By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
It started up again.
Illustration by John Lang
(Click to enlarge)
You really don’t remember,
Was it something that he said?
Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?
Gloria, don’t you think you’re fallin’?
The first time Rudy went up to the jukebox and found “Gloria,” the one by Laura Branigan, it was simply annoying. We would have preferred Van Halen or The Who or something. Shit, even the Police would have been better. When he played it again, it was twice as annoying. The third time it came on, everyone in the bar started to get annoyed. But Rudy didn’t care. He went up and played it again, grinning deviously. I gotta admit, the more he did it, the funnier it got. And when he kept playing it over and over and over and over, the gesture slowly morphed into some sort of zoned-out Andy Kaufman stunt, an epic gesture of fuck-you-ness. Of course, the drunker we got, the more epic the stunt became, and we were getting very drunk. We kind of knew we could get our asses kicked over this, but by now Tiny, Brownie, Trip, Les, Hick, me and, of course, Rudy, we were deep in it. Rudy cued up “Gloria” for about the 10th time in a row and we ordered another pitcher of Old Milwaukee, shouting out every word. Oblivious. The song was all that mattered.
If everybody wants you, why isn’t anybody callin’?
You don’t have to answer
Leave them hangin’ on the line, oh-oh-oh, calling Gloria
The bar was a tough spot out on Highway 12B, a good few miles past our normal sphere of influence. We ended up there on one of those Sundays when there’s nothing to do except grab a case of beer and drive around the hilly countryside. Mostly, it was barren and still farmland. I remembered reading somewhere that this was the poorest county in the Northeast, and it didn’t take a keen observer of the human condition to see that the rest of the patrons of this establishment hadn’t been as blessed by fortune as we had. Still, we weren’t as blessed as most of the shits at our school, who arrived in their hand-me-down Saabs or Beemers or Camaros even. Sometimes they weren’t hand-me-downs. No, we were only here because the athletic department or Uncle Sam was footing most of the bill. And we had a few hard knocks still fresh enough to show we weren’t any prep-school punks.
So there was something defiant in the repeated playing of this song. It was some kind of statement that we all were in on, a way of signaling to the locals drinking their way through another bleak day that we weren’t going to walk on any eggshells around them; weren’t going to be overly humble in the face of their working-class righteousness. If they cared to go there, that is. Besides, we’d crossed the line about five playings ago. We weren’t about to let a few hard looks stop our quest for whatever stoned transcendence could be gotten from endless loops of Laura Branigan’s one hit.
Not to mention, we put a lot stock in Tiny, who went about 240 and looked like he was 30 years old, already with that man’s beard. I wasn’t any pushover, either. My old man made sure of that, took me out back and taught me how to box after that first tussle I got into back in first grade. Made sure there wouldn’t be any crying to Daddy. Being the new kid all the time because of all the moving around, you had to learn to hold your own. I got pretty good at it. The Catholic school champ. Took poor Petey Delaney apart in front of everyone that time the Brothers made us fight. I knew I was going too far, but the crowd had got to me. Besides, that bully had it coming. As for Rudy, always the instigator, he was brash, but didn’t pack much punch. Still, he could be counted on. Push comes to shove, so could the rest. Yeah, we weren’t working on the line or in the mills, like a lot of our friends back home, but we weren’t soft, either.
Gloria (Gloria), I think they got your number (Gloria)
I think they got the alias (Gloria) that you’ve been living under (Gloria)
Brownie came back with a round of tequila shots and Rudy headed up to the box again. He had an evil grin on his face.
“Don’t do it; don’t do it,” we cried, but we wanted him to.
“I put it on for five more,” he said when he came back.
The bartender didn’t care. Why would he? We were blowing our collective work-study wads in one shot.