Saturday, January 28, 2006

When Sex Was Good

Mention John McLoughlin and few people know who you're talking about ... but mention John Sex and all those in the scene in the 1980s will let out a collective sigh. "Ooooo John!"

I first met John during Halloween weekend 1983 in NYC at an apartment on St. Marks - - I can't recall whose. St. Mark's Square was this dirty, seedy strip that once was a blossoming part of the East Village. By the time I first discovered it (circa 1982), the place was a wall of plywood-covered windows, junkies, punks and gays.


With every visit to NYC, I'd swing by St. Marks to see who was bouncin' around. That and a trip over to 8th Street where there was a row of really funky shoe stores that carried tons of shoes, cheap!

John began as all good performers do, by being a go-go dancer. The difference was that he, along with his friend Wendy Wild, would incorporate props and bizarre performance elements into their gyrations, so quickly they realized there was more to the act then just shaking a booty.

By the time I met John in '83, he was already pretty well known in the East Village, performing some incredible live cabaret shows - complete with his trademark hair! This hair seemed to get higher each time I saw him! I'm amazed it didn't all fall out with all the glue he used for years to keep it in place.

When I met John I was with my friend Gary and his friend, a drag queen named Freeda. She introduced me to John and his friends, and we all headed over to Danceteria - which was to NYC what East Side Club was to Philadelphia (although, since it was NYC, it was bigger and bolder!)

My original plan was to travel up to NYC on Saturday, October 30 and see Philly's own Bunnydrums and then come home... but, as anyone who has partied in NYC can attest, a night in The City lasts at least 48 hours.

After the Bunnydrums concert, I wound up staying at my friend Gary's place on Bank Street and on Sunday his friend Freeda came over and we got ourselves ready for Round Two - we were going BACK to Danceteria to see some band I had never heard about. They were initially slated for the Friday, but had been bumped to perform two nights (Oct 30 and Halloween) at Danceteria. So, I figured they must be worth checking out.

The band was called The Immaculate Consumptive and it turned out to be just one of only three live shows they ever performed, since they weren't truly a band but more a mash-up of four individual performers jamming on stage. The Immaculte Consumptive featured Nick Cave, Clint Ruin (Jim 'Foetus' Thirlwell), Lydia Lunch & Marc Almond.

Until then, to me Marc was just part of the band Soft Cell ... but something happened that night that connected me to Marc in a way that I still haven't understood. Since that live performance, I have been a loyal fan for the past 20+ years and I am soooo relieved to know that Marc pulled out a coma following a near-death motorcycle accident in 2004 and is alive, well and writing/ performing once again.

That Sunday night in 1983 turned out to be a blur of faces. Costumes were everywhere - Gary lent me his black suit, black shirt and skinny red tie with a crazy neon-checkered scarf in the coat pocket for my second night out (since you simply can't wear the same thing to the same club two nights in a row!).

Besides being floored by the performances on stage, I was really taken by John. Here was a man that truly was impressive. He held court but was so fragile at the same time. Sometime late in the morning we had an incredible conversation that lasted for almost an hour. It was a great bond that only got stronger when he came to Philly to perform at Revival a couple years later.

Whenever I could I would head to NYC and catch John's performances at places like The Pyramid Club, Limelight, The Saint and of course Danceteria. Through knowing John, I got to meet and become casual friends with Keith Haring who was becoming one of the definitive artists of the 1980s and, I believe, the 20th century. What struck me the most was just how shy Keith and John were when not in the public eye.

Meeting these two people allowed me to better understand that there really isn't such a thing as celebrity. It's all how it is perceived.

Sadly John died of AIDS in 1989, Keith a year later. Not only were they talented souls, but they were pure human beings, as were so many of the friends that crossed my path during the 1980s. As much as I miss them all, I am grateful to have had the chance to know them, for they helped me become the person I am today.


Anonymous said...

Wow Robert. Your blog is a treasure to me I swear we lived parallel lives. I met Keith when the Pop Shop first opened and right after the Philadelphia Inq. did a piece on him. He told me he hated the piece. He was a sweet person.

I saw John Sex and the bodacious ta-ta's at Revival! He had that coat on that lit up. I had just seen him wearing it in Details magazine.

Again, I dont recall realizing either man was gay, but I was stunned and hurt when they both passed away from the big disease with a little name.


Anonymous said...

OMG! I'm listening to Tainted Love right now!! Yay Soft Cell.

~Liz XO