Snakes on Her Head
Anyone who lived in Chicago in the 80's, who had even the slightest idea what was going on, will remember Medusa's Music Hall. It was located on the corner of Sheffield and School in a building has since been rehabed into very ordinary looking multi-unit condos. Whenever I pass it I remember it with fond and foggy memories. For those unfortunate people who didn't get to go there, Medusa's was a three-story after hours dance club that was open from 11PM to 8 in the morning. They sweetly called themselves a 'juice bar'. For about three years it was my special retreat from the horrors of city suburbia.
I remember getting a call from my friend Brian who in describing the club to me acted like he had discovered a secret golden city; Inside this Xanudu he'd found three full floors of debauchery, dancing, and drugs. (Not necessary in that order.) "There was some guy who was a waiter crawling on his hands and knees with tray on his back" Brian beemed, "And dancing girls in cages, and music videos."
When I went I didn't see any crawling waiter, but I did see things that they just didn't teach you about in high school at 55th and Narragansett. Punks, gays, druggies, goths, transvestites, lesbians, prostitutes (again, not necessarily in that order). Medusa's really didn't get hopping until after 3 in the morning when the other dance clubs closed. That was when everyone poured in downing sparkling water, and dancing until dawn. I went to Medusa's almost every weekend. Because it was a juice bar, my parents didn't seem to care that I stay out until 8 in the morning. After all, I was only drinking fruit juice and sparkling water. I think I must have had sparkling kidneys in those days.
Each week the decor of the club changed. Some times it was dark and gothic, other times spacey and freaked out; b/w TV sets showing old tv shows on UHF stations mounted upside down or sideways in the walls or being used as tables. The 2nd floor was a cozy room where you could look down on the huge dance floor; I'd sit for hours just watching like some nappy cat. On the 3rd floor they had a dark room where people sat and watch projected movies and videos (The Cure, Cars, Lene Lovich). There I saw "Forbidden Zone" and the "Evil Dead" multiple times, bravely clutching my Perrier water, terrified that someone might come up to me and talk.
I once brought a bunch of co-workers from Zayre there to experience it. I had told them how it was a magical land where woman sat behind panes of glass, dressed in nothing but silk lingerie eating French Bread; and where they blasted Soft Cell's "Tainted Love", and how everyone crowded the dance floor until you couldn't move. My co-workers were not impressed. I remember coming home early that night as they gasped that they had seen two men kissing, and some lesbian approached Athena and said hello. (Athena looked like a female Greek version of Gary Coleman). "It's good to be back on the Southside" one of them said when we arrived back at Archer and Cicero. From then on I was viewed with suspision; I vowed to move away from the Southside as soon as possible.
I wonder where all my old Medusa's friends are today. Where is the punk girl, my co-worker at JC Penny's, who would go with me on occasion? I would drive her and she'd immediately ditch me. Hours later she'd ask to borrow the keys to my Austin Marina where she would have sex with some club boy she'd just met; Anarchist symbols written in the steam on the windows and the beer cans under the seat. One night on the way home she told me in a serious voice that her musical tastes were changing and she was really getting into The Cure's older songs. "I'm really into old Cure now." As if this were some milestone in her life.
One night a guy told me to stand next to the biggest speaker on the dance floor and press against it "Because it changes your heart rhythms." As if that was a good thing.
I was so into my cocoon at that time that it would have taken more than speaker vibrations to get me out of it.
A few scattered memories include*:
*The night that they filled the second floor with dry ice smoke causing white blindness. I walked around the rooms casually bumping into people, hearing slurping noises in the corners.
*The night Brian and I were standing on one of the landings when someone fell out of the 2nd story window. One minute he was sitting on the ledge talking with his friends, then we turned and he was gone. I remember we walked upstairs after his friends started to scream.
*The insane Asian doorman, who wouldn't let you in if you walked up the stairs too fast or didn't have your ID and membership card out. Rumor was had killed someone; We weren't surprised.
*The night I saw Violent Femmes there and the concert started at 6:30 in the morning. The dance floor was littered with vodka bottles and the whole room pogo'd. I remember dancing thinking the floor was going to cave at any second.
It was around the late 80s that I stopped going. More gang kids were showing up and the music was getting harsher. I remember being sad when at one point they redecorated the video room to a brightly, neon blasted multi-media room with fifty TV's on a wall. I missed the dark room with pillows on the floor. They stopped redecorating every week. I don't remember the last time I went or why I never stopped in when I lived close by. But one day I passed it and it was closed and the building was being remodeled.
Medusa's tried to move to other venues: "Medusa's night at Foxy's", As if it were a gypsy caravan with a magic bottle that if opened in any other space would re-create the magic. Regardless, I'm sure if it opened today I'd only find the music too loud and the place too dirty, and I'd be mad they didn't serve drinks. Discuss.
More Medusa's Memories: click here