Monday, August 28, 2006
Wait wait wait!
I'm still trying to catch up to the Continental email from a few days ago. Luckily, the picture I was thinking I would post is actually in the same vein as your baby post today.
Check it out - Manitoba, subject of the Page Six link from the other day, and his son, Minitoba (aka Jake, a fighter's name, of course).
So, the Continental is going under? Well, in the 90s that was definitely the East Village bar that, in my opinion, had the bleakest aura. It was a bit better when Todd Youth was there, bartending or keeping an eye on the door, wearing his white creepers and seeming like he was the kind of guy who would keep an eye out for you, which he did for me one night when the frat guys got a little too close for his comfort. But generally, it was a railroad flat of a bar, dark and grimy, and the kind of place you would only go right when the band was going on, never before, never just to drink. Unless you were broke and someone was slipping you freebies.
I used to go in to the Continental to bring the bar manager cat food. He was Pauly's roommate, and a mess of a guy, barely coherent most of the time, even though somehow people knew he was smart, or used to be. He kept a kitten at the apartment for a while, and it was pitifully small, so I would bring these cans of cat food for him, since I didn't trust this guy to feed the cat. Then one day the cat was gone. I never knew what happened to it. Pauly refused to pet the cat, or like it because he said "It's just going to be gone soon anyway." And he was right.
The best thing that I can say about that particular bar manager is that he led to one of my favorite NY stories - the time I walked through Pauly's living room at 2AM and much to my surprise found Joey Ramone parked on the couch.
But your post, and the link to Page Six, and some other recent events in my life, have left me thinking about Richard, who I hope will not sue me for posting this. If anyone was going to sue me for posting about them, it would probably be Richard, since if we were having a "Heather's Most Famous Ex-Boyfriend" contest, he would win, hands-down. Dictators? Manitoba's? And I guess recently, sometimes, MC5. In 2004, when the lead singer for Guided By Voices asked the crowd at Bowery Ballroom who the last good NYC Mayor was, the answer he liked was "Handsome Dick Manitoba!"
But Richard didn't start out famous to me, even though he'd been famous to the East Village for decades. When I met him, he was one of the downstairs bartenders at 2A. Richard was the guy who made Whiskey Sours from scratch, such good, good Whiskey Sours. So, it's ironic that I've always sort-of thought of him as the guy who saved me from the Betty.
Richard came along at a time when I was spending too much time on bar stools, drinking too much whiskey, and failing to toughen up even though I was frequenting some places that really called for that. I think hanging out with all the tough guys only made me more tender by contrast. Before Richard, I loved Pauly, who had reached a point in his life where he thought it made sense to be the kind of guy who smoked even in the shower. Then there was Darren, who said "I never argue. I never argue, because I'll only argue when I'm right, and if I'm right, the argument's over" and meant it.
So Richard, it turned out, was a relief. He was a bartender, but a sober bartender, and in general, irrepressibly good humored, even when he had every reason not to be. He was kind and paid attention, and loved good food and wrestling. Pro-wrestling, people. And he was the only person who I EVER saw have the pull with Rizzo to get in to Green Door free (and he was plus at least two, since I know you were with us, Ali).
Some things I remember:
- Most of the time when he saw me come in to the bar, he would say "Heather WEIN-traub!", a reference to Mean Streets. He loved Scorcese.
- One night we were going out, and I wore something a little more bare than was my habit, and he looked at me and said "Are you trying to get me into a fight?"
- Eating at the old Odessa, where he knew all the waitresses, before they renovated it and made it so damn bright you could have done surgery in there
- He used to work the door at Niagara (which was called something else in those days) and I thought he looked cute all bundled up in his leather jacket with a hoody AND a hat.
So, even though he wasn't famous to me, I loved Richard, and I still feel some gratitude to him for showing me that the East Village could be a different kind of place. One where a sober bartender could also be a punk-rock, bar-owning, east-village-ruling celebrity, the kind who cares about being loyal to his friends and is good to his girl. But the guy I loved was always much more Richard than Handsome Dick Manitoba.
In spite of that, I would be lying if I didn't admit that it was fun when Jason (who still holds the title of the man with the most astounding record collection I have ever seen) said to me "You realize you are dating a punk-rock legend, don't you?"
I didn't really at the time, but it sure seems a whole lot more clear now. To me he was a good guy who helped make it clear to me that maybe it was time for me to change what I had been thinking of as my New York Ways. And I did.
Hey, Ali, how could you forget The Ex-Husbands? But that's a whole other story...