I think the turning point was when the guy swept up the beer bottle.
It was the beer bottle that had crashed to the floor in front of the stage where Dr. Dan the blues guitarist and the singer whose name escapes me were doing a pre-show acoustic set. While the woman wailed and Dr. Dan — a real doctor, incidentally — played on a double-headed guitar, a young giant wobbled up to a friend dancing in front of the stage and gave him a giant hug.
Crash went the beer bottle the young giant was holding. Hugging and holding were beyond his ken at the moment. He had tried to do too much.
The bottle shattered, spreading foam and shards across the Kingston Mines floor. But that wasn’t the turning point.
The turning point hadn’t come when the bar crawl entered the North Side blues club, spread across the spaces and got pretty darn sloppy throughout. It hadn’t come when the lily-white men and women, some in Northwestern football jerseys, stumbled through the place, laughing inappropriately and pushing inappropriately sometimes too.
It hadn’t come when Dr. Dan and the singer pulled out a song built for drunken sing-alongs, teasing that that was the first time they had ever been able to use it at 7 p.m.
The bar crawl called itself “Gong Show.” They used the term a lot.
Kingston Mines is a two-staged blues club in a shoddy-looking storefront along Halsted in the ritz of Lincoln Park. It’s not shoddy itself — don’t infer that. It’s a solid place designed to look shoddy. The tables are comfortable, the staff friendly and the blues runs past 5 a.m. when it gets going hot.
But the place has solidly kept the look of a down-and-dirty 1960s blues club, just replacing broken bits over the years with well-made replicas. It’s a nice place trying to look as gritty as it once was. It’s the Ship of Theseus playing blues for the tourists.
Then came Gong Show, drunk at 7 and too stupid and white even for a Lincoln Park tourist attraction to handle.
After the bottle crashed and the singer started teasing, the blues rocked on. The dancing couple — the man who had gotten the giant’s beer-crash hug and his date — continued as well. The licks started getting rowdy. Something changed for the dancers, too.
The woman, a brunette with long, flowing hair and a body no one has past 25, started showing her moves. She whipped and whirled, turning steps back to run her hands over what she had and flip her hair like women in ’80s rock videos did to imply orgasm.
She leaped on her man at one point, wrapping thin legs around him as he continued his dance and Gong Show cheered at the couple, sheer wildness in Northwestern gear. She jumped off him and stumbled back through glass and suds. My girlfriend’s stepdad had to stop her from running into a pole.
But that wasn’t the turning point that got Gong Show kicked out of the bar.
The turning point came when a young guy in a Northwestern football jersey started sweeping up the bottle. A Kingston Mines worker had come up with broom and dustpan to clean up the glass, but had to move the drunken dancers out of the way first.
While the man tried to talk the couple out of dancing in broken glass, the young guy walked up and took the broom. He started sweeping the bottle into the pan. He did it with a grin on his face, looking up with glee to the laughter and cheers of his Gong Show friends.
He was sweeping in a bar! Him! He of the expensive college and football body! He of the bright future, great tomorrow and skin tone that ensured he would never be the man sweeping up college kids’ smashed glass in a dive-modeled bar in Lincoln Park!
He was doing a black man’s job! What a hoot!
That was the turning point. They kicked Gong Show out of the bar. All of them.
The night was fine. The girlfriend’s fam and I only stayed until about 11. No blues til 5 for us. I think the lady and I were more tired than our Kansan guests.
And somewhere out there, Gong Show wobbled into the night, on to the next bar, on to more shenanigans and mugging to their friends about doing servants’ work. There will be more sad stumbling only sexy in the dancer’s mind. There will be hangovers, high fives and college kids with amazing bodies making out with each other.
They’re back at school now, these kids. They’re learning and growing. They’re going to have great lives full of wealth and beauty and of only cleaning up after themselves if they think it’s funny.