’80s on Broadway

 

Recently, we were trying to order a drink from the harassed bartenders at Jilly’s on Broadway when a familiar face popped up behind the bar and started pouring shots.

“Is this fun as fuck, or what?” shouted our Fu Manchued pal. The mustachioed guy turned out to be Zach, of the skateboard shop Lovely and Union Press, who was referring to Jilly’s Ultimate ’80s ladies’ night. That’s the regular Saturday-night nostalgia fest where DJ Clockwerk spins great retro stuff and the bar turns into a danceteria. After posing that rhetorical question, Zach handed us a mystery drink that involved cranberry juice and possibly Crown, explaining that his fingers slipped and he had dispensed juice instead of cola. Ah, the adult version of the suicide totally took us back, too.

We visited this ’80s-fest with a group of research assistants, and it was definitely fun as fuck. We’d even venture to say that it’s fun as shit, too. When we got there, around 11, the medium-sized place was nearly packed. After waltzing in (guys pay $3), we made a beeline for the bar, where, sadly, only two bartenders were available to serve the rather large crowd. We therefore recommend double-fisting it — um, cocktailwise, that is. We don’t really want to know what you do at home.

There was one advantage to waiting it out at the bar: We ended up meeting some cool people. During one of our trips for liquor, we were standing in the clearing between two empty stools. Soon, an older couple came back from the dance floor to reclaim their seats and their glasses of Chardonnay. They were polite about the fact that we had invaded their space as though they were Poland. They even offered to help us expedite the drink-ordering process. That’s how we started chatting with 50-year-old Brad and 48-year-old Julie, who probably have one of the best how-we-met stories ever.

Brad, who sported a gray quasi-mullet, and Julie, a lovely woman with light-brown hair, dated at Neosho High School. Julie moved to California, but she came back two years ago and happened to drive by Brad’s office. She saw his name on the sign and stopped to leave her card. “We’re high school sweethearts who reunited a year and a half ago after 30 years!” Julie said.

For the past year and a half, they’ve done the long-distance thing. She just moved back to the city, but he still lives about two and a half hours outside KC, so right now, they’re together only on weekends. “We saw that it was ’80s night, and that’s what we have in common, so we stopped in here,” she said.

Well, the poppy ’80s stuff does have that unerring power to unite the masses, and the festive crowd at Jilly’s was no exception. Our fellow lushes were a disparate group. Urbanistas sporting newsboy hats and asymmetrical bobs danced alongside JoCo types with carefully coiffed blond hair and trendy fitted blazers. A group that consisted mainly of guys in cotton button-down shirts danced ironically. One member of their party did the sprinkler to Blondie’s “Call Me.” Later, a woman in a tight, black-and-white-checked, midriff-baring sweater did the safety dance.

Next to us, a guy with JFK Jr. hair and a white button-down shirt tucked into jeans drank alone most of the night, guarding the table from predators while his female friends rocked the dance floor. Which, by the way, would make for a fabulous spot in Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genius” commercials: “So, here’s to you, Cerberus of the Tabletop…. ” We were happy to see that he managed to get some grind time later in the night, when he went loin-to-loin with a pretty blonde to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

However, our favorite person in the place was a guy in a Red Wings hat, who sat in a round booth near us with a group of friends. When Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” came on, he yelled, “Rock out!” and energetically danced his way to the front of the bar. He then returned and got the two women at his table to join him on the floor. Justin later told us that he’s a sushi chef at Nara. He was hanging out with his girlfriend, 26-year-old Jamie, and some other friends. We had to give him some shit about his hat because we’re Avalanche fans. It turned out that Jamie’s one, too.

How does that work?

“We live together, so it’s kind of hard,” Jamie replied.

After all that excitement, we needed another drink, so we went back into the scrum and stood next to two women. Libby had spiky brown hair and was standing on the rungs of her chair. When “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” came on, she turned to her friend, gave the international hand symbol that explains the Wang Chung song and exclaimed, “Jerk-off time!” Angie, 26, with black hair and long bangs, noticed our drinkless state and kindly offered to help flag down a bartender.

So, ladies, what are your earliest ’80s memories?

“Shit, that’s so easy,” Angie replied. She has a brother who’s 10 years her senior who exposed her to music from a young age. She recalled being 3 and running around with a pink tutu on her head, pretending to be Cyndi Lauper. “It was so eclectic, so beautiful … I was like an ingénue. It was the best moment of my life. That’s when I knew I was an ’80s whore.”

Libby recalled: “I was 14 in 1982. Joan Jett and Pat Benatar totally changed my life. I’m 39, and I still have Joan Jett hair!” She told us that she partied with Johnette Napolitano once, too. Concrete Blonde played at the Shadow (now America’s Pub), and she went backstage afterward. Napolitano ended up writing her California phone number on Libby’s arm in black marker. Libby called it, but a secretary took a message, and Napolitano never called back. Oh, tainted love.

We spotted just one more person we needed to grill. Across the room, by the popcorn machine, stood a guy with aviator glasses, a baseball cap and a dark wig. Kevin, 24, said he was a friend of the DJ. He claimed that he wasn’t wearing a wig: “That’s America right there.” Sadly, due to the limited adhesive power of some glues, his mustache fell off and landed in the trash. He tried to distract us by talking about his hat, which read “Nug Life.”

“So, what are the hard-hitting questions?” he asked. Then he started providing random answers. “George W. Bush — like him a lot. Kerry: He’s good, too. Hillary Clinton, not so much. Crack cocaine: thumbs up. Heroin, too. Marijuana: thumbs down.”

To which we can reply, ‘ 80s night plus copious amounts of alcohol: Like it a lot.

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