Boy George’s hat almost got my ass kicked in Davenport, Iowa.
It was the winter of ’84 and I was back on the road again helping out 87 Men, formerly known as The Jerks. The band was still doing a lot of these one and two-night gigs in small clubs in Illinois and Iowa and one of them was at this club The Mad Hatter in Davenport, Iowa—a very popular haunt for university students from Augustana College across the Mississippi River in Rock Island, Illinois.
The hat that got me in trouble was not even mine but Ian Saroka’s who had replaced Dave “Bodine” Morgan in the band six months earlier. When Alan Thacker had bought a synthesizer in the summer of ’83 and the band started playing more “techno-electro pop” music and covers by bands like Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, Ultravox and Yaz, Bodine wasn’t too keen on this musical direction and quit. Ian Saroka joined the band not long after Bodine’s departure.
Ian was almost half the age of Dick or Alan and I suppose having a younger guy in the band was good for the band’s image—especially when playing some of these college town gigs. Hailing from the home of those classic rockers Cheap Trick—Rockford, Illinois, Ian was hip to a lot of the latest fashions and styles.
He had this really cool black hat that looked a lot like the one that Boy George had worn on Culture Club’s first album as well as in the band’s video “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” So, when I went on the road for the first time with 87 Men, I asked him if I could borrow it. I thought it would be the perfect complement to the black and gray cashmere overcoat I had bought for five bucks at this thrift store in Carbondale the previous fall as well as this cool drop earring that Liz a friend of mine at SIU had made in her jewelry class. The earring resembled two tiny metal coke spoons that hung down from an “infinity symbol” loop. It was an awesome earring that Liz had given me the last night I saw her at the Hangar 9 club in Carbondale.
“Sure, no problem,” Ian said as he tossed me the hat before we left the Illinois Valley on our way to Davenport that cold winter day. “Maybe it’ll even get you laid.”
Getting laid would end up being the least of my worries.
We arrived early in the afternoon (it’s only a ninety-minute drive from LaSalle-Peru) giving us enough time to setup and grab a bite to eat before the band played in the evening. The band still had the same equipment truck they had used when they were Buckacre and The Jerks that we parked out in front to unload the sound system and other equipment.
There were a few regulars seated at the bar having a couple of beers and chatting with the bartender, including two rough-looking ones—one wearing a John Deere cap the other a Cat cap.
They seemed to be engrossed in what the bartender was talking about and didn’t pay any attention to us bringing in the equipment until the third trip when they finally got around to noticing me.
“Hey look at that,” one of the men mumbled. “It’s f**kin’ Boy George.”
Laughter and a few snorts and cackles from around the bar.
“Hey Earring!” one of them snickered.
Great, I’m about to get my ass kicked by “two good ole boys” over a hat that wasn’t even mine.
Dick, who was setting up his drum kit, looked up me grinning.
“Don’t even think about it,” I said. “Don’t even….”
“Hey Earring,” Dick said laughing.
Great. I wasn’t going to hear the end of this.
Well, I didn’t get my ass kicked like I thought I would, but from that day on, I never heard the end of it especially from Dick and other members of the band. That’s what I got to hear from Dick for the next year—whether we were setting up equipment or when Dick talked to the audience between songs.
“Hey Earring! You gonna dance tonight? Hey Earring, do you want a drink? Hey Earring…”
Of course by then everyone knew that he was referring to me. What the heck, it was good for a lot of laughs and didn’t hurt my popularity any.