Jackie Hell Crescent

My first Crescent experience coincided with my first grown-up Pride weekend. I was 18, so I can’t recall how exactly I managed to get in. This should not reflect negatively on the bar’s very thorough security—I was the fucking Batman of getting into bars underage. I’d scale a wall, pick my way over a barbed wire fence or dress up like the Pope (really happened) to get in the same room as a woman who might let me see her naked.

Me and a couple of friends from high school had drinks at the apartment of a friend I’ll call Lindsey, then went out to the Crescent. On a Saturday night during Pride it was so full there was hardly room to stand. I knew I probably didn’t need another drink (once again, not the bar’s fault—significant drinking was done before entry) but I was so thrilled by that sweat and urinal cake-scented whirlwind of half-naked revelers I had two. At some point Lindsey absolutely couldn’t wait for the bathroom anymore and took an actual shit in the actual trash can by the door. That is the last thing I remember before finding myself standing in a dark living room, wearing nothing but a mink stole and head-to-toe sharpie drawings of dicks, an empty bottle of Cook’s in my hand.

I didn’t return until the day after my 21st birthday. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon, and I went in just because I could. Something immediately bothered me. The decor was of course the same—the 70s man-cave wood paneling, decades of photos of patrons and celebrities who drank there, and my favorite, the stained glass window bearing the bar’s name. By the time I’d finished my beer, I realized it wasn’t the time of day or the bar’s relative emptiness that bothered me, it was the realization that a phase of my life had ended. As it turned out, for me half the appeal of going to bars was the adrenaline rush of being somewhere I shouldn’t. Without that, they were really just rooms with beer in them. This was, of course, before I discovered how much better my luck was with women in bars now that I was no longer jailbait.

One day a company that made a 4Loko-type energy-booze left a case of the stuff in the Stranger office, so everyone took home a can or five. This certainly wasn’t the source of my next Crescent adventure’s weirdness, but it contributed. I had two cans of Rize while my friend Stella did my makeup for a Crescent-hosted Jackie Hell lookalike contest, and by the time I arrived I felt like everyone was looking at me. They were—I was wearing a sparkly gold dress with a pillow shoved under it and a fake blood-covered baby doll as a purse.

Somehow I won the contest (I encourage you to Google-image search Seattle drag royalty Ms. Hell and I right now for a visual representation of how funny that is) and was awarded the Flash Dance soundtrack and a green visor that said “Las Vegas.” Stella, whose dress had two realistic rubber boobs sewn to the chest, and several other friends filed into the alley and formed a human pyramid. Somehow we were immediately swarmed by photographers—I don’t even know where they came from. In the photos I look half asleep and have a sandwich hanging from my mouth.

That is the Crescent’s weird magic. There used to be a woman named Star, who I considered to be something like the spirit of the bar, with a walker covered in beads who did an x-rated version of the Ghost Busters theme song at the Crescent’s legendarily John Waters-y karaoke. “GHOST BUSTERS!” she sang in a voice like Janis Joplin bellowing through Lady Gaga’s compost, “I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO COCK!”

And the world was improved.