Featuring Hometown Blues Band (house Band)
and Miss Angel
by Billy Barner
I have tons of memories of events that have taken place going back decades ago in my life as a musician. The trouble is keeping the chronology of these events straight in the order that they took place.
To the best of my recollection, this story took place in 1969 during one of the several times Hometown Blues Band quit as the House Band at the Red Carriage due to poor pay. We had to find another gig! We were young Hippy musicians trying to find places to play. We didn’t frequent strip joints. Besides, we had no money. The story begins....
We need another venue to play in on a weekly Friday and Saturday night as the house band. There’s a seedy old tavern on lower Pacific Avenue called Ezmerelda’s. Ezmerelda’s has been in existence there probably since WWII and is located smack dab in the middle of the seediest part of downtown Tacoma, surrounded by Adult Book Stores, Porn Theaters, Pawn Shops and Peep Shows.
Ezmerelda’s is a two story venue with a bar on both the first and second floors. The second floor is called Ezie’s Attic and features female strippers.
Again, it’s Doug and I who ventured out in search of a new club to play in, but this time we bring Curt along.
We find off street parking and walk in to Ezmerelda’s. The inside of this place is totally undesirable, we feel, in every respect, from the look of it to the smell of it. We sit at the bar and start talking with the bartender. He’s about 50 or 60, heavyset, has thick salt and pepper hair and a weeks worth of gray beard stubble. He’s wearing a long sleeved shirt and suspenders with his shirt sleeves rolled up in a wad up past his fat elbows. His shirt looks like he’s been wearing it day and night for a couple of weeks without laundering it. He has needle tracks all over both forearms from shooting heroin.
He comes directly over as soon as we sit down and says “What’ll ya have boys!”. We each order a beer. When he brings the beers back, we introduce ourselves and start a conversation with him, telling him we are musicians, that we’re in Hometown Blues Band and that we have been the House Band at The Red Carriage until recently and that we are looking for a new venue to play at as the House Band. We tell him we have heard that there is a stage upstairs in Ezie’s Attic and we can set up there and provide some great LIVE music for his patrons and bring in some new patrons, too.
He says his name is Dan. He’s the owner of Ezmerelda’s. He says that his son, Dan, Jr. manages Ezie’s Attic and that he’s up there right now, and he’s the one talk to. We thank Dan, Sr. grab our beers and head upstairs to take a look at the room, the stage and meet Dan, Jr.
Ezie’s Attic is a good size room with a large stage at the back with a dressing room for the topless Go-Go dancers and strippers. There’s a smaller bar up there, and plenty of tables and chairs going right up close to the elevated stage. There’s no designated dance floor, because people don’t come there to dance. There are four elevated individual monolithic platforms located along the sides of the room with ladder type stairs leading to the tops of each one for the Go-Go dancers to perform on as well as the large slightly elevated stage.
We meet Dan, Jr. and explain why we are there and what we are looking for. He says he knows Dave Smith (the owner of The Red Carriage) and that he has even been in and heard Hometown Blues Band Play there and likes the band. He asks if the drummer could play drum rhythms that a stripper could strip to. He says he has a special attraction coming this weekend from Portland Oregon. A very famous stripper named Miss Angel. I tell him that not only could I play drum rhythms for stripping, but that my drums were purchased from the widow of the deceased drummer for the World Renowned David Rose Orchestra that recorded the 1960’s Billboard Top 40 hit song “The Stripper.” (*See foot note)
Young Dan says we can start this next weekend and that he will pay us each $80 per weekend plus tips and drinks.
FANTASTIC! WE GOT A NEW HOUSE BAND GIG!
So the weekend rolls around. Hometown Blues Band sets up our gear at Ezie’s Attic that Friday afternoon to open that Night. While we are setting up, Miss Angel and her manager come in upon arriving from Portland, Oregon.
They approach the stage and introduce themselves. Miss Angel is about 5’ 2”, weighing about 120 lbs. Up close, It’s obvious that Miss Angel is no Spring chicken. With her heavy make-up, it’s hard to guess her age. She could be 35 but looked more like 45. She’s kind of attractive in cheap looking way. She’s either middle age trying to look 20 or she’s younger than that and just looks like she’s living a rough life. She’s very friendly, but tries to maintain an heir of stardom, (which is totally unconvincing), considering her clothes look sexy but also second hand looking. She has a Bridget Bardot piled up style hairdo that looks like she did it herself in a hurry without a mirror. Her manager is a tall, lanky, skinny fellow that’s dressed like the old Red Skelton character Clem Kadiddlehopper. (I can’t remember his name now), so I’m just going to refer to him as Clem for lack of a better name. Clem is all business in a kind of Barney Fife way.
I have my drums already set up and Miss Angel and Clem want to hear some strip tease drumming. I sit down at my drums and play the drum part to “The Stripper” by the David Rose Orchestra. Miss Angel says, “I love that”. She says, “I also need a fast drum solo part when I go into my tassel twirling routine”. So I say “How about this?” and I rip out the drum solo part to Wipe Out by The Surfari’s. She says “THAT’S PERFECT!”
Hometown Blues Band opens with our own music and about three songs in, it’s time for me to start playing the Stripper beat. That’s when Clem makes the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT... LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! INTRODUCING, DIRECT FROM PORTLAND OREGON, THE ONE - THE ONLY! THE DAZZLING AND PROVOCATIVE STAR OF THE SHOW!... MISS ANGEL! (wild applause)
BAM! I take off with the heavy drum beat of The Stripper,,, WAP BAP BAP - BOOM- BAP-BOOM BOOM -BAP-BOOM BOOM- BAP-BOOMBOOM as Miss Angel makes her entrance onto the stage from behind the curtain stage right, going STEP THRUST STEP THRUST STEP THRUST in time with the beat moving to the middle of the stage. She’s dressed in a very sheer see-through shimmering silver skirt adorned with a field of tiny rhinestone studding and a matching sheer loose fitting see through tunic style top that's buttoned all the way top to bottom. Her hair looks allot better than earlier and she has a ton of makeup on that makes her look less used (at least from a distance). She’s wearing silver metallic 8 inch spiked high heel shoes. She turns and sways and steps and thrusts in a stationary circle as she slowly and methodically unbuttons her top in rhythm to my BOOM BAP BOOM BOOM! Keeping the unbuttoned top on, she KABOOMS to one side of the stage, stands up straight and slowly wiggles her hips back and forth while she slides out of her skirt. Then she turns and faces me. (my que is coming to change beats, so I'm staying alert!). She lowers one sleeve of her top over her shoulder and seductively pulls it off one arm. Then she lowers the other sleeve.. then... she thrusts her arm into the air with her hand holding her top, she twirls it around in the air like a lasso and SWUSH! she throws her top at me! (MY QUE!) BAM! I rip into the WIPE OUT DRUM BEAT and BOTTABOOMM!.... LIKE AN EXPLOSION! BOOBS and TASSELS go flyin’ around in every direction, angle, trajectory and orbit imaginable as if they have a mind of their own!... like they are perhaps remote controlled by some unseen entitty (pun intended) or something. It’s ASTONISHING what she can do with those tassels and the two appendages they’re attached to. She gets em' spinning lighting fast to the right.. then instantly reverses direction and spins em’ lightning fast to the left. But just when you think that was completely MIND BLOWING, she reverses direction ON JUST ONE while the other one is still spinning like a garden windmill in a typhoon and then BANG, she gets the other one going equally as blazing fast in the opposite direction ON A DIME! I’m trying my best to accent each move with a cymbal crash. Now, facing the salivating audience, she stands with her legs apart, slightly bent forward at the waist and with her arms stretched straight out in front of her she throws her arms up and down one at a time Mickey's Monkey style, while simultaneously, her boobs are mimicking her arm movements.... only OPPOSITE that of each arm movement! NOW! HOW, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S ANGELIC, IS THAT POSSIBLE!... I'm Waiting!
The place is packed with horny male patrons. They are all throwing money up on the stage as fast as Miss Angel is throwing her breasts around. It reminds me of the food fights back in Stadium High School cafeteria, but instead of pizza, and milk cartons flying back and forth it’s dollars, coins, boobies and tassels flying through the air all at the same time!
I have a 4” microphone port hole cut into the front heads of both of my double bass drums and some of the money being thrown onto the stage manages to make its way into the inside of my bass drums. After the show, I reach in and retrieve the money from my bass drums. I take that money back to Miss Angel’s dressing room to give it to her. She’s still dressed in her pasties and G string when I go back. I can’t believe how long those metal and rhinestone pasty tassels are when they're just hanging there! They’re 7 or 8 inches long with about 5 or 6 metal chains on each of them, like 2 cats of nine tails. They look menacingly heavy. Miss Angel has been doing this for quite a number of years. Time, gravity and those monstrous tassels have her breasts looking pretty weary and saggy now that there’s no centrifugal force helping them defy gravity. (Just an observation). So anyway, I tell her some of her tips have flown into my bass drums and I hand her the little bit of money I’ve dug out of my drums. Miss Angel says, “Billy, any money that goes into your bass drums, you can just keep! You earn that with your fantastic drumming! I’m thinking “Now how sweet is that?”
I thank Miss Angel, and walk right out to the bar and ask Dave, Jr. if he has a sharp pocket knife. He says “Sure!” I take that pocket knife, back up on stage and enlarge those 4” mic holes to 20” holes in both bass drums! It’s not a neat job of cutting either! The next day I buy a bumper sticker that reads “LET IT ALL HANG OUT” and put it on the inside of the batter head of one of my bass drums.
Once the holes in my bass drums are widened to 20”, the tip money from my drumming for Miss Angel increases substantially. And Miss Angel is more than happy to have me keep “my share”. She tells me she has been appearing at Ezie’s Attic once or twice per month for a couple of years and she’s thrilled that she now has a live drummer to dance to.
Upon getting the good news that Hometown Blues Band has secured a “permanent” gig as house band at Ezie’s Attic, for $80 per week and that on one to two nights per month when Miss Angel comes to town to perform, that $80 will potentially be increasing to up to $120 per week, I feel that along with Sharon’s income from her job as the Commercial Artist in the Advertising Department at Peoples Store, we are now financially stable enough to get married.
I talk it over with Sharon and she excitedly agrees. A little while later, I buy a wedding ring set, make reservations at high class restaurant, I take Sharon out to dinner ask her to marry me, she accepts my proposal. Soon after, Sharon starts making big plans for our wedding. We wants to get married on May Day (May 1st), but that’s a Friday, so we settle for May 2nd. (Details of our unforgettable wedding and our long distance first wedding anniversary will be found in another of my stories titled “A Wedding To Remember”.)
*(Note) In 1962 during the Seattle Worlds Fair Century 21 Exposition, my cousin, the famous Gracie Hansen had her Las Vegas style Burlesque Show performing throughout the duration of the Expo. The David Rose Orchestra recorded the Stripper and performed it nightly as the theme song for and at The Gracie Hansen Burlesque Show. When the David Rose Orchestra drummer suddenly died of a heart attack during the running of the show, Gracie Hansen called me and told me that the widow of the drummer was moving back to New York and wanted to sell her late husbands drums. I was able to buy them for $600. They were like brand new White Mother of Pearl with all the hardware and cases. The same drums that were on that famous recording of The Stripper. This wasn’t my first rodeo playing in a strip Club. My 1st was when I was 16 subbing for a drummer in Seattle. I had to wait in the dressing room between sets where the topless Go Go dancers changed clothes and did there drugs, so the club wouldn’t get caught by the Liquor Control Officer for having a minor in the bar. Go figure!
20" holes I cut into mt bass drums using the bartender's knife. my motorcycle boots were stuffed in front and sticking out between the bass drums for a comical effect.
Photo by Dwight McLain
Mannequin display of similar type of Tasseled
Pasties that were worn by Miss Angel, only Miss Angel's were longer and made of metal chains with rhinestones clustered down them
Photo by unknown.
My cousin, The inimitable Gracie Hansen. Photo by Unknown
My famous cousin Gracie Hansen with one of her many showgirls. Photo by Unknown
Photo of a typical Burlesque Dancer in the 1960's, the era when Miss Angel was performing.
Photo by Unknown