Monday, November 29, 2010

7 HEAVENS (My All-Time Favorite Bars, Saloons, Lounges & Watering Holes)

.
The blog bit you are about to read has been in the planning stages for over a year. That doesn’t mean you ought to expect much from it. It only means that I’m an A-List procrastinator.
.
The three things I’m most knowledgeable about, in reverse order, are: The Holy Bible, Politics, and Booze. And while I’m not as big a Booze Hound as I often make myself out to be – (it’s just the Academy Award-winning role I play in Blogland) – in my day, I could have drunk both W.C. Fields and Dean Martin under the table. Not Ted Kennedy. But W.C. and Deano – yes!
.
Nowadays my drinking is strictly limited to beer, wine, and distilled spirits, and I drink only when I am on vacation or wishing I were on vacation. (Vacation?! Are we there yet?)
.
What follows is a list of my all-time favorite bars, saloons, lounges and watering holes. I did some traveling in my time – road trips galore; flights to and fro – and I have been known to say that, “Wherever you are in the United States of America, you are not more than six blocks from some place where I once had a drink.” Yeah, I’m a legend in my own wine.
.
And now, without further a-brew, let’s get to the whiskey!
Listed below are what were my favorite drinking establishments. I will begin with the ‘Honorable Mention’ category and work my way down to the top. A brief description or story will follow each entry on this list. R U Ready 2 Go? Bottoms up!
.
HONORABLE MENTIONS [In Alphabetical Order] :
.
ACOMA LOUNGE
BUTTE, MONTANA
[No longer exists.]
.
In the Summer of 1988, my Brother Napoleon (you know him as “Nappy”) and my dear friend Pooh (you know him as “Pooh”) took a road trip to Montana. Well, actually, Pooh and Nappy went to Canada -- I loved Butte, Montana so much that I told them to leave me there and pick me up on the way back. They did.
.

.
[Brother Nappy looking cool in front of the cool-looking Acoma Lounge.]
.
Unfortunately, the Acoma Lounge was out of business while we were in Butte, so I never had the opportunity to step inside the place, but I can tell you just from the exterior style that I would have loved it. I got to Butte too late and a dollar short. But the Acoma Lounge makes my list based solely on its ultra-cool exterior.
.
BOB HENRY’S ROUND TABLE
2460 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
[No longer exists.]
.

.
[Owner Bob Henry relaxing in the lounge he owned.]
.
.
[One of the Round Table bartenders, Mr. Toti - the Father of a high school buddy of mine.]
.
.
[Bob Henry's Round Table matchbook cover.]
.
A very, very special thanks to Rebecca Buckley for the Round Table photos!
.
Bob Henry’s Round Table was a fabulous, old school atmospheric piano bar. I took my former girlfriend the Countess there one night and she totally fell in love with the place. Sadly, like most of my favorite bars, it’s now gone. But in its day, it was a cool place for people with class. (Not exactly sure how I ever made it past the door.) Customers could come up to the piano and sing while Dick Leslie played the standards and show tunes. So, it was sort of like Karaoke, except there were no lyric monitors and the music was not prerecorded, but played live. You had to know what you wuz doin’ or you’d really make a Fool O’Yourself. I just listened and drank martinis. I was good at those things.
.
EDDIE’S BUFFET
BUTTE, MONTANA
.

.
[Stephen T. McCarthy pretending to eject Brother Nappy from ‘Eddie’s Buffet’ – Summer of 1988.]
.
In 1988, the place was owned and operated by an elderly lady. I can’t recall her name, but she was great. Pinned to the walls within this dinky bar were countless baseball caps. To my disgust and amazement, she didn’t have a Los Angeles Dodgers cap on display, so I gave her mine, which she promised to display on the wall. I couldn’t help remembering that woman some months later, in October, when the Los Angeles UnderDOdGers beat The Mighty Mets to advance to the World Series, and then upset the heavily favored Oakland Athletics to win the Championship. And I couldn’t help wondering if the woman at Eddie’s Buffet remembered me, and thanked me again, silently, for leaving her with a baseball cap representing the World Champions in 1988.
.
In retrospect, I have come to realize that generally speaking, I seemed to appreciate and feel most at home in rather small bars as opposed to the big dance clubs or bars with a lot of floor space. I never really realized this until recently, while reflecting back on my favorite gin joints, but evidently - with only a few exceptions - I was drawn to the small drinking establishments. And it almost seems “the smaller the better”. I guess there was something about the intimacy of a small bar that appealed to me at a subconscious level. Now the truth can be told: Bigger is not necessarily better. ...Well, I guess it depends upon what is under discussion, eh? ;o)
.
THE LUCKY CUSS SALOON
TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA
[No longer exists.]
.
.
.
[The old Lucky Cuss Saloon as the building looks today.]
.
.
[It's now some sort of "Ghost" tourist attraction.]
.
.
Half a block from The OK Corral there used to be a small drinking establishment, a gin joint, a hooch parlor, a silly shack called 'The Lucky Cuss Saloon'. (I believe it later changed its name to 'Legends Of The West'.) I mean, this place was a real dive. I really liked it. It was my favorite bar in Tombstone. And it was also right next door to where Morgan Earp was shot and killed through the back alley window of a billiard room. Some say the ghost of Morgan Earp haunted the saloon's back room.
.
I remember being in The Lucky Cuss Saloon one night when this couple of tourists, a man and woman from jolly old England, came in, sat down and ordered drinks. Me being the troublemaker that I am, it wasn’t long before I just happened to mention that The Monkees were better than The Beatles. Of course that’s total balderdash. I knew it perfectly well. But what the heck, I had to defend us Americans on our own Western turf, didn’t I? It wasn’t long before there was a pretty… uhm… “spirited”… discussion going on about which band was better. I defended The Monkees with everything I had, and really enjoyed the… uhm… discussion. It was touch and go there for awhile about whether or not this was going to turn into “The OK Corral Shootout, Part 2”. To steal a line from Bugs Bunny: “Ain’t I a stinker?”
.
The M & M CAFÉ

BUTTE, MONTANA
.

.
I recall Nappy, Pooh and I being in this place late one night. I’m not even sure if it served alcohol, but I seem to recall having a beer in there. The place was really hopping and it was like stepping into the Waybac Machine and suddenly finding oneself inside the movie ‘American Graffiti’. Way cool! Butte, Montana definitely has style.
.
NORTH WOODS INN
7247 N. ROSEMEAD AT HUNTINGTON DRIVE
SAN GABRIEL, CALIFORNIA
.
.

.
The North Woods Inn is actually a restaurant/bar chain in Southern California. I’m not sure how many there are total – maybe 5 – but I have only visited 3 of them. My favorite was the one listed above, although they’re all pretty much the same. This is one of only a few large bars that I have ever really liked. The waitress tosses peanuts on your table when she first arrives, and the floor is covered with shells. The place is well known for (as my friend Kevin named it) “The NFL Baked Potato”. So named because the baked potatoes are about NFL regulation football sized. Or at least they were; I haven’t been to a North Woods Inn for about a decade. A great old place with an Alaskan cabin atmosphere. Fabulous cheese bread (for us vegetarians) and dark beer served in big mugs. It’s exactly the sort of place that Frasier and Niles Crane most hated. What’s not to love?
.
XENON’S LOUNGE
AT THE RAMADA INN
RENO, NEVADA
[No longer exists.]
.

.
Oh, sheesh! Xenon’s Lounge! Just typing those words makes my head hurt and my stomach turn back-flips.
.
I only drank there a couple of times, most infamously in 1986 with Pooh. It’s kind of a long tale, and it actually leads into one of my most humorous stories, which I have hinted at once or twice on this blog but have yet to tell – and probably never will. Not only does Xenon’s Lounge no longer exist but neither does the Ramada Inn. The old hotel is now a kind of upscale apartment building or condominium site.
.
Pooh and I drove in to town while on vacation in ’86. We were intending to go straight to Virginia City, but the road had been long and dusty and I was thirsty and I suggested we stop in Reno for the night. Pooh had serious misgivings about the idea. He said, “I don’t know, but I have a bad feeling about this town. I think we should keep moving.” I don't remember for sure but I probably called him some slang term for a certain female body part, and so we stopped for the night. But Pooh had spoken the words of wisdom – the path not taken. Unfortunately.
.
The drinking commenced. It was a looooooong night. It got blurry and (in hindsight) it got funny. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Two drunks stagger into a bar and . . .
.
To make a long, illogical, and meandering story short, Pooh and I eventually found ourselves at Xenon’s Lounge. We were already laminated. The reason we were at Xenon’s Lounge is because we had given up on finding our motel. Someone had hidden it from us after night fell.
.
I found ‘In My Room’ by the Beach Boys on the jukebox at Xenon’s Lounge and I played it so many times, over and over again, that I drove everyone but the bartender and me out of the bar. Later a Bluesy tenor sax player took to the stage, which was just a small circular platform in the center of an in-the-round bar, and I settled in for some "serious drinking." Seriously.
.
The story gets fuzzy after that, but it involves a sailor, a taxi cab driver - (sounds like the beginning of a raunchy joke, doesn’t it?) - and the birth of the oft-repeated famous saying, “No one helps drunken cowboys in Reno”.
.
Well, I’m walking on down Virginia Avenue
Trying to find somebody to tell my troubles to.
Harold’s Club is closing and everybody’s going on home.
What’s a poor boy to do?
~ Tom Waits
‘Virginia Avenue’
.
The next morning I awoke with the worst hangover I ever had in my life, before or since. Pooh and I walked down Virginia to Harold’s Club, where I ordered some hair of the dog that bit me. In this case, a Seven & Seven, although, in fact, I had been bitten by several different breeds of dogs the night before. Unfortunately, that dog didn’t stay down. [Don’tcha hate it when ya tell a dog to “Stay!” but it won’t stay?]
.
We’ll do a hundred miles an hour
Spending someone else’s dough.
We’ll drive all the way to Reno
On the wrong side of the road.
~ Tom Waits
‘Wrong Side Of The Road’
.
A couple of hours later, Pooh and I fell into his car and headed for Virginia City. But somehow, we found ourselves on a new freeway under construction, and driving on the wrong side of the road. Yeah, we were a mess. We shouldn’t have spent the night in Reno. I tried to tell Pooh but – Nooooooo! - He wouldn’t listen! But, say, what was it about Tom Waits? How did he know? Was he reading my mail?!
.
Anyway, driving up the steep Nevada highway known as Geiger Grade, heading for Virginia City, that’s when my Harold’s Club ‘Seven & Seven’ came back up on me. (Damn dog! I said, “Stay!”, but it wouldn’t listen to me any more than Pooh would when I told him we shouldn't stay the night in Reno!) This little episode inspired me to later write my world famous poem, ‘Trying To Up-Chuck Your Life On Geiger Grade’. You’ve undoubtedly read it.
.
Well, Pooh and I finally got to Virginia City . . . and that’s when the funny stuffs began. This was one of dear departed Marty’s favorite STMcC stories. I’ll tell it here someday. Maybe. But protly not though, huh?
.
OK, teetotalers, that concludes the ‘HONORABLE MENTION’ segment. Now we work our way down the list of my Seven All-Time Favorite Bars, Saloons, Lounges And Watering Holes, finishing at the bottom with the Top.
.
THE TOP SEVEN COUNTDOWN :
.
#7: SERGEANT PRESTON’S YUKON SALOON
THE DISNEYLAND HOTEL
[No longer exists.]
.
.

.
[Here's an interior shot of Sgt. Preston's. It seems that someone may have had one too many martinis when I took this picture. Oops. I know I have a clear photo of the interior of this saloon somewhere here at the house, but I can't find the blasted thing!]
.
.
[An old beer mug from Sgt. Preston's. I now use it for storing pens and pencils.]
.
Once upon a time . . . there were two bars I really liked at The Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. The first one, I can no longer recall the name of, but it was an Olde English-style Pub that existed in the late 1970s and very, very early ‘80s. This was certainly the smallest bar I was ever in. “How small was it?” you old Johnny Carson fans ask. Well, let’s put it this way: I had a drink in there one day, and the next time I returned to The Disneyland Hotel, several months later, the bar no longer existed. So, what had the Disney Company turned that little bar into? A souvenir shop? A clothing store? A photography gallery? No. That bar was so small that it was now a . . . service elevator. No, no, I no kidding you-uh! Seriously! The bar was now a service elevator! Damn! We’re talking small! It was so small that Dudley Moore could have kicked the crap out of it in a war!
.
But my other favorite bar at the formerly great Disneyland Hotel, which lasted for many years, was Sergeant Preston’s Yukon Saloon. It was designed according to a theme inspired by the old TV show ‘Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon’.
.
It was very similar to the atmosphere of The North Woods Inn, except that it was located at The Great Disneyland Hotel – a place I once loved as much as I loved Disneyland itself. Sadly, Sergeant Preston’s, as well as most of the Disneyland Hotel was razed when the Disney Corporation completely remodeled the Hotel and created the typically Disney, totally dollar-driven, overdeveloped commercial strip mall now known as ‘Downtown Disney’. Just another reason to hate the Disney Empire. You have no idea about The Wonderful World Of Disneyland Hotel – how enjoyable that place was once upon a time. A kind of tucked away, unnoticed, underappreciated and uncrowded little oasis on the other side of the tracks from the theme park. A place where adults could slip away for awhile and unwind. Wow! Did I ever love The Disneyland Hotel!
.
In the middle of our Disneyland adventures, the Countess and I used to ride the Monorail over to The Disneyland Hotel to have a couple of drinks at Sergeant Preston’s Yukon Saloon (she’d always order this blue drink – I forget the name – that would make her sleepy). Then we’d go lie down underneath the nearby palm trees, and the Countess and I would nap, and re-energize our batteries for the next three-hour nap/trip around Disneyland on the Fred Gurley train. Dang! Those were the days! Sleeping and drinking / Drinking and sleeping / 360-degree train rides around Disneyland for a couple of hours straight, while we dozed off and on. Life was good!
.
#6: THE CRYSTAL BAR
VIRGINIA CITY, NEVADA
[No longer exists.]
.

.
.
My favorite place in the whole world (well, in the part of the world that I have had occasion to explore, which pretty much means the USA and the jail in Ensenada, Mexico) is probably Virginia City, Nevada. What was once the famous Crystal Bar on historic ‘C Street’ is now a Chamber Of Commerce or a Visitor’s Center – I forget which. What a shame, because in its day, The Crystal Bar was something special. It was established in 1867, and the May 27, 1946 edition of Life magazine featured it as one of the five most famous bars in America. The post cards I have mention that it was “noted for its fancy mixed drinks”.
.
I recall being in there one afternoon with the Countess. I had just hiked up to the “V” on the hillside overlooking the town, and when I got back down again, I met up with my girlfriend and we went into The Crystal Bar to wet our whistles. On the wall, I saw an ancient advertisement for The Crystal Bar’s famous Mint Juleps – one of those fancy mixed drinks the bar was noted for. So I ordered a Mint Julep from the widow Marks, who had owned and operated the bar since the passing of her husband.
.
I will say that I enjoyed the Mint Julep, but had I known it would take that poor old woman four days to make it, I would have said, “I’ll have a glass of beer, please.” No, really, when I saw how much labor was involved for that nice old woman to make me one Mint Julep, I felt guilty about ordering it. Well, wouldn’t ya know it... after taking maybe two or three sips from my drink, a group of four or five tourists entered the bar, asked me what I was drinking, and then told the widow Marks they’d have the same. Now I felt like a real heel.
.
Over an hour later, the Countess and I were still at the bar and discussing Virginia City, Virginia City’s ghosts, and books about Virginia City, with the widow Marks and another old woman sitting at the end of the bar who was drinking her fill, and who - if memory serves me - may have been Marge Reboton, author of the booklet ‘Ghosts Of The Comstock’. At any rate, the woman mentioned the Barbara Richnak book ‘Silver Hillside’ but it came out of her mouth as “Hilver Sillside”. After which she immediately said that it was time for her to go, and go she did. I almost laughed myself off my barstool!
.
#5: THE CATTLEMAN’S BAR AND GRILL
PRESCOTT, ARIZONA
[No longer exists… exactly.]
.
.
[What was the original Cattleman's is now an antique shop.]
.

.
[Inside the antique shop, looking toward the front door.]
.
.
[A photo of a photo of the old Cattleman's that hangs on a wall at the new Cattleman's. Taken from the steak grill and looking toward the front door.]
.
The Cattleman’s Bar And Grill no longer exists in the form I knew and loved it. While there is still a Cattleman’s in Prescott, which is owned by the same man, Chuck Roberts, it’s not in the same location as the original, and the place doesn’t have the same grungy charm that it did in its former incarnation.
.
The original Cattleman’s was located at the corner of Cortez and Willis Streets. The building was occupied by an antique shop the last time I was in Prescott. Maybe it still is.
.
This was just a very narrow hole-in-the-wall joint where the scent of cooking steaks from the back of the place used to tempt even me – a vegetarian since 1985. There are very few places in which I feel totally at ease and the original Cattleman’s was one of those places. It was a real working man’s, local hangout, not the sort of place where you’d find tourists or people looking for Sex On The Beach. There was no sex and no beach, just cheap beer on tap, wine from Modesto and the aroma of grilling meat mingling with the scent of spilt whiskey. My kind of place.
.
On weekend nights, the owner would often bring in his impressive collection of old 45 rpm hit singles and play them on a cheap record player. One night Nappy and I were in the Cattleman’s and it was a sad old crowd that had gathered on this particular evening. The owner, Chuck, was spinning his records but no one was paying any attention and no one, it seemed, was having any fun. It was just one of those nights when the moon and stars were out of alignment or something. It was a depressing crowd.
.
Then somehow Nappy and I got it into our minds that we wanted to hear the song ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’ by Johnny Horton. So we asked Chuck if he had that single. He said he thought maybe he did, but fifteen minutes later he still hadn’t played it. So we asked Chuck again if he would find it and he said he’d look. But again some time passed and he hadn’t played it. So Nappy and I pestered him yet again, and this time - probably fed up with hearing from us about it - Chuck made an earnest search through his collection and finally found the song we’d been requesting.
.
From the moment that Johnny Horton’s ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’ began to play, that whole damn bar came completely to life! It was almost like an explosion of life force as nearly every customer in the place began singing along to the song and clapping their hands or banging their glasses and beer bottles on the bar in time with the martial beat of the song! I never saw a sleepy little bar come so abruptly to life before. Nappy and I had inadvertently struck the Mother Lode of bar songs!
.
It was that experience that gave me the idea that Johnny Horton’s ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’ might be the most, or at least one of the most, universally liked songs in the United States of America. A few years ago, I started a discussion thread at Amazon.com proposing this very idea, and it was through that discussion thread that I made my new friends, Mr. Sheboyganboy Six, and Arlee Bird of the ‘Tossing It Out’ blog.
.
#4: THE GOLD HILL HOTEL SALOON
GOLD HILL, NEVADA
ONE MILE SOUTH OF VIRGINIA CITY ON HWY. 342
.
.

.
[In the 1800s, The Gold Hill Hotel was known as Vesey's Hotel. Note the Western man and woman standing at the railing of the second floor.]
.
.
[Taken about 100 years later, a photo of me, STMcC, wearing a Western duster and standing in the same place - at the railing of the second floor of The Gold Hill Hotel - formerly Vesey's Hotel.]
.
.
[Inside The Gold Hill Hotel Saloon.]
.
Established in 1859, the Gold Hill Hotel is the oldest hotel in Nevada. It is supposedly very haunted but I have stayed there a few times – even occupying what is reported to be the most haunted room in the building – but I never once experienced anything supernatural. However, I have seen the arrow-filled, headless body of George Armstrong Custer wandering the Gold Hill Hotel’s hallways and crying out for a Fuzzy Navel. And I have seen packs of pink pachyderms milling around in The Great Room at night. You know pink elephants – as in left-leaning Republicans like John McCain and Colin Powell.
.
I love the Gold Hill Hotel Saloon. It’s like really stepping back in time to a more rustic and untamed Western epoch. The Saloon has rock walls and it is very small and cozy. Not as small as a service elevator, but put 25 drinkers in that Saloon at one time and you won’t be able to move your Bass... Ale to your lips.
.
#3: JOLLY JACK’S
2127 LINCOLN BLVD.
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
[No longer exists.]
.
.
.
[Note: Lucky Liquor store next door.]
.
According to my internet sleuthing, a coffee house called The Novel Café now stands at the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Pacific Street in Santa Monica. Prior to that it was a coffee house called Velocity Café. But prior to that even, it was a neighborhood bar that had stood there for decades called Jolly Jack’s. And as Jolly Jack’s, it was home away from home for my drinking buddies and I – “The League Of Soul Crusaders” - during the very early 1980s.
.
There’s a Bruce Springsteen song titled ‘Bobby Jean’ which includes this lyric: “We told each other that we were the wildest, the wildest things we'd ever seen.” Well, we, the League Of Soul Crusaders, didn’t really need to tell ourselves that we were the wildest things ever seen, because other folks said it for us. Those who weren't afraid of us wanted to party with us! Yes, everyone has sown their wild oats at one time or another . . . but not like this! ‘Animal House’? Pshaw. Pikers!
.
Remember the very early ‘80s was pre-cell phone days, and there were times when friends who couldn’t reach us at our Bay Street home on the telephone would call Jolly Jack’s and connect with us there.
.
Jolly Jack’s (or J.J.’s) was really just a joint with a billiard table (where Twinkie, Nappy, and Cranium would go to give each other their “Daily Ass-Whuppins” on the pool table), and in the later years the place acquired a large-screen TV for the viewing of Raider football games and MTV music videos. Jolly Jack’s was just your typical neighborhood bar that was best known for its extra hot ‘n’ spicy Bloody Marys and the big old painting of a street scene and lamplighter that hung behind the bar. But it was a second home to us.
.
League Of Soul Crusader member, Pooh, a good buddy of mine to this very day and a principal player in our drinking gang, described the place best when he once said, “They ought to use Jolly Jack’s as a HIGH DIVE in the nineteen eighty-four Olympics.”
.
It’s a funny thing about neighborhood bars; what is it that draws you to one as opposed to another? For instance, when The League Of Soul Crusaders were ruling Bay Street, there was actually a neighborhood bar closer to our house than was J.J.’s. One block from Bay Street was another booze joint called Big John’s, where customers more our own age hung out. But we would always walk right past Big John’s and go the extra block to J.J.’s, which was much more a gathering place for alcoholic geriatrics instead of young men and women looking for a good time. We dug J.J.’s and its mostly older folks more than we did Big John’s and our own young crowd.
.
Although we all spent a lot of time and money at Jolly Jack’s, there was one almost magical night that stood out above all others. I’m still not exactly sure what happened that night but it was a kind of inexplicable explosion of energy that I tried my best to describe in the book manuscript I wrote called (naturally) ‘The League Of Soul Crusaders’. It was sort of like what happened in The Cattleman’s Bar And Grill that night Nappy and I demanded that ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’ be played. Only in this case, it wasn’t a song that brought the bar to life but just the energy and enthusiasm of our own youthful self-expression. The 28th chapter of my manuscript, titled “Rejuvenation”, ends with this comment on that magical night:
.
Cranium had gone back to J.J.’s the next afternoon, after work, to see if there were any old-timers looking for a game of pool. He had just sat down at the bar and ordered a drink when he overheard an old woman say to the bartender on duty, “Boy, you should have been in here last night. You missed it! A bunch of youngsters came in and we danced and just had a wonderful time!”
.
One final observation before we go hopping to the next bar:
Right next to Jolly Jack’s was a liquor store called Lucky Liquor. The money we didn’t spend at J.J.’s, we spent at Lucky Liquor. We were constantly walking down to Lucky Liquor, but there were two ways we could get there. We could walk the two blocks through the back alley, or we could walk down there along Lincoln Boulevard, which we humorously referred to as “The scenic route”. Whenever a liquor store trip was being made, someone would invariably ask, “Do you want to take the alley or the scenic route?” Nine out of ten times, we would take the alley. And so many trips were made to Lucky Liquor through that alley over a period of about three years that we used to joke that if the alley wasn’t paved but was just a dirt path instead, we would have worn a trench ten feet deep in it from our Bay Street house leading right to the door of Lucky Liquor.
.
When we would make a Lucky Liquor beer run, most of the time we would each buy one six-pack and also one single can or bottle of beer. Why? So that we would have one beer to drink during the walk back to Bay Street and still be able to enter the house with a full six-pack. Ha!-Ha! No, no, I no kiddin' you-uh! ...Yeah, now there's some boys who just might have a drinking problem. You think? :o)
.
As a side note, it was while in Lucky Liquor one day that I spontaneously came up with what would become one of my most well-known slogans: “If you’re only going to have one beer, you might as well make it six Mickey’s Big Mouths.” Yeah, yeah, I know. But believe me, it makes about as much sense as anything else we ever said or did during “The Bay Street Daze”.
.
.
[Six Mickey's - "The Breakfast Of Champions!"]
.
#2: THE ALGIERS
2845 LAS VEGAS BOULEVARD
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
[No longer exists.]
.
.
[The Algiers is slightly visible behind the Wedding Chapel sign.]
.

.
[Inside The Algiers cocktail lounge. - "I drank 'em my way!"]
.
Sadly, old school Las Vegas is gone forever. Nearly all of the famous Hotel names that dotted the Las Vegas strip during the Rat Pack era - places like the Sands, the Stardust, the Frontier - have been replaced by monstrous family-oriented mega-hotel resorts and kiddie playlands. Now your family can watch a pirate show, but the real "pirates" are gone.
.
My favorite of all the old school Vegas joints was The Algiers. It was located a block north of The Riviera. It, and all of the structures that abutted it, were torn down in order to build The Fontainebleau, yet another massive monster, a resort hotel that went belly up – bankrupted – before it could be completed. So a huge skeleton of a never completed hotel has now stood for years on the site that the great old Algiers once occupied.
.
.
[Where The Algiers Hotel And Cocktail Lounge once stood.]
.

.
The Algiers Hotel had kind of fallen from grace. In its day it undoubtedly offered top-of-the-line accommodations, but the place had probably never been updated since its debut in - I’m guessing - the 1950s. So, as a hotel, it was really more of a motel, and a rather cheesy one at that. But the cocktail lounge— oh, THE COCKTAIL LOUNGE!
.
The Algiers Cocktail Lounge hadn’t been updated either, and that made it GREAT! What’s bad news for a hotel is good news for a cocktail lounge. Freshen up the hotels, but leave the cocktail lounges in a state of old age!
.
The Algiers cocktail lounge was dark, and quiet, and trapped in time. It was what cocktail lounges used to be back in the days when men wore suits and hats and women wore little black dresses accented around the neck with a string of pearls. You couldn’t possibly remain in the Algiers cocktail lounge for more than 45 minutes without forgetting that outside it was daylight, 100 degrees in the shade, and traffic was coursing up and down Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s like The Algiers was a world unto itself and totally separated from everything else you ever knew.
.
I never saw the cocktail lounge busy. The only customers were locals or the people staying at the hotel itself, or the in-the-know cats like me who were aware of the best kept secret in town.
.
It was very easy to forget that it was the 1980s or 1990s while you were enjoying a martini inside The Algiers cocktail lounge. And if you were in the Algiers during daylight hours, every time the door opened and a shaft of light suddenly shot into the place and split the room in two, you would immediately look to see who was entering, always half expecting it to be Frankie, Sammy and Deano, and genuinely surprised to find it wasn’t. The Algiers was not retro-Rat Pack, it wasn’t designed to “look” like an old-time cocktail lounge – it WAS an old-time cocktail lounge. Faux Rat Pack nothing! The Algiers was Genuine Rat Pack! It was the real deal. A little piece of old school Vegas that time forgot... for awhile.
.
.
.
[An old Algiers sign I recently found in the Las Vegas sign "boneyard". How cool is that? Look for a similar Algiers sign at the 'Reality Wrecking' yard in the Francis Ford Coppola movie 'One From The Heart'.]
.
And now we’ve gotten down to Number One – my all-time favorite Watering Hole.
.
Drumroll, please! . . . Are you ready to tilt one back with me in the best of the best? OK, here we go . . .
.
#1: THE CREST HOUSE COCKTAIL LOUNGE
12517 WASHINGTON BLVD.
CULVER CITY, MAR VISTA, CALIFORNIA
[No longer exists.]
.
.

.
[Inside 'The Crest' - I have rarely felt as relaxed anywhere as I always did in here.]
.
In the Los Angeles area, there’s a place where Venice, Mar Vista, and Culver City all sort of crash into one another. And in that location there used to be a great establishment called The Crest House Restaurant. The restaurant specialized in American and Mexican food. It served these excellent 4-egg omelets for breakfast, and had surprisingly good, cheese-stuffed enchiladas at lunch and dinner. All of their food was good!
.
But almost hidden away in the back of the restaurant, was this lovely little old-style cocktail lounge. One could easily be eating in the restaurant or driving by The Crest House on Washington Boulevard and never even realize that the place also held a cocktail lounge. I think it was my Dad who first turned me on to the place, and later, for four or five years, the Crest House Cocktail Lounge became the favorite getaway spot for the Countess and myself.
.
The lounge was well managed by a very nice man named Tony Jimenez. And although it was small, it was rarely overly crowded and had a few regular characters who could be found there (I mean, besides the Countess and me).
.
There was one tall and very old, very gaunt man who used to sit by himself at one end of the bar and get quietly plowed. When he’d drunk his fill, he would take a taxi cab home. His appearance was so much like one of the ghosts that hitchhike a ride with you in your “Doom Buggy” in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride, that the Countess and I nicknamed this customer “Mister Doom”.
.
.
[Mr. Doom in the center. Hitchhiking because his taxi never showed up.]
.
There was one cocktail waitress who could be heard about once every three weeks telling someone: “I’ve only been drunk two times in my life. The first time when I discovered that I was pregnant, and the second time when I learned that I wasn’t.”
.
And there was another cocktail waitress there, a nice woman who would sometimes give the Countess and me money to put into the jukebox. Her only stipulation was that one song we had to play, in exchange for the jukebox money, was “I Wish You Love” by Keely Smith. The poor woman. Evidently she was still deeply hurting over a lost love.
.
[Speaking of Keely Smith, I once had the great pleasure to see her perform with Sam Butera at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas some years before that venerable establishment was torn down. A real treat for me! Yeah, even the losers get lucky sometimes.]
.
The Jukebox at The Crest – oh! I loved, Loved, LOVED the jukebox at The Crest. There were some great songs on that machine, and no one – NO ONE! – made that machine work as often as I did. Here’s a list of The Crest House Cocktail Lounge jukebox songs that I played the most, along with the authentic jukebox numbers corresponding with each song:
.
‘Moonlight Serenade’ by Glenn Miller – H9
‘Sunrise Serenade’ by Glenn Miller – H0
‘Moonlight In Vermont’ by Willie Nelson – G6
‘Blue Skies’ by Willie Nelson – G5
‘Boogie Woogie’ by Tommy Dorsey – H5
‘Desperado’ by The Eagles – G9
‘That Old Black Magic’ by Louis Prima & Keely Smith – J2
and of course . . .
‘I Wish You Love’ by Keely Smith – J1
.
More than a couple of times, one of the older customers would stop by the table that the Countess and I routinely occupied to tell us how much they appreciated our taste in music. But then, it would have been difficult not to display a good taste in music at The Crest because there were so many good old songs on that jukebox!
.
.
[The Crest House jukebox in the background. Directly next to it is the booth that the Countess and I regularly occupied.]
.
The Crest House Restaurant And Cocktail Lounge closed down years ago. I don’t know why, because business always seemed to be good there. The last time I was in Lost Angeles, in May of 2009, I drove by the old Crest House and saw that the building was still standing but was totally empty. Man, that was a painful sight for my eyes. Some notices were taped to the windows stating that the building was available for film companies to rent as a movie set. Only in L.A.
.
Well, there you have it, my all-time favorite bars, saloons, lounges & watering holes. Most of them no longer in existence. What a shame. I hope you didn’t find this blog bit too boring. It was a nice little stagger down Memory Lane for me.
.
How about you? Do you now or did you ever have any favorite gin joint hangouts? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Please share your favorites with me in the comment section below. And add links or URL addresses if you have them.
.
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
Doggtor of Alcohology and King of Inebriation Nation
.
YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha, I quickly glanced over your locations. I have to say I think i would like all of these places. See, my wife took me to Las Vegas some years back, and I hated ALL of the big clubs, glitz, glam. I also had the flu and was miserable. However, even in my sick state when she took me down to the old part of town I felt more at home. Small establishments off the beated path so to speak. All the young kids (20 somethings, emphasis on the something) went to the glitz and glam. Even in my early 30's (as this was like six plus years ago) I still much preferred the older, smaller, and more laid back casino/taverns.

Truth is I hate the vibe of Vegas. They should stop calling it sin city and call it what it really is, "Wanna be Babylon." Disgusting!!! I am the kind of guy that much rather enter a small family run establishment where nonsense is not tolerated. The glam locations always have some 20 something looking for a fight number one, and two they just have a bad vibe.

Br'er Marc

P.S. Thank you for the card as my wife and I very much enjoyed it. I'm going back to work tomorrow so probably won't be by as often now that I have two wee ones. I'll still be by though, and I will stay in touch. God bless you sir.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BR'ER MARC ~
-->...Thank you for the card as my wife and I very much enjoyed it. I'm going back to work tomorrow so probably won't be by as often now that I have two wee ones. I'll still be by though, and I will stay in touch.

You're welcome, Bro. I wouldn't let an event like that go by "un-carded".

And no problem, Br'er Marc. Truth is, I won't be here much longer anyhow. At some point not too long after the new year begins, I'm planning to close up shop on this blog.

Right now I'm just attempting to compose some of these old blog bit ideas that have been bouncing around in my noggin for some time. Once I've caught up with my ideas, I'm going to move on to something else. I feel I've pretty much worn blogging out. (Or worn myself out blogging - one or the other.)

But we'll keep in touch via Email.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Arlee Bird said...

I still gotta get around to that FFFF piece from Saturday, but I figured this one would be easier.

I could never top you on this topic. Cheapskate that I am I've never been much of a bar person and for that matter never been that much of a serious drinker. If I'm going to drink I prefer to do it at home so I don't have to drive and can just crawl to my bedroom when the time comes.

Besides, I probably can't remember most of the bars I have drank in and certainly don't have the pictures like you do.

There is one in Norwalk, CA that has intrigued me called Bobo's. It's an odd little place in a small strip shopping center--it has a cool neon sign out front with this really freaky looking clown on it. I understand the place has closed so I guess I'll never get to go.

Enjoyed the tour and the drinking stories. You could probably drink me under the table on the first drink.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

ARLEE BOID ~
Yer a disappointment, Brother.
You were probably the person I was most counting on to have some good bar recommendations and a story or two to go with them.

As a musician, I would have thought that saloons and lounges would have been almost second and third homes to you.

Oh well. As long as you save some Grand Marnier and a spot on the floor for me whenever I come to visit, I guess I can overlook your underlounge experience.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Undertable'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

To The MYSTERY PERSON:
Say, did someone submit a comment here with a link to a drinking establishment that they particularly like somewhere in Europe?

If so, I apologize, but, doggone it, I accidentally hit the "Delete" button rather than the "Publish" button. Sorry!

Please resubmit your comment and I PROMISE to get it right the next time.

~ 'Too-Fast' Stephen

DiscConnected said...

Stephen-

I wouldn't want you in my bar! All the ones you go to are out of business!

My favorites would probably be based more on the frequency of my visits and whether or not I was able to score ladies' phone numbers, so would mostly be in the Philadelphia area.

There is one bar of note that I've been to a couple of times in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, called the Safe House.

The theme is spy/secret agent, as you might guess, and it was unique and a lot of fun. I'd tell you all about the red light and buzzer above the ladies' room door, but I'd have to kill you.

http://www.safe-house.com

LC

DiscConnected said...

Stephen-

I'm at work, so when I got interrupted I hit post on the last comment. Here's part two.

I also used to get sent over to Europe in my auditor days, and have some favorites from those trips.

* The bar in Paris where I first got silly drunk with That Lady From My Past.

* All the bars in Edinburgh (Rose Street?) where I tried to drink twenty pints in one night to get a free something-I'm still too hung over to remember. I had at least thirteen, and those were British pints, mind you. The next day in the office was, shall we say, less than productive.

* The karoake bar in Korea where they actually played the instruments and you sang along, and I rocked the house with a couple of Bruce Springsteen songs

* The pub in a London suburb where the family cats just wandered from table to table and all sorts of hunting trophies adorned the walls

* The downtown Dublin club where I was not even close to meeting the dress code (jeans and sneakers) but they let me in anyway since I was an American (this was in the eighties-I'm sure I'd be shown the gutter nowadays) and I was asked to dance all night (well I was in better shape and had more hair then)

I may try to research these to see if I can at least find names-who knows, maybe you'll see my list on a future post.

LC

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

DISCDUDE ~
-->...I wouldn't want you in my bar! All the ones you go to are out of business!

Ain't that the truth! I'm forced to wonder if it was ME!

Interestingly, of the seven on my Top Seven list, the only one still in business is the one that was established first - 1859, Gold Hill Hotel.

Even I couldn't kill something THAT durable.

-->...I may try to research these to see if I can at least find names-who knows, maybe you'll see my list on a future post.

Why not? Why should I seem to be the only drunk in the Blogosphere?

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American UnderTable'

Pooh Lynth said...

Good blog my sometimes blurry friend. Was suprised not to see the Bucket of Blood ... Reno is indeed a dangerous place filled with lack of memories. An evening harder to put together than a 1 milion piece jigsaw puzzle.

Having been to most of the places you mentioned I am in overall agreement. It is eerie that many are out of business, perhaps due to you moving or not staying long enough. Perhaps they spent foolishly while you visited expecting the flow to keep coming for years. Some places I would mention (but then again, I quit drinking 24 years ago. You see every man has a certain amount he or she can drink in a life time...I just went through mine early.):

The Oar House...how many glasses do you want with that pitcher....NONE, thank you very much.

O'Mahoney's Irish Whip...Did they have a band on St. Patrick's Day? HUH?

Mom's Bar...where you can slide down the wall and then wait in the car or have a 10 foot by 4 foot sign slide over your back. Come whatever, come what might, we were the things that went bump in the night.

But no, but no, but no...these too are all no more. Coincidence? I think not!

Ahh, the memories, the memories of the wild proving it all night, every night...No wonder I am exhausted and go to bed by 10pm. JW...Pooooooooooh

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

POOH ~
I love ya, Brother. JW! JW!

You know, man, it makes me almost sick! The "stuffs" I write that I know no one catches. For instance, THIS...

"Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Two drunks stagger into a bar and..."

Any joke like this is supposed to start out: "Two drunks walk into a bar and..."

But when I'm writing about you and me, it must begin with, "Two drunks stagger into a bar and..." The implication being, of course, that the two drunks have already been drinking for quite awhile BEFORE they happen to stagger into this particular bar and the joke begins.

I write this great, friggin' stuffs and no one catches it. I'll bet even you didn't catch it - you ol' gin-soaked lush! Ya know, if I had any talent at all, I'd be totally wasting it on this audience of mine.

Alright now, what were you babbling about? Oh yeah...

-->...The Oar House...how many glasses do you want with that pitcher....NONE, thank you very much.

Ha! Right. The Oar House. Remember the time we all sat at a table with several pitchers of beer, but before a single glass was poured, I reached into my jacket pocket, extracted the economy size bottle of Excedrin, slammed it down in the center of the table, and some dude nearby said in total amazement, "Damn! You guys are a bunch of alkys!"

-->...O'Mahoney's Irish Whip...Did they have a band on St. Patrick's Day? HUH?

And was there a cover charge? As the old Tootsie Pop commercial went: "The world may never know."

-->...Mom's Bar...where you can slide down the wall and then wait in the car or have a 10 foot by 4 foot sign slide over your back.

Hey! We're just kicking our friend's ass. Do you mind? Huh?! Is that OK with YOU?!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Pooh Lynth said...

I got your joke...you might recall we generally drank a six pack and a half-pint and THEN went out drinking. You see my friend, I was there, i was drunk, and I remember some things. I put my miles in the alley and occasionally finished a half pint of so co on the way back so people didn't think I was a drunk....okay, I'll be honest, it is alfterall a long, long, time ago...I JUST DIDN"T WANT TO SHARE with anyone except whoever joined me on the walk of glory. For some reason, probably the sharing part, I recall making numerous trips with Nap. That bastard owes me some money...

Re excedrin...it was jus preventive maintenance. You know you've made it when someone in the Oar House calls you and alky.

I read somewhere you were gonna stop the blog next year...do tell more. You listenint to your mom, SOB

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

...and POOH...

-->...I put my miles in the alley

Well, Yeaaaah! HELLO-OOO!
In fact, I think it was you who first said that if the alley hadn't been paved we would have worn a ten-feet deep trench in it leading from our front door to Lucky Liquor.

Hell, you could have made that trench all by yourself, you were such a booze dog. ["Is your friend retahded?"]

-->...and occasionally finished a half pint of soco on the way back so people didn't think I was a drunk.

You were a drunk? YOU?! Seriously?! Gee, you sure had US fooled!

-->...I read somewhere you were gonna stop the blog next year...do tell more.

Yeah, well, you protly read it here. Or on my other blog. But, hell yeah, I'm gonna quit blogging early next year - end of January or mid-February. I've had enough. "UNCLE!"

~ Mr. Intense

ahhsome said...

Re: North Woods Inn

I grew up in Covina, the one just further down the 10 fwy from Rosemead, and we loved this place!

Back then, it was really the only place my parents could go for a "nice" dinner and take the kids. I remember having lots of Shirley Temples, and eating tons of peanuts, shells on the ground...painist on the weekend. then, they got a Mrs. Pac man machine, and I disppeared by the huge statue of the Grizzley Bear and my parents enjoyed their drinks! It was great because it wasn't really a "bar" but a lounge/restaurant.

BEST CHEESE BREAD and salads ever! When we were in highschool, on early days, we'd walk (quite a distance) to get here for their "cheap" salad and cheesebread lunch. :) MMMMMM!

Sandi
http://www.ahhsome.wordpress.com

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

SANDI ~
YES! I LOVED the North Woods Inn cheese bread!

You're a "California Girl"?! How cool 'n' Beach Boys is THAT?!

I'll bet I've also been to YOUR North Woods Inn. I think I've been to three... the one mentioned in this blog bit (which I visited most often); the one just off the 405, slightly North of Disneyland; and... I'm thinking the third one must be the one you most often visited.

I still miss the North Woods Inn. The closest thing to it in Phoenix is The Claim Jumper (another restaurant chain I like, but not as much as North Woods).

I own one of those huge souvenir North Woods Inn coffee mugs, and that's what I keep my toothbrush and toothpaste in.

Which reminds me... I gotta go brush my teeth now and go to bed. But I will definitely visit your Wordpress blog this coming weekend and see wha's goin' on there.

Thanks for stopping by and reminiscing with me about the NWI. Cheese bread, peanuts, and mug beer - the stuffs "the good life" is made of!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

TN Kat said...

I know I'm slow to read these things, but this just might be my fave-o-rite post that you've ever done! I'm so glad for your memory, mine is not so good these days. You brought back some very fun memories with this list - things I hadn't thought of in soooo long. Along with those memories, a wistful feeling with a touch of melancholy. Youth is wasted on the young. Good times we did have, didn't we? The pictures you have are awesome too. I didn't even know you had some of these. Thanks for the memories you ol' Bilge Rat. ~ the Countess

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

TN-COUNTESS-KAT ~
Thanks for stopping in for a trip down Amnesia Alley.

>>>....I'm so glad for your memory, mine is not so good these days.

Yeah, not too shabby for a guy who drank more brain cells to death than The Three Stooges ever even collectively possessed, eh?

>>>....Good times we did have, didn't we?

Didn't We?!
All we wanted was what we had coming to us; all we wanted was our fair share.

>>>....The pictures you have are awesome too. I didn't even know you had some of these.

Sorta makes you want to treat me with more respect, doesn't it?

>>>....Thanks for the memories you ol' Bilge Rat.

I think this bit below (that I wrote above) really captured the true essence of it:

The Countess and I would nap, and re-energize our batteries for the next three-hour nap/trip around Disneyland on the Fred Gurley train. Dang! Those were the days! Sleeping and drinking / Drinking and sleeping / 360-degree train rides around Disneyland for a couple of hours straight, while we dozed off and on. Life was good!

Yeah, life was good... and then you make the mistake of moving to Airheadzona. (Uhp! I'm an idiot!)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Dobenska Balfour said...

Jolly Jack's!! Remember it well, good drinks and fun times...I used to live on Bay Street and walk down the alley.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

D.B. ~
Small world!

We lived at 824 Bay, South side of the street, just two lots east of the dry cleaners on the corner at Lincoln Blvd.

We occupied that house from about 1981 until it was razed for the condominium that currently stands there.

We were the fun-loving, unholy terrors of the street. Boy, those were good times - some of the best years of my life. I really miss those years, those friends, and Jolly Jack's too!

Thanks for stopping by here. I'm guessing you must have found this old post by Googling "Jolly Jack's", eh?

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'