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Derek Jackson

Beat Poets, Sacred Whores And Pirates: A Typical SF Night

By C. Silo

At the center of a smoke-filled room is poet ruth weiss, a tiny 70-year-old woman in spiked purple hair and a Nick Cave T-shirt. "This is the real Mendocino shit," she giggles, lighting a Sherman in one hand and passing a flaming "doobie" to her husband, artist Paul Blake, with the other. ruth exhales a combination of fumes, takes a hearty swish of Budweiser and gently slaps my behind: "You kids don't know nothin' about playin' around!"

Righteously described as the "Goddess of the Beat Generation" by the late Herb Caen, ruth weiss is ready to let loose tonight. It's nearly midnight and she has just finished a poetry reading at Venue 9--her first U.S. performance since returning from a three-month European tour, during which she shared the bill with Nick Cave at a nightclub in Vienna. Credited with innovating "jazz poetry," teaching Jack Kerouac how to write haiku and destroying numerous bed linens in 1950 when she dyed her hair green ("I was very promiscuous in those days, so imagine my green hair leaving stains on the pillow cases all over town"), ruth is the matriarch of rebel girl poets worldwide. "I'm hungry, goddammit!" she announces, so I and the rest of the groupies--including filmmaker Tom Church, "sacred whore" Tommi Lake and Trannyshack co-founder Chuck Glover--follow ruth and Paul to Tommy's Joynt, which for several reasons seemed the most appropriate choice.

Although touristy during the day, nighttime at Tommy's Joynt is an entirely different universe. Predatory traveling businessmen out for late night "snacks," drunk and drooling "racetrack" types and older call girls habituate the red-lit hofbrau after 10 o'clock; thick clouds of sleazy cologne and simmering corned beef fill the air. We grab a table close to the bar. I order a thin White Russian and deep-fried calamari--the perfect food for those inclined to fits of violent projectile vomiting. Keeping this in mind, I decide to pass on the free pickles and ubiquitous vats of yellow mayonnaise. ruth tears into a flank steak while a scandalous discussion of bisexuality ignites the group. "Tommi, I just assume you've been with women," says Paul, who is 30 years younger than ruth and a huge fan of Czech cross-dressers ("They're so lovely in Eastern Europe"). "I consistently provide great physical pleasure to owners of both types of organs," answers Tommi, who throws a loaded wink in my direction. Only slightly frightened, I immediately feign interest in a nearby jar of horseradish.

Unnerved by discussions of "manginas" and "vagetarians," the adamantly straight Tom Church pretends to have "other plans." Also unsure if I can continue to endure the conversational gifts of the bohemian elite, I slip off to a pay phone and ring L. Diggs, leader of Glitterbomb, the "cosmic rock fusion" band. "Yo, whaddya want?" I beg him to save me from the clutches of the sacred whore, whose eyeball is becoming hairier by the second. Ten minutes later a busted-out Nova pulls up and I am whisked from the corner of Geary and Van Ness; for an undisclosed reason, we ride silently toward Sixth Street. "All right, get out." L. Diggs stops the car in front of the Rendezvous, an old punk club that reopens later this month. He leans over my legs and opens the door. "It's the XLR8R party. You like all that house music shit, don't you?" I pardon his heathen manners and exit the car with exaggerated restraint. "Hey, page me if they have sacred hookers in there. Not." The Nova noisily disappears into the vortex of the night.

"Trash," I whisper to myself as I enter the club. Inside, the walls are cluttered with the leaning elbows and hips of the beautiful; it's clear that unattractive people are not encouraged to read XLR8R magazine. Cute and glamorously clad, XLR8R art director Rich Hansen bumps into me as he makes the drunken rounds. As usual, I remind him of the night I spied him dressed as a pirate, but he disputes my memory with the regular vehemence: "I defy you. That pirate was not I." Celebrating his third issue as master of design, Rich is rightfully joyous (the new layout is gorgeous) and just a wee bit tipsy, so we decide to eradicate the pirate scenario from our collective memory. "Clearly I'm a man of the land," Rich adds. I concur and scan the place for hookers. Seeing none, I page L. Diggs anyway--along with the cold, lonely air, the sacred whore within stirs me to look beyond his cretin tendencies. Who knows--if I play my cards right, I might even make some cash ... .

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From the January 18, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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