It was the end of the 80s into 1990 and very hard for us to find a good rock n roll dance club in San Francisco. Everything was disco electronica and it all sounded the same with that amyl nitrate bass beat. The more interesting versions of early acid house et al were yet to surface on any sort of consumer level except in isolated shows, so Tony and I would always look for anywhere that played punk oblivious to invisible warehouses we were now too old to know about. Remember, there was no Internet so you really had to hang out to know about stuff that would’ve been shut down if there was any public mention of it.

Screw Marc Olmsted

I was seeing Libby and she wanted to come along when we discovered Screw. which was increasingly what clubs had become, a theme night for one night a week at a bar that didn’t otherwise feature music. This harkened back to the late 70s “Breeders’ Night” at the Stud. Screw was particularly interesting because both gay men and lesbians went, which, at the time, was a relatively new thing and the lesbians were all vivacious and androgynous with beautiful faces and blonde flat tops and very femme and butch simultaneously like this one who had a Vietnam vet kind of tattoo which was a skull clenching a combat knife in its teeth with flies buzzing out of its eyes and she was this tiny blonde petite number and very Bowie-esque genderbending Billy Idol and desirable to my own eyes which had to very carefully survey the floor or the jig was up. Straights or even bi-whatever were simply not invited. So we dressed Libby up in my old brown bomber jacket and styled her hair thinking Mercedes McCambridge in Touch of Evil (“Do you know what a mainliner is?”). Well, do ya, punk?

We all passed for queer. Tony actually was. Me, with my history, it depended on who you asked—but sobriety and AIDS had made me timid. Libby was straight or straight enough but capable of all kinds of shenanigans.

There were little Japanese or white twink go-go boys in cages dancing naked and yanking on chains that went to their pierced dicks. There was a sports-bar-size TV showing a fist-fucking video. At one point, an out-of-it drag queen attempted to get on the bartop in platform heels and mesmerize the world with a rendition of some irony-heaped-upon-irony show stopper, clearly something that (at least in the queen’s mind) had been promised, but the crowd would have none of it. She was heartbroken, but I’m sure she channeled it into her future work. Actually, it might have been pulled off if she hadn’t had such difficulty standing on the bar top in those platforms, slipping off at one point, and well, the magick spell was broken before it could be invoked.

I was already sober for 4 or 5 years so she was quite a sight, though as recovering alcoholics like myself often discover, virtually everyone else seemed sober as well, or simply hadn’t reached the visible level that I had once sought and passed with the heroic diligence of a soldier on the wrong side of the war.

The music played all our favorites. New Wave, punk, goth. We had a GREAT time.

Screw lasted a little longer and then the entire bar burned down.

–Marc Olmsted


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