A Year Without Shame

[from Reservoir, February 14, 2007]

The club is swathed in décor best described as a combination of goth-nouveau and pure evil: skulls, military garb, biker gear, more skulls, motorcycles bolted to the floor and rickety chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Behind the bar, ladies with names like Laura Gore, Dani Star and Sammie “The Ace Of” Spades, all clad in fishnet stockings and old-school rock t-shirts, sling round after round of discounted sin to the thirsty masses. From some unholy and unknown place above, speakers blast DJ Shelly Sixx’s hand-picked audio fury from the likes ofNo Shame Wednesday Metallica, Pantera, Slayer, and Iron Maiden to the rejoicing mass that has gathered here. The hour grows later, the sky grows darker, the crowd grows larger.

Heavy metal heaven? Perhaps, but to the regulars this is known better as No Shame Wednesday. Welcome to midweek at Exit.

“It started as a joke,” says Jenna James Dio, senior bartender and mastermind of the weekly party. “It was like ‘Let’s just bring in all of our CD’s, make the DJ play those, let’s dress up like metal-slut-looking kind of girls and see how it goes.”

A copy of a flyer was posted on the club’s MySpace page, and the door count doubled the next Wednesday. A year later, the party has become a staple – some would say an institution – of the Chicago metal scene; no small feat considering most of this city’s club happenings come and go within a month. What makes this evening different, as any of the devoted regulars will tell you, is that it’s real.

“The music, the drinks, the people,” says patron Mark Koster, 24, proudly wearing a Holy Diver t-shirt, “this whole thing is pure fucking metal!”

“The owner, Joe, has been really cool to us,” Jenna says. “We gave him the idea and he was willing to just let us run with it and help us with promoting it or getting flyers made. Not many bar owners listen to their employees like that.

“It brings people out of the woodwork,” she continues. “You’ve got your long-haired metal dudes, but you’ve also got people that come in and are quiet at first, and the next thing you know they’re running by me with streamers on their heads.”

And in that year, No Shame has seen its fair share of wild incidents and crazy theme nights, including Iron Maiden night, the now-defunct $10 Rehab shot parade, the Rockin’ Holiday Party (“Put the X in X-Mas!”), and Dani Star’s now-legendary Cherry Pie Birthday Party, which resulted in the club and its guests being smeared with cherry pie and the ladies of No Shame Wednesday ultimately receiving their first and only angry letter.

“There’s just so many stories,” she says. “‘No Shame’ was the best name ever for it because everyone just gets so crazy.”

Adding to the insanity are the club’s Wednesday night specials: $3 Jack Daniel’s and $2 High Life, true bargains considering those same drinks go for double those prices at Exit on weekends.

But, as No Shame Wednesday turns 1, it also gets ready to say goodbye to one of its founding ladies as Jenna James Dio gets ready to pack up and move to Los Angeles.

“I don’t want to believe I’m the only piece holding it together,” she says. “It’ll be the same people, the same group, the same crowd. It’s going to stay good.

“This stuff is great, that’s why we have the cameras and the website, and it’s just that – No Shame,” she concludes. “There’s no shame in this music or in having a good time…but next thing you know you’re on the website and you look like an idiot. But we all are, and we all do, so who cares?”