Back in November, I blogged about my concern for my safety at times when I perform and I briefly mentioned that there were two specific incidents when I feared for my life. I received a few requests from some of the readers here, asking me to tell the story of such times...so here is one episode.
It was about 23 years ago or so. I had a show,Brooklyn, NY, at a club called "Club Invasion." It was a small place in Brooklyn, alongside an el by the train. I was performing on stage, doing my thing, just trying to entertain - when out of the blue some guy starts heckling me, making fun of my weight. This was a common occurence for me back then. I had grown used to it. But I had also grown quite tired of it. Thanks to Angel, original vocalist of the Cover Girls, I had learned that sometimes being a bit sassy with a heckler could pay off. She was spunky on stage, and always had a great comeback when she encountered a heckler. I had just recently used my I-may-be-chunky-but-I'm-Funky line, and it had benefited me...me and the audience had a good laugh. Ever since then, a lot of the heckling had come to a hault. Except for this time.
The heckling began, and I chose to ignore it as I had done so often in the past. And then two more men joined him and two more after that. So, I had had enough...and I counter-heckled. I don't remember what I said, but I know I said something about them being deficient in their manhood, and the crowd howled, "Ooooh..." The men immediately stopped. The bouncers grabbed them, and began to escort them out. I told the bouncers to leave them alone, but they were quickly ejected from the club. And on went the show.
When we left, I was with my first manager, George Vascones. We were sitting in the limousine, when the driver realized he had been underpaid, and went inside the club to get it taken care of. Our limo was not the only one...there were two more: one behind us, and one after us. We were in a bit of a rush, because we were planning to go to La Mirage in the Bronx to hang out a little bit. As we waited, I heard men calling my name. "Judy! Yo, Judy! Where are you?" At first, I thought it was a fan. I smiled at George, and he smiled back. Little did we know that the driver had left the limo doors open with the car running. Then suddenly, I heard someone say, "Yo! She's in here." And in an instant, two men jumped in the front and three in the back.
My eyes widened with shock. They were the same men who had heckled me and had been thrown out of the club. Their immaturity was larger than I thought - God forbid they recognize that they acted like jerks in the club. We were dealing with people unable to take responsibility for their actions - so what was going to happen now? I was in serious shock. I looked at my manager with disbelief. He was quiet. He showed no fear. He held his hand up to me as to say, "No worries, Judy. I GOT THIS!" George was a tenth degree black belt. I had faith in him. He'd never let me down before. But my heart was flyng, and the adrenaline began to pump through my veins...I was in fight or flight mode.
Fight or flight is a term in psychology: When we perceive a significant threat to us, then our bodies get ready either for a fight to the death or a desperate flight from certain defeat by a clearly superior adversary. Men and women tend to deal with stressful situations differently. Males are more likely to respond to an emergency situation with aggression (fight), while females are more likely to flee (flight), turn to others for help...
I did the math VERY quicky. Five guys against me and my manager. I tried to not show fear. I assessed my surroundings. Damn. The car was running...George hushed me again with his hand, but all I kept thinking was 'five guys. FIVE!' And then the unthinkable happened. They took off in the car...with me and George inside!! They took the limo!! I lost it. I never screamed because I had no voice. It felt like those nightmares you have when you're trying to scream for your life, but nothing will come out. Except this was real. I wondered where would they take us? Were they just trying to scare us? What were they planning to do? Steal money from us?...rape me? That last thought spurred a knee jerk, life-saving reaction. I thought, "Oh, HELL NO! I'm not going to let anyone do that to me (again - another blog another time)...and without thinking twice, I found my courage. I pushed one of them out of the way, and jumped out of the moving car. I landed onto the cold, wet street, right under the train tracks with cars coming my way. Thankfully, they dodged me. I stood up, skinned knees, skinned hands...but I was intact, and I was alive. And then I realized my mistake. Oh, my God! I left George in the limo by himeself with those asses. I hated myself. I felt the most selfish I had ever felt in my life. I looked up...and approximately two blocks later, I saw George's body tumble out of the limo...but the belt from his trenchcoat was caught in the door, and it dragged him just a bit, but I screamed, "George...help...someone help!!" He broke free and we limped over to each other. "I TOLD you I had them..." "I'm sorry, George, I just panicked I guess." Panic will make you do stupid things...including run. We put our arms around each other...we asked each other repeatedly if we were okay. When I look back, we looked kind of hilarious, limping, bleeding...but we were together...and we were laughing at the crazy courage we had to jump out of a moving car.
We got back to the club just to find that the doors had been locked. We banged repeatedly on the door. Keep in mind, back then, there were no cell phones. After almost 10 minutes of banging on the door, they finally opened it and we told them or our dangerous tale. They let us use the phone, where we called the police who quickly came to take a report and found the limo dumped and trashed about three quarters of a mile away. The driver was astonished, very upset that he might get into trouble for leaving the car running. What was so funny was that I wasn't so upset about my knees and hands bleeding - I was more upset about he mirrors that broke in my make up bag, lol.
George and I went to La Mirage later on, despite our scare...we danced, we laughed and then we wondered if it was a set up because the club ironically had their doors locked...and they never did find the guys who stole the car. Hm. So what was the lesson? Be mindful of who you heckle back, and NEVER leave a car running if you are NOT the driver. To this day, I freak out if I'm left alone in a car that's running....and I hate being alone in any car. Oh, by the way, I was invaded at Club Invasions...Club Invasions no longer exists...but I do!!!!!