Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How Cool? Zero Cool.

The year was 1982.

This was truly a year of transformation for me. I easily saw 200 concerts this year alone. I was out almost every night ... somewhere. I discovered the music scene in NYC at places like CBGB's and Club 57. I discovered the Village. I went to my first NYC Gay Pride Parade in June '82. I spent many a late night at legendary dance clubs like The Anvil and Danceteria. I met so many people that - later would become celebs - but for me were just friends that I met and knew and enjoyed hanging with during the summer of 1982 in New York.

Sadly, so many of those friends are gone. John Sex, Keith Haring, Wendy Wild, Tseng Kwong Chi. The list is endless and, in honor of their memory, I will post about them seperately at a later date.

In 1982 I co-founded and became the General Manger of Au Courant Newsmagazine: Philadelphia's first arts and culture weekly targeting the newly-liberated gay market. It was a free paper: 10,000 copies every Tuesday were distributed thoughout Center City Philadelphia and the region.

The cover to the left is actually way past my tenure. In May 2000 the paper folded and that is its final issue (hence the connection to the Republicans coming to Philadelphia).

The paper started as a brainstorm one evening. For those following along in earlier posts, you recall that I had met some interesting folk at 8/Bainbridge in the fall of 1981.

I wound up moving into an apartment at 834 Bainbridge over the winter of 1981/1982. My roommates were a gay couple: Mike and Joe. Mike was the ad manager for the Philadelphia Gay News and I quickly started volunteering time to help the PGN with circulation. A highlight was going with Joe to drive stacks of papers to Asbury Park, New Jersey over the summer of 1982. I remember it because I was asked to be a judge for some drag show at Club Odyssey ... which was the gay club in town. Asbury Park had a strong gay community at the time and perhaps still does.

Over the spring and summer, Mike and I (along with graphic designer Jaime Lago) would hang out at the apartment and stew over the frustrations at the PGN and create visions of what we would do if we could do our own thing. By September, we were.

We convinced the PGN editor Frank Broderick to leave the only job he had since leaving college and join us as editor of this new paper. Frank wrote a witty and scathing column in the PGN called TRASH and we brought that over with us - changing the title to T&A and then Tidbits.

We ran the paper out of the 2nd floor of a publishing house at the corner of 3rd and Girard - home to Star Publishers, who published the Fishtown Star, Port Richmond Star and other bizarre weekly ad rags. Their main salesman was this 'swinger' leftover from 1979, who seemed to put most of his commission up his nose. Can't say I blame him!

Being the General Manager of Au Courant was a bizarre experience for me - since I was responsible for handling all the bar and club accounts ... which meant being out every night and being in the center of it all. The bizarre part comes with the knowledge that I was just 19. I wasn't even supposed to be ANYWHERE yet. But once again I found myself in more mature situations then expected and adapted nicely.

I started this post thinking of music but somehow got sidetracked with life. Which is fitting since music was (and is) my life. But I'll leave you with a music hook.

In late 1982, having to juggle the daily duties of the paper plus still hang out, see live music and appreciate the destructive lifestyle I had grown to love - I had a memorable experience in November when I went to see Nona Hendryx at Philadelphia's legendary Bijou Cafe - located at Broad & Lombard Sts.

I had always been a fan of Nona - from her days as part of The Bluebells (Patti Labelle and the Bluebells) to her space-age morphing to one of the three members of Labelle and now as the lead to her new project Nona Hendryx and Zero Cool.

The show rocked and the highlight was having the chance to hang with Nona afterwards. I took her and the band and others and we went first to the DCA (which is now a club called Pure) and then to what was by far the BEST disco club, not because of the design (which was minimal) but because of the sound system and the DJs .. the club was Catacombs.

Located under The Second Story disco at the corner of 12th/Walnut Streets, Catacombs was deep, dark and full of bass. It was a private club only opened on weekends, but for some reason - perhaps a birthday or something - it was opened that Tuesday night and we all went and I danced and sweated up a storm until sunrise with Nona and the gang.



Liz said...

I met Keith Haring once at his store and he was so sweet. I also remember going to see John Sex and Bernard Zette at that club in Philly, the one that was the old church.....Oh refresh my memory again Robert!

Robert Drake said...

That probably was Revival on South 3rd ... posts about those years are coming as we move on! ;)

Liz said...

REVIVAL!! Thats it! I thought of it on the way home from work tonight. How about the Kennel club? I loved that place. I even spent a New Years Eve there one year. I remember sitting downstairs at a bar with a big screen and then going upstairs to dance. God I miss those places.

Anonymous said...

God, how I remeber Au Courant. I met you through an ad you placed in it. :-) I always thought that Jeff was a cutie. Stuart was a campy fun guy. My chiropractor now inhabits the former 12th Street location of AC.

Kenny said...

I also had a blast at the Kennel.
I always remember the smell of Aqua Net when you walked in. God, I miss that!

Anonymous said...

Aqua Net--the Cadiallac of hair spray! I stilluse it occasionally and especially to seal my make-up.

Kenny said...

Did they change the smell of Aqua Net? I thought that they did. If not, I must consume some NOW! It wouldn't do much good on my shaved head but oh the smell....

Anonymous said...

Wow. I remember getting Au Courant every Friday when I would leave the Cartwheel in New Hope. I remember trying to get into Revival only to have them confiscate my fake ID. I seriously was born in the wrong decade...