A Place for Us

Twenty years later, punks, drunks, and wayward youth still call St. Marks home

I just grabbed Joey Ramone's ass. It's the night of "Blitzkrieg Bash," and when he passed me on the way to the stage, I went "grabba grabba hey, grabba hey" to his left cheek. Now I'm hiding behind this jukebox hoping he doesn't tell the meaty bouncer to beat my stupid ass up. I'm at Coney Island High, a club that's the center of St. Marks Place nightlife. Actually, Coney is the center of life here because there ainât no life except nightlife on St. Marks Place.

You've probably seen the kids hanging out in front of Mondo Kim's, or Trash and Vaudeville. Crusty punks with blue Mohawks, junk punks in torn suits, and always some dude with a dog sparing for change. They look like throwbacks to '77.

What you got here is a scene. A fucked-up, drugged-up, kinked-up, we'll-love-you-no-matter-what scene. Leather-and-spike kids from Cali, from England, and from asswart Texas are drawn here like magnets. Some come to squat. Some to escape. Others just to get jacked up on drugs and booze. They're welcomed by pierced scenesters with a forty and a place to sleep. On this strip, between Second and Third avenues, no one gives a fuck why you came, they're just happy you're here. As local squat punks The Casualties put it, life on St. Marks is a "Fuckin' Way of Life."

Coney is a three-floor black building in the middle of the block. Unless you smoke cloves and look like the Cure's Robert Smith, you best stay away from the basement--that's where the goths mope. The supercools shake it either upstairs or on the main floor where the DJ spins devil's music--punk rock, rockabilly, and anything else with a raunchy guitar and a bawdy backbeat. Sometimes they have theme nights, like "Mod Night" or "Disco Night," that attract a lot of uptights in white jeans and collared shirts. It's always weird to see squares groove to Chic's "Le Freak" alongside punkers. Hell, it's just weird to hear "Le Freak" in a place like Coney because the people who go to Coney are the people who go...

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...this girl with blue spiky hair, black lipstick, and lots of tattoos just shoved her vibrator in my crotch. "I carry my vibrator everywhere I go," she says, with a smile.

"I carry my right hand," I reply.

She gives me one of those you-ruined-our-moment looks, the kind your partner gives when you fart during sex. I head for a drink.

James, the drummer from L.E.S. Stitches, is behind the bar. A couple days ago, Mickey Leigh from Stop, Birdland, and the Tangerine Puppets was bartending. Last week it was some guy from D Generation. And the week before, it was a cat from the Radicts. Seems like I've bought Jack and Coke from a quarter of my record collection.

James has got the mafia-punk look down. He slithers around in a black suit with a toothpick dangling from his lips. He even wears a pinkie ring. When he hands me my drink, I take it to one of the candlelit tables near two men and a woman who are talking about how they need a bass player for their band. "Wow, this is great," I think. "I don't play bass, but what if I said I did?"

So I feed them some bullshit about my bass-playing experience, and they invite me back to their pad to hear their music. When we get there, a guy on quaaludes is drooling in the corner.

I excuse myself and go to use their bathroom, or rather, their floor (I was so drunk I missed the toilet). When I come out, they're sniffing cocaine on a T.S.O.L. CD case. Then the woman spills the coke on the floor. One of the guys tells her to clean it up because he doesn't want the dog snorting it. So she gets on all fours and sniffs the coke out of the rug. I decide to leave.

A couple of days later I go to CBGB to see D Generation play. The inside of CB's is a channel of smoke, sweat, and saliva--everyone is drunk, and spitting when they talk.

Plus you had to wade through the hair. The place was like a forest. There was spiked hair, dreaded hair, and greased-up hair. Everyone--even people from the old school, like Debbie Harry, Jayne County, and Bob Gruen--had dusted themselves off and come down for the spectacle. I also spotted a half-dozen people who had once told me D Generation sucked waiting for the show.

All around me, the crowd was bouncing around in two-inch platform creepers in white, blue, red, black, black with a red stripe, black with a blue stripe....One guy had on leopard-skin creepers, black leather pants, and a Stooges T-shirt, and his girl was dressed in a short skirt and a faded English Dogs shirt. They were surrounded by a hundred people wearing the same outfit, give or take a spiked dog collar.

By the time I got there, I had already missed all the opening bands except the Toilet Boys, who had this beautiful singer with big round eyes and a petite little frame. She had just finished "Another Day," a duet she sang with the six-foot-five guitar player. I was marveling at this bottle-blond goddess until I looked down and realized she was packing something in that G-string.

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