January 29, 1982

[Road-trip from Louisville to Bloomington.]

I traded shifts at the bookstore today so it would be convenient to leave work early and go to Bloomington with my co-worker David. I could hardly wait through a tedious day at work to take off at seven straight from the store. David had gotten his parents’ car and his roommate Bill and friend Paul were also along for the ride. We left the bookstore and went straight to the nearest liquor store to stock up for the trip. It was dark and raining heavily and all in all, it was a lousy evening to drive a hundred miles. I was glad David was driving, for dark wet nights are my horror. We talked and joked and drank and nourished hopes of modern excess at the Cigarettes show.

We came into Bloomington at last with utter relief and drove hurriedly to Bullwinkle’s, afraid we were going to be late. We went in the front door and stood by the gay bouncer, searching for ID cards, craning our heads to see the place. I realized at once that no posters were on the walls advertising the show, and no electric sounds were issuing from the closed doors of the second story where the rock shows are held. The upper story doors turned out to be locked, and a horrible feeling of dismay came over me. The bouncer said, in answer to our queries, “There’s a women’s drag show tonight—women dressed like men.” We said, horrified, “Aren’t the Dancing Cigarettes playing tonight?” and he said, “Oh, that’s next Friday.”

We stared at each other, confounded. David laughed unpleasantly and called up his local friend Don to enquire why Don had said only yesterday that the Cigs were playing. After a few minutes to regain my equilibrium, an idea came to me. I said brightly to the boys, “Hey, I’ll take you up and introduce you to the Cigs!” They live just around the block.” This we did.

Donna opened the door when I knocked at Emily and Michael’s door in the Allen Building, just as the beauteous Jackie Oddi came down the hall. We had a swift sweet reunion, and we were told that the band was practicing at their rehearsal space. Newly inspired, I led the boys over through the rain to the Mayflower Moving Company warehouse, where lovely discordant noises were filtering out to the parking lot.

We politely waited until the song ended, then knocked and entered. I was timid to be entering so abruptly and unannounced, but they appeared to be delighted to see me and my companions and jumped up and greeted us and had us sit down and handed us a fresh quart bottle of beer. David and Paul left to pick up their local friend Don, and Bill and I sat on the small grubby couch listening and tapping our feet. Michael Gitlin said, “If you have any requests for something you’d like to hear—I mean really, we’ll play anything you want.” I said, “Anything but ‘Louie Louie!’” which they laughed at. I then said, “Actually, I’ve always been very fond of ‘Smith Street.’” They went to it, and gratified me extremely.

David & Co. didn’t return for at least forty minutes, but came in at last with Don just as we were beginning to get nervous on his behalf. The band, as if responding to crowd encouragement, redoubled their efforts and began playing twice as well. They began to really cook, and I swelled with pride and love and pleasure. They decided to play “Wild Times” since I requested it for the boys, who had never heard it.

Just then, in walked three more musicians who shared the rehearsal space, who were due to play after midnight, which time it now was. [This band was Red Square.] One of them was Janas, who I had met when the Cigs were in Louisville. We greeted each other with smiles and I gave her a sociable swig of beer from a fresh bottle. The Cigs told the newcomers to hold on for another few minutes, since they were doing one last song for us. They then launched into “Wild Times” with absolute fury, as the eight spectators gaped with amazement. God, what a song! Every time I hear it, they sound better. Why they have never included that song on their demo tapes, I don’t know. At the end of the song all of us were screaming, cheering and stamping, utterly transported by enthusiasm. Janas looked at me, eyes blazing, a smile of incredulous wonder on her face. The Cigs closed, sweaty and triumphant. I was convinced absolutely from that moment that the Cigs have the quality to make stars of themselves if they can only bear to whore themselves to managers and record producers.

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