Valentine’s Day… just the thought of it makes me queasy. I’ve had so many weird, surreal and downright hellish Valentine’s Days, I often entertain the fantasy of going into hibernation on February 13th and then just popping out emotionally unscathed in the wee hours of February 15th to shoot a lingering sidelong glance at my shadow. Come to think of it, my shadow has probably been the most stable and enduring relationship I’ve ever had!
Don’t get me wrong- I’ve actually been very lucky in love and love gettin’ lucky, but in my regards to Valentine’s Day itself-and my surviving it- it’s a wonder I haven’t been a recipient of the Purple Heart, for sheer bravery, valor and life-threatening battle wounds.
In fact, the military-slogan-bearing T-shirts stretched across the buff chests of our country’s off-duty armed forces can best sum up my personal Valentine’s Day experiences:
I KNOW I’M GOING TO HEAVEN, CAUSE I’VE DONE MY TIME IN HELL!
Or better yet:
KILL ‘EM ALL…LET GOD SORT IT OUT!
I remember one Valentine’s Day when the only item in my mailbox that even remotely resembled a heart was a red notice from a utility company. As if that wasn’t bad enough in itself, my evening was packed with shows that only served to rub my “single” status in my face: every damn place I danced was so full of cooing couples I felt like I was performing on Noah’s Ark!
Then there was the February 14 back in the early 1980’s… the date I picked, as a hopeless twenty-year-old romantic, to be My Wedding Day.
My groom and I, in our sole nod to tradition, arrived separately (and not too hung over) at the hall where our ceremony, which had been booked for the better part of a year, was to be held.
I was a vision in an ivory Fifties strapless organza gown, with an over-lay of French lace embroidered with seed pearls. My hair, bleached White Minx, was in a fetching Monroe bob, and under my Goodwill steal of a Juliet veil, I sported my customary Revlon Cherries In The Snow lipstick. As I daintily stepped out of the car, gathering my train, I was astounded to see dozens of buckets of carnations, which had been dyed an uproarious shade of baby blue.
As I wondered who’d Dumpster-dived the Flower District in honor of my wedding, I spotted legions of Low Riders, uniformly bedecked in powder blue Polyester double-knit tuxes… tattooed jailhouse tears and pompadours covered by homeboy hairnets abounded. The four hundred or so bridesmaids were a symphony in ruffled dresses so tight and shiny they looked like they were auditioning to be the Shark’s molls in a special baby blue colorized version of Westside Story.
Just as I was starting to realize that this was not the result of my hangover or an LSD flashback and that Mr. Colorization himself, Ted Turner hadn’t been invited, the Unitarian priest who was to be presiding over my ceremony came rushing out to explain to my groom and I -and three quarters of East LA- that the hall had been double booked.
Tension ran high for a moment, but at the minister’s gentle suggestion we finally decided that a coin-toss was in order. While disgruntled guests from both camps fumbled for quarters, I heard The Best Man whisper to my groom that he had a full tank of gas, a fifth of Scotch, two hundred bucks… and that The Border was only three hours away.
Before my betrothed had a chance to answer, someone pulled out a coin, we won the flip, and had our ceremony first, amongst the blinding neon blue riot of dyed flowers. Speaking of first, I should’ve taken the scheduling snafu as an omen- that turned out to be just My First Wedding. If there are any photos that somehow survived being cut-up or burned, I can assure you they are predominantly baby blue.
Many years later, I foolishly accepted a Valentine’s Day date with Art Boy, to his first major gallery opening. Why I did it, I’ll never know; I was in the throws of an obsessive crush on my best friend, the sexually ambiguous Collegiate Art Department Head, whom Art Boy and I had met in happier times at The Blacklite, an infamous Hollywood dive bar, frequented by a garish parade of luridly made-up trannie hookers.
And there was another little glitch: Art Boy and I had been… just a teensy bit broken up -oh, excuse me, I really meant to say totally hostile and incommunicado- for months.
But hearing Art Boy’s cajoling, purring voice, I magically seemed to forget all of that… as well as the fact that when Art Boy and I had originally embarked upon our passionate and certifiably insane affair three years previously-also coincidentally on February 14th - it had resulted in the spectacularly gut-wrenching dissolution of My Second Marriage. But Art Boy poured it on shamelessly. He really missed me, he was just dying to see me belly dance again! I caved.
So I went to Art Boy’s opening, dressed for sin in a skin-tight black velvet cat suit and sky-high red platforms, glittering sequined hearts scattered throughout my ass-length, teased-up Pricilla Presley hair do. Art Boy was there, of course… but I hadn’t anticipated the bosomy redhead that was hanging all over him!
Realizing I’d been used for a free performance, I bit the bullet and decided to dance anyway, since I was already there… and at least there would be potential tips. In my frazzled state, I started downing multiple plastic cups of the cheap swill that was barely passing for Merlot. I was starting my fifth drink when the disinterested gallery owner hustled me to a filthy, closet-sized bathroom, the only place in the gallery where I could change into my costume, since he wouldn’t allow me to use his office.
I didn’t realize that the toilet had been over-flowing until my gig bag had been sitting on the floor for quite some time… because there was no light. Foul mouthed drunks-people drunker than even I was, if that was possible-banged on the door as I changed into costume.
While I performed, the hem of my costume got drenched in the puddles of beer that had formed on the cement floor, and someone burned a hole in my veil with a cigarette. When I finished my show, Art Boy was macking ardently on the new gal. Instantly, drinks and insults were flung from both sides. My recollection is fuzzy, but I do believe I was the one that started it.
My oldest, most-trusted friend Bobby, who was visiting from Memphis, Tennessee, quickly escorted me out of the melee like the Gallant Southern Gentleman he always has been. Somehow, we wound up at The Blacklite. Collegiate Art Department Head was already there, much to my delight. Much to my dismay, he was there with a date…but by the end of the night, I was infatuated with The Date, who looked like a cross between a gorgeous ‘70’s glam rock fag and 6’ 6” Hitler Youth, with the longest, blackest eyelashes I had ever seen- and they were real!
When the din of the jukebox died down, I detected a Euro Accent. I was madly drunk and melting from lust…and apparently, he was too. That Valentine’s Day, we began or affair- and also a five year long merry-go-round of love, lies, sex, heartbreak, stalking, drug abuse, violence, and psychological torture- between Art Department Head, Tomorrow Belongs To Him and lil’ ole me. You name it, we experienced it. It was a Love Triangle Of Bermudic proportions.
Thank god, all that Valentine’s Day insanity ended in the late 1990’s.
I’d like to say I’ve learned from my experiences… but I know better. I seem to be feeling a little drowsy …wake me up when it’s over, will you?
The story you’ve just read is from my book “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road” ( Punk Hostage Press, Sept. 2013)
You can get an autographed copy here: