UPSTAIRS: or How Scorgies Ruined My Life
In fall of 1979 word got to me in the Mercy cafeteria that there was a bar I had to check out. Seems some of the Southwedge girls had heard my eulogy to Sid Vicious in the art room the previous spring and just knew I should be introduced to Scorgies. I blame them. Terri B and I made our way to Andrews St. in her Torino one Friday night, only to find a bland, Izod-covered crowd heading downstairs to see Duke Jupiter.
So what’s the big deal? We might as well be at the Mason Jar. Peering into the windows of the main entrance revealed a far more interesting sight. There was Kim B, a junior at Mercy, draped over some short dude in a biker jacket who we would come to know as Jimmy Jazz. A girl who could pass for Nancy Spungen had fallen on the floor. A guy who I later knew as Geoff Wilson sat alone and mysterious, staring back at us. Now THIS is more like it.
Senior year of high school was devoted to scrounging money off the floor of the car to afford .50 draughts at Scorgies. Tracey joined me, Kelly joined her, and it was all downhill from there. Targets, the Bowery Boys, Cappy and the Frenchmen, Delroy Rebop and New Math were our excuses for heading to the depths. After 20 minutes at my senior ball, my date (ol’ whatshisname) and I skipped out to make the New Math show.
Upstairs was our reliable house of fun. We knew everyone there by name, or by the nickname we had bestowed upon them. Blazer – he always wore a blazer….stripey! – he always wore stripes…happy smoker guy – yeah you guessed it. Our imagination knew no bounds. We became aware of a tall, hunched, hippie throwback of a dude, scraggly hair, grungy teeth, clothed in paint-stained thrift store rejects. Juraj, aka George, with his Holly Matchet jacket billowing in the night air. He charmed us with his endearing antics – grabbing our boobs and flicking lit cigarettes at us. Somehow he got across to Tracey that he wanted us to go to his house for dinner. I never did figure out how he communicated that since his Austro-Czech mumbling was mostly unintelligible. But if you happened to run into him at Ferrari Park Ave Exxon, you witnessed fleeting moments of clarity in which he could discuss music, politics and mutual acquaintances. So there we found ourselves, eating schnitzel at George’s rambling house off North Goodman. What were we thinking?
Danny Deutsch and Scott W. behind the bar (two of the more sympathetic bartenders – don’t ever tell your troubles to Jeff L. or John K. – they’ll laugh at you), and assorted bouncers who were all named Joe could be counted on for a shout out. Where everybody knows your name. Danny was always so kind as to have my gin & tonic waiting for me at the end of the bar. And then came Ohio. I left for the wrong college, got a radio show there, had some farmer groupies and never went to class. I brought with me tapes of Rock & Roll Joel’s show. Peter, Tracey, Molly and I, and maybe John Sw., visited Joel in his studio that summer, under the pretense of being a band from East Germany called Revolutionary Sled. (I had heard that term out of Jim McKay’s mouth when he was covering the bobsleds in that year’s Olympics.) Joel was gullible.
Summer of ’81 brought interesting characters to upstairs Scorgies. The girls and I noticed the westsiders: a Chili gang and one Aq boy Tracey had long scoped out. And Peter had united with Bill C and Bill R from Hit & Run. Jason came with the Pittsford package. We all joined forces, in a matter of speaking.
We pursued our many hobbies that summer. Angleo perfected the sport of shoving down the hottest wings Tim or Pat Shafer could cook up. Wings on the table, pitcher in hand, red rimmed eyes, and us laughing at him. Willie played Ferry Cross the Mersey 13 times a night and I beat oh yes I beat Jeff L. and Phil J. in a bowling table smackdown. Phil, in his lucky Member’s Only jacket, with sidekick Marvin nearby. Craig, Terry, Richie, Proud, upstairs dwellers all until another opportunity came along to yell PINK HAT at the band downstairs. I met Stan that summer, long before he became the local folk hero he is now.
The weeks, months and years get blurry. Kelly died and we got hit with a big shot of reality. The Presstones offered to play a tribute show in her memory and Tracey arranged for the money to be donated to a scholarship fund at Kelly and Tracey’s alma mater, Nazareth Academy. Tracey went back to college in NYC and stayed away (or did she?) and I stayed at Scorgies, making a long series of bad boyfriend decisions. But Beanie and Maggie and I had fun upstairs. We artistically added to the bathroom graffiti and made some lame attempts at studying between bowling games. At Christmas that year, Proud strolled through the bar gifting everyone with Joan Jett cut-out LPs.
One weeknight a particularly bad actor rolled in and got belligerent with most of us there. He got in Steve Nuke-em’s face one too many times and next thing I knew they were throwing each other around the barroom, smashing through the lined-up video games that Scorgie was using as room dividers. Everyone piled on but Scotty got him out. After we settled down and had ordered another round, someone yelled, “He’s back with a gun!” and everyone freaked. Last I saw before hiding under the shuffleboard game, Scott was smashing the guy on the head with a barstool as he walked in. I have no idea how that was resolved – but I don’t think we ever saw that guy again. I’m not sure if Dave King ever left the Gallaga machine.
Each week new and fascinating individuals made their way to Scorgies. Pete Presstone met some chicks from Greece. They chain smoked and chewed gum at the same time, but if Pete said they were ok, well…then ok. Karen and Erin made themselves known in their shorty leather jackets and mini skirts and were welcomed into the fold. Chris Ph. and Jackie could be seen through the windows, cruising in Chrissy’s Electra the size of an above-ground pool, looking for a parking space. Chris, the epitome of retro glam and Jackie, pulling off a blend of Merry-Go-Round meets Mod. Ashley in her leather and long hair, quietly reading her book upstairs amidst the mayhem.The height of Mohawk Mike’s hair topped Jackie’s bangs. Dirtbag, sort of like a Scorgie’s Pigpen. Huge scary Joanne threatened to put a hurt on everyone. Cousin Al in his trench coat. Laura the Sibley’s model. But some chicks just couldn’t be tolerated. Like that big Kim girl, the first of the cutters. Karen was ready to take her on but we talked her down. Jason wanted to see it happen.
Bad blood had been bubbling up between the Shafer girls and the Byrne Sisters. Don’t know who was playing that night but we were crammed in upstairs. It was hard to move between the tables and the bar when suddenly someone lunged and chaos ensued. The only true girl fight I ever saw take place at Scorgies was going on at full throttle and the fans went wild. And this wasn’t just hair pulling. Fists were flying and a pulsating, kicking, frenzy of acid-wash jeans rolled on the floor. Tables overturned, beers spilled, and grown men stood on chairs for a better view. I hid in the corner by the payphone. Dorie, neither a Shafer nor a Byrne, took some for Team Shafer and ended up with stitches. Definitely worth going out that night.
At some point Scorgie opened up the other side at night for more room and we tentatively ventured in. The bathroom was not very fun over there. We sat in booth seats at longer tables but only when we couldn’t fit in the main barroom. Some guy on that side called me the Sounds Great Tape Girl and he looked surprised to see me there. Please. The WITR djs showed up in sweaters and sneakers and no leather but we let them stay. The kid we called Charlie Brown turned out to be Mike Baldwin. I watched on Saturday nights as a creative and enterprising regular routinely pulled from her pockets the Sharpie color appropriate for the night’s cover charge stamp. She had mad stamp-replicating skills.
I don’t remember how or when it ended. Other bars opened, we saw bands at Snake Sisters and Idols. At some point we seemed to have all just wandered away. I went to a job interview in the early ‘90s and the young boss-to-be examined my resume, then looked at my face, then back to the resume, then to my face. Suddenly she shrieked, “Oh my GAWD I remember you. You were the queen of Scorgies!” I’d never seen this woman before in my life. I came home to tell Terry it was time to leave town.
From the girl on the left.