A couple of weeks ago, the Burning Question crew chanced to sit at a bar next to Ron Dawson, a pleasant 63-year-old gentleman...well, his head still whips around violently at the sight of an appealing pair of breasts, but otherwise he seemed proper enough. "The problem I'm beginning to realize," he said with a sigh, "is that people in these bars are my son's age."
So this is what awaits us.
You see, recently a key member of the Burning Question crew reached that dreaded boundary between youth and middle age. Yep, I...um, that particular crew member, turned 40, the age at which auto-insurance rates and lawn-care products become topics of great excitement, mall-walking counts as an activity, any pair of socks will work just fine with any outfit, a Buick suddenly looks appealing, and young women no longer even bother to feign interest.
Dawson's mournful comment--and an offhand remark by Blake Williams, bartender at The Old Crow (who called 40-year-olds, us in particular, a "curiosity")--piqued our interest. In honor of the birthday, we decided to forgo the normal Burning Question format this week and examine nightlife for the male menopause set. As leader and elder statesman of the crew, I decided to embark alone into the Dallas night and single-handedly shatter centuries of cultural stereotypes, unleashing older men from the confines of societal norms and reawakening slumbering notions like freedom and liberty.
In other words, I set out to pick up a few babes.
Aside from a sports car and cool toupee, hooking up with younger women remains the most obvious means of displaying to the world a façade of youth, vigor and overall adequacy. Society, naturally, accepts this kind of thing only grudgingly, slapping labels on both men and women ("trophy wives," for example) and snickering behind the gentleman's back. "It's repulsive," says youngster Brandy Bray of such relationships. Still, bartenders witness these encounters every weekend and women must fend off the advances of older men on a consistent basis.
"It cracks me up every time I see an old man hitting on a little girl," says Mary Higby, bartender at The Bone.
While college kids (whom we now call "damn kids") and young professionals (ditto) crawl all over Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville, both areas actually attract a diverse crowd, ranging from 21 to 65 or so. In fact, few bars really fall into the "off-limits" category for older, more settled men. "We've been under the deck several times to find wedding rings men have taken off and dropped," explains Bruce Bauman at the Green Room.
Still, those 40 and up fall into a distinct minority in some parts of town.
Women respond in many different ways when a much older man approaches them in a bar. "I just think it's weird," winced Lane, a stunning blonde hanging out at Whisky Bar, one of the best pickup spots in Dallas. "Why would a 40-year-old hit on a 22-year-old? Well, I know why, but . . ."
Others responded more positively. "I guess it's flattering," says Cara Tolino, also at Whisky Bar, "but it depends on what type of older man. If he's a leering, slobbering loser, that's not cool. If he's well-mannered and intelligent, that's totally cool." Tina (last name unknown--like it really matters) offered even more hope: "If a guy is cool and approaches me the right way, that's cool, because girls like older guys."
Cool. But what is the right way?
"I don't want anybody hitting on me, young or old, unless they have something interesting to say," explains "Amity," who wisely refused to provide her real name. "Don't use the money line," Carrie advises. "Don't use the job to impress. Just be real."
It's not like I can really use this job to impress a woman, anyway.
Most women, by the way, asked that I print only their first names. But Supawn Scheid and Michelle Anderson, patrons of Bali Bar, foolishly scribbled their names in my notebook whilst I was off ordering a plate of foie gras. Clearly I could've done well there. And at Whisky Bar I found myself surrounded by an entire flock--or is it gaggle?--of sublimely beautiful young women. In fact, Kristen asked if she could hang out with me, and Holli whispered, "You still got it." Not too bad for an old...shit! I forgot to get their phone numbers!
Perhaps I belong in a more age-friendly establishment, someplace both comfortable and hip. Besides, Scott Blythe, bartender at Whisky Bar, points out, "There's really nothing to do here but drink and hit on girls." Older crowds, according to various establishments, prefer an interesting mix of quality liquor and entertainment options. Places such as Cool River in Las Colinas and Carson's in North Dallas offer everything from pool tables to big-screen televisions to cigar lounges. "Having a mixture of everything you could dream of under one roof attracts older folks," says Terry Mumford of Cool River. "I think it's the ability to do a lot in one place," agrees Travis Watson of Carson's. Both seem to know, instinctively, that old-timers hate to move around much.
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A few establishments earn a more age-friendly reputation than others--Martini Ranch, Steel, Carson's, Voltaire, Capital Grill and the entire town of Addison, for example. "Sipango, Javier's, Bob's--those places are hip for that crowd," says Matthew, the Samba Room bartender and poet laureate of the Dallas night scene. "It's a subtle thing to be hip and attract an older crowd. Beau Nash is rich, but that doesn't make it hip." Perhaps it falls into the "replacement hip" category.
In some respects, seasoned veterans hold a distinct advantage over the packs of damn kids roaming Greenville Avenue and Deep Ellum. "Older people act more civilized," says Andrea Seer at Zubar. "More times than not, bartenders prefer an older crowd." In addition, several bartenders point out that serving an experienced clientele can be quite lucrative. Simply put, says Mike Hulyo at Blue Mesa in Addison, "Older people tend to tip better." And even while pursuing younger women, few middle-aged men revert to the cheap beers and trendy drinks favored by novices. "The younger crowd does Long Island iced teas, beers and mixed drinks," explains Higby. "The older crowd does straight-up scotch. They know a Crown and Coke gives you a hangover."
Ah, yes. Quality alcohol and the occasional ability to score. As long as we remember phone numbers and don't slobber, the fast cars, face-lifts and other accoutrements of age don't seem to matter much. Zubar's stolid bartender, Seer, confirmed this one night when she completed a quick glance with a firm "you still got it."
"Of course," she added, "bartenders are bullshit artists."