Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Klass With A Capital K

As those who know me know, I've been battling a cold for the past week. It's one of those vagabond viruses, that start in the head and wind up ending in the chest. Last night was a 'Thrilla in Manilla' and I think I finally have broken its grip.

My Nana - who will turn 98 in April - always said that a cold can last up to two weeks, but if you take medicine it will only last up to 14 days. She's witty like that ... guess that's where I get it. She also said that 'It's not the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in'.

Ah, family humor.

Anyway, I've not been focused enough this week to post, thanks to my whirlwind love affair with Nyquil. But i did find this while sifting through my old collections of address books [which I posted about a while back] ...

I'm thinking this was the address book I used in 1983/4. I don't mind printing their numbers, since sadly everyone listed in the picture has passed away.

Besides John Sex who I just posted about, this one page from my past stirs some other memories: 'Al / PCHA' - Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives.

PCHA was founded in 1979 to identify, advocate for, and support the well being and physical and mental health needs of the gay community at a time when many newly-out gay men felt that they couldn't get honest healthcare, since their old doctor simply didn't understand or accept who they were. PCHA, as many community healthcare orgs, also worked to stunt STDs within the community - which had always been of issue, since a closeted man couldn't dare talk to his doctor about something he might have caught while with another man.

When I first got involved with PCHA it was 1981/82 and they were undertaking a major marketing campaign called "Bee Prepared"; complete with bright yellow t-shirts with a bee on the front. Hepatitis B was on the rise in the gay community and they were out educating everyone on ways to protect and what to look out for ... it seems so benign now, knowing that here we were running around teaching people about things like Hep B and your typical STDs and there was this massive and deadly plague right under our feet the whole time.

By the end of 82, PCHA shifted all its efforts to AIDS and remains the oldest AIDS service organization in Pennsylvania, and the fourth oldest in the nation. They still offer general healthcare to those that need it as well.

Also on this one page is another memory, one a bit more upbeat: 'Steve from the Black Banana'.

I loved the Black Banana - located at the corner of 3rd and Race. It was a disco straight out of 1978 - lots of polished chrome, round globe lighting and plush seating areas. I first went to the BB as a guest of Garrick Melmick, who was the owner. I suppose that was in 1981, when I shouldn't have been going ANYWHERE, being just 18. But, a simplier time.

The club was a sea of drugs, sex and dancing. Once you entered the doors, mum was the word to everything. From my memory, it was a messy party place - and I mean that in a good way. It wasn't grand and the dance space on the 2nd floor wasn't large but it had a certan personality that you simply didn't find in any other Philly club in the early 80s.

The Black Banana had class. Even after the fire and when it shifted to host the Vagabond parties and the Love Deluxe events ... it still had style. So much so that I still have my Black Banana membership card, declaring me a proud member of Crusaders Community Club of Philadelphia ... The Black Banana!


Liz said...

OMG!!! The Blacked Banana! I LOVED that place. *sigh* Thanks for reminding me yet again.

Jackie. said...

I loved the Black Banana too :) Yes, it was messy in a good way. Very decadent. I remember going outside, throwing up, coming back in, and dancing and drinking more! Very Roman!! It is also where I saw my very first drag queens.


Rick P. said...

Greatest nightclub ever...scene of many of my conquests. Held my wedding reception there (June 1, 1991) when I finally broke down and got married. Unlimited champagne on the house (thanks Kirk!) served by the two drag queen waitresses...my parents and in-laws had the wildest time of their lives.