On the way to the club, I dubbed Ashley -- both an aspiring writer and a newbie on the scene -- my research assistant. We crossed the glitter-strewn threshold of the Clematis Street bar at 10:30 like a pair of schoolgirls dorky ones with notepads and ballpoint pens rather than flasks or other contraband tucked in our purses.
¨Really, it´s a lot like school dances,¨ Ashley said, giving the place a once-over. She referred more to people´s behavior at the onset of the event than to the balloons and Mylar decorations. ¨Everyone´s sipping their drinks, staring at the dance floor, and waiting for someone to get up and dance.¨
The kid had good instincts. I got us some drinks, and it wasn´t long before the retro punk, heavy metal, and glam pop promgoers started to dance, and Ashley, in pink gown, tiara, and matching hair extensions, was moved to join them beneath a mirrored ball and metallic streamers. I planned to bust a move too, but I was delayed by a drink offer from a guy in a white shirt and a skinny black tie adorned with tiny skulls and crossbones. I declined, since my drink was fresh, but he insisted, introducing himself as Tolly.
¨It´s an acronym -- To Our Long Loving Years,¨ he said, explaining that he was the child of hippie parents.
Well, it was better than most names of the flower-child generation. By the looks of the titanium glasses and stylish haircut, the 34-year-old had evolved from hippie to hip. His memories of the '80s included the Detroit riots, when citizens set fire to the city after the Tigers' 1984 win.
¨It was Devo, breakdancing, and a big riot, and then we moved,¨ he said, summing up his experience.
When the shot he ordered arrived, he momentarily disappeared, so I handed it to another guy at the bar and moved along. Since those Bananarama girls weren´t motivating my groove at that moment, I decided to continue mingling.
¨Cyndi Lauper?¨ a guy in a shiny blue Miami Vice blazer asked when I approached.
I smiled and nodded -- though I felt more like Full House´s Kimmy Gibbler. I pointed out that the heel/toe dance he had been doing was nothing I´d seen in the Reagan era. He and his buddies one of whom sported neon Risky Business glasses and another with checkered socks weren´t old enough to know their moves were all wrong, and they bumbled along anachronistically.
Maybe the DJ would play Robert Palmer, I thought, and the woman dressed as a ¨Simply Irresistible¨ girl -- black dress, red lipstick, slicked-back hair -- could remind us how to do that '80s sway-and-kick dance. Until then, I´d make nice with the guy in the Angus Young costume, 24-year-old Nolan. Who cares if his socks aren´t quite long enough? His outfit came complete with toy guitar borrowed from a PlayStation Guitar Hero game, which was patterned after the AC/DC guitarist´s own.
¨So what do you know about the '80s?¨ I asked.
¨Only what I learned afterwards,¨ he said, adding what he believed was the moral of that era.
I did a doubletake. ¨War is good?¨ Bush propaganda?
¨More,¨ he repeated, this time louder. He had in mind a party line that had nothing to do with politics. ¨More is good.¨
More indeed. By then, there were more people packed into the bar than I´d seen at a nonband event in a long time. Out of the churning crowd emerged a familiar-looking guy who asked me if his makeup looked OK.
¨My name´s Richard, but tonight call me Razor,¨ he said, extending a hand in a fingerless glove. Here was a fashion statement that my ´80s alter ego could relate to. Razor said he was born in 1982, and he was a self-proclaimed ¨´80s dork,¨ his mind cluttered with ¨mostly useless, shitty trivia... mostly about the movies.¨ He cited Back to the Future, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, and Ghost Busters as a few favorites.