THE LIFE OF THE PARTY

Four people whose day begins at dusk

something hard and loud and base is blaring from the stereo, and I ask Bobbie Soxx something like: “Who is this?” I don’t know,” he says, listlessly waving his hand through the air. “Just whatever they’ve got on.”They” means the housemates drinking canned beer in the living room, posed like veteran lotus-eaters, grinning ear to ear. The lids of their eyes are withdrawn and unblinking, isolating pupils that seem unnervingly large. Just beginning to party. Bobbie’s girlfriend of nine years is asleep on the couch, an incredible state of consciousness considering the voices, the volume and the relentless vibration. A color television glows in one corner. It heaves great waves of blue and red and gold; the picture’s incoherence seems utterly understandable in so scrambled a room.

Bobbie is a New Wave musician and he calls this place “Bachelor Hell.” It is, in fact, an old frame house wedged between condominium town houses in Oak Lawn where he lives with friends for free. Since the house was sold to be torn down, they’ve been at liberty to spray’ paint graffiti on every expanse of plasterboard. Bachelor Hell, after all, is doomed. In the meantime, it’s a haven for pleasure mongers, for good times. And it sure beats living in a car.

Above the dresser, on one of the walls in Bobbie’s room, someone has sprayed: STICKMEN TELL GOD WHAT TO SAY.

“Stickmen,” Bobbie explains, “means freedom. We just do what we want to do. If there’s no fun, we create it. It’s beyond punk. I don’t play punk. It’s stickmen.”

Oh. Finding hedonists is easy work; understanding them is something else. Being with these people I am tempted to smoke cigarettes again after eight miserable months of abstinence. Such a tiny indulgence. Cigarettes seem like little privileges when juxtaposed with these peoples’ major pleasures: this much life!



Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to earth, be drunken continually. Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will.

Baudelaire



“I DON’ TEAR UP GOOD STUFF.”

Bibbie Soxx



My assignment was to find Dallas “characters,” people who refused to fit any norm, but the characters I originally found weren’t wild enough, their reasonable sensibilities kept them from slipping off the ledge. I turned to people in the entertainment industry, people who spend their waking hours in crowded, smoke-filled rooms. We don’t want you to think we’re condoning their behavior, but we want you to know these people exist.

These folks do exactly what they want to do. Their days flow into their dreams and pleasure is the only reality. While you and I fidget about, encumbered by worry, fear and conscientiousness (doing what we hope is right), a few rare birds are flying against all presumptions, doing what they know is wrong. Not only that, they feel good about their audaciousness; they’re deliriously and incessantly happy, completely free. Or so they seem.

I found four. They practice hedonism with varying degrees of intensity.

“I don’t think you should write about hedonists,” says one of Bobbie’s Hellmates just before taking a nose hit off a joint that is being passed. “I think you should write about the new bohemians, the subculture.”

“Yeah,” says another. “I think of a hedonist as someone who stays in a soft, plush room with, uh, lots of pillows and sweet music and good foods, and someone beside him to do, you know, whatever, and everything all soft and pretty and dreamlike. Bachelor Hell is not like that.”

They all laugh. Knowingly.

“We’re beyond hedonism,” says the first guy. “Don’t call us hedonists.”

Bobbie Soxx, Bob E. Sox or Bobby Socks doesn’t care what we call him. As the conversation continues, he just sits in an old armchair smoking cigarettes and tapping to the beat -either half listening or oblivious to it all. He feels secure and confident. There’s no reason to be erudite. Someone is here to do an article about him, and he looked hedonism up in the dictionary this afternoon.



he●do●nism (hed”n iz’m) n. 1. Philos. the ethical doctrine that pleasure, variously conceived in terms of happiness of the individual or of society, is the principal good and the proper aim of action. 2. Psychol. the theory that a person always acts in such a way as to seek pleasure and avoid pain. 3. the self-indulgent pursuit of pleasure as a way of life.



“Yeah, well,” Bobbie said, “I’m definitely in.”

We move on to take the Bachelor Hell tour. “This is our tripping room,” Bobbie says as he stands before a second-floor doorway out of which radiates an alarming black-light gleam. Flat on the floor are six or seven mattresses wrapped in glowing purple-white sheets. That’s it.

“We use it for, well, whatever,” Bobbie says. Again he makes that listless little world-is-too-much-with-me wave.

Next comes an exploration of Bobbie’s closet and an analysis of his past. Out comes a cardboard box stuffed with poetry and stickmen lyrics, a 20-foot Nazi podium banner, a sacred ham bone and a turquoise tuxedo he traded for some speed. Bobbie is 26, an Oak Cliff native, and a bit of an institution with the wild crowd that frequents Maple Avenue nightclubs, lower Greenville Avenue clothing stores and New Wave record shops. His marketable skills have been accumulated at various print shops since 1974, when he began to work on presses. Before that he worked briefly as a Morning News solicitor and held a series of odd jobs juggling with everything from hot water heaters to dog collars.

In late 1978, Bobbie was popping a lot of Quaaludes and other “downs.” Today, his closet contains an empty industrial-sized jar that once held sodium Seconal, left over from the old days. After his parents split up, he lived with his grandparents for awhile. He knew he was getting a little too offbeat when he realized he was changing clothes five and six times a day. When he pulled an unloaded shotgun on his Pap and Gram, they swiftly turned him over to Terrell State Mental Hospital. He stayed there for six days, then got a lawyer to get him out.

“I was being weird, but I knew I wasn’t crazy,” Bobbie says. “You’d have to know my grandparents to understand. They’re old. You should see what they eat.”

Bobbie’s life took on greater significance in 1979 when he saw a bunch of guys his age drinking and spitting up unbought beer inside a grocery store.

“I knew they were the kind of people I wanted to meet,” he says. As it turned out, they happened to be members of a New Wave band called The Scuds. When Bobbie joined, no one owned an amplifier; they had to scream and shout over their own guitars. Bobbie wrote his first song, “Hamster Sadist,” around this time. It wasn’t long before he could compose as many as 23 songs in a night.

The Scuds, it seems, earned nothing but obscurity. Bobbie’s subsequent bands changed billing names every gig. They started as the Teen-Age Queers then became the Young Americans. After that they were Nazis from Hell or The Dead Narcs. Things settled in when Bobbie discovered Stickmen. His best and bravest band is called Stickmen with Ray Guns and is gaining a cultlike following. Stickmen has released one 45 rpm single entitled “Learn to Hate.”

“It’s free music, all original,” Bobbie says. “We just do what we want to do. We know we’re good. Our music, though, sounds evil. If something is irritating; I like it.”

“Our thing is to put intensity on their faces,” Bobbie says. “I call the people in the audience ’old ladies.’ They’re like old ladies. I like to get off my ass and kick my heels up.”

Bobbie usually takes amphetamines to heighten his own enjoyment of Stickmen performances. “I’d shoot drugs if I could find them,” he says. “But it’s too much trouble to look for them. It’s easier to pop pills.”

There is a gentler side of “The Soxx.” He spends much of his free time quietly looking for and finding “things.” “I found my jacket in a mud puddle. I’m always finding things. I don’t have to buy much.” He enjoys cooking good Mexican food and maintains a very dedicated crew of close friends. “People are always giving me things,” he says. “I don’t expect a goddamn thing, but I’ll take what I can get.”

“Basically, I’m just a regular guy. I like everybody. I don’t look for trouble. I don’t tear up good stuff. I think about things. I think about things like God. After all, that’s the big question, isn’t it? In the meantime, I’m gonna out-scream and out-dance everybody. That’s Stickmen



“I WANT LOOK GO ASLONG AS I LIVE.”

Candy Delight



Candy is lounging across two barstools. High-heeled shoes force her feet into a pretty arch. She has always had slender legs. Her large metallic handbag is crammed with the little items she’ll need backstage. It’s an hour before showtime and she’s waiting for the bartender to fix our drinks.

“Heeey Candy!”

“Candy, Candy, baby.”

She turns her head (which is piled high with hair curlers) and surveys two very attractive men. They’re customers.

Candy rolls her eyes, crosses her legs and flicks the ash off her Vantage cigarette. “I can’t talk now,” she deadpans. “I’m being interviewed.”

Candy is usually friendly with the guys. Men are just about the most wonderful things in the world to Candy. She lives with a man she says she’s nuts about. She spends most of her evenings surrounded by men.

So here we are, enveloped by an oversized leatherette booth, sharing the unspoken assumption that this conversation is strictly a girl-to-girl deal. There’s something relatively odd about that, for Candy isn’t a girl. She’s a man. At least for the time being.

Candy works two nights a week at a gay discotheque called The Landing where she is billed as a female impersonator, but she’s at the stage where there’s very little impersonation left. Over the past eight years (she’s 28), Candy has had plastic surgery to augment her cheekbones, jaw, hips and breasts. She takes female hormones every day to keep her skin soft. Electrolysis sessions have almost eliminated her natural beard.

While some of the surgery has been painful, Candy takes a great deal of pride and pleasure in becoming what she believes she’s always been: a great looking girl. It’s her birthright, she says. “I don’t see myself as being redone. I feel like I was born a woman. Somehow, I got cheated out. So I’m working to get myself back. I’m very determined.”

Her sex change will occur some time next year. After that, she wants to do something about her teeth.

She stares thoughtfully into her cocktail glass and self-consciously lifts a forefinger to her ample lower lip. “Women have such pretty teeth.”

Everything seems to be floating along fairly well, Candy says, but life will be even more rewarding after the operation. She says they can do the surgery now in a way that will permit her to experience sexual fulfillment-just like other women. Candy estimates she has spent about $1,000 on surgery below her waist, and another $1,000 from her chest up. Her Chicago surgeon requires her to regularly visit a therapist who is helping her adopt emotionally to the sex change.

“I don’t care who knows about it. Everybody’s a freak in one way or another. That’s the way I see it. I’m doing something that makes me happy. I’ve always known it’s what I wanted to do.” Candy comes from a religious Cuban/ American family. She speaks with a slight accent but, well, that’s going to change, too. She wants her voice box altered to make her speech higher in tone and more feminine. She says she wants to be perfect, so perfect and so pretty that straight and gay people will come to see her in Las Vegas where she dreams of being promoted as a sex-change singing and dancing act. She longs for her own club and hopes to make movies someday, real movies, not like the porno movies she’s made in the past for fast money.

In the meantime, she enjoys doing the regular shows at The Landing. She is the star. Customers go crazy when she lip-syncs and prances about in one of her provocative, custom-made costumes to numbers like “Teach Me Tonight.”

“I sometimes wish I’d been born when there was burlesque. I think I belong in that era. I want to see my name in lights,” she says. Her eyes twinkle like stars through a stark and scrubby landscape of thick eyelashes.

“I love the rehearsals and everything here. I’m working up an Ann-Margret routine. It’s almost like being considered a real movie star with all the attention and everything. My idol is Raquel Welch. She’s got the most perfect false body I’ve ever seen.”

Money?

“Oh, I make a lot; yeah, I make a lot. But I work hard for it. I get tipped on stage. And I always say I can see the big bills from miles off. I know I’m there to satisfy them, but I think they sense I’m having a good time.

“Sometimes, I look at myself and I know I look real good. They can tell I’m feeling that way when I go on stage. As long as I’m living, I want to look good. I’d like to be young forever, and I’ll do the face-lifts, you know, whatever it takes. It’s all an illusion anyway. Everything is. You have to fake so much. Everybody sort of does



“ I SAVE MONEYUNT I HAVE ENOU TO GETIN DEBT AGAIN.”

Kelly Trice



Bumpup. Bumpup, bumpup-bumpup. Wabump. Waaa. The disc jockey is playing this music so loud that Willie Sierer, the manager of La Bare, has to shout directly into my ear: “Siddown. Have a drink. Kelly won’t be here for about 15 minutes. The people at Stripper-Gram needed a fast replacement, so I sent him over to do the job. He’ll pick up a quick hundred bucks.”

The fellow on stage is an admirable specimen. In boots even. The all-female audience is still a bit subdued, but it’s early. The male dancers are under new orders from the management: If the customer puts a dollar in your T-bag, you can kiss her lightly, but not French.

About the time I begin to think I’d rather be reading the newspaper, Kelly glides in all charm and handsomeness – younger than anticipated. He’s wearing a thin bow tie with an old-fashioned, highcollared, starched shirt tucked into unbelted jeans. It seems sexy in the way men think merry widows with garters are sexy on women. Next door, where it’s quieter, he orders a kamikaze. When I ask “What’s that?”, he orders me one, too.

“Yeah, well sure, I like to have as good a time as anybody. I don’t know what Willie told you about me, but well, it’s true that a lot of the guys over there think I’m a real partier. They’re kind of in awe of me about that.”

Kelly says he made about $100,000 as a male dancer last year; this year he’s not doing quite as well. “It just goes. I like good clothes, good restaurants, good cars. And I’m getting ready to see a hypnotist about some stuff. I mean it got to the point where I was using $800 worth of cocaine a week and I’d find myself awake in the morning after doing it by myself all night. I think that’s kind of stupid so I gotta cut that out.”

So he’s due on stage, and a day is set to talk again. Before leaving La Bare, I see him dance, or rather, not dance; Kelly phrases it succinctly: “I worm.” He comes off gentler and sweeter than do the other performers, almost like a little boy. He is 22. Two or three women are soon standing beneath him offering dollar bills.

Kelly is casually dressed and sober for the next meeting at Cafe Dallas. The girl behind the bar raises her eyebrows when he walks in and says, “Hey stranger.” He likes that. He waves and says he’s “doing the same old thing at the same place.” His La Bare career is in its second year.

“A girlfriend talked me into trying to work there. I was, and still am, so shy about this kind of thing. I’m also a perfectionist and I don’t like to do anything that 1 can’t do well.”

Drinking before going on stage helps considerably, Kelly says, because it reduces him to the audience’s intoxicated level. “They’re out there having a good time, and you have to party with them. They can tell if you’re not having a good time.”

He goes out regularly with a girl now he met through the club. “She was there in the audience and I looked at her and thought she had the prettiest face. Real sweet and innocent.”

The current girlfriend, Kelly says, gives him “enough space.” Before she came along he was “kept” by a rich woman, he says, who jetted him all over the country, but the relationship quickly became too confining.

This La Bare thing, Kelly hopes, “will be a stepping stone.” He wants to get modeling jobs, and he intends to enroll in a community college drama course so he can learn to act.

“I want to fall into a high-paying job. I want to be somebody. For the time I’m burning now, I can’t imagine any way to have a better time and make this kind of money. But I’d be happy to never work again. I’d be happy just sitting at the pool drinking pina coladas all day. If I had the things I want – like a Highland Park house I could grow old in, a great car and a wife -I’d be happy. I’ve got rich blood and a desire for success, but I’d just as soon not have to work for it. Since I have to work, I might as well do this.”

Kelly treats himself to at least a month in Hawaii each year. Last time, he took $2,100 and started out without knowing anyone there. This winter he hopes to take $3,500 along for the ride. “It’s a birthday present to me,” he says. “I go away when it’s freezing here. I clear my head.”

He doesn’t own much more than his Porsche 924, gold jewelry, a wristwatch and his designer jeans. “I save just enough to get into debt again. I never really want to save money. Oh, I also throw money away. Change, I mean. I hate change. I won’t carry it. I throw it out onto the parking lots outside stores. I always figure some kid will find it. It feels good to throw money away. Small change is something I don’t want.”



“When it’s really happening man, when it’s really happening.”

Jimmy Zitano



The spotlights are angled in a way that causes the barmaid’s shadow to momentarily shroud all four members of the combo as she approaches the man with the microphone. She is bringing him a beer. In the half-light on the left-hand side, near the door, J.Z. is backing the vocalist with a light touch, some brushes and then sleigh bells, of course, for the Christmas medley. It is Halloween, a slow, slow night for restaurant/bars like Tim Ballard’s.

Jimmy Zitano probably shouldn’t be here, but then there are a lot of jazz drummers, hundreds all over the country, playing places they probably shouldn’t be in. Maybe thousands. Jimmy figures it like this: He could be dead, he could be a junkie, or he could be playing at some kind of hokey wingding where they’d make him wear a tux.

This is not so bad.

J.Z. is 53 and he doesn’t drink anymore when he plays. “I only sip, only sip,” he says. “I abused the privilege when I was young.” Jimmy says he has abused a lot of privileges, “tried everything but heroin,” but he’s never betrayed the kind of music he loves best. He’s sacrificed everything for it -money, security and stability; in turn, it has given him his greatest pleasures. For the time being, he’s playing here six nights a week and spending his days watching soap operas in a rented apartment above an East Dallas garage.

“Some people say that music is supposed to reflect the times in which we live,” he says in a raspy whisper that is distinctively his. “1 wonder about that. I wonder about that. I think of music as a divine gift, a pure thing. And if it bites you, you become its slave.”

Sustaining pleasure is an act, then, not a way to resignedly waste time. Jimmy is perhaps the rarest of hedonists, and most of his pleasures, interestingly, are now housed in his mind.

“I played with Billie Holiday at Tangle-wood two years before she died,” he says, lowering his shoulders and jutting his head straight out. “Incredible. Lady Day came out and the only light was this pinpoint focused on her face. It was so beautiful. My adrenaline was flowing, man. I couldn’t believe anything could be so soft. It was so quiet and so still. And the fireflies everywhere- flickering. It was the only time I didn’t use anything but brushes. I couldn’t believe anything could be so soft.”

Other memories are more puzzling than poetic. “It was cryptic, man, playing the drums for Miles Davis that one time at the High Hat Club in the early Fifties. They used local musicians, so I got to play. Davis didn’t say we’d do the introduction to ’Ray’s Idea,’ but I instinctively did the introduction. I did the introduction. I was under a tremendous amount of pressure and I instinctively did the introduction. I was right.”

The only traveling J.Z. did was with trumpet player Al Hirt for four years during the Sixties. He moved to Dallas in 1969. Seven of the past 12 years here he spent as the house drummer at the Fairmont Hotel. When he and the bandleader there parted ways, J.Z. hung up his tuxedo and hasn’t worn it since. Because he refuses to wear it for jobs, he’s lost lots of country club and hotel business.

“They aren’t worth it. 1 decided once and for all -no more tux gigs,” he says. “And I’ve stuck to it. But let me tell you something. You pay for those ideals out the nose. There have been some mighty lean times, some mighty lean times.

“I decided early on that I wanted to be a jazz musician more than anything else in the world, so I directed all my energies in that direction. Because of that I couldn’t stay in a marriage, 1 never got to see my kids grow up. I never learned what real responsibility was all about. Sometimes I think it botched my life up. I’ve been paying the dues all my life.

“But this way you get a sense of pride, a joy of occasionally playing some meaningful music. There’s no finer feeling than being in a group that’s truly communicating. It transcends mathematics. It’s an incredible emotional thing when it’s really happening, man, when it’s really happening. Then you stop worrying about the music and how it’s coming out. You react. You just feel.

“I don’t know what to tell you aboutwhat pleasure is. Waking up and still being allowed to breathe is a pleasure, Iguess. Pleasure is an illusive thing. If thisplanet is an illusion, if this is the illusion,then ahhh, finding the reality would be anextreme pleasure. Right?”

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