WHY I HATE JANUARY - Part 4: Glitter on the Coffin
Giddle Partridge had flown in from Denver the day after Shane's death. Frost and I went to meet her plane in Chicago and I remember they had some problem with the gangway and had to use one of those old rolling staircases pushed up to the plane.
She looked like a blond Jackie-O - all glamor and glitter - waving to us as she exited the plane before wobbling down the rickety steps onto the icy Tarmac in platform go-go boots. I think we both smiled for the first time in two dark days.
We'd initially recruited Giddle to sell merchandise for us on our Halloween Tour with Type O Negative, then continue across the country on our own tour - headlining with Spahn Ranch in support. She joined us onstage as our dancer for several songs, helping us bring our groovy ghoulie vibe to a new level in front the biggest crowds we'd ever played for, and was soon as much a part of the band - an integral element of our touring unit - as Sabrina had ever been.
Giddle brought her own strain of day-glo crazy to our existing brand. She was a demented Tinkerbell to my demonic Peter Pan with his Luciferian Lost Boys: alternately tossing pixie dust and throwing tantrums while making us laugh ourselves to tears in the process. Soon, what started as playful backstage antics became nightly rituals: most specifically getting glitter-bombed before a show.
Anyone who has lived with someone who wears glitter knows there is no escaping it. It gets EVERYWHERE. No matter how fastidiously you pluck it from your person before leaving the house, a co-worker will invariably point out several sparkling squares stuck to an eyelash or earlobe - usually in tandem with a lewd inference about a dalliance with strippers on your previous evening.
Living close-quarters in a passenger van with the queen of the glitter fairies was bad enough, but once she started anointing us before we stepped onstage, it became a part of who we were. By the end of the tour, tossing a handful of glitter on each other before hitting the stage had become a Hellfire tradition.
So it seemed only fitting when Shane's coffin was lowered into the ground that we each - rather than tossing a handful of dirt in accordance with the Catholic custom of burial - sprinkled his casket with glitter. This did not sit well with one of the family members in attendance. Shane's aunt loudly hissed "Now he'll NEVER get into Heaven."
Shane had told me stories about this woman. Her brand of Christianity, he explained, was - despite being Catholic - radical and extreme. "They speak in tongues" he said. "At a Catholic Church?"
Her daughter - Shane's cousin, close to his age - had been killed in an automobile accident a year or so previous to Shane's death. Shane had told me the story.
The girl's parents were not home the night she died, they were in Wisconsin visiting family: Shane's parents. They were sleeping in Shane's former bedroom upstairs when they were awoken in the early morning hours by a blinding light shining in through the second story window. It was like a semi barreling down with high beams or police searchlights...but there was nothing there. As I remember the story, Shane's parents were woken and saw the light as well.
Much later the following day, the girl's parents received a call informing them about their daughter's death. In the age before cellphones, tracking people down - particularly when they were traveling out of state - was often extraordinarily difficult. The authorities had eventually located and contacted the girl's grandfather and got enough information from him to track down her parents in Wisconsin.
You would think that having experienced a similar tragedy would have made this woman sympathetic to her sister's plight, but from all outward appearances it did not.
Even before the funeral Shane's father had told me there had been friction with family members about their choice of a burial plot outside the area consecrated specifically for Catholic burials at Kenosha's Green Ridge Cemetery. Anyone who has visited his grave will know why they chose it. It's a beautiful spot...and it just seems right.
Apparently the aunt felt otherwise and made no effort to hide her feelings about the fact that it was not "sacred ground". The fact that Shane was, as I have previously mentioned, a professional blasphemer ineligible for forgiveness did not prevent her from keeping a running tally of obstacles, mistakes and poor choices that might also hinder his ascent to Heaven.
I couldn't understand how someone so obsessed with an ideology allegedly based on love, tolerance, and forgiveness could behave in such a hateful and mean-spirited fashion toward parents who had just lost their son...but there she was: making sure everyone knew that she thought we had desecrated Shane's grave by tossing glitter on his coffin.
I was exhausted. Emotionally, physically...and i couldn't believe this horrible woman was now picking a fight with us. Shane's friends. His other family. The people he had grown closer to in a few short years than he'd ever been to anyone. I felt rage rising up in me.
And then i heard my father's voice. He was talking through gritted teeth like he did (and now I do) when he gets incredibly angry.
He had walked up behind the priest and placed a hand firmly on his shoulder.
"Would you mind telling this...woman...that what these young people just did will not have any effect on whether Shane gets to Heaven?"
The priest looked stunned.
He looked at my father and could see he was dead serious. He was not fucking around.
But the priest just stood there. Dumbstruck. So my dad placed his hand at the back of the priest's neck and guided him two steps forward. Gently...but firmly.
I almost laughed for the umpteenth time at the surreality of this...this fucking charade.
The aunt started to protest but my father interrupted, feeding the speechless priest lines: "I think that she needs to know that no one here did anything sacrilegious or wrong".
The priest parroted the phrases like a stormtrooper suddenly convinced these were not the droids he was looking for.
The aunt, unconvinced but unwilling to do real battle - spreading sanctimony and peddling her purgatorial poison - without the priest on her side, stormed off.
The show was over. It was cold and there was snow on the ground. People were starting to leave...a few still standing in around in small groups talking. I had done my part and held it together, but now I felt the emotions I'd held at bay for three days starting to well up.
I walked off into the cemetery to be alone...to catch my breath. I was walking, then running, then i was on my knees...and I was screaming.
It was a primal, mournful wail of anger, grief and pain that lurched past my lips to shatter the relative silence. And then I was sobbing. Uncontrollably. It was the first time I cried since hearing he was dead. And I couldn't stop.
And then there was a hand on my shoulder.
It was my dad. He didn't say anything. He just handed me a handkerchief. It magically stopped the flow of my tears.
We walked back to the cars and he drove me to the bar behind my house.
To be continued.
Photo: Me at RDL's grave / Me and Giddle perched on Peter Steele's lap (Backstage at the Trocadero in Philadelphia. October 1995)