Sharks and Jets

As we drive out of the city to Massapequa, through the East Village, Chris Stein shows me all the places the Blondies once lived and copped. Noticing CBGB is sparkling white, "Ha! Giuliani made Hilly paint the place!" he laughs. I ask him if a rock scene like the glory days of CBGB could ever happen now. "Financially, forget it. How can you afford to have a rock band and a fucking job in an ad agency? How can you be expected to pull down $1000 a week and be in a rock band? It doesn't work spiritually, financially, or aesthetically." Burke adds, "It's not centralized like the CB's scene was; we used to live like a few blocks away, all the different bands lived there. Today, few artists can survive in New York City." Stein, a former SVA student, complains, "It's totally thoughtless on the part of the powers that be, there's no consideration for the arts. The art scene in Soho is so fucking horrendous— the worst it's ever been. Decorator art to match the couch. It has nothing to do with fuckin' art."

But at least, I protest, the music's alive and kicking around St. Marks. Guardians of the faith D Generation just released a new album. Down at the rock & roll club, guys flash hefty baskets, and proud roosters flash their crowns— hair teased, spiked, but slicked down around the face. Dirty sweet good-bad grrrls the Prissteens mix girl-group defiance with sex-predator sneering; I once heard them worrying that their size-two pants weren't tight enough. Yet still, as Harry points out, "They all work at other jobs, or they have a whole thing going on that's been flourishing for a while. A kid who comes to town today is going to have to really hustle to meet expenses. I mean, just to have rehearsal space."

By 1 p.m. Monday we're in Massapequa, for Blondie's No Exit in-store signing at Tower Records. The store is overrun by obsessive fans who were children when the band crumbled 17 years ago, the result of infighting, mysterious illness, and bad business. Suburban moms in parkas and black leggings, banana-clipped bi-level cuts, bring in their daughters, six- and nine-year-olds in full parochial-school outfits. With their best manners they ask Ms. Harry for her autograph. They grew up on the music; they know who she is. Body-modified kids mix it up in raggy NIN T-shirts, green spikes, dog collars. Ravers, jocks, even two members of the North Massapequa Fire Department, are making the scene. Cookie from West Babylon says "Heart of Glass" was her first 45, back in seventh grade; she was the only punk in the dark ages, when hair bands ruled Long Island. Most of the fans are in their middle to late twenties, but Brankita, a Lunachicks fan with a Rancid patch, is only 14. She and her 17-year-old sister Michell are Croatian teens from Astoria who cut out from Cathedral to see their idols. They stick around the whole four hours. Blondie's official tour doesn't even begin until late spring; they've only had two shows, one in New York and one in L.A. But they are godz again.

As for me, I'd spent the earlier part of the morning trying to get my hair like Clem Burke's, but it didn't work out. I look like Janet Reno. I need more body, and my color is way off. Sympathetic, Clem advises, "Try Herbatint, it's natural, no ammonia or peroxide." He's got on a navy blue suit, black shirt, maroon tie, black flat boots. The band is total Hilfiger, even the shoes. Burke says, "We told Hilfiger we wanted a Rat Pack look. Our biggest score was getting all these clothes from him for free." Nobody has looked this cool since the Imperial Lords of Coats and Boots (Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan) departed the earth. Chris Stein's silver sharkskin suit even matches his hair. I wanna see all boys in tight black leathers again, Jimmy Destri style. Faux skins are even better— PETA is rock & roll! Debbie Harry's elegant new black-on-red diva-slut getup knocks me out. For almost a decade, the asexual, loose-fitting "alternative" regalia of grunge culture cast a dull cloud over American fashion. But I wanna see the body again. Skintight, thigh high. Nipples popping, a nine-inch bulge where size matters, boys. Eyeliner on everyone, mascara too. NY rockers gonna rise again.

dgaines310@aol.com

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