Friday, March 25, 2005

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Umlaut's Metal Gear + Under Age Drinking - Oct. 1982

Visit almost any mall in America and there will be a Hot Topic store. Kids can now get their Punk Rock / Metal gear and then stop for a Mrs. Field's cookie next door. Mom can even drop them off and pick them up. It’s all very safe. Old Farts like me can remember another time (Oh no.. ANOTHER nostalgic Umlaut post...cue time machine sounds..)..

In the early 80’s, taking our cue from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, we wanted to BE Metal. Studded belts and wristbands looked dangerous.. No one else in Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley, CA wore that stuff. D’ya know why?? ‘Cause they WEREN'T Metal! And we WERE Metal.

When I was a kid, you had to make that extra effort to get your Metal gear. Unbeknownst to most of us sheltered suburban Metalheads, the leather and studs aesthetic also represented the gay leather subculture. Rob Halford’s gay?? No way.

We were so fucking naive. I think a co-worker told us that there were stores in San Francisco that carried studded belts and wristbands. In those pre-Internet days we consulted something called "The Yellow Pages” and located a store. I seem to remember it being in the South of Market area, which to this day remains the epicenter of S.F. gay leather culture (YAYY!). It’s funny trying to remember when your mind was “pure” and first confronted with the interior of a gay leather / S&M store.

“WOW, look at that 3 ft. rubber fist! I wonder what that... WOW! That belt is JUST LIKE Halford's!!”

The guy who ran the place was probably titilated that 2 fresh-faced teenage boys were in his shop.. He chatted us up by telling us how he had outfitted Judas Priest with their leather gear when he had a shop in England. I wouldn’t be surprised if we responded with something like “No way, Mister!”... Which probably titilated him even more.

Accompanying Umlaut was Old Metal friend Rich.. He also remembers that day:

“I remember being kind of weirded-out by the place; there was a strange, glass-enclosed room towards the back that had hardcore S&M equipment. We didn't go in. I think I also remember that some guy outside had dropped his car keys down a drain in the gutter, and was frantically trying to retrieve them. It was kind of a seedy neighborhood, and we thought him rather brave. We also left quickly.”

Here in the 21st Century it amuses Umlaut to see studded belts and wristbands being worn by mainstream kids. There’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t see some tike’s belt or wrist glinting in the sun as they listen to Avril Lavigne or Blink 182 on their iPod.

At this point, I’m reminded of a guy in our scene who made his own studded wristband.. His materials: A piece of leather and nails. The best part: They’d let him into shows wearing it! Kids these days don’t even know... Old Fart over and out.

Hell bent, Hell bent for LEATHA...