about a year into scrap bar’s life, they arrived.
tall, handsome, high-cheeked, exact-twin brothers with huge manes of black, beaded hair that fell from their shoulders to the small of their backs. they were african-american but i remember one of them telling me they were also part american-indian. i said ok.
they came to new york as a two-piece pop/dance-band that, until this point, were working the times-square sex circuit; tim was the “fluffer” and dave was the “feature” in sex-on-stage shows that, even now, are shrouded in pre-giuliani-regime legend.
they didn’t drink or take drugs and were driven to be the stars they believed they can be. they had clear, pleasant, high-pitched kentucky drawls when they spoke and a singular sense of fashion; e.g.- their bodies greased, head-to-toe, wearing nothing but loincloths and sneakers, walking along macdougal street on a summer day-fashion, for instance.
or sensible rock/dance gods as seen in the background of this pic from a scrap bar/MTV shoot. they were obviously not the subject;
MTV’s Kevin Seal and Zodiac Mindwarp in the foreground. Tim and Dave behind them.
they came for the porter/maintenance position available at scrap bar and they got it.
the meticulousness of their appearance (when clothed) was translated in the way they took after the bar. they were highly organized and incredibly neat. it was an easy gig. scrap bar had a commercial-tile and cement floor, polyurethaned-granite foundation walls, found-metal, welded-furniture and a crane-boom bar-frame with half-inch wire-glass on top and a corrugated tin ceiling. you could literally hose the place down if you wanted to, but they used mops, sponges, bleach and windex.
their arrival on the music scene had coincided with that of Milli-Vanilli and a west german recording-industry scandal that branded them as frauds. i don’t know if or how much this impacted the jones twins, but i’m sure it didn’t help.
they stopped working the sex shows and also stopped paying rent on their apartment. their earnings were spent on career-related items — keyboards, synthesizers, recording devices, costumes and dance classes. this became evident when they asked if they could sleep, live and practice in the bar. they reasoned that their YMCA memberships offered everything else they would need. besides, this would be a temporary situation.
that’s when “the wall” came into play.
in the above photo, to the right of the recessed bench in the center of the picture, is a door. in the middle, there’s a gray-steel pressbar that opens it. behind it is a small hallway, and to the right, another door that leads to a 4′ x 12′ room. it was the old meter and electrical room. now it was now theirs. you know, a temporary situation.
almost three years later, dave, the more assertive of the brothers, announced that he was going to germany. he secured a meeting with a music producer.
now, almost 30 years later, i can’t help but wonder if it was the same producer who milli vanilli got involved with, but it’s academic at this point.
tim remained at scrap bar working and living in “the wall,” until the call came to join his brother in germany. on the answering machine message that dave left, he said that he got a record deal. as the message went on, the anger and frustration of these years came out, announcing, “victory over my oppressors” and used our name in the same sentence with the nazis and other murderers. the only way i could look at this was, it’s what happens when “a temporary situation” spills into years.
the “room behind the wall,” became a prison, whorehouse (oh yes!) and everything else he hated about new york, his employers and probably this country.
black AND openly gay in the ‘80’s? whoa….,
tim maintained his pleasant demeanor till the end, when the airline ticket arrived. the day he left, we wished him well and gave him a goodbye envelope. he thanked us and apologized for his brother’s outburst(we played him the tape). a few days later, we went into the room behind the wall. it was horribly infested with what seemed to be fleas or some other kind of “dine on your blood,” insects and had to immediately bomb the hell out of the place, throw everything into plastic bags and call the exterminator to fog the entire bar, just to be safe.
in preparing this story, i spoke to john favorite, an artist and friend who used to work security for me and became friendly with them. he told me that much of their music was composed on a small keyboard/synthesizer with a four or eight-track recorder that they mixed themselves and was popular in the NYC underground/gay/after-hours clubs. they produced a poster, shot at Governor’s Island, with them standing atop “Castle Williams,” glistening in their loincloths at an old historic military outpost in new york harbor that was selling well in the christopher street novelty stores of the day. i say “fabled,” because they gave me one. it was nothing short of amazing, as were they.
castle williams on governor’s island, facing lower manhattan
john told me that tim and dave had gotten “thisclose,” but couldn’t get a US record deal or a financial situation that would extricate them from the room in “the wall.” he also related a story they told him about when they were living in central park, and sleeping beside a NYC sidewalk heat exhaust grate and had to repel a dawn robbery-attack. that’s when i found out they carried knives and were not to be taken lightly.
well, they were gone. it wasn’t until then, that i realized they were hardly as entertaining to us as we probably were to them. here’s an example;
every couple of months in the first year or two of business, there were spontaneous painting parties. some planned, some not-so-planned. one night, both myself and John Favorite had gotten blotter acid. he had something like five or ten hits, i had gotten ten or twenty. it didn’t matter. we ate a bunch before last call at 3:45am. this meant we’d be coming up by the time we had everyone out the door and the room prepped to paint. we decided we’d start at the back, where the bathrooms were, and work our way to the front. john had picked up a power painter and this was going to be the first time we used something like this here. we figured we’d be finished in two?—?three hours at the most. as we started, the acid was kicking-in and of course, this meant we were required to eat more of the blotters, in keeping with my drug-taking lessons having come from hunter s. thompson. after that, it didn’t matter anymore. i don’t know how much acid we both ate, but all of it was gone. we were trapped in the bathrooms; blithering acid-laughter, switching off paint-gun for paintbrush, howling uncontrollably until we heard tim and dave begin cleaning the bar area. time ceased. painting ceased. the two scrap bar bathrooms sure were bright! all i remember is that when they offered us “chips and dip,” which were placed neatly in the bar, we didn’t eat any but we carried that phrase for the next 12 hours, meaning we were certifiable maniacs when the bar opened at noon the next day, up until that evening when we were finally thrown out, still laughing.
the jones clones walked out from the room behind the wall some one-thousand-times-plus, into after-hour parties with the biggest names in music at the time, during a period of drug and alcohol abuse in a bar that had a reputation for excesses. oh, yes. even now, when i speak to people who frequented scrap bar, they invariably had periods of hazy to no-memory of episodes there. it was a blackout bar of high incidence.
well, tim and dave were gone and so were their memories of whatever madness they might have witnessed. one other thing; they never openly judged anyone.
i always thought that was pretty classy. that’s all i’m going to say about that.
around eight months after tim boarded his flight to germany, my partner and i were sitting in the office in back of the bar. there was a phone call from someone in the US state department. my partner pressed the “speaker” button on the phone base. the official notified us that tim and dave jones had drown in the tiber river outside of rome. the story he told us was that they were working as models in a fashion shoot that was on a narrow walkway or platform suspended over the river. he mentioned that there might have been people watching who were racist, anti-gay or both, that prompted an episode that caused one of the brothers to fall from the platform into the river.
“some italians are pretty hateful to homosexuals,” he said, then went on, “according to witnesses, it was tim who fell in first. he couldn’t swim, panicked and screamed, calling out for his brother, who immediately dove in after him. apparently the weight of their hairpieces when wet dragged both men under, drowning them.”
it sounded almost funny. like, horrible-funny, but funny nonetheless.
“why did you contact us?”
“according to information supplied on their passports and at customs, you were their last employers and this was the contact number in case of emergency. apparently, they have no family. we were wondering if you would claim the bodies. you’re not required to, but we’re required to ask.”
there was silence all around.
“we wouldn’t know what to do with them.”
“i understand,” said the official.
a week later, there was a story in, “the national star” or, “the enquirer,” that someone brought into the bar with a photo of madonna, weeping over the death of her friends, tim and dave jones. “they used to take dance classes together when she was starting out,” the story said.
the weeping madonna photo may have been a stock photo. who knows?
i thought, maybe she claimed their bodies and gave them a final resting place. by now, she was a big star.
i’ve been looking for that story ever since “google.”
that and the poster.