Text (c) Robert Barry Francos
Images from the Internet
There was a club on the Bowery, just one block north from CBGB, called Great Gildersleeves. It was a miserable hole with no atmosphere that did not feel like any other club at the time: it felt like jocks, frats and yuppies, and just stank of poseurs. Everyone with whom I hung out felt the same way. There was just something tainted with the place, so it was very rare we went there, even though they occasionally had some major shows, including Husker Du and PiL. There weren't many places to do a show around, so a band would play where it could, but it would be like seeing your favorite uncle in a hospice.
The last time was to see the Marbles play. I arrived early with two friends, and after having our hands stamped and sitting for a while, we were feeling uncomfortable being in the place, the hairs on the backs of our necks standing on end. Also, we were a bit peckish. The prices at this club were prohibitively high for the quality (fried and greasy) and quantity of their food.
The place wasn’t crowded, so we decided to go to the 24-hour deli across Bowery and grab some quick munchies. I bought a small Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee Soda (sheer ambrosia) and a couple of small 25-cent bags of Wise chips (gotta be Wise brand if you wanna dance with me), and my companions bought small stuff as well. I finished one bag and the bottle and put the other bag in my pocket, while they finished their supply, and we headed back across the street to the club.
The bouncer was standing by the door with one of the higher ups of the joint. As we were walking back in, flashing our inked hands, the bouncer stopped us and demanded (with a wink of the eye to the other guy) to know if we were trying to sneak in any food. We said no, and he started roughly going through our pockets. Before I could say anything, he pulled out the bag of chips and yelled at me, “What the fuck is this?” I said sincerely, “It’s a 25-cent bag of chips, that’s not food.” The bouncer screamed into my face from about 3 inches, “We sell chips in here!” while the other guy was laughing. I said, “I’m a student without a job and I can’t afford the chips here; besides, it’s just a 25-cent bag. It’s not like I’m bringing in a large bag.”
With that, he grabbed me – all 115 lbs. of me vs. his 200+ lbs. – by the throat, and started choking me. He was big enough that I couldn’t really reach him with my hands, and not being a fighter of any worth, I probably wouldn’t know what to do anyway. Besides, I was scared shitless. He believed he had all the power, and in that moment, physically anyway, he did.
When he got bored and realized that I didn’t prove to be a challenge, he let me go with a push. Through my sore vocal chords and Adam’s apple, with a croaking voice, I demanded our money back. The other guy went into the club, and when he came back with some ham-fisted crumpled bills, he threw our money on the floor by my feet.
They had won that round, but I was not done. I would never walk back into that club. I thought about blasting them in an article in FFanzeen, but had second thoughts: why give them the publicity? Instead, I relied on Oscar Wilde’s bon mot, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” and I refused to ever mention the club again in my mag. Even when brought up by other writers or artists, I would change the name of the place to the non-descript “a club.” I always explained to the writer what I was doing and why, and no one ever complained. Not that there were many people writing about the little shithole.
Gildersleeves closed (which is why I’m even mentioning it now) and, after a while, became a homeless shelter. At least it became something useful.