Rhythm Alley Redux - 04 - Jeannette
"I met Jeanette
She said 'Will you remember?'
Said 'I could never forget her'" - English Beat, "Jeanette"
By the winter and spring of 1984, I was ready for some changes - and other changes were happening whether I wanted them or not. My college sweetheart and I had broken up (for the final time) and I had no romantic prospects in the offing. I'd been in town since the fall of 1978 but most of my friends from school days had moved on or were settling in to marriage and I was getting bored. I was in a good position at work (I'd started working at IBM in the fall of '82) but my friend Dirk's constant talking about moving up to DC started sounding better and better. So around March, we both put in for transfers to the IBM facility in Gaithersburg, MD and found positions - Dirk's starting the first of June and mine starting the first of July. I was renting a trailer out off of Damascus Church Road south of town so I didn't have a house to sell or much to pack up so I basically had time to kill. I started killing more than the normal amount of time at the Cradle and at Rhythm Alley, sometimes both in the same night, and became something of a regular. It didn't hurt that the majority of the bartenders at both clubs tended towards the XX end of the spectrum, including a leggy blonde lass that I made it a point to talk to during my more and more frequent visits to the Alley.
Jeannette claims that she knew I was interested in her when I started showing up for bands that she knew I didn’t care for (Glenn Phillips, maybe?). So after chatting her up for a couple of weeks, she and her friends devised a couple of tests to see if I was a creep or not (walking her down to the Cradle, going for Little Kings at the Cave, etc). I apparently passed as soon we were going out, despite the fact that I was moving to DC in a few short weeks. I left for the Maryland suburbs the first of July and spent a couple of weeks getting settled in before inviting her up to see the R.E.M. show at the Warner Theater in DC. She never went home and less than a month later we were engaged. Yes, to be married.
By October, living in Gaithersburg and trying to get into DC a few nights a week to get to the 9:30 Club or Friendship Station (or just to see a decent movie) was taking its toll both in stress and money, so we started thinking about moving back to NC and by January 1985, we were in an apartment in Greensboro, I was working doing IT support for the company that owned Wrangler jeans and Jantzen sportswear and we were driving over to Chapel Hill every weekend to volunteer at the Alley. I worked the bar for Judy occasionally but much more often I worked the door, which gave me a decent opportunity to see/hear a bit of the bands as well as to pay attention to the clientele.
We also started planning our wedding and yes, I was bloody well going to get married in a damn bar. I’m sure there were family members that had no idea what the hell was going on that Sunday in April 1985. The day before we had all been in Charlotte for my little sister’s wedding in a pretty little chapel with bridesmaids and tuxedos and the whole bit (it was quite lovely). The next day they’re in a rock club in Chapel Hill, listening to Irish and trad music played live by Touchstone and George Parrish and officiated by the two of us, with help from our dearest friends. There was much drinking and dancing and carousing, as well as a drunken duet of “Harborcoat” by me and Lex that I’m fairly sure was recorded but I’m even more sure that said recording was destroyed at some later date to protect the guilty.
/* see wedding album below */
It was soon after that that Judy started talking about selling the Alley. We were in absolutely no position to do something as ludicrous as buying a club, seeing as we were swimming in credit card debt from our time in DC (these were still the days of 18%+ car loan and credit card interest rates). But I knew how much Jeannette wanted the place and frankly, I was a complete idiot. Really, I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly stupid and bull-headed I was. So against Jeannette’s initial objections, we started to talk to Judy about how we could make this happen. She was willing to finance it for us (giving her a bit of monthly income) and in all honesty, the price for the business as a going concern was too high but not absurdly so.
So by August we were committed (lord knows we SHOULD have been committed) and spent September arranging for insurance, incorporation, alcohol licenses, tax numbers, lease agreements, fire marshal inspections, etc etc. And booking October and November while reaffirming the dates that Judy had already booked (more on that later). Of course we were doing all of this while living in Greensboro and with me still working full-time at Blue Bell over there. So our challenges were more than just monetary, to say the least. One being, I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. But somehow by the time October started, we were ready to go.
Abbreviated Wedding Album (you can see a bit of what the Alley looked like):
Set lists from the Bad Checks show Friday before the wedding - impromptu bachelor party! I assume Hunter can read this but I doubt anyone else can.
Jeannette eyeing the cake with Stafford and Amy pretending not to notice.
Kevin Bruce holds forth
Triona, Claudine and Skip - Touchstone
Cutting the cake under the watchful eyes of Judy Hammond and John Lennon