Tuesday, August 14, 2007

life is a cabernet...

more than once in my life I've been accused of being "metro-sexual",
usually jokingly by martha who certainly knows.
but, if liking flower gardens, or feeding hummingbirds,
or dressing fastidiously means you're "metro"
then I'm guilty as charged.
but I've never had a male+male sexual encounter in my life
even though for one whole year my very existence
centered around a gay bar called the Downstairs Club.

at age 20 I formed my first "power trio" with two close friends
Ray Yancey on bass and Mike Hodges on drums.
we called the band "adrian"
(5 years before I began calling myself that).
we were a hot trio modeled after hendrix and cream
and noted for our extended jam versions of unusual fare like
long time comin' by crosby, stills, and nash or
walk on by from burt bacharach.
we had that unique mind-blend esp I now share with eric and julie.
adrian was my first-ever band as a serious guitar player.
I had an echoplex.

we spent a year sharing the house band slot with another power trio
(called "buck moon") at an infamous gay bar in northern kentucky,
the Downstairs Club.
when you pulled off highway 25 you would see the rooftop
of the club as you drove down to the parking lot.
hence the name.

The Downstairs Club was famous for its yearly drag-queen
contest which drew players from all over the U.S.
Little Richard would be there when he was in town
and before our time he would bring his guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
the club was owned by a man's man named Mr. Combs Sr.
Mr. Combs Sr. was a devout hunter and fisherman,
a poker player with a constant cigarette dangling.
it was his son Bobby who ran the club
and played for the other team, as they say.

Bobby Combs was the biggest social butterfly I ever saw.
his job was to flit from table to table ever engaged in hilarious
chit chat with his customers while filling their noses
with a brain-pumping drug called amil nitrate
which you sniffed from an inhaler he offered.

knowing the players in both trios were straight (and under-age)
bobby insisted his clientele leave us off their menu
and we were never accosted by anyone, not once.

boy, they had some characters who would frequent the bar.
I remember one very successful businessman named Peaches.
despite his chubby physique he dressed in impeccable suits
and beautiful italian shoes which must have cost a fortune.
he wore conspicuous diamond earrings and necklaces.
peaches liked to get up now and then to sing with the band.
when he opened his mouth the most incongruous voice
would come out,
the voice of a little girl!

we had so many funny moments there, full of the kind of
double-entendre humor and sassy remarks gay people are know for.
kind of like living the movie "the boys in the band".
one night I was talking to bobby while buck moon
was playing one of their sets.
suddenly a good-looking young man sat down next to bobby
and began to stroke bobby's leg.
long strokes of his hand up and down bobby's leg.
in a classic I've never forgotten bobby said,
"I'll give you five minutes to quit that!"


  1. Wow, a gay bar post-Stonewall but pre-AIDS. That's something I'd like to have seen.

    I remember you calling Rob Fetters the "Twang Bar Queen" on the tour (I forget which album it was for) where he was your guest guitar player. I thought to myself "Is Rob gay? Cool!" Then I thought no, he can't be. No self-respecting gay man would wear those ties!

    (Kidding Rob! I love your ties!)

    I'd always wondered if there were any other AB/Bears/KC fans that were gay. I guess I still do.

    Thanks for the story. If you collected all these anecdotes, you would have a great book.

  2. Yeah Adrian, its too bad you aren't good friends with a rhythm section that is related to a professional writer who would probably jump at the chance to compile all of your fantastic stories into a book. ;-)

    Robin could probably even turn my previous sentence into something that resembles English.

  3. Robin is too busy contemplating that gay bar...

  4. ...not that there's anything wrong with that


  5. Are there any tapes of Adrian still around?

    Let's hear them! Don't be embarrassed!

    We used to play Long Time Comin' for a half-hour at a time too. That Am - D thing was just what we needed - we couldn't get much more complicated than that, back in the day. - S.

  6. well what i wanna hear --is the extended version of WALK ON BY-
    power trio bacharach--ummmmmmmm
    hey burt's busy making t/v commercials---and guesting on "idol"type shows----but loved your-eric/julie-comment-----knew robin would--comment--also--and you two--doin a book---maybe sometime in the future--??--love gary-

  7. Aw, seriously, thanks Scott and my beloved husband..but as you can clearly see from reading Ade's blog, he doesn't need my help - he's an incredible author "in his own write" and yep, should definitely do an autobiography in the near future...

  8. In re any other Bears/Adrian Belew fans who are gay.

    Well, I can think of one...I am also, as it happens, a Bear (but not one of the musical Bears - well, I am a musical Bear, but not one of the group that recorded on PMRC, etc. ;) ).

  9. Adrian, I remember Peaches and the Downstairs Club. I would like to hear from you. I'm especially interested in the year that you were playing there. Please write to shoyt2001@gmail.com.
    Thanks for the really great story!

  10. Sharon again.

    I left the wrong email name for that address. letscheck@gmail.com

    I would still love to hear from you.

  11. Dear Adrian, I googled "Downstairs Club Kentucky" in doing some thinking about a writing project and found this blog. I thought I'd share something I sent to Jim Knippenberg of the Cincinnati Enquirer upon reading Ms. Peaches obituary in same. Sadly, Mr, K. has passed as well. I hope my memory is accurate but I stand to be corrected if anyone cares to. Here goes:
    Knippenberg's response:
    hi thanks for the note. i've heard from several people with peaches stories since i wrote that piece. there are some real gems out there.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: ME
    Sent: Friday, January 07, 2005 8:29 PM
    To: jknippenberg@enquirer.com
    Subject: Re: Peaches La Verne's obit in your column
    Dear Mr. Knippenberg,

    I just thought you might enjoy the following memory I have of Mr. Peaches La Verne. I have dined out on this story so many times in my life, I feel I owe it to him.
    I have not lived in Cincinnati for most of my adult life, but as sophomores at UC in 1971, my Drama Dept.and CCM classmates and I visited a dive in Northern Kentucky called "The Downstairs Club". The patrons ran the gamut from truck drivers to bikers, to drag queens to single women to, yes, curious college students slumming.
    The jukebox was the best on the planet and a regular at the bar was Miss Peaches. At
    the time, his wardrobe consisted of men's pastel leisure suits, a closely cropped blonde male hair cut, bold eye make up and gorgeous drop earrings.
    One evening when we were there, word spread through the place that the police were raiding the place - for what, God only knows, but I'm sure it was multiple choice. Of course we were TERRIFIED at the prospect
    of a police record (and a bit exhilarated too, if truth be told) and bolted out the back door, where our car was firmly stuck in the mud. I had on a lovely thrift store 1940s dress myself (I'm female, just for the
    record) but in a grand display of equality, was elected to push the car while the driver tried to get out of that hole before the police came out the back door.
    We succeeded, I was covered in mud, and as we started to drive away, we saw the police bringing Peaches out in handcuffs. He called to us, "Run children, they have your mother!"
    It might be one of those " 'You had to be there stories, but on the off chance you can visualize this, it should give you a chuckle.
    I think one of the ironic things about a somewhat conservative place like Cincinnati, is that the negative social pressure to conform can sometimes, instead, create the brightest diamonds.