The Disco we were meeting at was called ‘Ringers’. It was a bar with a gimmick ( besides the disco) and their focus was on-of all things- telephones. 1978 Rotary Phones,red and black, peppered the club. They were placed in front of each seat at the bar, and at various tables and booths. Each phone had a number on a plastic card,(both sides) attached by a metal pole a foot or so high, that could be seen standing above the phone, like a rigid flag. If you spied someone hot- you could dial their number (maybe 7 or 77?) and let the pick up lines fly. Hopefully, you could convince them to meet you on the colored dance floor, or perhaps buy them a drink and hope they felt indebted. Of coarse, by eleven o’clock on any given night, you were in an alcohol-filled club with crazy lights and loud music-possibly three sheets to the wind, in a place that not only shrugged off ‘drunk dialing’ but actually encouraged it. To say lines could get crossed was an understatement.
I knew of Ringers, as it was in the same strip mall as the Star Arcade, Figure Forum, and Pizza Den, but I never had any desire to try to get in because of the disco music. Rumor had it, Ringers had a strict ID policy, and there was always a long line to get in. Lots of fur coats and silk dresses on the ladies, and three piece suits and gold chains for the men. It appeared to be a line full of grown ups, whereas I was far more interested in lines full of teenagers with long hair, concert t-shirts and jean jackets,standing in lines at places like Ticketron, trying to get Zeppelin tickets. The ‘grown-up’ scene seemed so boring to me, a bunch of people trying to impress each other with clothes and cars and the illusion of money. It seemed like a never-ending conveyor belt of showing off, where you had to be forever consumed with what other people liked (this week, anyway!) rather than what you did. From the way the people in the disco lines dressed, I judged them to be about what’s on the surface. Though many of them were near my age, they presented an adult front, visually. It bothered me that most of the music seemed to be about twirling around on a dance floor, all eyes on you, like it was a big deal. I wanted all eyes off of me on the dance floor-I would only dance if forced, and I wasn’t into it. Not because I couldn’t (as demonstrated when I had a good buzz going) but because dancing seemed uncool and goofy. But mainly it was because of the music that I had no interest in Ringers -though I always marveled at the length of the line and wondered why anyone would wait outside-especially if it was cold-only to finally get in and have to listen to disco!
So it was with very little enthusiasm that I found myself in that very line. I was dressed in the outfit Victoria had mentioned when I tried to get out of the whole thing by stating I had no disco clothes. Except for the shoes. I wore black strappy heels, because I had not yet verified that this Ray clown was actually tall. Wearing the platforms would have been risky, though admittedly an edgier (and less disco) look. My hair was styled into a precision Farrah – feather bangs graduating into spirals courtesy of my Clairol Hot Rollers, my face a virtual palette for Elizabeth Arden (Flawless Finish foundation) Yardley (blue eye shadow) Maybelline (liquid eyeliner, mascara) Revlon (Blush-On) and Estee Lauder (lipstick, in the gold striated case) It easily took me an hour and a half to get ‘ready’. Victoria wore even more make-up than me (yes- it was possible!) though of coarse she looked like she’d been patronizing Ringers since it’s inception. Her big, almond shaped eyes were made up magazine perfect, her glowing complexion a perfect canvas for her high end cosmetics. Wearing a flowing red silk Halston dress (which she alluded to vaguely, mumbling that she bought it ‘in the City’) and gold 4 inch spike heels, with straps that wrapped up past her ankles, she looked ethereal. She wore simple gold hoop earrings, and had her waterfall of chestnut hair held up on either side of her head with sparkly rhinestone hair combs. Oh- and of coarse, her waist length fox fur coat. Victoria would have been invited to waltz into Studio 54 without even waiting the line had we been there, she looked that perfect.
We took our place in the line,wide-eyed and alert in the brisk winter air. Thankfully, it was moving at a good clip. Victoria and I made small talk about the time, (‘It’s what? 9:00?”) smoothed our hair and smoked cigarettes as we waited. Suddenly, Victoria’s face lit up: ‘He’s here!’ she squealed, focusing in, somewhere behind me. Turning around, I saw what appeared to be Rod Stewart strolling across the parking lot, as Victoria waved her cigarette in the air, trying to grab his attention. He was wearing light, sea-green silk bell-bottoms and biege platform shoes, a silk-screened shirt, and a mid-length leather duster, unbuttoned. This was a guy who obviously liked his textiles smooth. His hair was perfectly frosted and tipped, spikey on top and longer in the back. His head alone looked like a full time project. He was also tan in the middle of winter. Don’t ask.
He spotted Victoria, and veered towards us, beaming. All of the ladies in line were checking him out, perhaps thinking he was Rod Stewart. There was an audible murmer in the crowd. When he was a few feet from Victoria,’Rod’ spread out his arms like a plane coming in for a landing, and air kissed (bleech!) Victoria, who grabbed one of his hands with both of hers and hadn’t let go.
“Lenny- this is Lisa!” she said, ‘and Lisa- Lenny!” I could hear the ‘Ta-Da!’ in her voice, as she ‘presented’ him.
Lenny pulled his hand from Victoria’s, putting some muscle into it- she wasn’t exactly letting go-and shook my hand. He bowed his head a bit and said ‘M’Lady!’ and nodded. Swear. I wish I could stop alluding to rolling my eyes, but it almost goes without saying that I did just that. Then I glanced sideways at Victoria, as if to say ‘oh-brother!’, but she was gazing at Lenny like he was Jesus.
“Not bad! Not bad!” Lenny said “I think Ray will be pleased!” Only then did I realize that he was talking about me! I wasn’t even in the club yet, and the judging had begun.
“Well, I brought my dowry along, just in case” I deadpanned. Victoria shot me a look that said don’t start! But really- who the hell did this guy think he was? (Besides Rod Stewart, of coarse?) How about let’s see if this Ray passes my test? I considered throwing in the towel for a split second- this whole scene wasn’t going to be for me, so why go through the motions, when I could go home, throw on some jeans and go find my people? How comfortable my feet would feel in my lambskin lined suede boots with no heels! It seemed like such a great- and inviting- alternative.
“Let me go get Ray” Lenny said ’I think that’s him pulling in now!’ he said, scanning the horizon, looking towards the back of the lot, hand cupped over his forehead, like Columbus discovering America. Oh, Pa-leeze! Chances are- Ray was already here, but making sure I wasn’t a complete freak before he made his appearance.
”Ok!” chirped Victoria “But hurry back… you!”
“Oh- I will!” he said, and winked. The two of them were laying it on, and I was nauseous. Or nauseated. Whichever. Lenny walked away. Once he was out of ear shot I let into Victoria.
“Did you hear him? I asked, increduously. ‘What the hell? I don’t even want to meet this guy! I didn’t want to be involved in this whole scene in the first place! I told you!”
“Oh, STOP!” said Victoria, holding her hand up like Diana Ross in the Name of Love “Ray sounds like he’s just like you! Has to know everything in advance. You’ll probably make a good couple!’ she said, laughing, as if to say ‘Couple of what?…’ I know she felt her romance and -let’s face it- existence- took top billing over mine (as usual) but her relationships weren’t exactly setting the world on fire. They often started out with a bang (ahem!) and then became full of drama, only to fizzle out. I resented her implication that my dates were a folly, and hers the ‘real’ thing. Hard to predict what would happen in the long run, but with her stunning beauty, it sort of amazed me that she had any troubles keeping a guy – or several, for that matter!
We were almost to the door when the two ‘chaps’ got back from the parking lot. Lenny tapped Victoria on the shoulder, and we both turned. “Quick! Get in here” she said,laughing and pulling Lenny into the line right as we got to the bouncer. I looked to my left and there was Ray. He was definitely tall,(I had to look up) had wavy, light brown hair, and sparkly green eyes. He was good looking. I didn’t want him to be, because at that point I’d already predicted the night would be a bust, and I was somewhat invested in it being true. I looked away from him quickly,(this, my trademarked ‘move’) but couldn’t resist looking over again. I was, however, put off by the fact that he seemed to be wearing a mid-length fur coat, and platform style shoes- a Dance Club Pimp,if you will… but he carried it well. The clothes didn’t wear him, though on anyone else (besides maybe- Shaft) they would have.
Ray smiled and extended his hand. “How you doin?” he said, his voice Sylvestor Stallone Brooklynese. We shook hands quickly and he stepped in beside me. Victoria looked back from her snuggling with Lenny and smiled. I returned a blank stare, not wanting to give her the satisfaction that she may have been right. “Cheer up, Dummy!” she said, laughing as she turned away and handed her ID to the bouncer, then sauntered into the Club with her faux rockstar. Up next, I handed my fake ID over, and held my breath. It wasn’t that I cared so much about getting into Ringers, but rather how embarrassing it would be getting turned away – having to do the walk of shame back down the long line. But the bouncer barely glanced at the ID, accepting me as Leah Marone with no problem whatsover, smiling and motioning me in.I had my cover charge in hand, but the bouncer waved it away. (I found out later, that Ray paid) The sound system was blasting ‘Stayin’ Alive’ (hand to God!) and I sighed loudly.I waited inside the door for Ray, it being the polite thing to do. He walked in, somewhat majestically I must say- what with that coat- rubbed his hands together, smiling at me and said ‘Soooo. Whatchya drinkin?’ Cool. At least he wasn’t cheap.And he was- how should I put it? Kind of Regal.