By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
But the customer who caused her the most turmoil was an elegant, bejeweled Highland Park matron who always came undone during my acoustic rendition of "Tequila."
She danced the length of the bar, Egyptian Pee Wee-style, fishing out her tits. Winos went bonkers, more showing up each week. But our gal Sadie felt inclined to uphold some specific TABC license required when both beer and boobs are served. Citing bureaucratic regulations, Sadie evicted her each week, soon as the tits debuted.
Next week, the Highland Park woman's Jaguar rolled up to the Winedale curb. The mystery dame never fraternized with our old hippies or wino regulars. Aloof and silent, she awaited her cue--the opening chords of "Tequila," originally played by Glen Campbell in the Champs. By the fourth week of her midlife crisis, "Tequila" became my most popular request. "Go, baby, go!" clapped the winos. The lady stripped starkers this time, before Sadie could banish her for good. ("We could lose our license," Sadie explained.) To the groaning regret of many a derelict, bulky pop art collages were later suspended low from the bar ceiling. They prevent counter-top slut dancing to this day.
The pressures quickly took a toll on Sadie, who began to escort regulars out the door for imagined infractions. After six weeks, she cracked worse than Tom. Tanking up on shots next door, she returned plastered, crawling along the bar, her own breasts dangling out of her blouse, screaming "Fuck you!" to anyone who dared order a drink. She was promptly relieved, the management graciously arranging a long stay in a rest home. She was last reported to be doing fine, excelling in arts and crafts.
My third barkeep, an Irishman who came to America to work, was gung-ho to replace Sadie. He was a personable, cheerful rugby player in top shape. He cracked within a month and booked passage to Asia Minor, which he planned to cross on foot.
Next came Pedro, a hardened, humorless pro who worked other shifts at the Winedale. His sideline business was stenciling house addresses on sidewalks. "Everybody needs their address painted, but don't do it themselves," he said, boasting that he'd cornered the market. He came to work in freshly pressed Arrow shirts, with a trim goatee and a splash of witch hazel. An Aramis man.
Pedro prided himself on his utter refusal to ever "take shit from anybody." Yet Pedro adopted a generous "three-strikes" rule of crowd control. Some bum got two chances. He might whisper sweet nothings in some mortified lady's ear. He might jump on stage, or emit some hair-raising yelp. Hyperactive dancers who looked like they might screw themselves into the floor got a strike. Whatever, Pedro issued an order to stop. By the third violation, Pedro threw his thumb up for strike three and hollered, "You're outta here!" He'd scale his side of the bar, arguing chest to chest with a grizzled old offender. "And I don't take no lip!" snarled Pedro, finger-poking his man out the door. Last words were always reserved for the perennial wino's threat, "I'll be back!"
For a while, there was a dispute as to whether the Winedale should become a "one-strike" place--because once troublemakers demonstrate they're willing to take strike two, they're on a roll. As musical eminence, I felt obliged to remain uninvolved--other than playing "Howdy Doody Time" during bouncings. It was honor enough having a guy like Lance in the audience who'd spend his last few bucks nursing a couple of beers to hear me play some blues. This meant sacrificing a $4 room at the men's shelter and sleeping under the I-30 bridge. A quarter flipped into my tip jar from a homeless gent touched me more than a crisp hundred from a doctor or a rich redneck.
The Winedale sisterhood included young regulars Nellie and Tara, who were fairly skilled at glomming drinks. They never paid or tipped. They smiled upon impoverished men as long as it took for them to fish out their beggar's change and order the girls beers. Then they abandoned the suckers for the pool table.
Nellie, a top-heavy brunehilde, was the daughter of a once-renowned Dallas bar owner--a testament to why children shouldn't be raised in bars. By the end of the night, she'd slink out with a different vagrant, her eyes cast down in vacant disgrace. Next week she'd return with a black eye, bruises or stitches on her head. As soon as one black eye healed, she had an uncanny penchant for acquiring another.
"Fell off my bicycle," was her stock answer.
Tara, her bosom buddy, hadn't a clue that she was indeed attractive. With a low self-image and slumped shoulders, she turned haughty and sarcastic toward males. Nellie and Tara performed an ongoing routine for my benefit, a mock invitation to their hot tub back at the house. But they were often evicted as nuisance tenants, moving from apartment to apartment like two alley cats with suitcases.
Tara and Nellie often took barstools adjacent to the plywood stage, dreamily pencil-sketching themselves naked by their imaginary hot tub. Blushing, they dropped deranged pickup lines in my tip jar ("Hey, baby, I'd like to eat the peanuts outta your shit"). Tara deposited sketches of genitalia into my jar. I tried to persuade them to stalk Reverend Horton Heat instead of me.