China Club, 616 W. Fulton: Robby, standing in the red light of a Chinese lantern, was mad. The guard at the door of the VIP room wasn’t going to let Robby in because he’d never heard of Robby’s band, the Cruel Woodchucks. So Robby had to lie and say he was BJ’s dry cleaner. BJ Murray is the host of the VIP room and one way to get in is to say you’re BJ’s friend. The guard said, “OK, but if BJ doesn’t know you, you’re gone.”

Big deal, Robby thought, some musclehead bouncer in an Armani shirt who knows nothing about rock ‘n’ roll. He walked over to a roped-off seating area where white damask-covered benches surrounded a snakeskin-pattern tabletop. He’d heard this was BJ’s personal place for his good friends. BJ is the most famous VIP room host in the United States. He used to be at the Limelight. BJ knows all the owners of the Oak Street boutiques, all the owners of the outdoor cafes, all the television anchor people, and Paul Weingarten from the Tribune. Five thousand girls a month say hi to handsome BJ.

Robby watched as BJ bought a drink for the doorman from Shelter and his wife; it was their first wedding anniversary and they had just been out to dinner at Vivo. BJ talked to them like he knew them forever.

Robby decided he didn’t care that BJ didn’t know him. In fact, Robby didn’t care if no one in the VIP room knew him because they were all boring and didn’t have his musical talent. He recognized Jerry Mickelson from Jam Productions who was living it up around a table with five girls. Their heads were thrown back with laughter. He saw some guys in tuxedos from the mayor’s office who had come from a fancy film festival dinner and they were busy puffing cigars at each other like they were at a wedding. Robby didn’t care because someday his band was going to be on MTV and people would be going nuts trying to meet him.

Anyway, Robby’s mom knew who he was, the real Robby. Once, the night he snuck past Christine, the guard at Shelter’s VIP room, and walked out after five minutes because he didn’t know anybody there either and came home and threw his motorcycle jacket on the floor and lay down on his bed digging the heel of his cowboy boot into the blanket, his mom knocked softly on the door. With her robe wrapped tightly around her, she came in and put her hand on his forehead and said, “Your father and I think you’re very important. Even though the Cruel Woodchucks is the fifth band you’ve tried to put together in two years, we know you’re going to be very successful. But until then you’ll live with us in our beige brick home in Arlington Heights, apprentice with your father in the insurance business, and eat a Tombstone pizza which I just heated up for you.”

Just as Robby was getting queasy from this memory, BJ came up and put his arm around him and said, “Hey man, who are you, name’s BJ, good to meet you, what do you do, you got a band! Fantastic man, lead guitar! Cool tattoo, what’ya drinking, let’s go to New York sometime, I want to put your picture in my coffee-table book, come to my birthday party. Lemme introduce you to the boys from John Cougar Mellencamp . . . ”

Robby fainted.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Bachtell.