Jerry loved to dance; he was in fact quite a good dancer, one who would let his emotions empty out of his body. I can see him today with his pointy teeth sticking below a grin cast towards the heavens, beer in one hand and the other hand raised high above his head. I loved to dance to, every since I was fifteen and saw Michael Stipe doing the crooked-shimmy in a trench coat at Wittenberg University, I was directly in front of the stage and was mesmerized. Michael Stipe was one of the first men besides my crazy Latin-American raised Uncles, who let himself go dancing. I figured if he can do it so can I. I am someone with very few inhibitions, to the chagrin of some and dancing always seemed natural.
Jerry and I bonded over our love of dancing, and we would go to Crazy Mama’s on the weekends and the Garage (Columbus’ biggest gay bar) during the week. So many of our friends in the underground rock scene were too self conscious to dance, and we both fused over the fact that we loved to shake our skinny almost transparent asses. Music was the escape for us, a way to close out the world and tie our emotions to something tangible yet ethereal a passage to our innerselves yet encapsulating the whole world. When we combined the music with movement, it heightened the moment, for both of us we would be in front of the stage for any show that was more important. The opportunity to be transported was too important to be standing in the back, hands in pockets, we never had sense for that sort of hesitancy if the music performed was that vital. Dancing was the same but not as intense as seeing a live band, but it provided us with the escape we so much coveted.
Crazy Mama’s at that point had seen its better days, this was early 1991 or so, and the club’s heyday had been in the mid-eighties. We had come upon its glamour only by the retelling of what seemed almost fantasized stories of the club from our local heroes Ron House, Dan Dow and Don Howland. They had held our attention with stories of playing and doing drugs with Paul Westerberg at Mr. Browns and then heading for some dancing and drug use at Crazy Mama’s. To Jerry and me and its fair to add most members of the New Bomb Turks we held an almost godlike respect for the Columbus scene of the 80’s. Jerry had paid tribute to that Columbus scene with the cover of the first Gaunt single, the cover was shot at Used Kids; Eric was a Great Plains t-shirt and Jerry was doing a Ron House pose. When we arrived at the Crazy Mama scene the bar was trying to stay alive, genuinely torn between new-wave gothic-ism and the more bass heavy twitterings of techno. One never knew what one might hear when you stumbled up its steep staircase.
At times there would only be a few old (looking back now, I would guess they were mid to late 30’s) patrons, with slashing eighties haircuts and the weighted down or skinny (depending if the person chose alcohol, cocaine or heroin) jowls, eyes quickly scanning the stairwell, praying that 1986 would enter the room. The glamour of Crazy Mama’s had faded like a bloated Elvis, but once in a while the club would be packed again and the sounds of Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cramps would rattle the rafters, like an old pitcher who suddenly is in the midst of tossing a no-hitter. On Thursday evenings the bar closed with the epically wonderfully gorgeous Felt song “Primitive Painters.” I imagine that “Primitive Painters” was written to capture the special feeling that only two a.m. can provide, when one is soaked with sweat, plastered with cigarette smoke and being filled with only the absolute freedom that alcohol once provided for so many of us. Jerry adored Felt, as did I coming into their beauty via Jerry and Dan Dow. We would swirl across the sticky dance floor under the glow of a disgruntled aging disco ball and the world would be alright for five minutes, then the lights would come on, shattering the moment like an alarm clock at six a.m. or a phone call in the middle of sex.
One night Jerry and I were hanging out at Bernie’s and decided to head to Crazy Mama’s. Matt Reber whom I just casually knew joined us, as we strolled through the waves of frat boys and sorority girls through the south campus jungle made up of bars such as Mother Fletcher’s, The Oar House, Papa Joes and other meat markets we laughed at our own seriousness and the silliness of the college students whom we perceived were so different than us. We arrived at Crazy Mamas already wasted, full of cheap Bernie’s draft beer and cigarettes. Making a bee-line towards an unfathomably great pinball game called Carnival we hunkered around it while drinking up the fortitude to hit the dance floor. Tonight Crazy Mama’s was packed.
Jerry was an energetic pinball player who practically dry-humped the machine when playing it, thrusting his hips into the game as if pinball was an erotic exercise. As we played Jerry and I started to talk about some of the songs he had been recording with Jenny, whom I had broken up with the previous year. He was amazed by her songs and I think he had a slight crush on her because he mentioned that he couldn’t go out with her because of our past history together. It was amazing that at that time we had a sense of chivalry towards one another because as time went by we no doubt slept with several of the same women. Matt finally chimed in and asked if we were talking about “Crazy Jenny?” Jerry said “Yeah, that’s her.” I had no idea whom they were referring to, but I knew Jenny was about as on the edge as anyone I had known. Matt went on, “Man, that chick is nuts. We knew her from the dorms, we see her at Larry’s sometimes. She writes songs?” Jerry, eyeing the multi-ball, “yup, I recording some of them now.” “Christ,” I thought “Jenny has a reputation for being crazy.”
We made our way to the dance floor although the place was packed; the music was fairly shitty by our esteemed taste. Techno was starting its mini-revolution full of full on beats and the stuttering of synthesizers left us feeling annoyed and empty. Suddenly a moment of ridiculousness arrived, a gothic (as in mid-evil) song blared out of the speakers and the dance floor was filled with more black clothing than a funeral. It was called “O Fortuna”, a remixed techno version of a Carl Orff composition, it was as if The Omen downed a smart drink and took a hit of ecstasy. We were baffled by the overtly enthusiastic reception the song had, soon I started pacing the length of the dance floor, posed like Bela Lugosi with an imaginary cape draped over my face. Soon, Jerry and Matt joined me; we were jostled and scowled at, which just made us laugh harder. We could sense no joy in the other dancers which just propagated more laughter; we were eventually told to leave the dance floor. In hindsight it was probably the only time that ever happened at Crazy Mama’s. Matt went back a week later and half the crowd was doing the vampire dance.
We took great pleasure in thumbing our noses at others whom we didn’t see eye to eye with, Jerry more so than myself. For him it was an art form, even if it meant mocking an entire dance floor of vampire worshipers. If you had a balloon Jerry would be obliged to pop it, sometimes with hilarious results and at other times it would go over like a shriveled penis.