Dog days of summer, and the living is … drunk and dicey on the streets of downtown Minneapolis. With summer on the ropes, the clubs aflame with warm-weather-loving party people, and the Twins, Lynx and Vikings all playing home games, downtown Minneapolis this Saturday night past was rich in nightlife action, characters, and tension. A timeline, in words and pictures:
6 p.m., 9th and Marquette. “Saturday nights are always busy,” says nursing student Rito Perez at the parking lot he’s worked at for two years. “You get to see all kinds of people; drunk people, beautiful women. I’ve seen people having sex in the cars here, people pooping over by the wall there, all kinds of crazy stuff.”
6:15 p.m., 9th and Marquette. “I’m not a professional musician or anything, but this is really cool,” says Charlie Clinton, from Yorktown, Virginia, in Minneapolis visiting a friend and taking photos of the Schmitt Music building. “There’s music on a building. It makes the city seem alive.”
6:30 p.m., Nicollet Mall outside The Local. “I live downtown, right in the heart of the city,” says L.A. Nik, the self-described “Mayor Of Minneapolis After Dark.” “I still love downtown, but we have some issues that need to be handled. We keep lowering our standards in this city to accept our worst citizens. I’m downtown every night. I walk these streets all day and all night. We keep lowering our standards, going, ‘You know what? We’ll accept that,’ when we should be saying, ‘No, you can’t piss on our doorstep, go somewhere else.’ You can’t depend on city government to get it done, we need a village mentality in Minneapolis that says we will not accept that. We had nine people shot in a bar; it’s getting to where nobody wants to come downtown anymore. People think downtown is ‘too ghetto.’ That’s not going to help business. We’re losing the battle.”
6:45 p.m. Nicollet Mall. “I’m here every day, every night, skateboarding and charging my wheelchair,” says Steve “Legs” Reed. “I was in a car accident in Texas in ’91. The motor in my cousin’s car exploded. I lost my legs, arm, 90 percent of my body burned. I’ve been here for four months. I came up here to learn how to snowboard. I can skateboard, I can water board, and I want to add to all that snowboard. It’s my dream.”
7 p.m., Nicollet Mall. A parade of fluorescent-clad dancers invades the mall. “We’re dancing an entire mile for Free Arts Minnesota to help children have good mentors in school and to support arts programs,” say Danielle Gauthier (front right in sunglasses).
7:30 p.m., 9th and Hennepin. “We came downtown to go to the Great Hamburger Experience place in the La Salle building,” says Michelle Corso, waiting for the bus with her husband, Mark Erickson. “We come to Candyland for the candy and popcorn. We’re celebrating our one-year anniversary tonight.”
7:45 p.m., 7th and Hennepin, on the rooftop of Seven. “We went to high school together in Minot, North Dakota,” says Laura Thien, second from left with friends (left-to-right) Kara Murphy, Bec Brandenburg, and Nancy Kuehn. “We reconnect every couple years.”
8 p.m., Seven. “We’re just starting out here, loving some rooftops in my city,” said Danika Love, with friends Peony Hilbrich (left) and Aquilla Carlson. “Next, we’re heading Uptown and looking for an oxygen bar or a hookah bar.”
8:30 p.m., 6th and Hennepin. “I just got married to this girl,” says Darcy Nelson Jones, a nurse from Hugo, putting her arms around her wife, Amy Nelson (nee Hmong Myong Soon) and taking a cigarette break with friends under the Mayo Clinic construction tunnel in front of the Shout House Rock ‘n’ Roll Dueling Pianos bar. “The challenge is that many people are not ready to accept gay marriage, and so even though we have come up against a lot of challenges with some of our family and our friends, we decided that love wins,” says Nelson. “So hurray, love wins. And God bless.”
9 p.m., outside Target Field. To commemorate the 37th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, Jessie Aaron Wortman dressed as the King and his father, Doug, made like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. The father-son team drove up from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to see the Twins beat the Royals 4-1.
“I thought there’d be a thousand Elvises here today, but it’s just been me,” says Jessie. “Oh, my gosh, I could barely walk around the stadium. People were stopping us, but only one or two people knew today is the actual day he died. I love Elvis, but my dad loves him a little more.” Says Doug-Ron, “I don’t think my son even knew up until a couple days ago that he was named Jessie after Elvis’s dead twin, and I gave him Elvis’s middle name, Aaron, too. We had a ball tonight. People in Minneapolis were just wonderful tonight.”
9:15, outside Target Center. Dez Chakolis (far right) and family celebrate the Lynx victory over Tulsa by running full-throttle ball-handling and shooting drills while waiting for their ride. Their message? “We love Maya Moore!”
9:30 p.m., First Avenue. It’s Transmission night at the best club in the city, and DJ Jake Rudh is in his element. His pregnant wife, Mercedes, sits nearby in the deejay booth as he spins psychedelia, punk, pop and new wave dance hits by the likes of Wham!, Thompson Twins, Prince, Duran Duran, and Madonna. “I grew up in the Twin Cities, so this is a thrill for me,” he says between tracks. “I saw the Suburbs and all my heroes in this room, and to be able to play the same room as those guys and have Transmission headline this room is a lifelong dream come true. And to know it’s not even 10 o’clock yet and the room is filling up with people all around me gives me the warm fuzzies.”
10:15 p.m., 7th Street. From his perch standing on the sidewalk outside the Depot in First Avenue, Perry Napue cheers as Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater leads the Vikings to a last-minute win: “Teddy Bridgewater’s our quarterback, he’s the best quarterback they’ve got of all of ’em. He’s the savviest, he’s the fittest, he’s the realest quarterback they’ve got. Like my shirt? Moby Dick’s! Look out, Minnesota, I’m bringing old-school Block E back!”
10:45 p.m., 8th and Hennepin. “We’re best friends, we went to high school in Roseville. We never go out, we’re single moms, I’m from Forest Lake, I just called her and said ‘I’m dressed up and I want to go out,’” says Michelle Stems (right) with Kristina Lepel, as three muscular half-naked male dancers writhe away at the Saloon. “We didn’t know where to go, so we asked a couple guys on the road and they brought us in here. I’m kind of in shock. I’m very, very modest, and this is very out of my comfort zone. But I’m liking it.”
11:00 p.m., 9th and Hennepin. “The Saloon is wonderful,” says Bri Crank (second from the end, far left), a realtor from Burnsville and co-host of her friend Becky’s bachelorette party, one of several hitting the streets tonight. “Those are the best bodies I’ve ever seen in my life,” she says, as three pedi-cabs blast by in a Ben Hur-style race down Hennepin. “Reggie the bartender is very helpful, and that guy with the thong thing, he was hot. Smokin’ hot. We were there for two hours, now we’re looking for rooftops. “
11:30 p.m., 5th and Hennepin. Sabrina Johnson (far right) and friends negotiate their way into Augie’s strip club, overjoyed to hang downtown because, “it’s crackin’, and it’s fun, I can feel like myself … .” Her wingwoman Seyara (no last name, far left), says, “I love that the people here are really nice most of the time. I live in Virginia, right? It’s hella black people in Virginia, right?… it’s so interracial here, it’s not just one group of selected people. I like that we can just go out and everybody can have fun as humans and it’s not just like a group of folks. Here you can go to the black bars, you can go to the white bars. There’s not really bars that are like, together [in Virginia]. You can go to any bar here, and it’s so interracial that it’s more of an experience for you, because you can see white people turning up, Somali, Hmong, everybody. I love that.”
“Well she just about stole what I was going to say,” adds Tiana Greene, a nursing student from St. Paul who’s also feeling the downtown love. “Honestly, I like coming to downtown Minneapolis to meet cool white people like you,” she says. “I’m gonna be straight honest with you, I like black people like she was saying, but sometimes black people get a little too obnoxious. And I’m obnoxious myself, but… It’s cool to be around other people, and it’s cool to relate to other-skinned people … . So I like to be able to relate to people like you and enjoy myself with people like you and introduce myself to people like you.”
11:45 p.m. 5th St. between N. 1st Ave. and Hennepin. Right after I took this photo, my camera was stolen by a drunk black kid who told me he’d been strangled by the Minneapolis cops earlier in the night. At the end of the interview, he said he wouldn’t give me his name and didn’t want his photo taken. I told him no worries, thanks for his time. We shook hands and I kept walking around, talking to people, and taking photos of 5th Street, the epicenter-powder keg of downtown Saturday night. Thinking I’d been taking photos of him, the kid and four of his friends surrounded me, grabbed the camera and passed it around, all of them disappearing into the night at various times over the following 15 minutes. I protested to the dude, hung around, looked him in the eye and appealed to the moment of trust we’d first shared. He gave me the camera back. We shook hands and he apologized, saying, “all this Ferguson shit has me crazy” or something. I gave him my card and told him to call me if he wants to tell someone his story.
Midnight, Lumber Exchange Building. “I’m the host of a party bus,” says Bill Brolickman (front, center), outside the Pourhouse as L.A. Nik gladhands the bouncer into free admission at the door. “Tonight I have 21 bachelorettes for a bachelorette party from Shakopee. The Pourhouse Party Bus is the only company that has the concierge, host and driver. We get ’em in all the clubs, no waiting in line, VIP entrance, otherwise there’s an hour wait up front. They’re treated like rock stars, from Sushi Seven, Tangiers, Pourhouse, W, Union, the casino, Applebee’s, wherever they want to go. At the end of the night, we give ‘em a text 10 or 15 minutes before we’re ready to go. Then I go in and make sure I get ‘em all out, and give it a 10- or 15 minute leeway to account for if they’re in the bathroom, or they met someone, there’s some drama, whatever.”
1 a.m., 5th & Hennepin. “I’m CeCe McDonald,” says CeCe McDonald outside one of the oldest and most durable nightclubs in the state, the Gay ‘90s. “I’m just doing what CeCe does: Loving everybody, and being a diva.”
2 a.m. As Jake Rudh plays “Purple Rain” to wrap up his Transmission set at First Avenue, Dave Johnson of White Bear Lake waits in line at the packed-out Seville Club down the street: “I don’t have a very good story about tonight, but here’s a good [downtown Minneapolis] story about another night. I was at a Pink Floyd tribute band at the State Theater one night. And it gets done and my friend who invited me is nowhere to be found, so it’s me and his friend, a dude I’ve never met before, just hanging out. And we decided to get in a dance-off with the street drummers. I challenged this black girl, who was our rickshaw driver, to a dance-off, and she refused. So I had to go alone and I gotta say, I impressed myself.”
2:15 a.m., 5th and N. 1st Ave. “I’ve been driving this [pedicab] for two years,” says Kayneisha “K.O.” Owens. “Tonight’s been pretty good. It gets really busy on Saturdays, because that’s when people come out to party. There’s been a couple fights tonight, and drunk people screaming all night, but nothing too bad. I’ve still got about a half an hour left, so we’ll see …
2:30 a.m., 5th and N. 1st Ave. Four cops on horseback herd club-goers off the street. One agitated white cop wielding an aerosol can shouts down at a large buff black guy on the sidewalk, who shouts back up at him. The horses are huge, the clomping hooves intimidating. The lead cop on horseback yells angrily at the cop with the aerosol can, “Come on!” and the four proceed slowly down the sidewalk.
Out of nowhere pulls up a white armored truck with the words “Minneapolis Police” on the side. “What’s the paddy wagon doing here?” says one kid to his friend. “Run!” says another. People hustle to get out of the way of the horses and cops, who suddenly seem to be everywhere – on foot, bicycle and in various souped-up machines. “Go home, go home, go home!” yell the cops, as the crowd disperses. “Do that, do that, show what it’s like in the United States of America right now,” says one kid over my shoulder as I quickly snap blurry photos of the horses flushing people out of downtown.
A commotion erupts in the middle of 5th Street and a black kid is collared, thrown up against the side of the paddy wagon, handcuffed and subdued by four white cops. “No probable cause! No probable cause!” yell his friends from the sidewalk, dutifully making sure to stay out of the street, lest they join their friend in the paddy wagon.
Train riders, cabbies, pedicabs and other rubberneckers tool by, curiously regarding the sight of another black man’s face squished up against the side of a police truck on this, just another Saturday night in downtown Minneapolis.