Champaine Beige

Somewhere in my archives there is a promo pic for a stripper who called herself Champaine Biege, signed "Love, Champaine." It is a beautiful picture, and she is a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, this picture is not worth a thousand words.

I met Champaine when "Grampa" got out of prison. I don't even know Grampa's story - or if I ever did, I've forgotten it now. There was a "Grandma" - an older woman who hung out at the local biker bar, and when Grampa got out of prison, there was a huge party. Grandma was right there at the center of it, the good 'ol lady standing by her ol' man.

Grampa immediately took up with Champaine. They were heroin addicts. I bet Grandma was too, but I didn't see too much of her after that. I only saw Grampa and Champaine because for some reason or other, they were hanging out with the bikers I knew, even though I don't think he was originally with our club. I have one clear memory and one clear bone to pick from that short era.

The one clear memory was drinking with them in a bar in some small town somewhere in the summertime, sometime when winter had decided to be gone for good from northern Wisconsin, and we all turned out in t-tops. I think we'd all ridden out to T's dad's bar. Suddenly, Champaine grabbed my arm, and held it out to Grampa. "Look at this, Gramps! It's a virgin!" And then she smiled this way too brilliant smile, a smile to put a vampire to shame, and asked if she could borrow my arm.

The bone is my camera. She and Grampa came over to my apartment one afternoon when I was at the store and my nine-year-old daughter was holding down the fort. They let themselves in, and rambled around, putting my records on the stereo (remember records? remember stereos?), and dancing to Janis Joplin at top volume. Caroline (the daughter) was extremely pissed off, and finally she went in and turned on the TV, turned it up really loud, and told them they had to turn off the stereo and leave. To give them some credit, they did. Of course, even now folks tend to do what Caroline wants them to do. To take away that credit, they also took away my 35 mm. camera. The only good camera I've ever owned. I could never prove it, of course, and it's long hocked and sucked up their anything-but-virgin arms anyway. But it still rankles.

I remember Champaine wanting us to give a party, so she could dance for everybody. I didn't want to. Not too many of the other women did, either. But finally there was one at somebody else's house. I didn't go, but even the guys I talked to said she couldn't dance. It was a little embarassing, in fact. She was too high, too drunk. She was probably high on my camera.