I moved from New Jersey back to Boston in the Spring of 1996. By summer I had a steady stream of friends coming up to hang with me and tour Beantown. That summer Melissa Etheridge was touring the US on her Your Little Secret tour and playing in Boston and then NJ on consecutive weeks. I became a fan of Melissa in 1993 when her Yes I Am album was released and included so many of her songs in my workout mix tapes. Bring Me Some Water from her debut album, with its fierce intensity was perfect for working through sets of dumbbell chest presses and squats. A friend of mine from NJ was a mega-fan following Melissa around the country from city to city, so she got us tickets for the Boston and NJ shows.
AH and another friend of ours (whose name escapes me right now, but I remember that her husband had a pierced nipple) drove up from NJ and after changing at my place we headed into the newly opened Fleet Center for the show. AH netted us amazing floor seats, I think row 8 or 9. So not only was it awesome to be seeing one of my favorite artists, I'm with two of my favorite girlfriends and am pretty sure was one of only 20 guys in the place that night. After a quick dinner we head into the arena, the place is pulsing with excitement. The lights were dim and as we approach show time I look down the aisle to see a familiar face.
One of the things I suck at in life is recognizing people. Just two weeks ago on a flight home from Germany I sat next to someone I had an hour long conversation with a few months ago, but didn't recognize him until about 5 hours into the flight. Two years ago I ran into a guy coming out of the airline bathroom, someone I have known for 10 years, but I didn't recognize him until after we had landed in Boston. Maybe I just suck at recognizing people on airplanes.
So I look down the row and I think I see my cousin. I hadn't seen her for a long time since no families members had died and our paths didn't cross while visiting my grandmother at the nursing home. She was with two other women including her most awesome partner who I've been so happy to get to know over the years. Of course I keep looking down the row and she keeps looking at me and we both say nothing. The concert starts, the awkwardness continues and then the three of them take off for the crush at the front of the stage and that's the last I see of her until my grandmother's funeral a year or two later.
The Boston concert was a great mix of her current album and past hits. Since I knew buying a Melissa Etheridge shirt would really be nothing more than another reason for my friends to lovingly tool on me, I opted for a nice white baseball cap with this cool purple Melissa Etheridge logo. After the concert we went to Club Cafe on Columbus which I think was called something else back then, because we heard that Melissa might be coming there to party after the show. We met up with some other people from the show, had some more drinks and waited for her to show up. At one point a stretch limo pulled up outside and sat there for 20 minutes but no one ever got out. AH went to the restroom and came back with this huge smile on her face telling us about the extra special after-party in the restroom with many women making out amongst other things. Not much else happened that night, we headed back to my place and the next day or the day after they took off for NJ.
The following Friday I drove down to Secaucus for the NJ show. AH and I went alone (I think) and the show was just as good. At one point Melissa gets into it with her guitarist John Shanks on this platform that extended out into the crowd. They are jamming away, two guitarists rocking out and she grabs this bandana out of his back pocket, uses it to wipe away her sweat and throws it back to him, just hot show theatrics. I only tell you this because it becomes important in a few minutes.
So the next day my friend Steve invites me out to this new club he just joined, Hott 22 in Union NJ. I had been making my way around the strip club circuit in Northern NJ for years mostly with my EMS buds going for legs and eggs after our night shifts or an afternoon burger at Uncle Charlie's II. Hott 22 required you to pay a membership fee which just seemed silly to me, I mean who pays a cover to get into a strip club in NJ? We show up around 8 and I survey the place. Most clubs in NJ are pretty much what you see on the Soprano's when they show you the Bada Bing, girls dancing on a big stage separated from the bar area by a walkway where the bartenders and managers work. This club was different in that the stage was much lower to the floor and all of the seats were right around the stage, making it possible to directly interact with the dancers.
Steve and I are relaxing when this girl comes up to me, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She sees my hat and asks me, "Did you go to the Melissa Etheridge show last night?" I'm like, yeah, I was there, were you? And we have this long conversation about the show last night and I told her about the Boston concert and she starts to share with me about how Melissa grabbed John Shanks bandana and we have this moment bonding over what had happened. It was nice to meet someone else who was not only at the concert but also a huge Etheridge fan. She told me she had to go but would probably see me later.
The other thing to know about NJ strip clubs are that the girls generally work in shifts. Girls start on the stage and after their 2/3/4 song sets they start working the bar or room while the next set of girls take the stage. So Steve and I are a few sets in and the DJ is about to announce the next set of girls coming out onto the stage. I recognize Bring Me Some Water pumping through the sound system and I hear the DJ say, ".... now coming onto the main stage, Britney, Amber and Tiffany who requested this song for her new friend Chris sitting in the front row."
Looking over at the stage entrance across the club I see Britney and Amber walk up onto the stage followed by Tiffany in this oversized Melissa Etheridge concert t-shirt. She starts swinging around the pole closest to me before ripping off her t-shirt and revealing her very nice stripper attire, high heels and what is appropriate for a BYOB club in NJ (you can look that one up yourself). After the first chorus she hopped off the stage and finished the rest of the song dancing on my lap.