Richie Gold’s white Lincoln Continental was parked outside on 1st Avenue. He had just finished his set at Rodney Dangerfield’s Comedy Club and was hitting on my friend Kathy. He bought us two Midori Sours. His hair was feathered like Welcome Back Kotter’s Vinnie Barbarino, and he wore all white, even his teeth were white veneers. He talked like Vinnie, with a thick Brooklyn accent.
“C’mon,” Kathy elbowed me, her hair in a crimpy perm, light blue eye shadow framing her brown eyes that squinted when she smiled, “It will be fun.”
“Didn’t your mother tell you not to go in cars with strangers,” I rolled my eyes, “I am not getting in that guy’s car.”
I invited Kathy to join me for a journalism conference at Columbia University. I was the editor of my college newspaper and thought it would look good on my resume to attend. In my small, little, sheltered mind, I envisioned a couple of days sightseeing and it wasn’t the inside of Richie Gold’s car.
“Where is he going to drive us to? A landmine in New Jersey?”
“He’s famous Brenda. I watched him on Star Search! A guy on Star Search isn’t a serial killer.”
I didn’t care that he shook Ed McMahon’s hand, “How old is he?”
It was the late 1980s and Richie Gold appeared to be a youngish 40 which seemed ancient to me, a mere 20 years old.
Richie was busy chatting up some friends at the bar, occasionally glancing at Kathy and giving her a nod and a wink. It was getting late and I had my fill of Rodney Dangerfield’s Comedy Club and its dim lights, dark walls, and red glass votives on tiny white linen cocktail tables. I knew the club was the only place in the city where you wouldn’t get carded as long as you paid the $25 cover and ordered the overpriced steak with a side of spinach gratin. I was feeling broke, tired and nervous.
“We might have trouble getting a cab. We have to think about walking back to the hotel.”
“Richie can give us a ride!”
“He is a STRANGER!”
Kathy sighed, then slurped the last bit of lime green liqueur from the bottom of her glass. Kathy and I had been friends since the 7th grade. We were the kind of girls you married not invite for a ride in a Lincoln. We never hung out at high school parties except for that one time after our senior year’s talent show. We stood in the backyard of some girl Carrie’s house watching guys hang empty beer cans on bare tree limbs. We declared to one another, “this is stupid,” then went back to her house and ordered a pizza. We always did the right thing. Maybe Kathy was tired of doing the right thing. Maybe I was too.
We were nearly adults, in New York City and a grown man was inviting us into his Lincoln Continental to drive to his apartment. I understood the lure Kathy felt. The possibilities of some flirtation, too many Midori sours, a few laughs with an almost famous jokester. This was like a sitcom adventure Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda would go on. What if he became really famous? We could say we knew Richie Gold! But a 40-year-old wasn’t looking for a couple laughs with two twenty-year-olds just visiting for a few days.
“If he was George Michael you’d go into his car.”
“There is a BIG difference between George Michael and Richie Gold!” I laughed.
“But you’d go in his car?”
“No, I wouldn’t!”
“Yes, you would.”
I still had my WHAM collage on my bedroom wall from high school and a poster of George Michael staring above me on the ceiling. I loved him and knew if he met me he’d fall in love with me too.
“Maybe I’d follow George Michael’s car somewhere, but not to his apartment or hotel room. I’d go to a dance club to dance with him.”
But George Michael wasn’t hanging out at Dangerfield’s. Richie Gold was.
I rose to head to the coat check and grabbed our jackets. It was mid-March, spring break, drunk policemen were traipsing clumsily all over the city celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. We had seen the parade, sipped frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity and walked for miles on 5th Avenue. Now it was time to go back to the Doral Court and sleep.
“Hey ladies, what do you say? Want to head back to my place?”
There was Richie, following us out of the club, his hands on the small of our backs. I crossed my arms around me, squeezing tight to my purse. Kathy looked at me pleadingly.
“Sorry. We have an early morning. Thanks though.” I turned and started heading up 1st Avenue toward 60th, my gait was quick and I hoped Kathy was trailing behind me. There she was, by my side, her head down with disappointment.
Back at the hotel room, tucked in our beds I apologized to Kathy.
“I’m sorry Kath. I know it would have been exciting to hang out with a famous comedian.”
Kathy was quiet for a bit. Finally, from the dark of our boring, uneventful room, she sleepily exhaled, “You’re a good friend.”