Monday, February 19, 2018

An Iconette's Tale

Yes, it's true. I am an Iconette.

I was there at the very place and time that the 1960’s morphed into the 1970’s.

It was 1974.  I was hanging in my favorite singles bar, a place called Grendel’s Lair, a disco that was widely known in Philly as "the disco for folks who hate disco."  My hair was long, my jeans were ripped, and I had on a plain blue work shirt totally devoid of alligators or other obnoxious insignias over either the right or left side of my chest. 

Grendel's Lair was a down-to-earth place with the feel of your best friend's basement if it were ten times larger and smelled unrelentingly of beer. The music was still mostly Grateful Dead, George Harrison, and David Bowie, but lately we'd begun to notice a change

Enter guys with hair combed straight back and cut above the ears sporting flowery shirts and visible chest hairs. Added to that were women with platform shoes, too much makeup, and perfume that was so pungent it would send the actual Grendel scrambling back to his lair as fast as he could slime.

And the music was beginning to change as well.

On that night I went outside to get a hit of fresh air.

Alone and sitting on the front steps to the place was a very disconsolate very freaky looking young guy with thick brown hair to his shoulders and a mighty beard who seemed like he was almost about to cry me a river.

"I just don’t get it,"  he muttered. 

"What don't you get?" I asked.

"The awful music they're playing! Who's this Barry Mani-Blow anyway?"

“He's got a lot of hits."

"I could never dance to this!"  


"If only they'd put on Sugar Magnolia ... I’d dance all night.”

In that moment the sixties received last rites and the 70's crawled into the world mewling and puking in the nurse's arms

Grendel's Lair eventually turned into a men's clothing store and soon I began going to the glitter discos just like all the others. I even got to like the music of Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, and Barry Mani-Blow, at least enough to dance to it while generally haplessly trying to come on to women who seemed able to dance to it a hell of a lot better than I did.

But I always wondered about the freaky looking guy with the mighty beard who transformed the sixties into the seventies with a simple rueful observation that his time had passed.

I wonder if he ever donned a flowery shirt, opened it down to a well-scrubbed navel, and wound up a prosperous investment banker.

No matter.  

For me, he was an icon.

And that makes me, I guess, an iconette.



Anonymous said...

Nah, you're just an icon groupie. I can see you dirty dancing just like Chris Farley.

Perry Block said...

I guess I am! If only I looked like Chris Farley too ...

Eileen Glenn Saunders said...

Oh my God!! Perry Block from Wheatland Tube fame.

I saw your picture in today's Daily Times and thought "what a cute looking Jewish guy." Then I saw your name and ran downstairs to show my husband, Jim Saunders.

I worked for Wheatland Tube (John Maneely sniff sniff) back in the late 70's. From 1975 to 1978 (the best years of my life) I was Jim O'Donnell's secretary. They were tumultuous years. As you may recall, Jack O'Donnell, a horrendous alcoholic, showed up every day reeking of Jack Daniels or something like that. Mary Dell was his secretary. Dick Wahl, well, he was a total jerk and resembled Adolph Hitler in so many ways and seemed to keep things stable. One day, Jack O'Donnell went off the deep end and fired his own brother. Jimmy was humiliated but still kind. He told me things had changed but I was not to worry. etc. Poor Jimmy. He continued to drink. God, I loved that sweet man. Betty Boylan (Jack and Jim's sister, also a raging alcoholic) joined the Board. ReRe Dooner, the other sister (the sober one) helped out when she could. Then Coleman Boylan, Betty's son, died of cancer before he turned 30. Another great man. So much drama. I saw so much in my 3 short years of employment.But I loved those years at Wheatland and continued to keep in touch with everyone as I left to join SmithKline. Then I met Jim Saunders, the brilliant accountant hired by Jack O'Donnell himself.

I still remember you, Perry Block, our precious,funny neurotic lawyer, walking down the hall from Jack O'Donnell's office, so funny, so cool but kinda nervous trying to keep everyone cool. This family was the biggest soap opera in American History. I'm sure you remember the background of the O'Donnells, John Maneely's will leaving everything to Jim and Jack (not blood relatives), the will unsigned, handwritten, signature torn off, it made the front page of the Bulletin. Such a scandal.... Frank McLaughlin, (HEAD OF THE PIPE DEPARTMENT) WAS THE REAL BLOOD RELATIVE who got screwed out of his inheritance. I wonder if we could google them.....

Jim (my Jim) and I still keep in touch with the Dooners and Boylans. Jim is a CPA and does all their taxes, keeps track of the trust funds along with the attorneys whose names escape me right now...damn early onset Alzheimer's...

Anyway, I have such fond memories of my 3 years at Wheatland. Like I said, the three best years of my life. And I remember you fondly and it was so good to see your picture in the Daily Times today. Jim and I keep in touch with so many of the Wheatland people after all these years. If it wasn't tax season, we would be at the Narberth Bookshop tomorrow. Oh wait! Is it already Sunday? I think he's booked all afternoon. Let me see if I can find a ride.

Perry Block said...

OMG, Eileen, of course I remember you and of course I remember Jim too. I have fond memories of you guys and mostly fond memories of Wheatland although some not so great ones too. I'm glad to hear that everything is going well for you guys.

Rather than writing a bunch of stuff here I'll give you my e-mail and phone number and we can get in touch more directly. They are and 610 608 3151. I don't see or hear from many folks from work. I burned bridges with a few of them, I'm afraid. Most of the people I have contact with are from the mill.

Anyway, maybe we can get together when things slow down for Jim. Keep me posted. Great to hear from you!