Thursday, May 17, 2012

We'll Never Get That Recipe Again...

A great star, gone too soon.

In the summer of 1983, I shared my first apartment with three friends from sophomore year - a straight couple who'd hooked up during first semester, and another guy, single like me, but (despite all appearances and everything you will read in these few lines) straight.  We first looked at the place halfway through spring semester, and it seemed perfect, especially compared with all the other dumps we'd been looking at.  Top floor of a West Phillie rowhouse, exposed brick walls here and there, skylights, new kitchen, two bathrooms, you name it.

We moved in after classes broke, earliest June, and we found out about roommates.  The straight couple made love like alley cats in their double room, and she cooked odd things at odder hours.  The other singleton (we each had a tiny room and shared the other bath), working downtown at his first summer internship, turned out to be just a little OCD and had an invariable routine:  up every morning at the same time, same breakfast, had to have his shower at the same time, etc., etc.  Most of all, he played the same music, a mix tape (how high tech that seemed!) someone had made for him.  It consisted, at least the part that has seared itself into my memory because I heard it so often, of David Bowie's "China Girl," Duran Duran's "Girls on Film," Hall and Oates's "Maneater," Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" - and Donna Summers's "She Works Hard for the Money."  Every day, all summer, starting at 7:15 a.m.

Play any of those songs, but especially the last, and there I am, back in that apartment that, come late June, we discovered was cheap for a reason - a top floor flat in West Philadelphia, with exposed brick walls and skylights, is hot.  Oven hot.  Boiling, roasting, mind-numbingly hot.  On the odd occasion that the apartment was empty, I would take a cold bath with all the ice from the freezer floating in it.  Even so, we had a great time, punctuated, over and over again, with those songs, that music.  

We had the greatest party of my life until that moment (and in some ways ever since) for Miss Rheba's 21st birthday.  Some bikers showed up about 2:00 a.m., as did, for reasons no one has ever understood since, a genuine fedora-and-bell-bottoms pimp with a couple of girls, and every one had an especially good time with "She Worked Hard" given the company.  About 3:00, the downstairs neighbors came up, because we'd brought down their ceiling while dancing to "Glad All Over" (its "Yes, I'm feelin' ... BOOM BOOM ... Glad all over!" having proved fatal).  They weren't pleased, exactly, but they joined the party.

Eventually, 'round about dawn, I put on my patented room-clearer (Connie Francis singing "Where the Boys Are") and disappeared with someone who turned out both to be my summer beau and to have an air-conditioner.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  At least the air-conditioning did.

And that's what I thought of when I heard, just now and 29 years later, that Donna Summer's gone to Fabulon.  She did work hard for the money, and we know it was real.  Unconditional, on the radio, right through to the last dance.  RIP.


  1. RIP indeed - you have recalled "fabulous" occasions that involve Donna Summer, as can we all. Such a sad loss, but at least we have those memories... Jx

  2. SUch an important part of an important time in my life. Many sads.

  3. Very sad. She was THE class act of our late lamented Disco era.

  4. god, i hope she remembered to bring all her wigs to fabulon.

    1. Don't fret, Norma dear - I'm sure Josephine Baker and Sylvester will share...

    2. No to mention Thom and I...

  5. disco's were the first places little gay boys like me could go to in the 70's without the fear of being beaten up just for dancing. And she was the soundtrack.... RIP