I first went to the Ice Palace in December of 1977. I had just come out in the gay life a month before-at 20 years old.
The first club I wound up in is also long gone-Gables on 7th Avenue South. People there were excited about a brand new club on 57th Street. It sounded great, & one week later wasted no time in getting there the following Friday or Saturday. Of course it was early (couldn't wait!) & was able to see the whole spanking new place before it got crowded. To this day, I remember that the then new "Close Encounters" theme (Meco disco version) was playing. From that point on, that became my main place-even during the big snowstorm of January 1978 (Remember throwing up into a snowdrift on 57th Street in front of Boltons!)
But the night I remember most took place one year later, in December of 1978. My Mom, always the life of the party, had taken to disco music quite well. I had also just told my parents I was gay. My mom was curious about the places I went to (especially when she heard me enthusiastically talking about them on the phone) so what better way to have her experience all this once and for all at none other than the good ol' Ice Palace!
She bought a new dress for the occasion (She was also 56 at the time), & we took the train in from Brooklyn. It had started to snow, & she started getting nervous. I told her she'd love it-and love it she did-say, a little too much.
We went down the stairs as The Salsoul Orchestra's "Christmas Jollies" album was playing. She too, thought the place looked great, & within an hour I introduced her my new friends.
At some point during the night, she said "Why don't you go dance with your friend Bill. I'll stay here & talk to the others." OK, I thought. I went out on the floor, & after about a half an hour I told Bill I was a little worried, & that we should head back to look for her. We started crossing the floor, when all of a sudden Bill put his arm out in front of me & said, "Uh-you don't want to go over there right now. Let's dance again." Knowing that he obviously WANTED me to see what was going on, I proceeded towards the main entry point of the dancefloor. What my eyes beheld I wasn't prepared for.
There, standing up on the built in seating, was my Mother. She had her eyes closed, gyrating to the music-with something burning in her hand! She never even smoked cigarettes! There was a crowd of people encircling her, looking up & clapping to the music. At this point, Maw sees me, and, while still gyrating, says: "That's right Jay, that's right-your mother's high, baby, your mother's high!!! I just took a. . . .I just took a. . . . " (She then bends down to ask some guy what she just took) "Oh, yeah, yeah, that's right. I just a toke, man.. . .a toke!!!!!"
I was dumbstruck. The crowd went hysterical as I tried to coax her down from her little stage. Baby Jane was never like this, I thought. Then everyone started laughing-it had all been a joke! Nonetheless, I told her that I think we both had enough & we should head home. Her reaction? "How old are you, anyway? If you want to go, then GO." This I couldn't believe. We ended up staying until closing, took the train & got home at around 5AM. My father, sitting up in bed looking like Walter Matthau, asked my Mom, "So, did you make a fool out of yourself?" She snapped back, "I had a GREAT time. It's a damn shame YOU didn't take me to places like this!!!!!!"
As recently as maybe 4 years ago, someone came up to me at Splash & asked me how my mother was. My mother? I thought. I don't even know this guy. "Don't you remember?" he asked, "I was there that night at THE ICE PALACE!!!!!!!" Evidently, it was quite a famous night!
©Jay Yamner, 2000
Publisher's note: The writer has informed me that December 8th marks the Anniversary of this episode!
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