Finger Girl at the Ritz



160 e 11th st ny 10003

Neighborhood: East Village

It was 1985 at the original Ritz (East 11th Street; now it’s Webster Hall), NYC’s greatest-ever rock club. Blind Dates, my big haired happy-go-pop band, was the opening act for the then-popular Aussie group Eurogliders.

The place was sold out and teeming with what we called “festive new wave nubiles”–the Rat Pack would have called them “hot chicks.” My Grandpa and his chums would have called them “sweet dishes.”

I was onstage emoting from a deep, dark’n’mystical place somewhere between my soul and large intestine in a manner belying my Simon LeBon codpiece and braided Boy George coif. I soon turned my attentions to the most visible babe in the place–tenfolk deep, high on her boyfriend’s shoulders and some hallucinogen. She was a startling hippie beauty–sweat-drenched tie-dye, eyes pin wheeling, head tracing slow-motion figure eights, linguini arms floating as if she were blessing her Woodstock minions. “Alright,” I thought lasciviously, “a kindred spirit…and well into puberty, too.”

I shifted into aspiring pop star turbo drive, focusing all my romantic zeal and every sweat gland in her direction like so many testosterone fire hoses on wet T-shirt night. My toes gripped the edge of the stage through my Joe Jackson “corner dwelling roaches beware” pointy shoes as I strained toward the languid, piggyback princess. “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me…” I pleaded telepathically, and then added for good measure, “Scratch me, bite me, spank me crimson with the back of a hairbrush, tie my braids to the bedpost, make me wear a corn husk diaper to shul, lock me in the closet and call me a naughty tunesmith.”

And then, miraculously, above the precision-pop din, welled a heavenly chorale, signaling her impending response. Her eyes blossomed, she smiled a Venus grin, her slender Modigliani neck craned north, her back arched, her arms reached toward me like Michelangelo’s Adam toward God, and then…the finger? The nasty bird? Yes…the one and only “Fuck You” middle finger! In plain view of a thousand people at the packed Ritz, the chicken-fight chick on her boyfriend’s shoulders gave me the damned finger! I felt like Sissy Spacek’s “Carrie,” covered in hog’s blood at the prom, but without her handy telekinetic powers to make Finger Girl explode or to burn down the club and all its witnesses.

I glanced down, and to my delight I spied a water pistol at my feet–likely a wily club-goer’s cooling off remedy. My knee-jerk reaction: I picked up the water pistol, took razor aim and fired upon Finger Girl repeatedly and relentlessly until she was forced from her throne atop her beau’s mammoth shoulders. Her clumsy, soggy fall brought mocking cheers from the audience. My, how our respective fortunes had suddenly reversed. In the words of Ricardo Montalban: “La Revenga!”

I savored the transfer of power, and I hadn’t even skipped a lyric! For a fleeting, glorious moment, victory and the affections of the audience were entirely mine, the spoils of the rock’n’roll battlefield. Then the sight of her peeved and emasculated boyfriend goring me with his cretin gaze, slamming fist into palm and carefully mouthing the words “I’m gonna fuckin’ KILL you…” I avoided his manic stare for the brief remainder of the set, walked proudly but quickly from the stage and promptly barricaded the dressing room door.

Christ, why did I ever stop taking Judo lessons in the 3rd Grade? Why didn’t my Dad ever teach me how to operate a fire arm? Where the hell’s my swiss army knife? Does this mesh jersey make me look like a pussy?” Ten nervous minutes passed and still no beer-sputtering battering ram. Had the splenetic leviathan been bluffing? Had his boozing drained him of his manful rage? Had Finger Girl’s twin-kegs-of-Dortmunder thighs clamped around his head triggered premature Alzheimer’s?

Then a polite knock on the door and my mom’s cheery voice: “Open up, Sweetie–it’s me!” I allowed her to enter only after checking her photo ID, slid under the door (who knows, maybe the raging galoot was a master of vocal impressions). “It’s ok, Honey Baby. I saw what happened, so I went up to that big guy and said ‘Pleeeese don’t hurt Sean – he’s my son and he’s trying so hard…'”

Oh God. Oh no. Oh God, no. Not this. Sweet merciful God, anything but this. Protected by my Mommy? Aarrghh! My manhood hobbled by my own flesh-and-blood parent! Had she always wanted a girl and waited until this very gig to orchestrate my public castration. Only my most basic, DNA-encoded animal instincts of self-preservation stopped me from rushing out into the crowd screaming, “Come and get me, you skanky neanderthal! Bludgeon me, maim me, befoul me, squirt me… Just give me back my pride!”

To this day, I am haunted by this memory, as evidenced by the fact that sweat is cascading off my fingers and in between the computer keys, while a bulbous vein varicoses from my temple. But now, belatedly, I will attempt to erase this wussy-stain from my otherwise impressively macho Life-Resume. If by some splendid chance any of you know 1985’s Finger girl or her Cyclopean dullard boyfriend, please deliver this message: “Sean Altman fears no man, no matter how aesthetically or pituitarily challenged!”


Sean Altman is a regular participant in what might be the greatest tribute band of all time (they change the object of their tribute for each show, having covered Carol King, Paul Williams, Prince, Bowie, Elvis Costello, Fleetwood Mac, The Kinks, among others) The Losers Lounge. </ A>

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