Monday, October 25, 2010

"We can dance if we want to."

We were all slightly mad in the '80s.  I always felt I could write a sociological thesis on how the world changed in 1980.  I would point to the murder of John Lennon and the entrance of Ronald Reagan as the death knell for the utopian idealism of the '60s and the '70s.  The desire to make a better world, which was coupled with the joy of personal freedom, turned into a primarily self-gratifying impulse for power.  It is only too easy to become the very thing you wish to change.  Take a freedom loving person and scratch the surface and the fascist is not too far beneath.  I could see the Dr. Jeckylls turning into Mr Hydes.  But what the heck, I'm crazy aren't I? 

So those '80s.  Pretty wacky.  Even though I felt I was still a key leader of the resistance--a top operator of the underground--I certainly carried on like a loon.  Can we ever not be in awe of the grandeurs of bad taste...er, I mean, cutting edge that the '80s personified?  I mean, look at me.  A perpetual, early midlife crisis.  Who else would be a natural blond and try to dye his hair white like Rutger Hauer's in Blade Runner.  After a first attempt, I looked like a bad country singer or maybe a canary.  I had to get that special white tone.  It needed to match the colour of my latest white automobile.  And what does it say about a time and place when you could knock the girls out with a 1984 Pontiac Fiero?  It was the world's first Snap-On tools car.  A rubber car.  Drive it like a condom.  Perfect for bedwetters.  The car of the future.  How long did the future last?  Four years.  This is real.  The day I paid the car off, Pontiac folded it.  This was my first and last American car.  And why did I have the damn thing in the first place?  Because it sort of looked like a Fiat Bertone.  But it didn't have the price tag.  Fiat.  The cool Italian car.  Remember what they said Fiat stood for?  "Fix It Again, Tony."  Well, you know what Fiero stood for?  "Fix It Entirely Right, Ortega."  I was lucky, though.  Unlike most of the cars, my engine didn't catch on fire.  Despite the outward appearance of being a sexy car, the interior had all the mystique of an interstellar coffin.  A two seater only, with a console dividing you and your passenger, it screamed "platonic relationships."  The girl I was going with at the time, impressed by the sleek exterior but then enlightened by yours truly regarding the awkwardness of the interior, responded to my comments about possible limitations to romanticism within the vehicle by saying "well I guess you gotta be a real good talker." 

Anyway, I had that car during my final days with KTYD and my new radio home at KTMS/Y-97.  I drove in semi-style to my various professional, radio-type public appearances in that car.  Those were the Dancing Days, my friend.  At KTYD, besides doing my only constant connection to reality, Space Pirate Radio, I supplemented my meager income by hosting KTYD Night at a club in Santa Barbara called the Pacific Coast Dance Company.  This was Tuesdays, folks.  Featuring the fab cover tunes of the Young Adults, a nice bunch of guys who could replicate (Rutger Hauer, Rutger Hauer) your favourite current '80s dance tunes.  I can still hear the Romantics in my head.  Or the Fixx.  Or Billy Idol.  When the boys would do the Fisted One's "Flesh For Fantasy," the sound man would give me a microphone and I would karaoke in the darkness singing "Flush, flush your family, come on now..."  Now how is that possible, you say?  Well, part of my contract included an open bar.  So after my second vodka collins I felt little pain and a hammy, Mickey Rooney-like love of the club.  "Hey folks, dance contest coming."  I would hustle the cutest or slightly uninhibited girls with their dates to enter the weekly contest.  Dance finals were the highlight of the Tuesday evening, with lucky couples receiving album giveaways and the latest concert tickets: R.E.M. at UCSB or the Go-Go's at the County Bowl.  This is as close as I came to selling out.  I didn't feel I was selling out because I was still known for doing Space Pirate Radio and there were no compromises on that show.  This was my down-to-earth, space boy persona.  Making a little money, getting free drinks, and having the attentions of listeners and non-listeners.  It was fun to be young.  I did feel sad for the many single males who I would watch enter the club, hoping to get lucky, blowing their paycheck on drinks for ladies who would eventually disappear into the night.  That was the saddest part.  But being in a haze of alcool and the off-center of attention didn't stop me from returning to the happening club the following week. 


Clubbing for me came into its peak when I hooked up with Zelo during the Y-97 days.  Post-1985, Zelo was the uber-kool restaurant/nightclub for Santa Barbara.  Studio 54 with really good food.  Tres-moderne.  They were so cool, they didn't do any radio advertising.  Every pathetic account executive at both KTYD and Y-97 always hoped to get them to buy airtime.  They didn't need it.  Until I came along.  Sploogie!  After the success of my 12th Anniversary Space Pirate Radio party at Zelo, the restaurant/club was the hip spot to be at.  I'll talk more about this later (sorry), but for now, I'm reminded only of that clubbing spirit of the '80s.  I actually like to dance.  Wild, geriatric seizures of expression.  It was great.  Isadora Duncan meets Martha Graham and Nijinsky at the Whisky A-Go-Go in an opiated, cappuccino moment.  Hermes Pan on acid dancing to the Blow Monkeys. 

So where have we been, kids?  We've talked about the '80s and we've talked about dancing.  So were we all lemmings dancing towards the edge?  Too many thoughts on that area.  Philosophical questions you can't answer.  Like how many angels can you fit on a pin giving head?  Hmmm!  Still love dancing, though.  Even now in my wheelchair, cramped by my iron & wine lung, if you put on "The Politics of Dancing" by Re-Flex: "I can dance mein Fuhrer."  Terpsichore!  "We are most a Muse."