It was Christmas morning, 1985 at Irving Plaza in New York City. I don’t remember who the act the night before was, although I know it was a sold out show. I know this because at about four in the morning as the room was finally emptying out my doorman Kyle ( not his real name, even though the statute of limitations has long since run out ) who was also the club coke dealer came sidling up to me and with a conspiratorial grin, slipped two folded hundred dollar bills into my hand.
” What’s this?”, I asked, more than a little smashed and justifiably confused.
” It’s your cut.” he answered, grinning like a madman.
” My cut of what?” Was Kyle trying to let me in on a piece of the club coke action? If so, I didn’t want it. Life was complicated enough without becoming an accessory to felony drug dealing and conspiracy. I always had a suspicion that Kyle moved a lot of product.
” Your cut of the ticket sales.” he replied. I stared at the two C notes in my hand.
” Kyle what the fuck are you talking about? I own the club; all the ticket money is mine. It’s how I pay your salary.”
” No, no, you don’t understand. These aren’t your tickets, these are my tickets. Here’s your cut.” He kept pushing at my hand as if he could shove the money under my skin and into a vein.
I was weaving slightly and having a bit of a problem focusing, but I was game. ” Dude, you gotta clarify this for me.”
” OK,” he said, sounding like he was explaining why the sky is blue to his baby daughter.The pitiful Christmas lights that Stas, our illegal Polish porter who slept in the basement, had strung up around the front door twinkled raggedly. ” When someone comes into the club they go to the ticket booth and buy a ticket. Then they bring the ticket to me and I rip it in half and give em back the stub, right?”
“Yeah…” I answer, ” but what…”
He held up his hand. ” Well, I’m left with a stub in my hand too. So when the next guy comes in I palm his ticket whole and give him the stub from the first guy. That leaves me with a whole ticket. When I get a bunch of whole tickets, say ten or so, I bring them back to the ticket booth and Angel ( my ticket seller ) resells them, keeping that cash separate from your money. At the end of the night we split the extra money up. And that’s your cut.”
I stared at him for a moment, trying to take this all in. My doorman was robbing me and giving me a cut of the proceeds. At that time my ticket prices were ten to twenty dollars per person, so on average ten tickets would be worth one hundred and fifty dollars. If he did this more than once or twice a night he was talking five hundred to a thousand he was nicking me for. I might have been pretty high at that point but I could sense something was amiss. The little battery operated plastic nose of the tiny reindeer Kyle had pinned to his coat lapel blinked happily in agreement with Kyle. Rudolf got it, but I didn’t.
“Kyle, let me explain something to you. What you’re describing is robbery. You’re robbing me, whether you give me a cut or not. You can’t see that?”
” I am not robbing you!” Kyle was getting frustrated. “Look, we only do this on sold out shows. How many tickets do you print a night?”
” A thousand, you know that.” The legal capacity of the club was four hundred eighty, but one thousand was a nice round number, plus it made the place feel cozy with all those sweating bodies crammed so tight that taking a deep breath became a feat. As long as there was no panic or fire we were fine.
” Well, there ya go. You sell all the tickets you printed, a thousand. These are tickets you would have never sold at all if I hadn’t palmed them. They wouldn’t have even existed.” He gestured towards my hand, ” We decided that since you had something to do with it though, you should get some. That’s your cut.”
I shook my head to clear it. This was beginning to make sense and that scared me. I had to sober up. That night had turned into a Staff Christmas party somewhere around one AM and we had all gone more over the top than usual. Girls in mini skirts, fishnets and knock me down pumps and guys in leather jackets and combat boots drunkenly sang Christmas Carols between sets as we had thrown white confetti off the balcony to simulate snow. It had been a great night, but as with all Clubland evenings it was starting to go seriously downhill.
” So your telling me that you can’t be robbing me because without you creating the money to rob, there wouldn’t be anything to rob in the first place.”
” Now you got it! And that’s your cut.” Kyle smiled benignly, another thorny problem solved to everyone’s satisfaction. I put the money in my pocket. Later I realized that he had also folded a Snow Seal full of coke into the cash. Merry Christmas.
I was thinking of this as I walked along Fourteenth Street to my parking garage the next morning after going home, showering, changing my clothes and filling myself up with coffee, asprin and Visine. My arms were loaded with gifts for my family. There was a homeless guy lying on sidewalk about a half block in front of me, in front of the old Luchow’s Restaurant on Fourteenth St., which was at that point a gay club, thrashing about madly. I was briefly worried that the guy was having a seizure of some sort and I’d have to do something…it being Christmas and all… but as I got closer I realized that he was trying to pull his pants off without getting up off the sidewalk. Approaching closer still a pervasive odor filled the Yule Tide air. The guy had shit in his pants and was trying to rid himself of the offending garments. I walked on.
Christmas is a time for memories and I hope that this little one of mine has brought you some small measure of happiness and joy commesurate with the season. Merry Christmas, my friends.