By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Jack GouldPerhaps you've seen the previews for Coyote Ugly: the slinky bartendrixes cut the neckties off customers and clog (slinkily) atop the bar, usually in leather pants. The plot (girl comes to New York City; despite inexperience and inability to juggle, gets job as slinky bartendrix) seems to be a frothy little concoction put there as a reason for the camera to linger for two hours on the raucous bar: Coyote Ugly.
In fact, the movie is very clearly based upon the meatpacking district's throbbing Hogs & Heifers. A couple of my bras hang there, along with (in 1995, at least) 675 others. Yeah, I clogged on that bar. Topless.
However! The last time I clogged topless on that bar, I did a quick topless spin around and saw to my right a young woman bending over the crowd, licking her lips and slowly fingering her nipples. I turned around and got off the bar, a couple of gentlemanly folks reaching up to help me down. Good manners are so important!
So what does this have to do with the Hootenanny? Not a lot, really; I just saw the preview for Coyote Ugly and wanted to show off that I knew the place, even if it is clear across the continent. See? You're in good hands.
But there is, nonetheless, a tenuous connection. When I got down from the bar, terribly embarrassed by the hooker, a couple of women I didn't know came over and assured me I looked wonderful and was darling and all kinds of other sweet things. If you're half-nekkid and women are still being nice to you, then you've managed to walk the line of a joyous, free-spirited kind of nudity. Gee whillikers! Sometimes you just have to take off your clothes! If women are actually hissing while you're touching your nipples, you're probably just being slutty, and I mean that in a bad way. Even some of the men won't like you.
So guess who was lurking backstage at the idyllic Oak Canyon Ranch for Saturday's annual Hootenanny? That's right! The same girl who was running desperately from bus to bus last year, pulling down her pedal pushers for anyone who might know where to find Mike Ness! It was neither joyous nor free-spirited. It was just sad, especially when she let some roadies take pictures.
The beautiful and obviously unhinged rockabilly girl kept her clothes on this time, as far as I know. She just lingered intensely anywhere the dreamy, smooth-crooning headliner Chris Isaak might see her. Apparently no one's told the poor thing that if she ain't Korean, she's going nowhere. (Isaak's final traveling companion aboard the jet-black van was a beautiful young woman with waist-length hair and a fetching spray of freckles across her nose, who looked like she might have been a Thai/French combination. She did not look very nice.) The careful reader might remember that I have a long-standing, unrequited yen for Isaak; the careful reader will also be happy to know that he's just as pretty close-up as in his perfume ads . . . I mean "videos."
Isaak this time was uncharacteristically inaccessible, except when he was leaving; before the show, every time anyone (including Isaak's friends of the past 10 years Sam and Anita, who can always be found in all the best beer lines) got within 40 feet of his trailer, hired thugs shouted, "Back! Back!" Even Exene Cervenka—who was playing with The Knitters, X's fantastic country side project with my personal friend Dave Alvin—didn't have thugs, relying instead on her patented glare to keep her fans at bay.
The backstage area for the two main stages was tree-lined and breezy, letting peeps like the swingster Royal Crown Revue wander comfortably in the heat despite their zippy suits. Hank Williams III seemed to be everywhere, perhaps rejoicing in the fact that he wasn't withering away in some clinic's lockdown. He's got his granddaddy's legacy to live up to. But despite the adoration bestowed upon him and his psychobilly takes on bitchen old country standards, the sweating packs of tattoo artists and their Bettie Page girlfriends declined to stampede like Danes at a Pearl Jam concert. Nor did they trample anyone during The Reverend Horton Heat's faster-than-a-speeding-bullet set. In fact, the day was marked from the very beginning by incongruous acts of politeness, with mean-looking sons of bitches emitting constant streams of "Excuse me" and "Pardon me" as they made their way through the roiling crowd. Take that, Roskilde!
Big ups and mad respect go to Goldenvoice's Bill Hardie and his beautifully bun-ovened wife, Michelle, who even ensured there was courtesy at the gate this year, with the fine young men in the will-call booth actually giving us our tickets instead of sneering at us that we weren't on the list, as has happened (repeatedly) in years past. They even gave us an extra one for my homegirl Arrissia, who really wasn't on the list but has real long eyelashes to bat. I do like a young man who's easily cowed!
The Blond Nazi of yesteryear—who also every year was not only unhelpful but downright rude—was nowhere in evidence. Perhaps a roof fell on her. Munchkins everywhere, rejoice!