myself and my older brother Lawrence, who was always known as Larry, sitting on mutli-coloured bedspread depicting flying yachts, in that rather cool, stylised design peculiar to the 50s.

Larry, was already a good-looking boy, blond and blue-eyed – like his dad – and there’s little me, chubby with jet black hair and big brown eyes, with a dreamy, far away look in them, exhibiting a goofy, toothless grin.

Both of us were dressed identically and rather charmingly in bright red woollen waistcoats (which our mum Celia had knitted), yellow, short-sleeved shirts and blue bow ties.

This first-floor flat had three bedrooms, one of which had been occupied for over a year by a couple of lodgers who were actors performing in repertory (rep’, as it was known) in various theatres in the Midlands.

Celia’s brief taste of the spotlight with the Amateur Dramatic Society in Great Yarmouth had been the start of a frustrated love affair with the theatre and show business in general (which lasts to this day). So she was only too happy to accommodate two people who could give her vicarious access to a world which was denied to her. They, in return, were happy to have a charming, intelligent and attractive landlady who would devour their their thespian gossip, listen to their problems with a sympathetic ear, and help them read-through their scripts, taking, of course, the female roles.

I think that she already knew that she’d never get the chance to become the great actress that she have been, should her destiny had taken a different path.

Both actors were to become very famous indeed – through the rapidly burgeoning medium of television. One, Donald Piper, as the husband who wished to live off the land in suburbia in a hugely successful 70s sitcom which ran for years, and the other, Peter Toddington, as the nouveau-riche husband next door who totally disapproved. Celia was to be so thrilled that both her former lodgers were to become massive TV stars in the same show.

In later years, the former became a distinguished member of The Royal Shakespeare Company, playing many of the major roles, including King Lear, whilst the latter became uber-famous when he played a minister who later became the prime minister in what was allegedly Margaret Thatcher’s favourite TV show of the 80s – although I must confess that I find it hard to imagine her laughing at anything. Ice queen.

They both remained friends with Celia as the years went by, and would often visit her for a cup of tea if they were passing through Bath, where she now lives with my stepfather, or performing at the Theatre Royal (she adored the fact that they would be given free tickets). She still likes to drop just their christian names into conversation, expecting everyone to know who she’s talking about.

Back then in Birmingham, Celia’s life had reached a plane of tolerance. My parent’s stay at her cousin Nellie’s house had ended not long after Larry’s birth, after the local council had offered them a council flat in Handsworth Park (although sub-letting a room to lodgers wasn’t, of course, legal).

Dick’s nocturnal wanderings had eased-off to a degree, now that he had a young family to support; he’d actually managed to sustain a self-employed job as a TV repair man for over a year. The fact that the ‘repairing’ consisted of using his bottomless pit of charm to persuade his mostly female customers to buy ‘reconditioned’ TV sets (i.e stolen) from him, then covertly selling their damaged ones, once he’d repaired them, as if he was ‘doing them a favour by getting rid of them’, only helped to bring in more ‘housekeeping’ money. Celia would have been horrified if she’d known the truth, but with Dick’s income and the additional money from the lodgers she was, for the first time in her life, relatively secure.

She also thoroughly enjoyed the company of her charming lodgers. Donald Piper was a cheeky sort of chappie (as they would have said in those days) aged 23, with an engaging grin and wonderfully natural comedic talent. His mimicry used have my mother in fits of laughter.

‘He has me tickled pink!’ She’d exclaim, in that curiously clipped fashion that we find so amusingly twee in 50s black and white movies these days,

‘He’s an absolute HOOT!’

He reminded her of some her airman friends back at The Links in her youth, having been in the Airforce, and even imprisoned in Colditz.

His best friend and colleague Peter Toddington was 24, tall and handsome, with Italian features, jet-black hair, large and luminous come-to-bed eyes and an undeniably alluring sexual charisma. He and my mother seemed to have a magical bond between them which was almost mystical.

 

**********************************************************************

November 2nd, 1992.

The flint on my gunmetal black Zippo lighter has ‘gone’. Smoking roll-ups, as I do, which are constantly going out, this is causing me some consternation, especially as I can’t afford to buy any more. Surely I have some in a box somewhere? It will probably be easier to raid the change jar and buy a disposable lighter for 20p in the market.

Back to counting the pennies again dammit! I’ve lit a candle, as is my wont, to provide me with a sort of focus, to re-light my soggy cigs, to create an evocative atmosphere and maybe to help ward-off malevolent spirits (just like I’ll be doing when I do the dreaded deed). Suicide appears to invoke a cast of ghost characters who will accompany you into the dread zone, where you will float, like an exotic fish in a cosmic aquarium on the other side which is ‘actually just about around the corner.’

Probably. Possibly.

Who would think that such a pathetic little hiccup could cause me such anguish? Why can’t I have a box full of disposable lighters with colours to match my moods?

What, all of them black?

No, that’s not fair on myself, even in my current impasse.

I’m able to laugh, hang-out with my friends, get high and pissed, flirt, have an almost-love-thing with Apollo and great sex, tell pathetically awful jokes… write this… the longest suicide note in history… no doubt.

That’s hardly gonna help your mood is it? Says the still, small voice inside.

Sometimes my ‘higher-self’ gets on my tits.

Uh-oh, he’s getting pissed off with me!

He’s beginning to mock me! Hey you up there, or wherever you are, how about a bit of sympathy and solidarity huh?

You’re getting tired and ratty – why don’t you try to get some sleep?

It’s true, I’m exhausted, but I doubt if I’ll be able to sleep. I wish I had a new book to read…

You could always read what you’ve just written?

Oh great, that will cheer me right up! If only the TV worked, then I could ‘veg-out’ and stop being so intense with myself. Maybe the TV not working is some kind of warped karma, like father-not-like son, or something.

I stopped paying the rental several years ago, and the computer just sort-of forgot about me, not that it was in my actual name (I’d rented in my father’s name just to amuse myself with the double irony)!

I can hardly ring them up and demand that they fix it, can I? Although it would be a tantalising dare. Anyway, it’s only got four channels! How antiquated.

Nov 3rd.

So what?

So what indeed have I go to look forward to tomorrow? Two meagre units left on the Phone Card. Small change rattling in my pocket (I really shouldn’t have bought that musical, two-speed Elvis vibrator – Love Me Tender and I’m All Shook Up – for the party) and… might my would-be benefactor be back in the country yet? I somehow doubt it.

I can’t ask my sister for anymore cash – it’s not fair, with her being the only member of the family on the spot, in London.

Mother relayed a message through her the other day suggesting that maybe I should get a job.

In this state, just after my fortieth birthday? If only she knew.

It’s the old catch 22. If I’d had a job, then I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all the things that I have (two major record deals, enormous success as a club promoter and party organiser, for instance). And now, fucking great mountains of creative outpourings all stored to floppy disc on my 16-track Korg T2 digital dream machine, which ma and step-pa bought for me in 1987, bless ’em – and it cost £1,200!

Maybe I could, or should get a job, perhaps be a consultant to an ad agency, or a trend advisor (I always accurately predict everything that’s going to happen – for instance: people have no idea how communicating by using computers will be like the second industrial revolution).

But people would look at incredulously and say ‘But you’re Ricky Rackett! You’re a legend, why should you need a job?’

So if I signed-on as unemployed (or claiming disability because of my condition – now there’s a thought), there would be probably be some lefty, right-on queen, with hair shaved at the sides and a dreadlocked ponytail on top, presiding behind the glass screens and the iron bars, lord of all who must grovel in her presence, who turns out to have been a regular at some of the hugely successful, one-night clubs I promoted throughout the 80s, who would proclaim loudly enough for all the other failures, alcoholics, junkies, queers, dykes and down-and-outs to hear: ‘My GOD, I thought I recognised you! What on earth is the famous Rocky Racket doing slumming it HERE? Well, well, how the mighty have fallen!’

Exit AIDS-infected former semi-famous person and failed songwriter/poet/author/spiritual healer/interior designer/potential consultant to the creative industries… with tail very much between legs.

Besides, you have to wait over six weeks to get a penny, then you get a paltry weekly sum like twenty quid, which would last about two days, once you’ve re-stocked the fridge with beer and food.

Mind you, just like with the TV rental company, databases do have a tendency to forget my existence, which, in some respects, is something to be grateful for. I haven’t paid the rent on my little council flat for months – and I haven’t heard anything… yet. But as Social Security instruct the local council to pay one’s rent when signing-on, it’s obvious that my cover would be well and truly blown should I go down that route.

Ohlordgivemestrength and several thousand pounds and pass the bag of tamazapan! I’ve had enough of this endless frustration,

I just need to get in a recording studio to do the vocals on all the songs I’ve recorded at home, before it’s too late.

Now, if I told people of my condition, they would probably whisk me into the studio before you could say Terence Higgins… but I can’t use that kind-of sledgehammer, emotionally blackmailing approach; it’s just not right.

I want someone to invest in my talent because they believe in ME, not out of sympathy.

That’s more like it!‘ Says the small voice in my head, appearing to be supportive this time, for a change: ‘Keep saying it, keep believing it will happen… you know I’m on your side.’

But sometimes you make me feel like I’m a schizo, like my own rationale’s making me think I’m going off the rails, hearing voices…

‘Forget it kid, take a nap, you’re becoming delirious…’

You’re right, I will.

‘… and don’t forget to press SAVE!’

Fuck, yeah, thanks!

 

*********************************************************************

Nov’ 2nd 1992.

I first met Christopher Goldberg in the new year of 1992. He was perched on a stool at the oval-shaped bar at the centre of The Lear Lounge at The Starlight Club.

He twinkled at me in what I assumed to be a psychic, rather than a flirtatious manner; at least, that’s how I interpreted it, perhaps due to the fact that dumpy, Jewish Americans aren’t my cup of (Kosher) meat, as it were.

Despite being vertically challenged, he had a handsome, smiley face and a cool, expensive-looking haircut.

I sat on the stool next to him and we immediately got into a lively conversation about the nomenclature of the bar.

I’t’s called The Lear because it’s trying to look like a V.I.P Lounge – and failing miserably – like where people might board Lear Jets.’ I snorted.

‘No, it’s because everyone is leering at each other!’ He joshed.

‘Well, it’s nothing to do with Shakespeare,’ I cut-in, perhaps surprising him with my un-British, quick fire delivery.

‘Talking of King Lear, ‘ he said brightly, ‘isn’t that Ian McKellen being histrionic in the corner?’

‘Sir Ian, if you don’t mind, or Serena, as he’s sometimes known by some of his more campy friends!’

The barman, an occasional porn star, who’s apparently straight, put two cocktails on the bar in front of us. Christopher handed me one – a shot glass with three layers of liquid in shades of brown – I looked somewhat nonplussed.

‘Go go! Drink! Down in one!’

We clinked the glasses and I did as he instructed.

‘It’s called a B-52, and the layers are Bailey’s, Grand Marnier and Kahlua. ‘ He grinned.

I gulped, feeling a warm glow spreading through my lower abdomen.

‘Mmm – wow that’s lovely – don’t you think that’s taking the aeronautical theme a little too far though, presuming that it’s named after a giant bomber?’

‘Oh no, this baby was invented by a fan of the eponymous band in NYC in the 70s!’ Explained Christopher, ordering us another on his bar tab, as I surmised that he obviously wasn’t short of a bob or two.

‘Great band, I saw them once at The Electric Ballroom in 1979 – which inspired my song Fall Down Fred – it appeared on my second album in 1980.’

‘Oh my gosh – I’ve just met a gay rock star!’ He laughed.

‘Gay, yes, rock star no!’ I said ruefully, rolling a cigarette, ‘but talking of the dreaded music industry, do you know who owns The Starlight – the biggest gay club in Europe, as it happens?’

‘I don’t actually.’

‘It’s that quintessential multi-millionaire English eccentric Cornelius Maiden, owner of Maiden Records, Maiden Airlines, Maiden Clubs, Maiden Holidays…’

‘… Maiden England!’ He quipped.

‘… and the town of Maidenhead, for all I know,’ I suggested, ‘and that’s why the various areas in this salubrious establishment allude to Maiden Airlines – here we are in The Lear Lounge, then the main room is called The Jumbo – the second The Concorde…’

‘…And what does he call the toilets, the Mile-High club?

I laughed as he handed me another B-52: ‘Well, yes, that would be rather appropriate with all the shenanigans going on in there – not that I give a flying fuck!’

Ten months later, it’s just after 11pm and I’m heading for the Starlight again, where the aforementioned Christopher and Anna’s ex-hubby Jerry Judge (who hasn’t yet returned to Paris) are awaiting my arrival. I’m kind-of walking on air because I’ve actually eaten out, albeit at the good ol’ Tonno in Soho. It’s hardly La Crevette, but it’s a cheap n’ cheerful Italian cafe with rather charming 60s décor and a boho ambience. I’ve been going there for nearly 20 years, long before there were queues of starving trendies waiting to get in.

It’s the perfect place to eat alone in this loneliest of cities. You can’t avoid talking to people, unless you have a chronic case of laryngitis, because everyone shares the cramped tables. I got seated – having been ushered in front of the queue as I am, or was, a regular (before my more recent financial fall from grace) – with a stylish and intelligent caucasian Canadian couple, which is, ahem, unusual in itself. Stylish, I mean; well, they weren’t wearing lumberjack shirts.

He, it transpired, is in advertising and she is a journalist. I employed my usual tactic of feigning shyness, or indifference, whilst listening to every word of their conversation, then weighed-in at an appropriate point with my considered opinion on a moot point they were discussing, swiftly dousing the flames of any potential hostility by then swiftly asking; ‘Canadian?’

All Canadians get pissed-off by being presumed to be American, so their momentarily frozen expressions were immediately replaced by broad grins.

So I was allowed to join their intimacy, which also gave me carte blanche to tell stories about myself.

In case this might appear selfish, I’d like to point out that I’m one of those people whom others often perceive as a sounding board (or a sponge, as I see it) for them to tell me all their problems, rarely pausing to enquire about mine. MY TURN! I decided inwardly, and careered on, apparently charming the Canadian pants of them.

They, in turn, managed to get a few words in edgeways (or Edgware, as I like to quip). Of course, I’m being satirically hard on myself: I play good conversational table tennis.

I was enjoying this rare opportunity so much that I lost all track of time and had started to wave my arms around like a deranged acid house dancer in 1998, due to two double espressos I’d consumed (after a half-carafe of dubious red plonk), which was also designed to wake me up after the debilitating effects of the excesses at Anna’s party.

I leapt to my feet and shook their hands.

‘It’s been great to meet you!’ Said the girl brightly.

‘Yay, good luck and SUCCESS! Said the guy, making a clenched-fist salute.

As I float swiftly down Charing Cross Road on a cloud of caffeine, I figure that they must have liked me and found me interesting, or it would have shown.

Apparent confidence is a flimsy fence which conceals our anxieties. It would never have occurred to them that the ‘novel’ that I had told them about was actually, probably the longest suicide note in history. Maybe it was always MEANT to be a novel anyway, or the proverbial ‘semi-autobiographical’ one. Who knows?

What a warped life.

But hang on, I AM writing a novel, as I trust my dear readers might recall: ‘The Amateur Dramatic Society’ being the (ahem) semi-autobiographical tale of my my mother and father’s early married life.

So it could all end-up as a book-within-a-book, despite it possibly (probably?) ending up like… well… you know.

Advertisements

Children Of The Night. A Short Story By Steve Swindells

19 Jan

My suggested music to accompany this short story is a selection of tracks from my all-star jamming band The Plastic Sturgeons (currently #1 on Reverb Nation London as I write).

Children Of The Night.

Image

New Years Day, London, 1987. The hour before the dawn.

New Years Day, London, 1987. The hour before the dawn.

Beverly Beveridge was being taken from behind by a black hunk in the bathroom of her bijou, funky, South-London flat.  Known universally as Red because of her luxuriant mane of naturally flame-coloured hair, she had selected her sexual partner from the usual retinue of admirers at her eponymous club which she hosted every Saturday at Nancy’s,  a slightly down-at-heel gay club  in London’s Soho.  At ‘Red’, sexuality was irrelevant,  anything went.   At least in theory. Her New Year’s Eve party had been a great commercial and artistic success, but making money was the exception rather that the rule.  Sheldrake, the latest black, soul, singing sensation, had performed his new single, and had gone down a storm.

Red’s flirtation with him backstage had apparently been less than successful, but why did she feel that he was interested?  Nancy’s was a jaded,  seventies-style club with black walls, revolting, purple, swirly carpets and a capacity of around six-hundred people.  But it had a good layout – there was a balcony all the way around, where you could sit on stools and see the stage and the dance floor, a pumping sound system, decent-enough lights, plenty of dark booths, a quiet bar upstairs for networking and flirting and an overall, faded charm that somehow worked. Most weeks, however,  Red was barely breaking even, which was probably due to her over-generosity with the guest list. ‘A busy club is a hip club.’ She’d say defensively, but the club was hip, and got lots of coverage in the style press and on TV and radio.  The London listings magazine What’s Uphad recently put her on its front cover dressed as Marilyn Monroe, under the headline ‘Red Or Dead’.  Was that anything to do with the fact that the editor was trying to get into her knickers?  He didn’t stand a hope in hell, but Red saw it as ongoing PR,  leading to something bigger, where she could be creatively fulfilled – and seriously successful.

Surely, someone with her looks, talent, big personality and natural charisma couldn’t fail to succeed? Red  – nearly six feet tall, a striking, full-lipped beauty with alabaster skin and a voluptuous figure – was looking forward to having her orgasm, dismissing the stud, then potentially annoying her neighbours by indulging in a little post-coital horn-blowing on the roof of the run-down, Victorian mansion block that she lived in… on her tenor saxophone.  It was her own, private way of greeting the new year and something of a cry from the heart.  She saw herself in a movie written by a latter-day Tennessee Williams:  the misunderstood heroine making beautiful, melancholy music, alone, but in control, dressed in a full-length, white, faux-fox fur coat.  As she played, a limpid, winter sun rose behind the grim, grey tower blocks of South East London and her mind went back to the party at her club and Sheldrake performing onstage.

‘Shut the fuck up!’ Shouted a distant voice from the window of one of the flats below.

Meredith McCormack was dead.  Aaron Kaminski was vaguely aware of a strange presence — then dismissed it as paranoia — as he bashed-out a drum track on some newly-acquired recording equipment in his luxurious, minimalistic, high-tech-style loft in Chelsea in New York.  Meredith, now a ‘higher being’ called Mila – an angel, if you like – was feeding thirty year-old Aaron lyrical ideas from ‘the other side’.  His role as a ‘ghost-writer’ was totally influencing what was otherwise a fairly mediocre poetic talent as he sat unseen next to Aaron; his celestial – well, ghostly – body glowing with a faint aura of white light.  Aaron’s strength lay in making great, ground-breaking music.  He couldn’t work out where his new-found lyrical inspiration was coming from, but he liked it.

Levi Flowers – the handsome and intense, twenty six-year old, mixed-race DJ who played soulful tunes at his good friend Red’s club – was composing a fax to his other close friend Aaron: ‘The best things always happen in the middle of the night’.  He wrote. He was missing his buddy. They’d met at Red’s a couple of years previously and had clicked immediately. It was a rocket-fuelled, instant friendship.  Then after a couple of months, Aaron had inexplicably returned to New York.  What was that all about? Levi couldn’t get his head around it.

Aaron was bisexual.  Levi was ostensibly straight.  Red felt attracted to Aaron (somewhat influenced by his inherited wealth),  Aaron was obsessed with Levi and Levi wondered if he was in love with Red. The usual stuff.

Meredith had been the second love of Red’s life.  Scottish, with a Spanish mother,  he was a handsome, deep-thinking man with wavy-brown hair, huge brown eyes and olive skin. He was an aspiring writer, who reluctantly made a living teaching English.  He was also a bit eccentric, vague (traits, it would seem, that stayed with him in the after life) and somewhat unworldly.

Red had sort-of corrupted him  back then by turning him on to non-dangerous recreational drugs and a night life-orientated lifestyle.  ‘It was down to him at the end of the day. I wasn’t a dominatrix!’  She’d say later. He’d died of a suspected overdose at her club night.  People whispered that they had earlier seen Tyrone Khan, Red’s psychopathic, former lover, sneaking out of the toilet where they had found Meredith’s body.

Meredith, or Mila as he was now known, was frustrated in his attempts to communicate with his old friends.  He now knew – being on ‘the other side’ – that they had all known each other in past lives, as they had often mused, but he could only make his mark through the medium of Aaron’s songs and by surreptitiously putting ideas into Red and Levi’s heads;  particularly when they read each other’s tarot cards.

Soon, Red and Levi found themselves regularly visiting a hugely overweight, Jewish, lesbian medium known as Morgana who wanted Red, not only in bed, but for her psychic energy. Unfortunately,  Mila hadn’t done enough research.  He was new to the (angelic) job.  Morgana was bad news, but it was too late.  Even a trainee angel could screw-up.

He consulted his ‘Mindset’ again, on Angel Training Mode.  ‘Just picture the forehead from the inside  as a computer monitor’ his Angel-mentor had instructed and… now it was beginning to make sense.  He studied the data intently – on his forehead monitor.

It was early February.  Tyrone Khan broke into Red’s flat and was waiting for her when she came home from the club,  wielding a knife. He was off his head on quaaludes, alcohol and cocaine. He’d never recovered from her rejection after a year-long relationship when they were both twenty-two – and the only way he could possess her was by force.  He was psychotic, it was too dangerous to resist him.  He raped her at knife-point.   She’d had to admit to herself later that part of her had almost enjoyed it (they’d had a tremendous sex life when they were together),  but NO-ONE forced Beverly Beveridge to do anything.  Once he’d climaxed – which didn’t take long – she managed to knee him in the balls and spray mace (which she kept in a bedside cabinet) in his face.  He’d screamed, pulled-up his pants and staggered-off into the night.

She pulled herself together and phoned Levi, distraught. He advised her not to call the police because Tyrone could blow the cover on her drug-dealing past and her tax-evading present. But she would have her revenge.

Levi,  despite his beautiful face, intelligent mind and athletic body, was having a hard time.  He was built like a sprinter and people found him charismatically threatening, both physically and mentally (he looked a lot like the Welsh, gold medal-winning hurdler Colin Jackson, minus the vaguely Chinese eyes – his were dreamy and deep), but he was sensitive inside. ‘You’re just a soft-centered chocolate.’  Red would tell him, giving him a hug.

He never seemed to be able to get on top of situations: fate pulled him down every time.  What about Red,  the charismatic dynamo:  shouldn’t they be lovers?  Sometimes their friendship was so close that it hurt.  Then there was Aaron, who obviously wanted him badly and was working his nerves.  He was confused.  He loved them both, but seemed to fall between two stools.  He just couldn’t visualise making love with a man  – although Aaron was a strong character and a classic, blond-haired, blue-eyed adonis  – and Red was so wild and deep the she might just eat him up and spit him out, just like she’d done with so many men, apart from Meredith. Trust him to die!

They were all dissatisfied with their emotional lives.  There had to be a solution. Mila was trying to work it all out too.  He had to study hard to master the complexities of his ‘Mindset’ (It was much worse than MS-DOS)  There were a lot of epigrams, riddles and puns thrown into the program.  It was mildly irritating sometimes, but as he became familiar with its curious subtleties, it gradually led to suitably angelic chuckles.  ‘Hey!’ Said Mila to Dalai, his Angel-mentor, ‘so there is life after death, with intellectual punning as part of the heavenly package?’  Dalai chuckled and replied ‘Yes, my wannabe angel, if only the world realised that laughter was the key to immortality!’

Aaron had been inspired by Levi’s fax,  but felt sadly romantic inside. He sat at a table in the window of a cafe on the Lower East-Side of New York –   it looked like a film-set based on that famous painting by Edward Hopper and could have been the setting for a moody commercial for a coffee brand.  The neon lights were reflected in the puddles outside as the rain poured down.  He wrote his thoughts into a notepad; a free-form poem and soulful rap – he imagined – as he pondered his surroundings, drank black coffee and thought of Levi and the evocative, cinematic,  dark side of America.  He (or should we say Mila?) called it ‘The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe’.

‘The whispered words of freedom in the wind…’  rapped Levi softly and deeply,  as the video cut to him wandering through the rainy streets of the meat-packing district.  ‘ … the choirs of voices calling-out your name,  the same old dilemma, searching for romance and riding solo…Sooo low.  You know you’ve got to go away but you stay – always the ballad,  the ballad of the sad cafe.’ A bag lady dressed in rags sat in a doorway opposite the cafe, playing with an illuminated yoyo.

Mila smiled angelically at an adjacent,  empty table.  He was feeding something special to Aaron and it made him feel fulfilled.  He put a dream-vision into Aaron’s head.  So there was Levi performing another poem-rap with Irie and Drumgold,  the famous Jamaican rythmn section,  alongside Red on sax and Aaron on keyboards with Sheldrake singing lead vocals; right there in the cafe he was sitting in.

Levi was reading Aaron’s reply to his fax in the DJ booth at the club before it opened.  Aaron had enclosed the words to ‘The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe’.  Levi instinctively knew what he was writing about.  Aaron signed-off with the surprise message that he would be in London the following week.  Levi was pleased, but strangely trepidatious.  When he showed Red the fax she immediately recognised that the song was a paean to Aaron’s unrequited love and told Levi so.  He told her not to be so daft…  knowing it to be true.

Morgana the medium, meanwhile, was not exactly laying her cards on the table.  She was weaving a spell, trying to draw Red into her evil sphere by influencing events and lulling her into a false sense of security with overly-optimistic tarot readings.  Levi had his suspicions about her and asked Red:  how had Morgana’s reclusive girlfriend Lottie died? Was it suicide, as Morgana had insisted, or something more sinister?  Hadn’t Red noticed how Morgana had treated Lottie? What about the heavy, glass ashtray incident?

Mila was worried too.  His cosmic game-plan had backfired a bit.  He had to put it down to, well, inexperience. Aaron was planning to stay in London for a couple of weeks.  Levi and Red met him for brunch at an Italian cafe in Bloomsbury.  They discussed the emotional potential which everyone, including themselves, seemed to squander. They bemoaned the cold, cynical approach to life that most other people had, and wondered why three such attractive, creative and intrinsically good people should be without partners and a degree of success. *Group shrugging of shoulders*. At least they had each other.

Red, the club night, was suddenly doing very well, but that was part of Morgana’s dastardly plot. She had aimed to take Red up, then bring her down, so that she’d be under her evil spell.  She really was a gifted healer and psychic, but an innate bitterness had twisted her and made her abuse her powers.  The renewed success of the club made certain people constantly snipe at Red, especially Danny Dinkins, the overly camp manager of Nancy’s, who was a misogynistic queen of the old school.  Red suddenly found that many other attractive and successful women also seemed to be overtly jealous of her media-profile.  That really pissed her-off:  they were worse than the fucking queens!

Image

Red was twenty eight; she wanted to form a band before it was too late, but no-one took her seriously, apart from Aaron and Levi.  The nearest she’d got to it was by playing her sax along to records in the club while dancing on the dance floor.  The crowd loved it; but in the sometimes-superficial night life world she was seen as a glamour-puss, a larger-than-life caricature of herself – a good-time girl who hid behind her glamourous dress sense and big personality.  Nobody could get close to her because they were generally, or genuinely, in awe of her. She was, in some respects, a troubled being. Her attempts at telling home-truths and enlightening people usually fell on stony ground.  Disillusioned by the image that people had formed of her, she was a charismatic paradox: both cynical and wise, then innocent and trusting. Plus, sometimes she drank too much, and maybe got too high, then became slightly overbearing, her frustrations and fears gushing-out in a stream of unconscious angst.

Levi and Aaron were her real friends; only they could understand her inner strength and her aspirations.  Couldn’t people see that the fact that she drove a red, sixties Cadillac convertible with fake, zebra skin-covered seats was simply an ironic, post-modern joke and a quasi, self-promotional laugh?  Regardless, she  certainly relished playing the role of the white-trash, sex goddess.

Aaron had plenty of money. His grandmother had left him a small fortune, but he was enigmatic about about his wealth and certainly didn’t splash it around (much to Red’s dismay).  In the early summer of ‘87, he decided to move back to London, rented-out his New York loft  apartment and bought a classic, Victorian, five-bedroomed house with a patio leading onto one of those beautiful, magical, secret communal gardens, in Notting Hill. Levi had a rudimentary understanding of keyboards and percussion, so he and Aaron spent many happy hours fiddling about with Aaron’s equipment (he wished!) and getting stoned with Thai sticks or Moroccan hash, whilst jamming musically and learning to feed-off each other’s  intuitive creativity.

Levi started to develop real poetic, lyrical and percussion skills under Aaron’s sensitive and enthusiastic (it’s always easier when you’re in love with someone) tutelage, and recently they had started to write a funky rap tune.  Aaron was too sensitive to push his mild obsession with Levi, and Levi certainly wasn’t about to surrender to a physical attraction that was anathema to his male conditioning, despite the obvious bond between them.  One night,  Red showed-up with her sax.  ‘What do you think of these words Miss Beveridge?’ Asked Levi.  ‘Hit it maestro!’  Aaron pressed the space bar on his Atari computer and Levi talked over the track in his smokey voice.

‘To the people who are cold and the people who are hard, I know myself, I show my cards, but it’s so hard to unwind sometimes, seems like not only love is blind.’ ‘Tell me about it. Yeah’  Said Red, punching the air,  putting the mouthpiece on her sax.

Levi continued:  ‘You try to work it out, so what’s it all about?  Are you crying wolf or crying out to someone who shows honesty when times are hard but the spirit’s free? Can you answer me – maybe, show me some empathy?’

‘Wow, that’s fantastic guys, gimme some paper, I’ve got an idea for a chorus, can we call it Be Yourself?’ suggested Red enthusiastically,  ‘imagine doing this at The Albert Hall with Sheldrake and a gospel choir!

They continued to work on the song whilst seriously discussing forming a band; a fusion of funk, jazz, hip-hop and the Chicago deep house music which was still massively popular in the hipper, London clubs, despite the recent acid house explosion.  After much frivolity about choosing a name (Under The Bed,  Scarlet Fever, The Blind Venetians),  they finally decided to call themselves ‘Marrs’ and agreed that it would be a good name for a bar too. ‘The Marrs Bar; great for sponsorship.’  Joked Red, believing it might actually be feasible.  All they needed was a handsome, seriously good, soulful singer. Red knew exactly who’d fit the bill:  Sheldrake.

Red had wanted him on New Year’s Eve – and now she wanted him even more, as there was suddenly a valid reason. Dick Starling was the avuncular owner of Nancy’s.   He was a wily old fox in his late fifties, an ex-merchant seaman and a secret alcoholic.  He loved to regale Red and her friends with unlikely tales of conquests in far-off lands in the sixties and seventies, after luring them to his lair with the promise of after-hours drinks.  He was actually quite lonely, which was why he encouraged visitors to his sparsely-furnished office deep in the bowels of the club.   The engine room, he called it.  His nickname for himself  was Captain Pugwash.  Other members of staff were called names such as Seaman Stains and Master Bates, or whatever amused him. When Red had introduced Dick to Morgana, he’d instinctively disliked the woman and had warned her to steer clear.  ‘That dyke is definitely not kosher, Reddy Brek,’  he pronounced, then wagged his finger and winked,  adding loudly:   ‘AVAST  behind! Steer clear!’ in a nautical fashion, then waddled-off to count his money.

Tyrone Khan lurked behind a pillar as Red walked by, his dark eyes glinting with menace.  She spotted him, but pretended not to notice.  She went to find Kennedy, a handsome, well-built, tall, gay, black bodybuilder who ran security for the club.  ‘Who the hell let Tyrone in?’ She asked him.  ‘He said he was on the permanent guest list – gorgeous boy – I thought you two used to be…’   ‘Hah! Wrong!’ Snorted Red, then took him to one side to suggest something that would be of  benefit  to them both.  Kennedy would lure Tyrone to his flat with the promise of free quaaludes and cocaine, then have his wicked way with him.  Kennedy smiled – he liked tight, virgin arseholes.  And Tyrone was definitely an arsehole.

Red headed for ‘the engine room’ to see if she’d made any money that night.  The outer door was suddenly flung open and Billy Bates – the cute, young barman known by Dick as Master Bates – came rushing out, his face flushed, trying to do up his shirt.  ‘He’s dead!’ He yelled. ‘Dick’s dead!’ Red told him to get the police, then gingerly opened the inner door.  Dick Starling was lying on his back on the floor, minus his trousers. And rigor mortis had set in… in the most obvious place.  He must have died of a heart attack screwing Billy Bates,  she correctly surmised.  Hmmm, God smiled in the dick department, she thought.  Just as well Billy was sitting on him, not lying under him.  But what the hell would happen now, she wondered, with a sense of dread,  whilst trying to ignore the inevitable black humour of the situation, like… it must have been a dead good fuck.

Mila sat on a barstool and consulted his ‘Mindset’,  whilst pulling a less-than-angelic ‘Oh shit’ face. Then the data delivered made his mouth drop with relief.  There was a solution.

Nancy’s had to close until everything was sorted out.  Suddenly,  Levi and Red were an income-free zone.  Everything had possibly gone pear-shaped, or horribly Pete Tong. Aaron had gone to New England because his mother was ill, but was then uncharacteristically generous, for once, and gave them a thousand pounds each, so they could develop Marrs, their mutual, musical project. Phew.  So they decided to to do some research.

Their first outing (we need inspiration for stuff, Red had said) took them to Rush, an underground club which was happening illegally every friday in a Gym in South London.  What was this clubland buzz about some new, Ibiza-inspired scene?  Rumour had it that a new wonder-drug called ecstasy was readily available there. They were intrigued. Red and Levi arrived to find a massive queue but were soon swept in by security – who recognised them – and were ushered into a long corridor lined with twinkling fairy lights. She’d made sure that their names were on the guest list.  They swished-in to find the walls and ceilings of the club covered with billowing, white parachutes, which were softly-lit from behind by sixties-style, swirly projections.  Multi-coloured laser beams cut through clouds of dry ice and smoke.  The atmosphere on the dance floor was electric;  hundreds of people dancing wildly and punching the air in baggy, smiley-face T-shirts, to a new kind of hardcore, dance music which was soon to become known as acid house.

Tommy Acorn, the promoter, spotted them and steered them through the crowd into a large, private room, where a couple of hundred people chatted, smiled and hugged each other a lot. ‘Are you sorted?’  He asked – they looked puzzled – then handed them some small, yellow pills, grinned manically and left them to it.  They shrugged their shoulders at each other with a ‘what the hell’ look and downed a pill each.  An hour later found them at opposite ends of the room, engaged in deep, meaningful, touchy-feely conversations.  Levi was vibing with Master Bates, the handsome barman from Nancy’s, and Red with Sheldrake, whom she’d fortuitously met on the dance floor.  His eyes had found hers like laser-guided, vibe-fueled missiles. They graduated towards each other, locked-in, entranced. He’d asked her for a light,  in a jokey, ironic, pick-up-line sort of way.  Then suddenly they were dancing, hypnotised, with the fire in their eyes, laughing with the relief of romantic recognition and flying high. Sorted indeed.

Later, the four of them went back to Aaron’s house in Notting Hill – which Levi was ‘house-sitting’ – and took more Es, smoked spliffs, drank vodka and kissed their erstwhile partners endlessly.  Then it all went blank until the next afternoon, when Red woke to find herself in bed with Sheldrake whilst Levi found Billy Bates curled-up beside him.

‘It was alright y’know…’  Said Levi slightly nervously, referring to his first, ever homosexual experience as he made coffee for everyone in the kitchen. You bet it was alright!’ Croaked Red in a reasonably good Southern American accent, rolling her eyes lustfully, ‘ And I’m going to get some seconds – why don’t you too!’.   She went back upstairs, but Sheldrake had disappeared.  And she hadn’t given him her number, dammit!

Tommy Acorn opened the suitcase and patted the wads of cash inside.  It was sitting on the parquet floor of the hall in his smart, spacious flat in Maida Vale.  ‘A hundred K.’ he muttered, grinning, as the doorbell rang.  ‘Yeehah?’ He trilled into the entry phone, wanting to sound lighthearted.  ‘It’s Chester and the lads!’ Yelled a sightly crazed, midlands accent downstairs.  Tommy rubbed his hands.

‘Mad Chester’ was the singer with ‘The Far-out Flowers ’, a group from Birmingham who were getting noticed on the underground scene with their housy-acid-loopy-indie-laddish ‘Brumtastic’ tunes.  But the heroin and e-addled group had had a few problems financially…and Tommy was about to provide their get-out clause.  The hundred grand was in return for a vast amount of ecstasy that Chester had promised to bring.  The ammonia they sprayed in Tommy’s eyes as they made-off with the cash was in return for his naivety. Sorted, mate.

It was late summer. Tyrone Khan had been successfully dealt with by Kennedy and had apparently fled to Trinidad.  Red and Levi had made a conscious decision to ‘cut’ from Morgana – with unseen, spiritual help from the rookie, spirit-guide Mila – and things were starting to look up. Levi called Red to say that Aaron was back in town and was treating them to dinner at Mo Dylan,  a restaurant popular with thesps and show-biz types, which they all loved, as it was so easy to relax and talk there, despite the fact that the food was only slightly better than adequate.  He’d added that there was a surprise for her.  Red was intrigued.  She instinctively dressed to impress and, on being ushered to one of the best tables, was amazed to see Sheldrake sitting with her friends, who were grinning conspiratorially.

‘So what the fuck happened to you?’ She asked the singer in a mock-theatrical, hands-on-hip fashion.  Sheldrake motioned her to sit down, smiling slightly sheepishly.  Aaron and Levi continued their animated conversation and left them to… interact.   Sheldrake shyly held her hand under the table, looked her in the eye, and explained that he’d had a girlfriend – the relationship had run its course –  but that he’d always been attracted to her from the moment that they’d met, when he’d performed at her club.  Her arm tingled, her face glowed. ’R… really?’ She whispered, her eyes shining.  She could hear celestial background music beginning to play. ‘Yeah,’  said Sheldrake in his honeyed tones, squeezing her hand  ‘and when we met again and got  nicely high it was too much for me – and I felt guilty about… anyway, she’s my ex now and  it’s all about what’s… in your eyes.

He started to sing softly into her ear and they soft-focused into a world of their own. Red felt a warm glow run up her back.  Her back!  Why had there been a rash there since…?  For some unknown reason she decided to tell Sheldrake about Morgana  (Mila nodded enthusiatically,  a ghostly presence at an adjacent table).  Sheldrake’s eyebrows shot up.  ‘You know that evil witch?’ He asked, surprised, and suddenly angry.  ‘She really fucked-up my career and, you know, when I cut-off from her, I developed this nasty rash on my back, just like… you?’ He looked at her intently, then their jaws dropped as they slowly clocked what they had in common.  ‘Wow…’ Said Red slowly, ‘… that’s scary.’ Aaron’s hand found Levi’s leg beneath the table.  ‘Yeeesss!’ went  Mila,  punching the air at the next table.

It was Marrs’ first gig at Dicks, formerly known as Nancy’s.  Billy Bates had been massively and pleasantly shocked that Dick Starling had left him the club in his will, so he’d re-named it in his memory. The band had a group hug.  They were about to go on stage at the Red new year’s eve party when Kennedy the bouncer swung into the room.  ‘There’s some bitch called Morgana at the door, says she’s on the guest list.’  He announced.   ‘Tell her to naff orf’,’ pronounced Red, in an imitation of The Princess Royal, ‘she can pay double to come in as she’s so FAT!’  Everyone laughed, happy to have the tension of their debut diminished.

Tommy Acorn marched into the room wearing outsized shades and a yellow suit  featuring a smiley-face print, with a gorgeous girl on each arm (Rush was now the Acid House night, with many imitators,  but he enjoyed the funky, laid-back atmosphere of Red’s night, even though they didn’t play ‘hard music’).  He hugged Red and she raised an eyebrow:  ‘Glad to see the eye operations were successful – worth the money eh?’  He looked slightly taken aback. How did she know ? Marrs ran on to the stage and the crowd roared, more so when they recognised the legendary Irie and Drumgold  on the bass and drums. The first song was the one inspired by their first time at Rush, along with reflections on where they were at and where they were going,  which Red, Sheldrake, Levi and Aaron had written soon after their visit to Mo Dylan.  It was called ‘Children Of The Night’.

‘Unspoken thoughts hang in the air and broken dreams are everywhere, then someone asks you for a light.’ Sang Sheldrake huskily, swaying to the funky beats, ‘You know you’ve got to find that spark, one magic moment in the dark makes everything alright.’  Red danced across to his side, blowing mean licks on her horn.  ‘Then suddenly the music’s fine, the bodies dance around your mind with eyes like tigers, burning bright.’    Mila banged an invisible, tambourine and got a little carried away onstage (hey, when you’re an angel, you’ve got carte blanche!) next to Levi, who was hitting the hell out of his congas.  ‘And all the sorrow in your soul says let me out and lose control with the children of the night’.

The dance floor was a sea of smiling faces and dancing bodies. Mila received a ‘priority’  message on his ‘mindset’.  It looked like it could well be karmic pay-back time for his rookie, cosmic game-plan.  Was this his angelic graduation?  Shit!’  Muttered Mila to himself. ‘Tyrone Khan’s had a sex change.  Why didn’t I check?’   He left the stage (not that anyone would have noticed, as he was a ghost).  A beautiful, black-asian woman was hovering by a pillar, wearing silver, dagger earrings and a little black dress.  Her dark eyes glinted menacingly.  A voluminous, forty-ish, female figure emerged out of the shadows, dressed in what looked like pink,  ruched curtains, sporting a blond, big-hair wig.  Tyra, as she was now known, shuffled flirtatiously.   ‘Hi honeybuns,’ said Morgana, grabbing Tyra’s waist, ‘you’re an Aries aren’t you – do you wanna play with momma?’.

© Steve Swindells. 2000.  All rights reserved. Photos by Steve Swindells (c). All rights reserved.

FYI The songs ‘Children Of The Night’ and ‘By Yourself’ Do exist, but probably only on cassette. So ‘Bear with’ me on that. SS

%d bloggers like this: