I admit I was showing off. This suburban girl had been to Medusa’s at least three times, when I brought my gorgeous friend, Shelia. I had long decided to be the quirk to her beauty…and this place made me the queen.

I smoothly drove my mom’s Olds down Belmont Ave, turning left on Sheffield. A huge bottle of Jack Daniels, snagged from Shelia’s dad, sat in the back seat. I expertly found a spot under the L tracks just a few doors down.

Long blond hair shimmering, Shelia wore a beige shirt that was trendy in Mt. Prospect, yet homely in the crowd lining up on Sheffield. She was healthy oatmeal; they were punk and messy, dark and goth. She grabbed my thrift-store pea coat to shroud her surburbaness. We did a few shots and headed in, leaving Jack in the car. We’ll be back for you.

Before we got to the top of that long staircase to the entrance, I knew this wasn’t going to last. She was so Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen. Yet she trooped on, checking out the crowd as I danced to Ministry, Siouxsie & The Banshees and Shriekback.

We got separated, which wasn’t abnormal. I went looking for her, which meant walking the maze that was Medusa’s. Tall staircases filled with cigarette smoke, small rooms with writhing bodies in the dark, many corners to turn with dark surprises in every one. A woman peeked over the top of the stall as I peed and commented, you’re a real blonde.

After I walked the maze a few times, I noticed others were walking, too. There was a shift in the air. I found Shelia, she was breathless, saying the police are raiding! And all her weed is right here… in the peacoat.

Oops.

It wasn’t police, it was the fire chief. An early battle of the alderman’s (successful) war to shut Medusa’s down. They wouldn’t let anyone out. So we walked round and round with the flow, never stopping even when the music did. Sobering up. Half hour later, we could finally leave. So we did, laughing and almost tumbling down that last staircase, ‘til we were out on the street.

We were only 18, so there weren’t many places for us to go. We decided to get Jack and go to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Belmont or maybe Berlin if they’d let us in. Except Jack wasn’t there. Neither was Mom’s car.

Oops.

There was a sign, but naiveté didn’t read it. I think we got a cab. Somehow we got to the Lincoln Towing lot..to a different kind of punk and wild crowd. Angry, drunk people arguing with the angry sober cashier. Mom wisely gave me a credit card for such a moment. It was in her name, but she gave me a note of permission. Sober cashier was not taking it. Only cash would do.

So there we were. Banks were closed. Cash stations were not quite invented. What do you do? Shelia had a Jewel card. Brilliant! We shared a cab with the least angry-and-towed guys and found a 24-hour Jewel. Bingo. Had to buy three separate packs of gum to get the $100 and cab fare.

The cash opened up the big gates at 4882 N. Clark. But they’d only let me in—not Shelia. It was dark and foreboding with cars parked two or three deep. It was The Fog, Mad Max and Night of the Living Dead all wrapped into one scary walk. I finally found the car, locked the doors and waited for the fat man to rearrange the lot to let me out. Jack  waited patently in the back seat.

U2’s Bad played on the radio as we eased the Olds back to the ‘burbs.

Learn more about Medusa’s here. Be sure to check out Chicago Magazine’s story on Medusa’s, “They Owned the Night” here.

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