TRASH FIORUCCI by Peter Nolan Smith

In 1978 the windows of Fiorucci on East 60th Street featured the latest flash fashion from Italy. These trendy threads guaranteed immediate entrance into Studio 54 or any exclusive disco in Manhattan. I was a punk. Glitter wasn’t my thing, however a gold lame Elvis suit graced the front window and I wanted it bad.

One sweltering afternoon I walked into the store. I had $100 in my pocket. The store catered to the rich of the Upper East Side. Joey, the manager, and I were good friends of Klaus. He followed my gaze. A gold lame Elvis suit graced the front window.

“Let me guess, You want that suit?” he asked with a laugh.

“Yes, how much?”

“The tag says $600. I can do it to you at $300.”

$300?” That price was about twice my wages at Serendipity 3, where I worked as a busboy. “What about I give you $100 now and I pay it off monthly.”

“And why would I do that?” Joey earned a healthy commission on every sale. He wanted to be a singer. My voice was actually good, but nothing like Klaus.

“I could get you a gig at CBGB’s.” I hung out at the Bowery bar every night.

“You’re not the booker.” Joey wasn’t falling for my spiel and walked off to get an espresso.

“I might be able to help you.” Joey’s assistant manager caressed my shoulder and eyed the changing rooms. “I like boys from Boston. You’re so so so tough.”

“No thanks, I’m no hustler on the corner of 53rd and 3rd.”

“No?” He was testing my resolve.

“I have a girlfriend.” Clara was a Georgia beauty seeking stardom and in my eyes she had a chance.

“She wouldn’t have to know and you could get the suit for an employee price.”

“I don’t play that game.” She wasn’t really a girlfriend, but we slept together more than once a week.”

“That’s what all you boys say, but my side knows different.” Matt smiled, for the Serendipity 3’s waiter staff were a catty squall of gossip.

“Forget it.”

I left the store and cut through Bloomingdales. The block-long department store air-conditioned from Lexington Avenue to Serendipity 3 on 60th Street.

It was a hot day and the owners of the precious ice cream parlor offered a quenching ice tea. Liza Minnelli sat underneath a Tiffany Lamp. She laughed with her friends.

“She could be your type,” whispered Mr. Bruce.

“Everyone has a price.”

“How about $300.” The cost of a gold lame Elvis suit.

“Dream on.”

I thanked Mr. Bruce and said, “I will always have those.”

“I’m sure you will.”

I left the restaurant and climbed the creaking stairs to the apartment of my friends living above Serendipity 3. The two southerners laughed hard upon hearing about Joey’s refusal to discount the Elvis suit.

“That queen is so mean.” Andy danced with the ballet. His older boyfriend liked him in nice clothing. The handsome Carolinian wore Fiorucci like a perfume.

“He’s just doing his job.”

“And why would you want to be Elvis anyway?” Andy was stumped by this desire. “He’s so declasse.”

“I don’t want to be Elvis, but I just like the suit. Gold, sleek, unusual.”

“Straight men. I can’t figure you out.”

“You should have stolen it,” Tim quipped from the corner. The graduate of North Carolina School of Fashion was cutting a dress for his autumn collection. He was the most radical of them all.

“And go to jail?” I passed a lit joint to the elegant designer.

“Jail?” Tim shivered at the thought. He liked sleeping in his own bed. “Heavens forbid.”

“Not to worry. I’m a law-abiding citizen.”

“Except for a little weed.” Andy inhaled from the joint. “And adultery with my friend Carla.”

“My affair with Carla isn’t adultery. I’m not married.”

“But she is,” Tim sniped at my sin. “But being queer I can’t throw any stone. Love will always defeat sin.”

“I agree.”

I hung around listening to the boys exchanged tales of the West Village back rooms. Sodom was in full swing that summer and the boys had no interest in Salvation. They loved to be lost souls, but they were never that bad. At least not in public.

At 6:30pm I left their apartment and walked over to Hunter College.

The cloudy sky broke for a summer sun. I ran up the stairs. I wanted to see Carla.

I stepped inside the classroom.

The windows were open for an errant breeze and fans stirred the humid air. Eric, the overweight experimental drama teacher, swabbed his face with a towel. Carla sat at a table with her estranged husband, Chuck. The other students stood across the room, almost as if they were an audience for the couple’s reunion.

“Glad everyone could make it.” Eric put down the towel and resumed his instructions for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Thunder rippled over the Hudson like tin sheets falling down stairs.

“Carla, you’ll be Stella, Chuck will be Stanley.” Eric pointed at me. “You”ll be Mitch, except we’re going to detour from the usual course of the play, so that Stanley and Mitch are after each other.”

“Wasn’t that always implied by Tennessee Williams?” Carla asked from her seat. The attractive brunette displayed no signs of discomfort from the heat or the proximity of her husband, the heir to a Wisconsin butter fortune.

“He was gay. You be gay. It’s just another approach.”

The teacher handed out copies of the new scene to the class.

“Forget everything. Read this, act this, be this.”

Eric was renowned for his distortion of plays. He was gambling on the inner tension between Carla, Chuck, and me to dredge a new meaning to the iconic theater piece. Carla and I had spend the previous night together at her studio flat on East 23rd Street. I wasn’t so sure about tonight.

Flashes of sheet lightening striped the darkening sky. A weather system was passing from the West. Thunder accompanied our lines. Night fell on our failure to animate the characters. Eric raised his hands. “You came close, but you were never there. I’ve had enough. And you have too little.

“Too little. I gave it my all.”

“So did I,” saiid Chuck.”

“Okay fuck you too. but this time I want fire. Read the words, but speak your own language. There’s no copyright on creativity.”

“Okay, then shut the fuck up and let us run.”

Carla, Chuck and I modded assent. We gave out souls.

I became a punk rock Mitch, Chuck revived Stanley as a man of the people, and Carla sold Stella as a woman whose madness was cool in another ten years.

“Fuck you, Stella.” The words were blots.

“That’s it, people.” Eric clapped his hand together. “You got it.”

Then the lights went out.

Not one by one.

All together, as if the Tennessee Williams’ ghost had exorcised our mutation of his famous work. The room was pitch black and Eric lit a match.

“What happened?” asked a fellow student lighting a Zippo.

“This is a blackout.””Chuck suggested, as if he did’t want it to be the truth.

“You might be right.” It was the first time he and I had ever agreed on anything. We nodded in agreement.

“Then we had better leave the building. You with the lighter. Lead the way.” Eric was good at giving orders.

Several minutes later we were outside the Hunter College on Lexington Avenue. Cars were stalled at the traffic lights. Several people directed traffic.

“You think the lights will go on soon?” asked the student with the lighter.

“Who knows.” I was glad to be living in a SRO hotel on East 11th Street. No electricity meant no trains and I asked Carla, “You want to come home with me?”

“No.” She wasn’t walking to the East Village and looked over to her good-looking husband. “Chuck’s place is closer.”

Her ex-husband’s penthouse was on West End Avenue. She had spoken about the view from the terrace many times. My windows overlooed an alley. They linked arms and strolled toward Central Park. They were a couple again.

“Win some, lose some,” Eric commented on the sidewalk.

“I know all about losing some.” I shrugged my shoulders and walked toward Serendipity 3.

I found my friends upstairs at their apartment. Frank and Kurt had joined Andy and Tim. They had run out of ice for their vodka tonics.

“There’s no ice,” Tim whined drunkenly with crossed arms. “I want ice.”

“Stop bitching, bitch.” Andy slugged down warm vodka with Frank and stated dramatically, “This is a world without ice.”

“Maybe the Plaza has some,” I suggested since the hotel was the epitome of elegance. “It has an emergency generator, so ice is less than five blocks away.”

“”Let’s go.” Andy, Frank, a young boy from North Carolina, Kurt, and I hurried through the unlit streets.

Passers-by spoke about looting in Harlem. A radio reported that Flatbush was under siege. There were no police in sight. City dwellers were marching home and Andy pointed to the sky.

“I can see stars.” Manhattan was dark from South to North.

“Orion.”

“Also the Big Dipper and the Bear.” Andy traced the lines between the points of Ursa Major.

“Looks more like a pig to me.”

“It’s a bear.” Frank attended art school.

We turned the corner at 59th and 5th and stopped arguing upon seeing the darkness.

“It’s the end of the world.” Andy stared stunned at unlit Plaza Hotel.

“Or we’re back in the Stone Age.” Frank was excited by the chaos.

For some reason this new truth angered me and I said to Andy, “Let”s go to Fiorucci.”

“They don’t have ice.”

“No, but they have a gold Elvis suit. If there is no civilization, then that Elvis suit is mine.” 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.

“Exactly.” My Pictish blood existed before the 10th Commandments and the Nailed God.

We strode up to Fiorucci. The cinder block was heavy in my hand. I stood before the window.

The gold lame suit shone even in the blackness. Studio 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 Frank and then heaved the cinder block at the window. The missile struck the plate glass and bounced right back, narrowly missing Frank’s and my skull.

Several guards pointed at us. I hadn’t seen them in the shadows. We ran fast. Kurt was not so fast. Frank, Andy and I hid in a doorway. Kurt hobbled past us. Andy lifted his finger to his lips.

“Ssssh.”

“Where should we go?”

“In here.” Andy dragged us into the Subway Inn.

The dive was packed with stranded workers. The bar no ice, but there were cold beers. Andy, Frank, and I blended into the sweaty crowd. Security guards swarmed inside, The bartenders told them to ‘fuck off’.

“God bless Mickey Mantle.” Andy raised his glass and nudged me in the side. “Join the toast.”

“Bucky Fucking Dent.”

Several beers later we arrived to the apartment above Serendipity 3. The radio broadcasted tales of the citywide black-out and Andy breathlessly recounted of our attempted theft at Fiorucci.

“You could have gone to jail.”

“Not a chance,” said Andy. “I won the gold medal.”

“I took the silver,” crowed Frank.

“And Kurt?” I asked wondering why he wasn’t here, knowing fully well why.

“Anyone can run faster than Kurt.”

“But I didn’t get the suit.” I was slightly shamed by my exploit, especially for not having helped Kurt.

“Yes, but we did get away and not going to jail is a good thing.”

“”Especially tonight” The Tombs in Lower Manhattan would be packed with looters according to the radio.

“But you tried to answer the call of the wild and that deserves a shot of lukewarm vodka.”

Tim handed me a shot glass filled to the brim.

“To outlaws.” I downed the shot. It was one of many. I fell asleep on the floor and woke up in the morning with Kurt.

We were naked, but I was sure we hadn’t had sex.

“The police caught me and I cried like a girl.

“Tears work when lies fail.”

“Sorry about the suit.”

“No worries. You did a good job.” I kissed him on the forehead and we went back to sleep.

Later that afternoon I tried to enter Fiorucci, but Joey blocked me entry at the door.

“We don”t need thieves as customers.” The sometimes singer snapped his fingers.

The guards escorted me from the store.

“At these prices I don’t know who’s the real thief.”

It was obvious that the boys above Serendipity 3 had snitched out my failed trashing of Fiorucci’s window. They loved gossip as much as cock.

That weekend Clara went back to her husband.

The teacher suggested that I study acting at a different school.

“Fuck acting. I love poetry.”

““Hopefully not more burning and looting.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

When Fiorucci closed several years later, I bought the dusty Elvis suit through Matt. I tried it on at home.

“That really doesn’t fit you.” My girlfriend at the time was a tall model from Baltimore.

“No, maybe it never did, but it looks great on you, so it’s yours.”

The suit clung to her lanky body like a molten gold.

The lame suit granted her entry her everywhere. I was not so lucky, but 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, but some things just aren’t meant to be, especially Elvis Suits tailored for men who are not Elvis.

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