Shazam! Standing at 4 a.m. with the whole noisy Starck assembly bursting outward, grooving on the fizz of his overloaded circuits, Rodney Kitchens felt his priorities shift like tectonic plates after a seismic storm. His brain had exploded and was going to help propel him straight outta that age-old scene, which finds the young, lonely, misfit oddball languishing in his bedroom, trying to escape the lumpen emptiness and day drudgery of his beleaguered past life.
In August 1983, the month that report was filed, the Kitchens family had just moved to the Dallas area. Since, Rodney had worked at odd jobs and been rejected by the Army. But here at the Starck Club and later at Club Sparx, Mistral, Empire, Club Clearview, Anaconda’s, and others, he felt he had finally come home. They offered a destiny and identity that had laid chrysalis-like in his heart, waiting for a sudden blast of heat and light and change of scale to set him free.
Dino rarely missed a night at the Starck Club, and before too long, he and Lee became good friends. Like his father, Dino was a good salesman. Talk a pump into believing it was a windmill if he put his mind to it. Soon Lee was selling Ecstasy for his new friend. Before, Lee would pay $15 per pill and sell it for $20 for a five-buck profit. Dino dropped the price to $10, sold for $15, and gave Lee a freebie for every five sold. Dino was paying $4 each for the sealed cellophane bags of Ecstasy pills locked up in the trunk of his car. The cost to the manufacturer was a dollar a pill.
Overnight, Dino né Rodney went from being so broke the bank wouldn’t let him draw breath to having a closet full of stylish French Girbaud pants with deep pockets—a must—so he could carry all the cash to his car several times during an evening. He hired a kid to work the fertile fields of SMU and a guy to serve Oak Lawn to make sure the neuropharmacologically interested gay crowd remained ecstatic, even though clubs like Tex’s Ranch and Throckmorton Mining Company were already doing a land office business in XTC themselves. It looked as if his old dream of being rich beyond want so he could laugh at this vale others found so tearful was coming true after all.
But money proved to be like the tides; it flowed out as fast as it flowed in. Dino threw money around like he had three arms: on drugs, friends, jewelry, restaurant and bar tabs. Much of it went for clothes, so necessary for your successful night-tripper, for without something totally sui generis you were nothing, an ignoble weasel without meaning.
So: baggy white Girbauds, but tight at the hips and snapped around the ankles, spiked bell, gauntlets, Perry Ellis baggy white shirt with T-shirt underneath strategically ripped to expose the pierced nipple, cuff boots with tiny spurs; hair, short and black on the sides, blond on top with a black braid down the back, and "Spike," his foot-long bang hanging down in front past his chin with a cross clamped at the end; and accessories, diamond stud earrings, a mess of antique rhinestone bracelets, rings, gold chains, and other gewgaws that made Rodney clank like two freight cars coming together when he did the Starck Club Stomp.
It was there [Starck] that I was introduced to a new drug called Ecstasy. It was legal. I tried one and within an hour I was in love with everybody and everything. I had found my new home. Everyone seemed to like me, and for the first time, I liked myself.- Rodney Kitchens
Meanwhile, the law had taken notice of all this sudden HI-NRG and proceeded to do their own stomp, and then spit fire. Citing evidence of widespread Ecstasy abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration placed the drug on Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act as of July 1, 1985. The feds reserve Schedule I for drugs with a high potential of abuse and no known medical use in the United States: heroin, LSD, marijuana (but not cocaine, a Schedule II drug). Maximum penalty for possession or sale (first offense): 15 years and $125,000 fine.
Eight days later Dallas DEA agents made the first Ecstasy arrests in the nation under the new ban when they busted two men with 740 tablets at a gas station pay phone near Preston Road and the LBJ Freeway. The charges were later dismissed because a spelling error in the 29-letter chemical name of Ecstasy prevented the mandate from going into effect until August 11, a small portent of prosecution difficulties that lay ahead in cases involving Ecstasy.
Well, now. Getting ecstatically high in Dallas was still very possible, but things were no longer completely C.A.V.U.—Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited. Dino, however, continued to thrive. Some Ecstasy sources dried up, but Eve, a slightly chemically amended version of Ecstasy remained legal and available. The government’s ban backfired, of course, by stimulating the growth of huge black markets in methamphetamines (crank, meth, speed, crystal), a real aggressive, take-charge, paranoia-inducing drug much more dangerous than Ecstasy. Crank-fueled, you could do the Starck Stomp for 48 hours without sleep. Thirty years ago, Sis and Buddy had to be home by 11; 20 years ago, by 1; now they left the house on Friday night, took crystal on board like one of those pipes that sucks grain from a ship’s hold, and returned just after 60 Minutes to finally get some rest. Dino cut himself in on some of that action, you bet.
So after sleeping all day, he and Spike would leave after midnight for their regular round of night-tripping: Modern Music Nights at Monopoly’s on Mondays, Mistral on Tuesdays, Baby’s or Anaconda’s on Wednesdays, and Starckdom the rest of the week.
Inevitably, of course, the Master of Maya blew it. The bead curtain of illusion that was Dino parted, and Rodney, that old exile on Main Street, walked through. Always needing money, he stole $11,000 worth of his friend Lynnie’s jewelry. He denied the theft for a few weeks, but after learning that a warrant for his arrest had been issued, he surrendered, pleaded guilty, and was placed on probation for six years. With the help of his family, he entered CareUnit, a private hospital in Fort Worth.
Rodney Kitchens left CareUnit after a month. He attended their meetings for a while but, flat broke, soon returned to Dino and the club scene. In no time, he and Spike were back among the writhing rib cages at Trax’s "Wild Wednesdays"—stopping the show when War’s "Lowrider" came on by sitting on the dance floor with a bandana around his head, a fat, joint-looking cigarette between his lips, and holding a barstool for a steering wheel while somebody dangled cherries in front of him.
Still, Dino stayed off drugs for six months. One night he broke down and smoked a joint, and it scared him. He realized he needed help and told his parole officer, hoping the P.O. knew about some drug abuse programs in Dallas. Rodney still remembers that slow, premeditated smile used by cops all over the world, dry and mirthless as sand, meant to lull, confuse, disarm.
The P.O. promptly told the police, who promptly issued an arrest warrant for parole violation. Again he voluntarily surrendered and pleaded guilty, believing the court-appointed attorney who told him he would serve his three-year stretch locally, in Lew Sterrett, because Huntsville was too crowded. True enough for two months, but they found room for Rodney in the Big House from June 25 to October 13, 1986.
A lot of people wondered, Dino, Dino, where’s Dino? when a platoon of 42 commando cops and two dope-detecting dogs boogied into Starckdom at 12:41 a.m. on August 8, 1986, turned up the lights, shut off "Rock Me Amadeus," and methodically searched everybody—single files, chumps, customers over here, employees over there, and have your I.D.s ready-before boogieing out about 4 o’clock after arresting 36 Starckoids.
Generally, after the law comes down on you like a hawk on a field mouse, you don’t have much appetite for mischief. Certainly that was true enough of Rodney Kitchens. For two years he tried to improve his "no stable work history" record, but his W-2 income tax earnings forms show that perseverance wasn’t exactly his strong point.
It wasn’t so much an aversion to day-drudgery or a love of do-nothingness. Rodney had no skill, no proudful trade to boost his self-esteem. And how many times had he been turned away when the boss learned he was an ex-con? Damn few were willing to give him a second chance.