Dante Sterno was beside himself because he racked up more dish than he could ever imagine in his wildest dreams. He just heard the story about Gil Hickey, the king of the scenesters who doubled on bass guitar for The Ever Populars. If memory serves he laid down under a pile of coats at a party while he overhead two punk girls drunkenly laughing about what a dud “Sicky” Hickey was.
“Well, you know every time I go out I see him with a different girl, so I just HAD to find out what made him so hot”.
“Oh, sweet sufferin’ Jesus, he couldn’t get it up!” Both girls laughed uproariously.
The laughter finally stopped, and then the friend asked, “Did he get mad?”
“No, he just brayed like a donkey ‘I HAD TOO MUCH TO DRINK!’ His thing was all cold and damp like a piece of wet spaghetti!” They both busted up laughing again.
“I wish I could see who’s telling this story”, thought Dante, getting hot under the blanket of coats. “I don’t recognize her voice at all. Damn it!”
“Well, I’ll be honest with you. When I see him with his dates they just stand around and never hold hands or cuddle or shit like that. It’s almost like he just hangs around them to make himself look like he’s a big ladies man”.
“Oh, hell no. He probably just pecks them on the cheek after a date, like he’s their kid brother”.
“I don’t have time for that”.
“Fuck that”, the voices faded out of the room. Dante cautiously poked his head out a little bit. The two girls had left the room. He crawled out from under the coats and jumped off the bed.
He opened the door just a bit and poked his head out to make sure nobody caught him creeping out of the bedroom. The last thing he needed was to be spotted by the two girls after exchanging such hot gossip.
The coast was clear so he darted quickly out, quietly closing the door. He walked by a guy scamming on a girl in the corner of the hallway.
“This is pretty hot stuff”, thought Dante. “I have to go home and write this shit down. You remember what happened that one night when you heard some wild shit and then got so drunk you totally forgot what you heard. Didn’t even get a chance to write it down, you dumbass!”
He kicked himself for totally forgetting to go to the drug store and buy a little pad with a tiny pen so he could carry it around ion his leather jacket. Working from memory was a hard task for him.
The Vibrators were booming out of the cheap stereo. YEAHYEAHYEAH! Kids were jumping around d the room, crashing into Dante as headed towards the door.
“Hey, Dante!” someone yelled. “Don’t go! Party’s just getting started!”
“I’ll be back”, he lied. “Just going out for a 12-pack!”
He raced down the stairs, dodging kids with packs of beer and wine bottles stomping upwards towards the party. He weaved his way past packs of kids just milling around the sidewalk acting tough and goofy.
Half drunk, he jogged the gossip over and over in his head…Gil Hickey, ladies’ man, can’t get it up…bass player…The Ever Populars, ugh! Stupid name for a band, never could stand them…this ought to hurt them. Well, fuck them, never did like that power pop shit. They’re not punk enough.
He walked down a steep hill, the sidewalk’s grade shifting up and down from the trees ripping out the asphalt. Once or twice he nearly stumbled from the asphalt sticking up.
He turned down a few less steep corners and finally reached his apartment building. Walking up a tiny stoop and then going up the stairs, he could hear Animal nervously yelling, “Hello?”
“It’s me! Who the hell else is it going to be?”
He came in to find Animal in a tiny tee shirt and panties lying on her stomach sketching on her pad. Sketchy quickly ran up to him and stared at him.
“Wow, Animal, I heard some really volcanic shit tonight!” he smiled.
“Oh Dante, why can’t you just go out and have some fun, instead of always sniffing for bad shit on people?”
“What? That’s fun. I think digging up dirt on assholes are always fun”.
“Ugh! Whatever!” She lifted up a leg and twisted around back to her pad. “If you’re going to write, try doing something creative instead of destroying people”.
“I can write a novel later”, He grabbed his lucky writing tablet. “In the meantime I have a few bullshit castles to burn down”.
The evening ended with Animal sketching on her pad and Dante scribbling gossip on his lucky writing tablet.
The truth of the matter is that Dante’s petty hatred towards power pop bands seems to neglect the fact that most pop bands are largely run by rich kids, even richer than folk heroes The Working Class. And they didn’t come any richer than Gil Hickey.
Hickey didn’t want to compromise his family’s reputation by broadcasting all over town that he came from the Hickey family, head by his father, Hamilton Hickey, owner of The Hickey Concern. The Concern had interests in property management, realty, and a large, convoluted jumble of contracting, investments, and commercial insurance ventures. They had offices all over the Bay Area with plans on extending into Southern California.
It could be said that the most mysterious thing about Gil Hickey was that he insisted on playing rock star instead of simply staying home and enjoying his father’s money.
It could even be said that Hickey’s impotence might be the product of a bizarre inferiority complex. His masquerade as a down-on-his-heels punk could never compete with the real struggle that the street kids honestly faced every day. Living a sham made him feel less real and less than worthy in his eyes.
Animal brewed her usual bitter coffee – “Battery acid” and burned toast for herself and poured a bowl of Lucky Charms, which disgusted her, for Dante.
“Breakfast is ready!” she yelled. “Eat your colored foam”.
Dante slumped in his chair at the kitchen table, coughing and clearing his throat.
“How many lumps of sugar do you want today?” she asked, shaking her blonde bangs out of her eyes.
“Four? Yuck!” She scooped four heaping spoonfuls of white sugar and dumped them in his coffee.
He sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “How do I phrase this item? ‘That supercool, ultra-foxy bass player from San Fran’s hottest pop band is too pooped to pop in the sack’. What do you think?”
He frowned. “’Someone might be Ever Popular, but they’re definitely not ever ready for the ladies’. Is that better?”
Animal bit into her burned toast and it crumbled into black chunks. “Not good. They might all be duds in the sack. Too much guessing”.
“Um, okay”, he watched his cereal get soggy. “’Someone might be ever popular around town but they’re not dishing hickeys or anything else’”.
Animal stopped eating. “Not bad. You just mentioned the name of the band and the guy in the same sentence without pointing fingers. You’re getting better”.
“Okay!” He jumped up in his chair. “Now we’re getting somewhere!”
Minutes later Dante banged out that one line over and over on his typewriter, thinking he had just composed the most brilliant sonnet ever written.
Several hours later he delivered his typed copy to the battered storefront known as Ripoff Magazine. It was even more beat than he remembered the last time he was there: the linoleum tiles were either cracked in half or kicked out completely. Roaches ran around, emboldened by the indifference of the squatters.
“I want this to be included with my orgy scoop. We can call the headline ‘The Haves And The Have Nots’. What do you think?”
Warren scratched his head. “There’s a whole lot of sex going on in this column. We’re trying to run a punk mag, not a porn mag, man”.
“Just this once. Hang in there with me. Sex sells, you know that. So what if we use sex to sell a few magazines? They’ll like it, everybody”.
“What did I tell you last time? Go out there and make nice with bands, kiss more ass, drop more names. More names in print, more bands buy the zine. It’s like free fucking advertising”.
“Okay, okay, but sex first, ass kissing later”, Dante pleaded.
Warren’s body turned rigid and stood back a few feet. “Just this time and after that, no more”.
Two weeks later at the I-Beam Warren, Raggedy Ann and Keith Crime passed out copies of the new Ripoff Magazine. The first stack was freebies which everyone pounced on, including the bass guitarist for The Ever Populars, Gil Hickey.
Warren offered a free copy to Hickey, which he predictably snubbed, but then turned to Raggedy Ann, offering his best boyish charms.
“Ann, baby, how about a magazine and seeing me a little bit later?” he asked slyly, giving his best trademark smirk.
“Here’s a copy, Gil. I’m seeing enough right now, thanks”, she said. She shook her red dreads away from his face to emphasize her indifference.
Pissed off, he walked over to his band mate, where they both thumbed through the ink-smeared Xerox disaster called Ripoff Magazine.
“Hey!” the band mate, a cheesy looking rocker with a big quiffle on top of his pock-marked face, said. “There’s a gossip column. Check it!”
“What?” Hickey whined, practically pushing his friend away. “’Ever Popular’? ‘Hickey’? Who the hell wrote this shit?”
Hickey ran over to Keith Crime and grabbed him by the throat. “DID YOU WRITE THIS SHIT, YOU FUCKIN’ ASSHOLE?”
Crime shoved him away. “No way, asshole. I’m just giving this zine away. I don’t even write for it”.
“Who wrote this and where the fuck can I find him??”
“He ain’t here and don’t grab me like that again”.
“Or else what?”
“You’ll find out. But you don’t want to know!”
Hickey screwed his face up with confusion at that last convoluted remark.
“Tell me one more time, and this time make sense”, Hickey pulled out a twenty dollar bill, waving it in Crime’s face. “Who? The Fuck? Wrote? This?”
The man who wrote it was goofing around Chinatown in a store looking at some barley hidden firecrackers laid out for sale. Dante looked around weighing his options at lifting a small handful of the tiny explosives.
He reached his hand out and picked up a batch of firecrackers, about to shove them in his pocket.
“Nuh-uh-uh! Don’t even think about it, pal!” a girl’s voice rang behind him.
Dante, embarrassed with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, turned around and saw a punk Chinese girl with short, spiky blonde hair staring at him. She wore a leather mini-skirt and fishnet stockings with high heels.
“There’ll be no stealing here on my watch. Put those little fuckers away, and then get out”.
“I’ll buy them, okay? How much?”
“Five dollars. Are you from out of town?”
“So why are you buying tourist shit?”
“Do you always dress like that in the store?”
“No, not that it’s any of your business. My mom’s home with a cold”.
“If she saw you dressed like that, she’d kill you”.
“Are you done?” she asked, lighting a cigarette.
Dante picked up a bar of jade-smelling soap. “No, I’ll get this too”.
“Two dollars. A steal”, she rang his sale up on the register. “You can relate to that, can’t you, thief?”
“I’m going now”, he sneered. She followed him out of the store. She stood outside on the sidewalk stretching her shapely legs and puffed away, giving back dirty looks from old Chinese women who didn’t approve of her loose appearance.
“Well”, she yelled with a cigarette dangling from her lips. “Thanks for shopping, Tourist. Like I said, DON’T COME BACK!”