Summer 2000. Cincinnati. I'm sitting at Buzz coffeeshop and CD o'rama on Short Vine Street. It's one in the morning. The ICP show let out two hours ago, and the painted freaks are still running amok in the streets. I need to go home, but my car's two blocks away. I don't feel like parting the painted crowd. So I sit and talk to Tori, an acquaintance of two hours who is by all appearances a seasoned lush. She's only had three 40s since 5 o'clock, and I'm impressed by her fuzzy coherence. She agrees to walk me to my car, and we hightail it out of the coffeeshop.

One block up, we pass Skincraft, Cincinnati's finest body mutilation parlor. As we reach the corner, a huge man pops his potato-shaped head out of Skincraft's door and asks us inside. Tori and I look at each other. Skincraft should have closed hours ago. Tipsy Tori asks him what the hell he's doing in there. His chest puffs. He gains six inches in height.

"I'm Violent J. They stayed open for us. Get in here, girls."
Me: "Violent J?"
Potato man: "ICP, woman. Damn."
Tori: "OoooOOOoooh! ICP! You're famous people!"

Quicker than I can say "stupid bitch," she's inside. I don't like this one bit. But the place is well-lit, there's quite a few people inside, and I recognize the guy doing the tattoo work. I feel safe. I don't think it's safe to let fuzzy-brained Tori go in there alone. And I follow.

I stand there, blinking under the flourescent overheads. Tori is bouncing from stranger to stranger giggling at trite drivel and picking imaginary lint off of collars. This looks bad. I introduce myself and attempt to engage in an intelligent conversation with the man who insists on being called Violent J. He glowers at me, picking his teeth between drags off his cigarette. When he asks, I tell him with complete honesty that I'm not familiar with his music. His facial expression tells me that I was supposed to lie. He grunts and walks away.

I move to the lobby, feeling like a chaperone at a high school dance. I talk to a member of the group's entourage about David Bowie and Iggy Pop. He offers me a Black and Mild, which I accept happily. Violent J walks into the lobby asking everyone for $1 bills. "I want a Coke and all I have's a damn $20!" He points at me. "You. I'll give you $20 for a single." I make the trade and sit there with one eye on Tori and one eye on the door. There is just too much testosterone in the room.

Violent J pulls a chair in front of me and straddles it backwards. He thrusts a fat finger into my face. "I want you to leave."
My eyes meet his and don't flinch. "Why?"
"Because you're a stupid bitch."
A half-smile plays at my lips. "OK. Would you like to elaborate?"
His face darkens. "Since you walked in here, you've insulted me exactly six times, and you didn't even realize it."
"Enlighten me."
"WHEN did I insult you? I want all six incidences."

He sputters and curses and calls me a slut. He never does come up with a single concrete insult I've dealt him. I am disgusted. Tori seems to have found a comfortable lap, though, and I am sick of babysitting this stranger. I thank the flashily dressed man to my left for the cigar and walk to my car alone.

Celebrity is not deity. I wish I'd told Violent J that.