5 -- Taking notice of Peggy
If I hadn’t focused on Peggy prior to the scene with the bar stood, I did afterwards, making a notion about her each time I stumbled upon her at the bar.
“She’s a pretty woman, but over dressed for a dancer,” one such comment claimed, “Broad shouldered, but not really fat – although Marry the bar maid tells me Peggy is very conscious about her weight.”
Another notation described Peggy as about “Five-foot-Five with dark brown hair, full lips, angular cheek bones and painted-on eyebrows that jumped whenever she looked surprised.”
Still another reference said, “She’s older than nearly any other dancer here, in her mid-to-late twenties, which is old for a stripper. She seems less hard-edged than most, softened perhaps by her love of football, which she goes on an on about, especially in regards to the New York Giants. She lacks the mean always hungry look I see in the eyes of the other dancers. She’s less stuck up and very outgoing, always giving zealous speeches. She tends to talk more than she dances, which gets the owner peeved at her.
“She’s hardly in perfect condition either, the first signs of middle-age spread pushing out here and there, although not enough to keep her from being attractive.
“Her talk dominates people (she) often speaking too loudly and pushing herself on people she thinks she can trust.”
She told me later that she talked loud because she often couldn’t hear men talking her from the bar and presumed we couldn’t hear her either.
Those early entries asked obvious questions about her: what the hell was she doing there? Was she a prostitute or not?
To this last, I didn’t think so at the time, partly because when she stopped talking long enough to dance, she actually seemed interested in dancing, and not using her time up there as an advertisement for something else the way other dancers most often did.
Peggy made no secret that she was a local girl, living in nearby Lodi while most of the other dancers came from Manhattan or elsewhere.
She constantly flirted with me and other men at the bar, and though I was extremely curious about her, she didn’t seem to single me out or pick on me any more or less than she did other men.
But Peggy was extremely competitive, constantly concerned with how she capered to other younger girls who also danced at the May Way.
This was made worse by Jan’s arrival at the My Way in late 1986, a new bomb-shell of a barmaid whose blonde hair and big boobs drew men by the droves to her end of the bar.
Jan looked betty than any of the dancers and rumor had it that Wolfman was doing her, but didn’t stop most of the other men from trying to get in her pants as well, giving her anything, especially cocaine just for some attention.
Peggy and Jan, I learned later, had a common bond. They both lusted after cocaine, and worked the patrons like old prospectors, agreeing to share with each other whatever they got.
Wolfman had to have known about the flow of drugs through his place; everybody else did. And it was too important an ingredient in the social mix, and something supplied most likely by a mysterious figure by the name of Tom, who Peggy insisted on calling “Thomas.”
I had noticed Tom around the place for a long time, partly because of how well he seemed to get on with all of the girls.
When he noticed Peggy kidding around with me, he decided I was someone worth talking to, and settled next to me any time he saw me seated at the bar.
“I work at the stadium,” he told me, meaning Giants Stadium, though from his tone he suggested he did more than just carry containers of beer into the stands for fans to purchase – though he did a lot of that, too. “I got bad knees from all the walking up and down the stairs.”
Many years later, I would learn that Tom worked as a low level operative connected to mob-controlled union out of Secaucus, which oversaw nearly all the legal and illegal operations ongoing at the New Jersey Sports Complex including gambling, drug dealing, loan sharking, ticket scalping even prostitution.
At the time, I knew nothing of this, and actually didn’t know what to make up him, in particular why he was so popular with the dancers and barmaids, all of whom waved and called his name whenever he showed up.
“I drive all the women home,” he said, making he think he might be a pimp. “They all call when they need me for something.”
“Even Peggy?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, her, too.”
As it to testify to the accuracy of this claim, Peggy yelled to him from the stage.
“Thomas, I won’t need you tonight, my car is working for a change.”
“No problem, Peggy,” Tom said, then gave an add nod in the director of the rest rooms.
When Peggy came down off the stage after her set, she headed in that direction. Tom hopped off his stool and headed in that direction, too. They met at the pool table where he handed her something I could not see – which she took into the ladies room. When she reappeared a little while later, she was grinning ear to ear.
She flirted with everybody after that, including me, and when she accepted some drinks I bought her, she even winked.
“You should come outside with me later,” she said.
“To my car?”
What exactly she had in mind, I could only imagine – though she was flying so high at the time I’m not sure she knew who she was talking to.
When Wolfman began to shut down the lights for the night, I caught sight of Peggy exiting through the front door with Tom.
Once on the street, I couldn’t find them at first, and then I caught sight of them inside an early 1970s Chevy with the windows starting to steam. When I came across the street to the parking lot, I saw them kissing in the front seat.
I didn’t know exactly what to do next, although she did look out at me and wiggled her fingers in a strange kind of wave.
I decided to go home, but sat in my car for a few minutes trying to compose myself.
I was a little drunk and strangely, more than a little jealous.
The Chevy was still in the parking lot when I pulled out onto Main Street and turned down Passaic Street towards Garfield.
A half block down the street, I heard the rumbling of a muffler behind me and saw a set of headlights rushing towards me in the rear view mirror, behind which I shortly saw Peggy’s face.
I slowed to let her catch up, but her car slowed, too, as both our cars approached the traffic light.
I waved, but she either didn’t see me or chose to ignore me, or didn’t recognize me from the bar.
She did not wave back.
I put my car in reverse and backed up so that our cars could be side by side.
Her car lurched ahead just as the light turned green and I could not shift back fast enough to catch up – her tail light bobbing up and down as her car roared over the potholes along Passaic Street.
She paused at the red light near Market Street long enough to let a few cars go by. I caught up, waved, and saw her look up into the real view mirror at me, before her car plunged through the red light, just missing the rear bumper of a car passing in front of hers, the squeal of her wheels echoing against the face of the dilapidated buildings to either side. The burning rubber left a cloud of smoke in her trail and a stench that lingered longer than she did, as I sat at the light like a good soldier, watching her car vanish in the direction of the Wall Street Bridge and Garfield beyond it.