I first saw Kelly in the Rock bar where Wade and I used to hang out and drink Fireballs, on Federal highway in Deerfield beach early 1989.
She was with a person who she initially told me was her sister. Actually she was a friend from her neighbourhood in Howard beach, a district of New York, a fellow Dusty. A Dusty is someone who smokes Angel dust, PCP, a heavy duty anaesthetic.
Kelly was a unique looking gal, a similar mane of hair to Suzanne Hunter-Seabrooke, all black cork screw curls, very Bolanesque. Her features were quite pointed, a little gaunt perhaps. She was a very animated woman, I loved her accent, hardcore Queens. She’d say “earl” instead of oil, “doorg” instead of dog, and say I was “friggin mint Dude!”, meaning I was in mint condition, I was very good. She was a Catholic, her Father had Irish ancestry and her Mother Italian, and as you can imagine the combination of the two nationalities was dynamite! She said her Pa had worked in a Carney as a young man and had showed her the 3 card trick, which she’d hustled on the streets of Manhattan to make a buck. She told me Kelly Ann Hart meant female warrior, and I’ll add gracious to that, from the original Irish translation.
So Wade and I are sitting at the bar and I’m looking at these two gals close by who are eyeing us up, and we them, and I thought I heard Kelly say something about the New York Dolls, so I went over and said Hi and asked them if they knew about the Dolls. She said sure, why’d you ask? and I said that I’d heard them say New York, and my furtive imagination had added “Dolls” to the conversation. Bearing in mind Florida was not a hip Rock’n’Roll place in those days. Ghastly hair metal ruled……
So that was the start of our brief but seismic friendship/relationship. We tried the boyfriend/girlfriend thang, but it just didn’t work out.
Amongst the other dreadful stuff that had happened to her was that she’d been raped 6 or 7 years before we’d met. She said she’d been downtown one evening and a transit type van had pulled up with a bunch of guys in it, they bundled her in and took turns to rape her. Most of the men involved were convicted, and thanks to various “family” connections they were “Bar Boys” in jail, meaning they were preyed upon by the more aggressive Gay men in prison, and bent over the bars in the gym.
She had 4 small scars in a square on her right knee. She said that she’d been walking her dog early one evening in Manhattan and a woman drunk driving had past her, clipped her, and she’d taken a major hit and shattered her leg, and had pins in her knee as a result of reconstructive surgery. Her recuperation in hospital lasted some six months.
After she’d recovered from the accident, she met a guy who’d turned her onto PCP, and she was pretty strung out, up until a spell in rehab some 18 months or so prior to us meeting.
So I got a relatively sober Kelly………except she still liked to drink beer and get drunk once and a while, and sometimes I’d catch her smoking Dust. The PCP she bought was liquid dripped onto crushed Mint leaves. One or two times I caught her smoking it in a pipe she called a D-bowl, a Dust bowl. And when she smoked it in a cigarette or joint she called it a D-bone or a Bazooka, which was weird because Alberto my Columbian friend said the poor kids on the streets of Cali called the raw Cocaine joints they smoked “Basuku”. Whilst I’d seen my fair share of drugs as a younger man, this was new territory for me, and it was kind of scary.
Many people, after using PCP once, won’t knowingly use it again. But others use it consistently and regularly. The reasons often cited by users as factors in their continued use are feelings of peace and/or strength. A numbing effect on pain, both physical and emotional is another reason why others say they continue to use it.
I met a couple of other people who’d been strung out on it, and to be frank they were almost brain dead, infantile and not capable of proper conversation. I guess it numbed Kelly’s physical and emotional pain, but otherwise she was bright, funny, street wise and hip.
One Friday evening early Summer Kelly flew into Fort Lauderdale airport and I went to collect her in my trusty(and rusty, and completely knackered if I’m honest!)Chevy van, which was my mode of transport courtesy of Ameri-clean. Just as we came off the Interstate 95 road and towards Tivoli park, my headlights went out. It wasn’t completely dark, perhaps getting close to dusk, but what I didn’t know was some State troupers had spotted my lights going out, and literally a minute away from my apartment they pulled us over.
I think there were 3 cops all told, but only 2 got out the car. The first cop had a handgun, the second a rifle or shotgun or somesuch. Having never really seen any guns before apart from toys I was rather freaked out. The cop with the handgun came up to my window and asked what was going on. The cop with the larger weapon went over to Kelly’s window. Just as he spoke to her she pulled out a card which had “Friends of NYPD” on it. Both her brother and sister were cops in New York. They’d given her this card which seemed to work like a “Get out of jail free” card. The cop said “Thankyou Ma’am” and went back to the car.
In the meantime my “friend” was rattling off lots of questions, which I answered as politely as I could, in my best Grammar school accent. But what really shocked me, aside from his very aggressive manner, was how much he swore. Everything was prefaced with the F word. When I made it clear that I was sorry my lights had gone out, and that I’d told the owner of the vehicle several times about the problem, he said because I’d had such a f**king good attitude he wasn’t going to haul me down the f**king station and bust my f**king ass(think you’ve probably got the idea now)and gave me a moving violation ticket. He said that if the owner bought the ticket and the truck fully repaired the Police station down town within 7 days no further action would be taken. Then he asked me what I had in the back of the truck. I told him cleaning chemicals, at which point he swooped into action, opened the side door and checked it out. Probably disappointed he hadn’t found a portable Crystal Meth factory he told me to be on our way.
Kelly continued to visit me when she could, and mostly it was a lot of fun, we were good friends. She knew I loved the Ramones, and would tell me they’d rehearse in Howard beach sometimes, and that they came from Forest hills, the suburb next door. She said a lot of people in NY smoked Dust, and that the Ramones, or at least some of them were Dusties. Indeed the band Marky played in prior to the Ramones was called Dust. Go figure……
And she loved Florida, especially in the Winter when New York was cold and snowy.
The other thing that Kelly would do, that really unsettled me, was to shower sometimes a half a dozen times or more a day. When you live in the Florida climate your body adjusts to it, and of course you’d shower two or maybe three times a day. But the amount she showered made me think it was connected to her rape. She did give me a vague inkling, sadly I’ll never know for sure. Perhaps her Catholic side told her she was unclean.
My friends labelled Kelly a flake, mostly because of her chequered past, but a couple of times she got fucked up, and the whole neighborhood heard. I had a big Mitsubishi hifi, which could really shake the house. We’d been out one evening for a couple of drinks, but when we got home I was tired and needed my bed. Kelly said she’d have a couple more beers and a bit more music then crash herself. As I lay in bed the music got louder and louder, and not a little uptight I went and told her to keep it down, which she did for a good 15 minutes…….until Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven reached a monstrous volume. At that point I was really pissed off, went into the lounge and pulled all the phono plugs out of the amp, and went back to bed, but that didn’t stop Kelly from raging. Drunk she was impossible to understand or to reason with, and that really eroded our friendship. It was like the Dust kicked back in when she was on booze, and I don’t think she was aware of anything outside of her head. Just total and complete numbness.
Because of my visa, I had to leave Florida in September 1989, just prior to my birthday. I’d paid the rent on my apartment in Tivoli park til the end of October, and intended to return to the US before that, just a quick hop back to Blighty. So I asked Kelly to mind the place for me, which was probably a big mistake, but I trusted her, and altho’ she’d met a guy locally and started dating him, we were still close. She said she’d call me, and take care of things. As it panned out, I couldn’t go back to the US til January 1990, and when I hadn’t heard from Kelly early November, I decided to call her at her Ma and Pa’s.
I initially spoke to her Ma. She sounded really uncomfortable, and told me to speak to Kelly’s Pa, and she passed the phone over to him. “I’m really sorry” he said, “but Kelly died in a car accident on the 28th of October”. I was stunned, and struggled to find words to say. A great grief descended on me. Kelly’s Pa explained that she and her boyfriend were travelling on Federal highway in Pompano beach, when a Publix supermarket truck was overtaking them. But something odd happened and the truck flipped on it’s side, and crushed Kelly’s car, and she was killed instantly. I told Kelly’s Pa how sorry I was, and hung up the phone and started to cry.
Kelly’s life was full of tragedy. All of my friends said she’d die young, because of her whacked out past that continually haunted her. But she was a beautiful, unique person, full of character and life, how sad she had to go in such a brutal way.
Florida is a kind of paradise. The sun, the beaches, the beautiful people. But it has a very dark under belly, and for every success story, there’s a sad one to match.
God bless you Kelly……