Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae Part 16: Bettina Richards & Jack (Richie) Taylor (Violet)


1992. Bettina Richards and Jack (Richie) Taylor (Violet)

Jerry and I were working at Used Kids one early afternoon, no doubt talking about music and laughing. It was somewhat rare for Jerry to be working behind the counter, usually his job responsibility was to stay on the floor or sit at the back counter and smoke cigarettes while he eye-balled customers.

Used Kids was tiny, just a cramped shoe-box of a store, hidden below High Street with thousands of records crammed in every corner. The décor was made up of hundreds of flyers from various punk and indie shows and old LP covers. A great deal of the decorating was done on several spastic afternoons by Jack Taylor (birth name Richard Violet), who was fired and rehired by Dan Dow. Jack, like the décor of Used Kids was a living example of a life half finished, this is not just for the fact that Ritchie (as I first knew him as) died young in an unremarkable fashion. While giving up the lures of the city, Richie moved home to lonesome Urbana, Ohio and got a job at a local United Dairy Farmers convenient store. A long drop from the coolness of playing CBGB’s and getting name checked on an Unsane record. It was there in the vast flatness of western Ohio that Richie took a shot of dope too deep for his veins and died behind the UDF store, proving that heroin can be found everywhere.  Richie, was a cross between  Bluto from “Animal House” and a tarnished flannel shirt, he could be devastatingly charming and brilliant on one hand and on the other he could stab you with an insult that could bring the worst of high school back in a flutter of embarrassed red cheeks. He was the first member of Monster Truck 005 to die. I remember seeing his utterly great band Blood Family at a crappy High Street dive seemed to breathe “coke-front” from its walls. As I stood in front of the wall length urinal taking a leak I was surprised to see him drinking a beer, because I had only known him to use drugs. He was ridiculously drunk, as I pointed out my alarm at him drinking a beer he absentmindedly placed the long-neck smack dab in the middle of the urinal. To my astonishment as piss ricocheted around the bottle, he leaned into me and said “yeah, I can drink too sometimes.” And with that he lifted the bottle to his lips and took a long pull off the beer. Jenny wrote a song about Richie called “Jesus” on her first record.

Richie had plastered the walls and ceiling of Used Kids over two afternoons, using wheat paste and his half-hazard manner of symmetry, where one flyer would appear to push out the presence of its neighbor. It was as if Big Black were jostling for attention over Richard Thompson. Then inexplicitly he stopped and only 2/3 of the store was covered. Since I was the man who replaced Richie at Used Kids, I suppose I took it as part of my job responsibility to finish the job. When Richie ventured into the store he would comment that I should have used wheat paste on the 1/3 that I decorated. He was right.

The flyers and album sleeves gave the store even more of a sense of claustrophobia, the atmosphere of the store could be stifling if there were more than ten people in the shop. When I started there, this rarely happened, perhaps only on the weekends but with the advent of compact discs came a rise of an increased customer base. We resisted the digital revolution, it was something that some of us took to heart, the compact disc appeared to be a corporate plan to increase the profit of record companies and doubling the price of music. This was anthemia to those of us whom music was the tonic for not blowing our brains out. We were lucky, we worked in an environment where this elixir was pumped into our systems for hours every day. At the same time it vastly expanded the resources and profits of the store, shortly thereafter Dan would open up the Used Kids Annex and bringing in the saintly Dave “Captain” Deimer.

Jerry hated CD’s he regarded them as a symbol of everything that was evil, he resisted buying a compact disc player for years and poked fun at the mostly tinny sound that many of the early CD’s had. He referred to them as “the eight-track tape” of the nineties; in light of what has transpired over the past ten years his words were very prophetic.

This afternoon, Jerry and I were manning the shop by ourselves, and as I would implore him most days when we worked together that he would need to sit at the back he regarded this as unnecessary worrying. Dan had a propensity to drop by and check on us when Jerry was up front with me and we would be changing the record. The phone rang and Jerry picked it up. Talking for a while he hung up with that toothy grin of his. “That was just totally amazing” he said. He pulled out a cigarette and shook his head. “What?” I implored. “That was this woman who lives in New York and she bought ‘Jim Motherfucker’ last weekend and now she wants to put a whole record by Gaunt. She said she just broke up with this guy named Jim and it’s all she has played.” I was floored. “Really? Is she legit” I asked, as if we were legit. “Oh yeah, she works at Pier Platters.” This was like the word of God had spoken, anybody who knew their shit in records knew that Pier Platters in Hoboken was one of the best record stores in the country.

The woman was Bettina Richards, whose giddiness for music matched or surmounted our own. Bettina proved to be extremely patient with the varying mood swings and emotional instability of Jerry. She would hold true to her word and in short order Gaunt’s first full length record (actually an extended EP) would come out in 10” format within a few months. Bettina understood the unspoken geekiness-language that a ten inch record alluded to.She was not only patient but funny and kind, one who would garner my respect not just because she had an excellent taste in music (she had helped sign Eleventh Dream Day to Atlantic) but because of a steadfast belief in what she did as a trade.

Bettina lived in a small raisin box of an apartment on 8th and Avenue C in Hell’s Kitchen. She would always open her doors to traveling bands and the shaky emotional drunkard as myself. Shortly after meeting her, I developed a phone crush on her roommate but when I finally met her face to face I had already moved on. During one of my first visits to New York, after arriving with my friends Jerry Dannemiller and John Elsasser (who by sheer coincidence were staying just across the hall of Bettina’s apartment) with a pink of whisky that I had mostly downed on the cab ride over I spent the early morning half curled up in her bathroom with my legs poking out into her dining/living/guest bedroom vomiting out a night of four nightclubs. She always let me return.

Like everyone that Jerry came in contact with he would invariably try Bettina’s patience, one moment accusing her of not promoting Gaunt while at the next moment speaking of her as if she were the guardian angel we all coveted. We wrestled with our expectations of ourselves, a belief that at times these expectations were thrust upon us like a blanket over a hapless dog, wondering in confusion what the fuss was about but taking comfort in the attention. Jerry could bare his teeth as well as any threatened dog but his bite was harmless, his growl could be punishing and his love could be fulfilling. There were times when I wondered why Bettina put up with Jerry, but when like myself even when our friendship was at its most morose, like the gum on the underside of a shoe. In an instant Jerry could bring me back to sense of unaffected joy.

There was a sense of familiarity in all of our lives; it was not uncommon for us to have a sense of place with others whom we didn’t know, just through the process of collecting giant record collections. Anywhere we went we invariably ran amongst other like minded souls, who seemed to covet the same sense of escape that we had through music and the arts.  We consisted of a ruddy bunch whose worlds may be as far reaching as New York, Austin, Seattle and Groningen but who would collide over an almost religious devotion to feedback and catchy choruses. Where the innocent child-like mannerisms of Jad Fair could be the ultimate sexual tease but was devoid of danger, for a man who yearned to be spared the masculine stereotypes that the nineteen eighties and mass culture seemed to thrust upon us this was liberation. This was a world where outsiders were considered with distrust, where even the influence of technology was judged with suspicion (i.e. compact discs) and that belonging revolved around a short wooden stage. This is where Jerry and I thrived, in a place where we were free to explore (with apprehension) the world of our records and books. Hence, the community that we at one time strove to be a part of, would now nuture and welcome us. We thought that the joy we felt that afternoon would last forever, Jerry and Gaunt had arrived in our diminutive world. We would later discover that age and our own demons would swallow and consume that joy, leaving us, dead in a sense, alone behind the metaphysical convenient store.

Jack Taylor (Richie Violet) photo by Jay Brown

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7 Responses to “Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae Part 16: Bettina Richards & Jack (Richie) Taylor (Violet)”

  1. Ron Says:

    i shopped @ used kids stoned a many of times.still smell doughnuts…

  2. checkpoint charlie Says:

    As someone who just started coming to shows and getting into underground music around C-bus in the mid-nineties, I love your blog. It makes me nostalgic, entertains & serves as an excellent oral history all at once. Keep it up man.

  3. nick Says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rich_Man%27s_Eight_Track_Tape

  4. Cathie Filian Says:

    Wow! Richie and I shared a house together for a few years – The band God and Texas lived with us too. I actually met Richie at Used Kids. You really captured him. I am sure our paths must have crossed.

  5. Sherry Says:

    I went to school with Richie, kindergarten clear thru graduation…I remember his curly hair, rosie cheeks, great smile and yes, even his slightly sharp tongue! Ive very much enjoyed reading your blog, this must be my 5th or 6th time! I’d love to read /hear the song written about him, “Jesus”‘ or hear any other stories you may have about him. We were childhood friends, born & raised in Urbana, but you know after high school people move on, and now, I cant even remember the last time we spoke and it saddens me to this day when I think about him in that alley, alone & now gone…its just wrong. Keep writing…

  6. jeffrey a dutton Says:

    A very entertaining, but fictional account of Columbus History.

    • belakoekrompecher Says:

      Jeff, if you would like to discuss any issues you have with any content please feel free to contact me privately,
      with regards
      Bela

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