Last night, my mother, my sister and I watched a documentary entitled A Band Called Death. It’s about three brothers who had a band back in the mid-seventies that went, essentially, nowhere, but has since been rediscovered. Music is such a chancy business that it’s always hard to lay a finger on why a band may have not made it, however, it’s hard to deny the difficulty black rock musicians have had. A person can’t say for sure that the fact that the brothers were African-American was the reason they didn’t succeed, but it must be considered as a possible factor.
A small detail in the movie brought me back to my young adulthood. Several prominent musicians are interviewed. One of those was Vernon Reid, whose band, Living Color, I went to go see several times back in the mid to late eighties. Luscious was a big Vernon Reid fan, as was the man with whom I was living at the time. Thanks to those two, I was aware of Reid before Living Color had released their first album. I remember my boyfriend running out to buy soon after it was released. A week or so later, I went over to see Luscious and she said, “Guess what I have….” and slapped it down on the turntable. Vernon Reid, if my memory serves me correctly, was one of the founders of an organization called The Black Rock Coalition. Luscious took me to several shows that had been sponsored by them, at least a couple of which occurred at CBGB’s.
Somehow, all this free association led me back to the evening I met Luscious.
The cafe was one of Stone’s favorites. A bit dark, a couple of steps down, with brick walls, small black tables and bent wood chairs, I’d been there at least a couple of times before. So when Stone told me that he wanted to meet there I knew where it was. It was a pain to get to, a twenty-minute subway ride and a walk across town. Trying to get closer by mass transit took even longer. So here I am, over twenty years later making the same excuse I did that night for being late. I confess, I’m almost always late, not fashionably late, but embarrassingly late.
Stone and his friend were already seated and had beers in front of them when I arrived. The food was modestly priced. It was a good place for a light bite and some drinks, or maybe just the drinks if you actually wanted to talk. The place was almost always busy and there was the buzz of conversation in the air, but it was cafe loud, not bar loud. I sat down and Stone caught the eye of the waitress and mimed that he wanted a third beer like the two that were already on the table. He’d asked me to come specifically to meet his friend from the radio station, but I hadn’t yet gotten a chance to pay attention to her when the waitress arrived.
“I love watching this woman pour beer,” Stone said as the woman approached, beer in one hand, glass in the other.
She was a little taller than average and a little curvier than average. She arrived at the table and put her weight on her right leg, her right hip jutting towards the table. The contrapposto of her stance emphasized her waist and brought her right breast toward her hip. With the crook in her elbow, which almost rested on her hip, her torso was an aesthetically appealing series of curves. She set the glass down on the table with firm clunk. She turned the bottle over as if she was following the curve of her body, with her thumb over her palm, the opposite of the way most people pour. Stone watched the performance with an intensity that just fell short of the point at which it might be embarrassing. My eye darted towards the friend. Luscious seemed equally transfixed by this hip thrusting, breast heaving, beer pouring performance.
Finally, I got a chance to turn my attention to Luscious herself. During the preceding week or two, I’d been told over and over, “You gotta meet her. You gotta meet her.” So here she was. Cool. Dark. Thin. Angular. If you took a caricature of a rock star and crossed it with a caricature of a fashion model that a rock star might date, you’d get Luscious.
Twenty-five years later, I can no longer recall the content of the conversation, but something I said triggered a warm response in the cool bitch. I think it had something to do with rock-and-roll. Soon, she was animated, squeezing my hand for emphasis, drumming on the table to make a point.
We’d met at an odd hour. That was because Stone worked nights. While Luscious and I were ordering more beer, Stone was slowing down and sobering up. Finally, he had to go. He threw down a wad of bills saying, “I think this should cover it.” Meanwhile, Luscious was still squeezing my hand talking animatedly. I don’t pretend to know anything about music, but I’ll listen eagerly.
We drank more and we drank more. Back then, when I went out at night, I’d keep a twenty in my shoe just in case it got too late and I needed cab fare home. Perhaps it was the only time I did this, but I took the twenty out of my shoe and drank it. Luscious and I stayed and talked and talked until the cafe closed and it was time to go home.
Now, cab fare gone, I had to trudge back across town to the subway. We were on a side street, a quiet side street, about as deserted as a city can be at about one or two in the morning. Luscious was wearing what I would eventually learn was nearly a uniform for her, jeans and a black tank top. Me, well, I can’t remember what was above the waist, but below the waist I was wearing a black and white striped cotton/spandex mini-skirt. I wore a lot of cotton/spandex in those days, and that black and white striped skirt was one of my favorites. Cotton spandex was a blessing for a gal like me. As long as you had a tight body, you could look simultaneously hot and cool on a tight budget.
Silently, a group of boys slid up behind us. I glanced over my shoulder briefly and continued walking forward. Suddenly, I felt a pinch on my ass. I swung around. “Hey!”
“What did he do?” Luscious shouted.
“He pinched my ass.”
With the suddenness of a striking snake, her leg extended with her big, god knows what size, foot at the end. The boy grabbed his groin. His friends turned and ran, the culprit hobbling behind.
“I’ve got better aim than I thought,” Luscious said.