Fashion’s Fury No Lights No Laws

Fiorucci was the style center for the disco world circa 1977. The windows boasted the latest fashion from Italy. Wearing them guaranteed almost immediate entrance into Studio 54 or any other disco of that era. Joey Arias sold clothing and the rest of the employees haunted the night like ghost panthers. They only went home to shower.

The summer of 1979 Joey featured a gold lame Elvis suit in the front window. I wanted it bad. It cost $300. Almost a week’s wages. I tried to bargain him down by offering him free entrance to Hurrahs, where I worked as a doorman.

“I already get in for free.” Joey got in everywhere.

“What about 20% off?” That price was still beyond my finances.

“No way.” Joey walked off to get an expresso and I went over to talk with Matt, the dweebish store manager. He said he might be able to do something about the price if I went into the backroom with him.

“No, but thanks anyway.”

He was a nice guy, but I was trying not to be gay. Everyone else in New York was going the other way. My friends at Serendipity 3,and seemingly all guys at CBGBs. I supposed if I wore the gold lame suit that I would also be converted to the gay world, so I resigned myself to staying in torn jeans and a black t-shirt. As a punk I got into everywhere too.

July was hot that summer. Lightning rocked the skies without rain. On the 13th I was finishing an acting class at Hunter. I was seeing an actress in the troupe. Carla and I were practicing a scene from STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. I was playing Mitch. Her estranged husband was in the role on Stanley. The coach thought the inner tensions strengthened our personae, but before the three of us could move onto the next scene, the lights went out. in the classroom. In the school. In all of New York

It was a blackout.

Getting out of the darkened building took the better part of a half-hour. The chaos of Lexington Avenue revealed the extent of the outage. Cars were stalled at the traffic lights. Several people were directing traffic. I asked Carla, “You want to come home with me?”

“No.” She wasn’t walking to Park Slope and looked over to her husband. He was handsome and his family owned a meat-packing company in the Midwest. They linked arms and strolled into Central Park. He had a penthouse on West End Avenue. She had told me about the view from the terrace many times.

I headed over to Serendipity 3. My friends were upstairs at their apartment. They had run out of ice for vodka and tonics.

“There’s no ice anywhere.” Tim complained bitterly with a southern accent. He had studied ballet In North Carolina. His good friend Andy was in the ballet corps. He was already drunk. His accent a slurry Piedmont jew-harp twang.

“I want ice.”

“Maybe the Plaza has some.” I suggested since the hotel was the epitome of elegance. It had to have an emergency generator. Ice was less than five blocks away.

“Let’s go.” Andy and I hurried through the streets. People were talking about looting in Harlem. They looked to the north. A radio said Flatbush was under siege. There were no police in sight. City dwellers were marching home. Some said they had been in the subway for hours. The light canyon of Park Avenue was without illumination. Andy pointed to the sky.

“I can see stars.”


“Also the Big Dipper and the Bear.” He drew Ursa Major in the night. I saw it as a hog. We turned the corner at 59th and 5th. I stopped in shock. The Plaza was pitch-black. We were back in the Stone Age. Ice only came in season. For some reason this new truth angered me and I said to Andy, “Let’s go to Fiorucci.”

“They won’t have ice.”

“No, but they do have a gold Elvis suit.”

“No one will be working there now.” It was past 11.

“Exactly.” I picked up a cinder block from a work site. “I’m shopping the old-fashioned way.”

“That’s looting.” Andy was wild, but never violent.

“Just like the Huns.” I had Pictish blood in me. We were an old tribe before the 10th Commandments were etched in stone by a bearded god. I strode up to Fiorucci. The gold lame suit shone even in the black of anarchy. 54 was at my fingertips. I wouldn’t be Mitch in the next acting class. I’d be a star.

“Stand back.” I warned Andy and then heaved the cinder block at the window. The missile struck the plate glass and bounced right back, narrowly missing my skull. Several guards pointed at me. I hadn’t seen them in the murk. They chased us to the Subway Inn and we lost them in the crowd at that dubious establishment. When we arrived at the apartment above Serendipity 3 the boys were entertained by my attempt at communal confiscation.

“I didn’t get anything.”

“But you tried and that’s the key to triumph. The first syllable.” Tim was proud of his knowledge of Salada Tea saying and I guess I was proud at being an outlaw, although the next day when I tried to go to Fiorucci Joey Arias ordered the security to never let me enter the store.

“We don’t accept thieves as customers.”

“At these prices I don’t know who who’s the real thief.” It was the best I could come up with on a hang-over.

Fiorucci closed several years later. Disco was dead. I bought the Elvis suit through Matt. Hot as Sunday pancakes. It was two size too small. Andy loved wearing the suit. He was cracker gay. He got into everywhere. I was not so lucky. I only went places where I knew the door. That was everywhere too, but I really wished I could have been wearing the Elvis suit. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

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