Gurl 16: Chinatown, Combat Zones, Post-Punk elevator shafts

During the "post" punk era diaspora, as Boston dismantled 'The Combat Zone", the Gurls who were "groupies" came to be viewed more like gang members than punk rockers.

Bostons nefarious Combat Zone.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 1980 – It is and has always been twisted. A bizarre ritual of exploitation and excess in pursuit of one thing only….sex. It has always been so. It’s always been frustrating, fun and perhaps when done without stretching or, within a half hour of a meal, fatal.

It was the way genetic tits for tats were molded in the crucible of Chronos’ claws and how our wishes slipped-in on the oily promises oozing out of both sides of Eros’ mouth as we pounded that monolithic dance in the same boom boom rhythm used since the big bang that made life, lively.

The Combat Zone on the edge of Chinatown

Until the sixties. Until “groupies.” Suddenly the dance was over and a wizened wand was used to conjure the beast with two backs.

Like a listless Lovelace it sucked everything so hard it was less a celebration of being and more a disinterested offering to a sullen spirit.

Sure, there have always been “bad” girls that reveled in being the gun moll, the hard squeeze, the wise Dame, but suddenly it seemed like it went from a fella having to do some basic stuff: be polite, don’t hit, be considerate after the deed to just being a sniveling shit of the worst kind.

It became in the sixties more dunce like and demanding than deliberately decoding, a shark story to make the rounds and stories of wellstone bags crammed with whips welcomed by barely pubescent girls, became more common lingua than a simple goodbye and at the very least a polite thanks.

While “Punk” certainly challenged the notion of the superiority of the rock machine and showed how we could feast off of its bloated, ELP carcass with our efforts.

Read the Series: 52 Gurls 

While it offered a better way of copping kicks and having non-sexist fun for a change, ‘punk’ pathetically clung like a terrified, young baboon to it’s mother’s back as the alpha male tried to eat it.

The Naked Cabaret

In its lust to cling that aspect of the same rock culture it mocked, that same vision of groupies and attendant degradation that lies within that which they despised, punks lost Gurls forever.

In some ways you could maybe draw the line between punk and “post” punk at how Gurls came to be viewed less as groupies but more as gang members.

Your humble narrator was squatting on the seventh floor of a mostly abandoned office building on the edges of both Chinatown and Boston’s infamous “Combat Zone.”

Some guys from La Peste lived on the eighth floor along with Jari Georgia (Gurl Four) who had gotten kicked-out of her house after the “London Calling” party. Ground Zero lived and practiced on the fifth floor.

The “building manager” was the Romany scion of an uncountable crew of fortune tellers, gold assayers, short grifters and pick pockets that lived on the second floor. His ten-year-old son would drive their ’71 Fleetwood across an expanse of dirt that served as a parking lot.

Decadence became decay at the dawn of the “post” punk era.

He was an expert at dodging cops, empty bottles of Night Train and the occasional, burnt-out husk of a stolen car as he sped to buy his Father cigarettes and lottery tickets at the Chinese market that also sold ampules of morphine left over from Vietnam-era medical kits. I guess old Lee, the owner bought a pallet of them unseen at some auction in Brockton and made a mint.

The building on Chauncey St. had old-fashioned elevators that used to be operated by men in stained uniforms and horrible, little caps. You know the kind you see in old movies whose only job is to utilize a lever that moves up and down.

The joys of the open elevator shaft.

You could open the doors to the elevator shaft without the elevator being there. You know how you hear those stories from the old days how “Mr. So-and So fell to his death in an elevator shaft,” well these elevators were like that.

One night, about three thirty in the morning a loud scream and then the rising hullabaloo of what seemed like a treble-dozen Romany chorus awoke us all.

Peering down the shaft, where it was easy to hear all the noise emanating from, we saw the building manager’s brightly-colored bulk laying at the bottom of the shaft alternately howling with pain and laughter

The bottom of the shaft.

At least a half-dozen of his smaller children were already shimmying and swooping down to bring him wine, some cheese, and a ladder.

In a bid to get on some disability scheme he refused to work and do anything connected to his job. That included collecting rent, which meant we were all squatting.

When the city began the renovation called Downtown Crossing and took control of our lofts through a constructive eviction of the building they gave us all a settlement…and 36 hours to clear out.

What little money that came with the loss of a domicile, old albums to heavy to carry, some bad cardigans and a couple of books by Cornell Woolrich didn’t make being homeless any less appealing.

Thus began a long period of “sleeping” around, in the subway or, at certain theaters that didn’t check tickets.

This went on for a while until Gurl Sixteen entered the picture

That’s another story though.

We were talking about the rise of “post” punk and how the death of that horrid 60’s “Groupie” persona in the punk scene helped to make it happen. It was because of Gurls, a lot more than fifty-two of them I can assure you.

No floors were missed in this elevator by your humble narrator.

Your humble narrator Lane Coutell is a minor character in “Franny and Zooey” and is known mostly for his love of the hoopla and for leaving his date in a faint.

Punk rock music can be heard regularly on John Carlucci’s SpeedieJohn program on
Channel 21 of Little Stevens Underground Garage on Sirius XM Satellite radio.

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