IF I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, I could probably get away
with saying something like "strategic pre- inspection data culled from
usually reliable sources in the region was contradicted by on-site
evaluation. This discrepancy necessitated the immediate reassessment of
But, since I work for an organization that deplores that sort of
weasel-tongued, waffle-brained obfuscation, I better just cop to it: We
screwed up. It wasn't what we thought it was, but it worked out anyway.
Last Friday night around 11, Iron John and I rolled into this club at
the north end of Aquatic Park in Berkeley. Thunder Bay, sandwiched between
the railroad tracks and eight roarin' lanes of I-80, was supposedly a
hard-rock establishment. Supposedly. True, it does book medium-grungy local
rock three nights a week, but . . .
We paid our cover charges and navigated into a huge, six- sided,
two-level chamber filled with several hundred very jovial club kids who
were dancing to the ear-bleeding din of industrial-strength house music. I
was just about to turn to John and holler, "Hey, what a sweet-lookin'
bunch of kids . . ."
That was when I noticed the two guys necking behind us. And the rainbow
flag above the stage. And the muscular dude with the Madonna-style lace
stockings under his bike shorts, who was grinning and nodding furiously at
''Hey, John, I think this is a . . ."
''Yeah, thanks a lot. I picked up on that."
Geez -- if I'd only known, I would have dressed a little better. With my
less-than-stunning black leather-and-jeans ensemble and John's
Harry-Angstrom-as-an-undergrad chinos, we were squarely in the sartorially
impaired category. We saw a lot of clean-cut guys in their early 20s who
spend more on hair-care products each month than we do on beer. We saw a
lot of guys in big, clunky boots, baggy shorts and little else. We saw a
few "kids" dressed in summer-camp outfits. And a half- dozen
assorted drag queens. For all we could tell, the only heterosexuals we saw
were the glum little knot of hard-bitten young bikers in the corner.
Overall, it was a very innocent and carefree scene -- without the
undercurrent of tension that one finds at most rock clubs.
Down the hall, we found a quieter bar and a game room where someone had
set up a smart-drink bar on the back of a 20-foot plywood alligator. The
club, originally a firefighters' fraternal hall, is not much to brag on in
terms of decor. The current regime -- which took over a year ago -- hasn't
exactly busted the bank on renovation.
Back out in the main room, a young man with a shaved head, pancake
makeup and a crushed-velvet baby-doll dress was onstage introducing Pussy
Tourette, the opening band. The trio (two women and one dragster in a black
leather trench coat) was wonderful. Imagine the Andrews Sisters sitting on
the banks of the River Styx with Sam Kinison and a large tank of nitrous
oxide. Imagine the lyrics. Because we can't print them here.
At 12:45, the Del Rubio Triplets gave the callow young crowd a masterful
lesson in the art of high camp. With their sequined mini-dresses, turquoise
tops, white go-go boots and huge peroxide beehives, the 60-something
siblings (Eadie, Milly and Elena) are an anomaly -- an unabashedly cheesy
act that plays equally well in hip clubs and retirement homes. Perhaps
you've never heard an acoustic guitar treatment of James Brown's "I
Feel Good" and Madonna's "Like a Virgin." And perhaps you've
never seen a crowd of predominantly (but not exclusively) gay post-teens go
ape over three old gals singing a painfully stilted rendition of Devo's
"Whip It." But you should. At least once, you really should.
One Bolivar Drive
Admission: No cover-$5
Details: Live music
Mondays-Wednesdays, country dancing Thursdays, disco Fridays- Saturdays.