When I was about twelve and my best friend Chris was sleeping over, we decided to sneak out and go see what the city at night had to offer. I lived in lakeview, which is a neighborhood in Chicago closely flanked by boystown, which is exactly what it sounds like. Anyway, back in those days, the neighborhood was very different. What’s now a very nice family neighborhood flanked by an extremely affluent gay neighborhood was at the time a large developing hodge-podge of young families, bohemian hipster dildos, an embryonic, sporadic and not-yet-wealthy or centralized gay scene, a bunch of really seedy peep shows and porn shops (located on broadway between Belmont and diversey), absolutely a zillion homeless people, and a few various roving gangs.
Now, these weren’t gangs in the regular sense of the term. There weren’t packs of Vice Lords or Gangster Disciples walking around (though I did know a few kids who claimed to be either GD’s or Latin Kings…One of them was a fat Mexican kid with red hair named Alfredo who went to Sunday school with me. I have no idea if he was really a latin King, but uh…he was too fat to run, so I hope he had a desk job in the organization); No, I’m talking about style type gangs that are more closely represented by the ideology put forth in the movie The Warriors than anything you’d see on Gangland or in Boys in the Hood or Colors or any shit like that.
Here’s what I mean: There were punks. These punks had Mohawks and all the spikes and straps and shit hanging off them. Now, keep in mind, we’re talking late 80’s here, so there was no hot topic and stuff, so they had to actually make or scavenge their crazy outfits. These punks, as I recall, were legitimately dirty and scary, although I was twelve and it’s probably just as likely that they were all about as intimidating as Justin Sane but I was young and excitable.
The punks had a headquarters in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot (nicknamed Punkin Donuts [I know…I didn’t name it] on the corner of Clark and Belmont. They hung out there and smoked and drank beer and just generally caused a ruckus. This is now a very nice, clean intersection. To think back to all those punks in that lot , I hardly believe it’s the same place.
The next gang, the gang with the most visibility and the only one that you still see in the neighborhood today, is the gigantic, mean-as-shit black trannies. These ladies used to rove in packs, sometimes as hookers down by the peep shows, but often just kind of running shit and hanging around talking loudly and making their presence known. They were and are still very scary. They’re muscular as shit and you need only to see one of them beat the snot out of some poor unsuspecting dingus one time in order to realize that these ladies are not to be trifled with. Like I said, they still roam the streets over there a little bit, but not like they did back then. They were definitely the dominant force of the whole zone.
Finally there were the skinheads and the rude boys. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Rude boys? the pudgy guys in their grampas fedoras and slip ons that play in highschool jazz bands all over the country? That’s what you’re calling a ‘gang?’
Well, see, the rude boys of today are like the modern housecat, harmless and docile, but descended from something vastly more dangerous and wild. We’ll get to the rudeboys in a bit, but first, the skinheads.
They were all over the place in this era. I remember going to shows as a little kid and just being terrified of the hordes of skinheads everywhere. There were the racist ones and the anti racist ones and the really vaguely affiliated ones that didn’t really make their position on race the crux of what they were doing. The one thing they all had in common was their dumb uniform and their willingness to be on the winning side of a six on one beatdown. They also used to like to stand near the back of the dancefloor at a concert, link hands and run forward, smashing everyone in the place up against the stage. This was called the ‘wall of death’ and it was terrifying. These dudes, much like the black trannies, were absolutely EVERYWHERE in my neighborhood when I was twelve.
Thankfully, these dopey deesh are all but gone now. Anyway, Chris and I snuck out of my mom’s apartment and cruised up to the Dunkin Donuts to see what we could see. I think our motivation was loosely tied to ‘trying to meet girls’ and/or ‘scoring some cigarettes,’ but there was a strong anthropological motive as well.
So, here’s how it went: We took off west, up Briar until we got to Broadway, where the Lakeview bar was located. This place was always overflowing with drunks as it had hours from 6am to 4am every day (six to five on Saturdays) and who preyed on these drunks? The trannies. The peepshows and little ‘red light’ district was just south up broadway, and boystown was just north, so this was sort of the natural confluence of the hookers (who tended to work by the peeps) and the civilian tranny scene from boystown. Also, nothing like someone who’s been drinking all day in the Lakeview to maybe pay a tranny for some services, or be drunk enough to easily roll or something. I dunno. When I got older and started going to the lakeview, I realized that there was always at least one tranny in there at absolutely all times. Same goes for creepy drunk pervs. So yeah. The drunk pervs and the trannies, like the noble Rhino and the wee birds on his back, had a deeply symbiotic relationship that even now I can barely speculate on.
Anyway, we made our way through the drunks and the trannies and over to Belmont. We walked up past the church where I went to Sunday school with Alfredo the fat Latin King and up past the house where legend has it Naked Raygun lived during their heyday. We cruised up and down Belmont and Clark for a while, probably bumming smokes from randoms and kind of circling the parking lot, which was full of undesirable types. We were curious, yet afraid.
A quick assessment revealed that the lot was mostly punks and Goths (yes, the Goths were big too, and also roved in packs. I should have included them in my primer. Quickly: these were late 80’s/early 90’s Goths. All black clad, cure/morrisey/ministry fans who roved with the punks. They all shared the same nightclub [Medusas, which was an all ages juice bar that had three different floors of dancing and shenanigans. Chris and I saw Bad Religion there around this same time. “Walls of Death” abounded at that show.] Goths were about 80% women, which, looking back made the goth dudes far and away the smartest folks around] and were also welcome at the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. I think there was a lot of punk/goth interbreeding, but this is pure speculation).
Chris and I finally braved the inner parking lot and sat on a curb by what I remember as a vaguely attractive older (probably sixteen) goth girl with short hair. There were punks everywhere, notably one dude with a rather large Mohawk that for the purposes of recreation we’ll say was green and fanned out (as opposed to the four or five spikes look).
Soooo, we’re sitting there, pretending to smoke, pretending not to be scared shitless, and probably entertaining the shit out of this girl who could easily see through our little ruse, when somebody yells (and yes, this really happened) “oh shit, it’s the rude boys!”
So, there’s chaos. Chris and I stand up and back away quickly as the punks and Goths scatter. We had never heard the term “rude boy” before at this point and really didn’t know what was going on, but suddenly three or four guys all dressed in very nice three piece suits with cream vests and nice, polished saddle shoes, watch chains and bowler hats came running into the parking lot swinging their gold headed canes and proceeded to absolutely mash the shit out of this guy with the green mowhawk. Forties were strewn everywhere and chris and I looked on in terror at these guys in suits (!?!?!?!??!!) who didn’t seem like they’d just come from an event with their parents at all, and who were suddenly vastly more scary than the skinheads, just completely pudding-afied this poor punk dude all in the span of about 26 seconds.
They finished the beating and took off as quickly as they’d come. I don’t remember what happened to the guy with the Mohawk, but I’m sure someone helped him up and handed him his teeth.
The girl was disgusted. We asked what the fuck rude boys were and were told that they’re kind of like real specific skinheads that are notable in that they wear nice suits and like ‘ska’ which was another word I’d never heard before. I didn’t bother to ask what ska was, as it seemed real scary at the time.
The girl left and Chris and I hung out for a little while longer. About ten minutes went by before a shitfaced old man walked by. He had a hole in the crotch of his overalls and his balls were hanging through, just dangling there like a hood ornament. They were right at my eye level and impossible to miss. It was awesome.
That’s the last thing I remember. I dunno. Bad story? Not much happened, but shit…that was a different time, kids.
Be safe out there, and don’t fuck with the rudies or the trannies. They’ll pummel you.