So if you haven’t read part 1 might I take a second and recommend that you do. I do however believe this piece like part 1 can stand on its own. So without further Ado….
Oak Park is a gay/lesbian friendly community and they have a large gay/lesbian population living there. Oak Park is mostly a dry town so most Oak Parkers gay or straight go to Forest Park to drink. Forest Park is a decent working class town that has for years been the watering hole for Oak Park residents. To that end there are a number of gay bars to accommodate Oak Park’s gay community. With an even larger number of straight bars to take advantage of the fact that when it comes to alcoholic drinks Oak Park is the desert of the Midwest. One of the most famous gay bars in Forest Park was a bar called The Hideaway.
The Hideaway had theme nights and cast of regulars that they could write books about. One of those nights was transvestite night, one once a week the bar would fill up with a bunch of guys dressed like women. The first time I had to go into the bar to get a customer was on one of those nights. I went up and opened the door to a guy standing there in a black mini-skirt, white blouse and high-heel shoes. I was taken aback for a second as my brain processed the scene in front of me. Fortunately my somewhat dark sense of humor took control and I held the door and motioned with a slight bow I said; “After you.” At which point the guy and his date stepped through and walked off into the night. I entered the bar and looked around. In the dimly lit room the situation looked rather normal on the surface at least it wasn’t until my eyes adjusted to the light that all the couples in the room were guys. Many of them dressed as girls. Everyone looked at me, not knowing who I was seemed to be a cause for concern, it wasn’t until later I learned later they had a lot of trouble from the straight bar across the street. I said “Someone call a cab?” at which point they seemed to relax a bit, the bartender said; “Great he’ll be right out.” I nodded and beat a hasty retreat out of the bar back to the cab.
A few moments later a short chubby rather odd-looking fellow stepped out of the bar and came over to the cab. Matthew was his name and he lived only a short drive from the bar. In the cab Matthew was very friendly and talkative. He hated transvestite night but loved the bar. At first his conversation was pleasant and rather mundane he introduced himself and the like. However as we got closer to his house he started making suggestions and asking personal questions. “Have you ever had a foot massage?” “I give world-famous foot massages” He said, to which I replied “No, Thank you anyways but I’m not into massages.” Undaunted He pressed on; “Are you now? My foot rubs are world-famous, don’t worry I won’t try any funny stuff, just a good foot rub!” I thought to myself;” One guy giving another guy a foot rub in his apartment is funny stuff not matter how you slice it!” I said; “Honestly Matt no thank you, but thank you for offering.” Part of my income is based on tips, no sense in upsetting him. He took my rejection of his kind offer in stride and as we pulled up in front of his house he asked one more question. “Can I buy your socks?” “I’ll give ya twenty bucks for them!” I laughed and said sorry Matt thanks again but no thanks. Matt gave me ten dollars for the four-dollar ride and said;”Keep the change, you’re a nice guy” and got out of the cab. All times I gave him rides he never got to give me his world-famous foot massage and never bought a pair of my socks, but as god is my witness he kept trying. Other drivers though did. I found out from Nash later that some of them would take advantage of his foot fetish and get him to pay up to a hundred dollars for theirs. They say things to him like “Matt, I’ve been wearing the same socks for three days, I can’t sell them to you. They stink!” Which of course a slave to his addiction it drove him nuts and he’d have to have the socks and would pay the higher prices. A buddy of mine who was hard up for money tried to get Matt to pay a higher price for a pair of socks and he almost had him until he mentioned that the socks belonged to his wife. For poor Matt that was a douse of cold water on his passions and he flatly refused to buy the guys socks.
I laughed when my buddy told me the story. Pete was the driver’s name I knew him from my days playing in a band, Pete was our lead guitarist and very smart guy, and he was also working as a cab driver while studying to be an electrical engineer at the local college. He had been a driver for years with Checker but had switched to my company after he got tired dealing with the city.
One time I picked up Matthew he was very upset with one of the other drivers, apparently the driver talked him into a loan and wasn’t paying him back. Eventually Matthew took his complaint to the cab company who suspended the driver and came to some agreement with him for his trouble. The suspended driver never came back.
I met Ms. T when I had a pick up and a store in Oak Park called Transformations it was a clothing store that sold women clothes altered to fit men. She (OK he) came out and got into the back of my cab. I asked “You call a cab?” Yes Ms. T replied. “Dempster and Central in the city please.” The trip was relatively uneventful, Ms. T sat quietly in the back as I steered us the tangle of streets to get to her destination. That section of Chicago is where the city planners fell asleep or maybe had been drinking and drawing as the streets go off on odd angles, they don’t line up with the same street on the other side of the expressway, it’s just a mess to have to drive through especially if you’re not familiar with the area, but fortunately I was. We worked our way through odd streets and made good time to the catering hall on Dempster near Central. Ms. T had me swing into the driveway while “she” got out her money to pay the fare. I looking around and noticed what appeared to be a large group of women a short distance way standing in front of the doors to the catering hall, and on the street car loads of guys slowing down to make lewd comments to the group of what they thought were women in evening wear, mostly mini-dresses and the like. However as they drew close to their intended targets they slowly came to the realization that they were about to cat-call a group of guys. As some of the cars were approaching us you could see the shock and disbelief on the faces of the drivers and passengers, from one car going the other direction we heard someone yell; “Oh my god They’re guys!” in all cases the car loads of guys would speed up and get out of there. While watching this spectacle I started laughing, Ms T’s response was; “It’s my support group we meet once a month for dinner and dancing” “she” handed me the money I responded with “Have a great time!” Ms T. said; “I will!” as she strutted down the street towards her friends. I was still laughing while backing carefully out of the lot and into traffic. I thought to myself; “What story to tell the guys on the stand.”
Another time I had a pick up at a gay bar was near the “Boy’s Town” in the Lakeview section of city of Chicago. The area got its name from the large gay population living there. It was leather night and several of the regular riders had gone down to the bar in their leather finery. In fact it was the hot topic among the drivers as every was talking about what the driver who dropped them off over there saw and what the regulars themselves were wearing. Four went down to the club and I got the call to bring them back.
Finding the bar was easy enough, there were a large number of guys standing out front appearing to be a biker convention large number of bikers with curiously few bikes. When I first pulled up no one came up to the cab, So I figured I’d have to go in, these two guys decked out in leather at the front door told me I couldn’t go in unless I was wearing leather. To which I replied; “Someone here called for a cab back to Forest Park.” One of them disappeared inside the club, through the open door I could see inside the club and was glad I had to stay outside.
The bar was full of guys most of them dancing, most of them wearing leather, only leather , in fact I bet the cloakroom was over flowing with full length coats (probably leather ones) because some of them couldn’t or shouldn’t be seen walking the streets in what they were wearing in the club. A few minutes after the door closed it reopened and Matthew appeared with the bouncer. He told them he knew me and I was there to take him and his friends’ home. He asked me to wait a minute for the rest of them and he disappeared back into the club. That was my cue to go back to the cab. I had heard from the other drivers that four went down. But Matthew and one other regular got into the cab. Matthew was very upset and his buddy was trying to console him. He was upset because he thought he might have finally had a chance to hook up with this guy he had been pining over quite a while and the guy had instead met someone else at the club. Personally, I was just glad Matthew had someone there to console him it would have been too weird to try to console Matthew about losing out on the guy of his dreams.
Matt was normally very emotional guy and had the ride back to Forest Park with him in the back alone would have been nightmarish to say the least.Thankfully it wasn’t but still I drove quickly as possible back to Forest Park the whole time Matt and his buddy were chatting away. Matt would be angry one second and almost in tears the next, in fact I think he did cry a couple of times but I was paying attention to the road and happily left Matt’s buddy to handle Matt. Though it seemed like an eternity it was probably about a thirty minute ride and we were back at the Hideaway. I felt a sigh of relieve as we pulled up, I’d be able to get them out and get back to work. But After I stopped in front of the bar Matt told his buddy to have a good night and that he was just going to go home. His buddy made a valiant attempt to get Matt to go into the bar but he just refused. They squared up with me for the ride to the Hideaway, so my next stop was Matt’s house. On the way to his house he was quiet most of the way. But being a creature of habit, and some habits die-hard he tried to buy my socks again. Again I refused. I just said; “Sorry Matt, you know I don’t do that.” “So I guess you won’t be taking me up the foot massage either?” he asked. I chuckled and said “Matt, haven’t you had enough rejection for one night?” “Never hurts to ask” he said half-heartedly.
Then there was Bill the bartender of the Hideaway. Bill was an older gentleman who normally sat quietly in back of the cab while you took him home. However, Bill had a reputation amongst the drivers they called him Wild Bill because when he decided to have a few drinks at work and especially when he was getting lucky. Bill turned into this overt and gregarious person who would attempt to play touchy feely with the drivers and anyone else in the cab. Nash had him one night and Old Ben tried sticking his tongue in Nash’s ear. Fortunately for Bill, Nash is pretty forgiving kind of guy who won’t take shit from anyone, but isn’t quick about throwing punches either. Nash tried fending off Old Bill’s advances while still trying to drive the cab, finally he had to pull over and get Bill under control. It must have been a sight to see, Bill was six foot three and Nash was five foot two. According to Nash, Bill just wouldn’t take no for an answer so he pulled over and threaten to throw him out of the cab, that finally curbed Bill’s enthusiasm. After that incident Nash always kept Bill at arm’s length.
Of course gay bars weren’t the only place wild stuff happened. Bar trips we’re always full interesting rides. The bar patrons we’re generally quiet drunks who sat in the back of the car and let you take them home. I’ve already mentioned a couple of the most colorful individuals however they we’re the only ones.
Cindy was a bartender as several bars in Forest Park. She was young and very pretty and very popular with the drivers. Like most people who work in the service industry Cindy was acutely aware of what life is like when part of your life is based on tips. So like most people service workers she tipped well, and rode often. One night another buddy of mine, Mike picked her and a friend up at the bar where she works. Cindy and her friend were getting friendly in the back which was unusual for her because she’d always take a minute and say hi to the driver and Mike was a driver she knew well. The guy with gave Mike the name of a local motel that was supposed to be their destination, at first he didn’t think too much of it and their trip began. Things went as you might expect Mike got them to their destination all the while they continued getting to know each other in the back seat. The guy hopped out at the motel and told mike he had to get a room and he’d be right back. Mike watched the guy as he went in and started the process of getting a room when Cindy asked from the backseat; “Where are we?” “The motel you guys wanted to go to.” Replied Mike, “No, no get me out of here” Cindy then said. So Mike put the cab in gear and started to drive out of the parking lot. When out of nowhere the guy dashes out of the office leaps on to the hood of the cab trying to stop them.
Mike was an older driver who had been around a while and seen a few things along the way he had a family and had been very wealthy at one point in his life. He lost all of it to a combination of booze and loose women and he wasn’t going to get caught up in something with this guy so he punches the gas and races out on to Mannheim road, tossing the guy from the hood of the cab on to the roadway and speeds off in the direction of Cindy’s apartment. We found out later from Cindy that she thought the guy slipped something in her drink while she was cleaning up in the bar. Thankfully for her Mike had been suspicious of how friendly they were in the backseat which out of character for her and according to him he when he pulled to the motel office he intentionally pointed the car in the direction of the exit, just in case. I don’t know truthful Mike was being about that part of the story, but I will say he was real good on reading people so it’s definitely possible that he did suspect something wasn’t what it appeared to be.
I had given Cindy many rides as well. She frequently worked at a bar that a lot of the drivers including myself hung out at, when they weren’t working of course. It was located not far from the main section of bars in Forest Park that drew many to the town to drink. So it drew a decidedly more blue-collar crowd, Forest Park locals and people who worked in the bars, pubs, and restaurants only a short distance away. I got know her and her future husband pretty well he was also a bartender and they even invited me to come to their place for a few drinks. But I have to say my most memorable experience with happened one night when I picked her up from a bar where she was working as a bartender for a bachelor party. She came out dressed in a black mini-skirt with a white blouse and looked fantastic and way over dressed for a typical Forest Park bar.
As she got into the cab I said; “Well someone is out for a night out on the town!” to which she replied; “Nope, just working a bachelor party, dress sexy get bigger tips!” she chuckled. “Well you definitely look great.” I said. She had a great night and was very excited and chatty in the cab. Every time I would stop at a light she would lean forward so we could keep talking and every time she did her top fell open exposing her bra-less breasts. After it happened a couple of times I asked her if she realized that she was flashing me every time she leaned forward, Cindy never seemed to have a problem with being topless. She was known to flash the guys in the bar so I wasn’t too worried about her getting upset about it happening in the cab. She laughed and said; “Well I guess I’m not the only one having a good night!” I thought she would button up at that point but she didn’t. Needless to say the trip back to her place was way too fast.
During my time driving a cab I never felt like I was less of a person for doing it. But there was this one time that really ticked me off when I got a trip with a bunch of young men who had graduated from the same high school I had attended. I was looking to pick people up on Madison Street, the main bar district in Forest Park when the cab in front stopped and the driver (a woman) threw out her passengers. I should have right then and there refused the to take them but it since it was a rival company that didn’t normally work our area my first thought was they were going somewhere she wasn’t familiar with or perhaps in direction that took her further from her home territory. These five guys were all dressed in suits and though obviously have a good time seemed reasonably in control when one of them approached my cab and asked if I could take them to Elmwood Park.
As we neared the destination they started asking me all kinds of questions, why was I driving cab? Was I a drunk or into drugs? Where was a good place to find hookers? Their tone was condescending and their questions became more and more inappropriate. The drunk and drug comment was particularly enraging and I almost fell for it. They were trying to get me mad enough to throw them out of the cab so they wouldn’t have to pay. So biting my lip and in a normal tone I calmly answered their questions; “No, no problems with drugs or alcohol, I got into driving a cab after the company I worked laid me off two weeks before Christmas due to an act of god temporarily closing the location, Ask your mommies where they hang-out and you’ll find hookers.” I had it at this point and signaled the cab company to have police waiting at the destination fearing they wouldn’t have the money for the ride or would flat-out refuse to pay. The Mommies comment really made them angry but since I was driving and looked like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with they were getting mouthy but that quickly died out when I pulled up behind the police car at their destination. Two officers exited the squad and approached the cab. “That will be $16.75 gentlemen for the ride and extra passengers. I invited the cops in case there was some issues over the money.” I opened the window and said to the police officer; “Thanks, These fine young men have had a night out on the town and there may be some monetary issues, if there are I’ll gladly sign complaints.” The cop chuckled and said; “You have a full load.” “they were drinking down on Madison street and have their beer courage making them a bit difficult to handle I doubt they would have been this diligent looking for their money if you guys weren’t here.” By this point the group had scraped together the fare and a modest tip. Because of computer in the cab (the company I worked for was the smallest cab company at the time to equip their cabs with on-board computers.) they had no idea that I had requested the cops to meet us and found the whole experience quite sobering. But apparently not sobering enough, one of them stole my flashlight. I had seen light flash occasionally in the backseat but was too busy with them to realize it was my flashlight they were messing with and it wasn’t until after I had been paid, the cops and I had left, and they were long gone that I realized it. So off to the 24 hour Target I went, a much wiser man.
You think that my story with these hooligans would be over and it was except for I encounter them again about a week later back on Madison Street, when they saw me they turned and went the other way. I pointed them out to several of the drivers I knew and word got out quick about them. I don’t think they were able to get a cab home that night. I did also encounter one them at a cab stand. I was parked near the green line “L” (a Chicago slang term for “Elevated” Train) in Oak Park when the guy got off the train and hopped into the cab. I thought he looked familiar but I couldn’t place him at first. We were heading to his home in Elmwood Park not the same location I dropped the group of them off previously. It was when he mentioned he was playing a gig at a hotel down-town that I remembered him as being one of the guys in the cab (he had talked about playing piano and a hotel gig in the cab the last time) at which point I pulled to side of the road. Turned around so he could get a better look at me and said to him; “Remember Me?” “I gave you and your buddies a ride from Forest Park about a month ago.” His whole demeanor changed and his pasty complexion went positively pale. “One of your buddies snagged my flashlight that night, had I realized it at the time, you and your buddies would have gone off to jail.” I continued to rant at him; “I would not have gotten upset about a flashlight except this one was a mag-lite and ran me almost twenty dollars to replace it.” He quickly pulled a twenty out his wallet and handed it to me. “You and your buddies think you’re something special because, but I assure you, you’re not!” “Sorry guy, we get a little out of control sometimes, we were just having fun.” He stammered. “Fun ceases being fun when you screw with people, it’s not cool! You and your buddies claim to have graduated from F…… and that’s not entirely surprising since that school turns out a fair number of complete asses every year, obviously you and your friends must have lettered in it.” By this point he had shrunk down into the seat but as I slowed my diatribe he sat up and regained a bit of his composure, after I finished “venting” we were back on the road. He sat quietly in the back of the cab for the remainder of the trip. At this point in my life I still wore my high school class ring so when I gave him back his change at the end of ride I made sure he could see it and when he did his eyes widened and his jaw dropped a little. The high school that he, his friends and I attended had a class ring as big as any colleges and the school’s seal showed clearly below the eighty-two. He got out of the cab no tip (actually dressing him down was more than enough of a tip for me!) as I pulled off he stood there watching, I would like to think that maybe he had an epiphany of sorts though I tend to doubt it, over the years it has been my experience that people good or bad can be very slow to change, and some never change at all.
Part 3 to follow… I hope you enjoyed parts 1 & 2