A Pregnant Cause

Somehow I don't think the gentleman with the stocking over his head waving the .38 in my face as he herded my wife and me into the back of our video store and demanded the day's cash receipts would have appreciated the urgency of my making it to Uncle Sam's Musicafe by 10:30 p.m. to catch the tail end of Rock for Choice weekend, so I didn't bring it up. (Baker didn't make it because his car broke down; I think my excuse was better.) Wonder if the bastard was a pro-lifer? Wouldn't surprise me: "You the motherfucker hosted that pro-choice thing at Uncle Sam's last night? You dead now, sucker."

That's the thing about abortion. You won't find many cool heads discussing it rationally and dispassionately over tea. It's murdered babies in one corner, oppressed women in the other. It's about females being denied control over their own bodies by a hypocritical, male-dominated society. Or it's about genocide. If men got pregnant, feminists claim, abortions would be cheaper and more available, with free beer while you wait, topless nurses, that sort of thing. If abortion is not outlawed, the pro-lifers counter, the slaughter of infants will grow exponentially, until the carnage becomes as commonplace as an oil change.

Controversial stuff. That's why I agreed to host one night of Rock for Choice when the folks at Uncle Sam's foolishly extended the invite. I love throwing gasoline on a fire, and I intended to do my level best to ensure that serious hell was raised. Tough job, but someone hadda do it. The plan was to get a feel for the crowd, which didn't take a Greek (or even a Republican vice president) to handicap, political orientationwise, and then start making some horribly tasteless, sexist, meat-eating, anti-abortion, pro-GOP remarks in hopes of eliciting property damage or other appropriate response.

But I couldn't do it. The first problem was that the folks at Uncle Sam's, from Lydia Ojeda and Dave Karpel, who organized the affair, to Eve Figueroa and Sabrina Small behind the bar juggling 47 garbled orders while keeping the iced tea coming, all the while amassing enough tips to buy a quart of unleaded gasoline between them, were just so damnably nice. You know, smiling, encouraging, laughing at my bad jokes. Not that I told any bad jokes, mind you, but if I had, they would've laughed.

The second problem was that I'm your basic anti-coat hanger kind of guy, and while I wouldn't encourage anyone I cared about who got pregnant and who wasn't a victim of rape, incest, or overexposure to daytime television to seek an abortion, I also wouldn't presume to deny her the legal right to do so. In the macro sense, at least, this makes me pro-choice. Which, ironically, puts me in the same camp as our esteemed Prez and his shaggy lapdog Danno, who have been pro-choice for a while now without even realizing it. Look at the evidence. First there was the Murphy Brown deal, where they criticized Murphy, a single woman, for having a baby. The implication, clearly, is that a woman with a rewarding, demanding career like Murphy's should have terminated the pregnancy.

More recently the chief executive and his bumbling sidekick have gone on the record as saying, in no uncertain terms, that they would support a family member who had an abortion. This is a revelation, coming as it does from an elected duo whose own party platform would seek to make it unlawful, even for rape and incest victims, to exercise such an option. Apparently it hasn't dawned on these gentlemen that if their party platform is adopted, they might not get a chance to lend that emotional hand because their offspring will be lying in an alley somewhere hemorrhaging to death after being forced to seek out the services of some sleazy, back-door butcher.

No, on second thought, even if abortion were outlawed again in this country, the daughters and granddaughters of the Quayles and the Bushes would simply disappear for a week or two to some nation where the laws are still of the Twentieth Century, and abortions are performed by licensed professionals in a sanitary environment. Discreet little vacation, like they did it in the old days. Leave the butchers and the black market do-it-yourself kits to the poor bastards whose parents weren't rich enough to keep them out of Vietnam or set them up in the oil business.

But there were Dan and George, on national TV, saying they'd stand by a kid who had an abortion against their wishes. Neither one of them mentioned visiting said child in jail, so a cynical bastard like me has to scratch his bony head and wonder if a) the top dogs of the GOP have finally realized that the hard-line anti-abortion rhetoric is alienating more voters than it's attracting...could be time to soften the stance a little while still paying lip service to the pro-life camp...let Scalia and company do the dirty work once the election's in the bag; b) guys who call themselves "education presidents" and then choose other guys who can't spell "potato" as their seconds-in-command might not be the kind of people capable of thinking through an issue as complex as abortion; c) the Bush Administration has actually gone pro-choice despite itself.

Anyway, the point is that I wasn't exactly neutral enough on the pro-choice front to provide the kind of feminist-baiting that so appealed to my sense of mischief that Saturday night at Uncle Sam's. I had cased out the place the previous night, checking on my predecessor in the role of emcee, Jeffrey Harrell -- another hopelessly over-the-hill, semi-politically correct white male writer who probably can't dance but at least has most of his hair and whose age, like my own, probably exceeded the crowd mean by double digits. Jeff was a good host -- funny, enthusiastic, coherent, all the things that I am not -- but the crowd was more or less indifferent until he did the trick with the boa constrictor and the cream cheese. (Just kidding! It was Velveeta.) Not having any kinky sex games up my sleeve, I was worried about how I would prevent the folks from falling asleep during my run as host. And Jeff had at least two other unfair advantages that I could see -- Diane Ward and the Dillengers -- two musical acts of completely unrelated styles who each succeeded in winning over and blowing away the audience, thereby making Mr. Harrell's job a lot easier.

Which is why I want to thank all the bands who played on Saturday while I was hosting for putting on a great show and taking the pressure off me to say something clever or to do my famous Harry Reems impression. (Just kidding! It's a John Holmes impersonation. And now that I think about it, it's not that dissimilar from the boa constrictor trick.)

From the opening act, Hippies and Pilots, none of whose members ever actually met a hippie but who have seen a few Oliver Stone movies, to the closers, the Beat Poets, who didn't show up and almost got me killed by a couple who had paid ten bucks and wandered in at 2:00 a.m. for the express purpose of hearing Dennis Britt and company, and then held me personally responsible for the band's absence, it was a night to remember.

Seventy new voters were registered over the course of the weekend, more than a thousand free condoms were distributed (at least a dozen to persons other than me), and much information regarding the National Organization for Women, Rock the Vote, Refuse and Resist!, the anti-Volvo Defamation League, and the Radical Lesbian Separatist Folksingers for Christ was disseminated.

Musically, the night was an unqualified success. Hippies and Pilots kicked off the proceedings with strong songs and tight musicianship, the 12th of Never provided tasteful acoustic relief, Love Canal smoked, Six Silver Spiders converted a few arachnophobes, and Black Janet closed out the night with a taut, gritty performance. Wet Flower provided costumes, cleavage, and high-energy funk (not to mention wry commentary and audience participation from lead singer France Blais). And then there was I Don't Know, the band that answers the question "What would the Marx Brothers have sounded like if they had formed a rock band?" Anarchic, madcap, eclectic, and thoroughly entertaining.

The evening went so well, in fact, that I seriously planned on returning Sunday as a civilian and seeing if the final night's line-up could match Saturday's. Unbeknownst to me, that s.o.b. with the nylon mask contorting his nose worse than Boom Boom Mancini's had other plans.

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Todd Anthony
Contact: Todd Anthony