Seven Straight (as it were) Days at Larrabee's Bar

posted Apr 13, 2012, 6:22 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Apr 13, 2012, 6:59 AM ]
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months frequenting several bars, particularly Larrabee’s in West Hollywood. It has become my own version of Cheers and I have become its darker, gayer version of resident barfly Norm.

But instead of everyone screaming “TERRENCE!” when I walk in, all but the hulking Justin run for cover. Justin will yell out “Miss T!” from behind the bar with a wide, welcoming smile. If he’s in a really good mood, he’ll even throw in an around-the-world snap.

His face was one of the first I saw when I went to Larrabee’s for the first time about a year ago. It was because of him that Larrabee’s became the Friday night happy hour destination for me and a few other people in the office.

Since then, Friday Happy Hour begat Musical Mondays. Musical Mondays begat Arcade Sundays. Arcade Sundays begat the occasional Wednesday, which begat the occasional Saturday and then eventually three consecutive Tuesdays.

I walked in on one of those Tuesdays and said to myself, “Omigod, I’m here again. It’s like I’m here all the time.”

Then I thought about it. For all intents and purposes, I am there all the time. Every day brings a different crowd, a different vibe and a different set of bartenders. I decided that I was going to pick a random week -- Monday through Sunday – and write what I call “an experience piece”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t go into the Monday of that randomly chosen week knowing it was going to be the randomly chosen week. I made that decision after an unplanned visit to the bar on that Tuesday.


MONDAY 

Monday has become my favorite night of the week at Larrabee’s. There’s an excitement in the air emanating from a bar full of gays and other whatnots excited about seeing clips of their favorite musical moments from the big screen, the small screen and from stage to screen.

Justin and one of my new favorites, Anna, are working the bar. For a straight guy, Justin sure can hang with the gays – especially on what has to be the gayest night of the week at any bar anywhere in Creation. I recently discovered that Anna has been working at gay bars since around the time Cheers was a show nobody watched. For her historical perspective and customer service focus, she’s become quite fascinating to me.

One of the other highlights of Musical Mondays is a group of ardent fans who “sing” and “dance” to these various clips. A year ago, I thought they were the most delightfully strange people this side of the residents of the Yellow Submarine. Whether they’re holding the entire bar in rapt attention or being largely disregarded, they’re thoroughly entertained by their onstage adventures.

I’ve become one of ardent fans. Not only is it great fun, but it's a much-needed outlet for the performer in me wanting to headline a comedy-variety show. Though this group of enthusiasts has welcomed me into their ranks with open arms, I am sure they’d love it if I actually picked up on some of the choreography -- yes, there is choreography – instead of just gallivanting across the stage like Lucy Ricardo after sneaking into Ricky’s nightclub act.

I closed out the “song” and “dance” portion of the evening with my lip-synched rendition of Effie White singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from the movie version of Dreamgirls. I know it well. If there was any doubt before about certain proclivities, there shouldn’t be one now.

As the night wound down, I had one of those “getting to know you” conversations with a very cute fellow fan of MuMo (also a writer) who had started coming around a few weeks prior. After he left, I had planned to leave but kept running into people – some I knew, some I didn’t.

One of those people was a drunken woman who thought I was just so much fun. Her tall, blonde friend with a rocky, Wilsonesque nose and admittedly large head was standing next to her. The drunken woman insisted I follow her outside to meet her dark-skinned boyfriend, which I did. He in turn introduced me to a friend of his who was in town from Sri Lanka for work.

We all chatted for a bit until her boyfriend, who lives up the street from Larrabee’s, decided it was time to take her home. I handed out cards to each of them and they left. I haven’t heard from them since.

I walked back into the bar sometime during the one o’clock hour. They were in the process of cleaning up and closing down for the night. I started my round of goodbyes with the manager on duty that night. He introduced me to a very handsome friend of his who works a bar down in the OC. We chatted for a bit. I gave him my card and made my exit.

I’ve not heard from him since.

 

TUESDAY

I stopped off at the bar next door to Larrabee’s to briefly meet up with a couple of friends. One of them had lost his bag the night before but couldn’t remember when or where.

I knew where the bag was because I watched as he staggered from the bar without it the previous night. I figured he was coming back so I didn’t give it a second thought until the end of the night when one of the bar backs discovered the bag and asked if I knew anything about it – which I did.

Since he was embarrassed about leaving the bag, I took it upon myself to head over to Larrabee’s and retrieve the bag on his behalf. This was the aforementioned moment when I decided to make this particular week the random week for this piece.

Of course, such kind acts are never without their complications. The bar back who discovered the bag the night before wasn’t scheduled to start his shift for another hour.

So I waited. I noticed that Tuesdays are much mellower than Mondays. Then again, the evening was still very young.

When he finally arrived, he told me that he gave the bag to the manager on duty – who wasn’t scheduled for that night. They called him on his cell and ask him where he put the bag. He didn’t pick up so they left a message.

Anna was behind the bar. She searched the lost and found to no avail. She then gave her keys to one of the servers so he could search the upstairs office.

So I waited some more. The evening wasn’t getting any less mellow. It seemed very reminiscent of Cheers before the show had money in the budget for a lot of extras and bit players. I took notice of a Larrabee’s staple -- the gathering of old men sitting at the corner of the bar nearest to the rest room. 

The server came back down several minutes later. I assumed from his empty-handedness that the search was fruitless. He told me there was a closet in the office that no one but the managers had access to. We all figured the bag was in that closet but wouldn’t know for sure until the manager on duty the night before called to confirm our hypothesis or the manager on duty that night showed up to open it.

Hence, more waiting. I’m a really good person – especially after Anna offered me a glass of wine for my troubles.

Sitting next to me at the bar was a pretty young man visiting from Chicago who was in town for a graduate school interview. He had so many bags with him that I figured he just stepped off a boat, train or bus from Mayberry. It just turned out he had money in his pockets and a few hours to kill before the bar opened. If all went well, he would be returning to LA in the summer. So I gave him a card.

And I haven’t heard from him since.

My friend eventually summoned the courage to show his face at the bar. I gave him a status update of his bag and he bought me a glass of wine for my troubles.

By the time I finished that second glass, I needed to get home. Plus, I was tired of waiting for the manager from last night to call or that night’s manager to show up. Besides, waiting around for a third glass of wine from one good deed would have been greedy.

Later that night, my friend told me he got his bag back and thanked me for my help.

 

WEDNESDAY

For the purposes of balance, I showed up later in the evening than I had the night before. I hadn’t been to Larrabee’s on a Wednesday night in several months, but I didn’t remember it being that slow. It was odd considering the bar across the street, which we will call “Gary’s Old Town Tavern”, was jumpin’.

Carl was behind the bar. I generally prefer him sitting next to me as a fellow patron than serving as my bartender. He could easily come across to some as a bit abrasive and not as bartenderly as his colleagues. That could be overlooked if his shirt was off, but it wasn’t a weekend after 9 o’clock so he might should have been more charming.

Regardless, Carl and I have no beef with one another so I would just shake my head at him as he was dealing with other customers. He’d just shrug his shoulders and laugh.

I realized that the light construction going on may have deterred some customers. They were in the process of building a larger platform with which to hire more go-go dancers. There was no complaint from me and I doubt there was a complaint from the gathering of old men sitting at the corner of the bar nearest to the restroom. So construct away.

A young black woman came in with her handsome man friend. She and Carl had a somewhat tenuous exchange. I explained Carl to her as he was making their drinks and we struck up conversation. She had a boyfriend who, to my relief, was not the dubiously straight handsome man friend who had accompanied her. But he still wouldn’t touch my arm.

Don’t ask. You don’t want to know.

The three of us barhopped for the rest of the evening. I gave out several cards. Two of them added me on the Facebook.

 

THURSDAY

This was probably the most mellow and uneventful of the seven nights. I like the slow nights. I don’t understand people standing in line to go into one bar when there’s a perfectly good bar sitting empty across the street.

The tall and lanky Hank greeted me when I walked in with the requisite happiness and fear. I usually see him on Friday or Saturday nights with his shirt off, so the first thing I did was ask him why he was wearing a shirt.

He just lifted up his arm and waved armpit air in my general direction. It’s his new greeting for me after another bartender, who has a major crush on Hank, commented on how nice that particular area of Hank smelled and offered me a sniff.

Sitting next to me was Kenneth, with whom I have a love, hate and more friendship. We spew forth vile pleasantries before greeting each other with a kiss. Poor Hank had the misfortune of being caught in the crossfire this particular evening but took it all in stride – as is his M.O.

Bearing witness to all this was, per usual, the gathering of old men at the corner of the bar nearest to the restrooms.

 

FRIDAY

I had an early dinner with friends at Bossa Nova. By the time we arrived at Larrabee’s that night, the place was quite Babylonian (the Queer as Folk version of Larrabee’s). Go-go dancers, including one of my new favorites, were conducting their respective business on the newly-constructed platforms with those for whom an evening with them would fulfill any number of fantasies. A newly-incorporated cage, containing what I can only assume to be the best of this crop, stood near the front entrance. I was surprised to see that none of my buddies were dancing that night.

After the previous night, Hank joined my list of go-to bartenders at Larrabee’s and I spent some time chatting with him. I bought a drink and then made my way through the boisterous crowd to the other side of the bar to engage in my standard back-and-forth with Justin.

I then greeted two fellow regulars and joked about my unexpected drunken crying jag the weekend prior.

(Sidebar: So here’s what happened – I purposefully got a bit altered the previous Saturday as a favor to a friend of mine from Massachusetts who had requested I leave him an altered voicemail, which I did. These two were present for one of those voicemails. We started talking and I gave him a hug. Suddenly, I burst into tears. I had no idea why. He had no idea why. Still he encouraged me to go with the feeling and let it all out, which I did. I still haven’t figured out what precipitated the weepin’ and a-wailin’ but I know there was far more to it than just my altered state. Don't worry, I'm better now.)

After about an hour-and-a-half, I was ready to go. My Happy Hour buddy John and I can easily spend at least five hours at Larrabee’s, so this was a relatively short visit. He had gotten there a bit earlier and needed some pizza to soak up his accumulation of alcohol. A tall, thin young black man was standing behind the counter at the nearby pizza place. John jokingly referred to him as “JJ”, but he didn’t know who that was. I almost had a stroke.

 

SATURDAY

I had a packed day so there was only an hour during the afternoon during which I could spend some time at Larrabee’s.

Fortunately for those of you who are reading this, it was closed.


SUNDAY 

And on the seventh day, this “experience piece” became an “observational” piece.

I walked in sometime during the mid-afternoon toward the end of Johnny’s shift. Oh yes, I know people’s schedules. With his long pointy nose, piercing happy-to-see-me blue eyes, kind smile, slim body and Irish essence, I find Johnny to be among the most endearing and aesthetically pleasing of all the bartenders at Larrabee’s.

I hope he’s reading this because I’d never say this to his face….sober.

That’s not entirely true. I pride myself on tormenting bartenders with such compliments.

It was pouring rain this particular day, so the lack of a crowd was not unexpected. But the typical Sunday afternoon patrons still pressed their way. Today looks to be the most Cheers-like in that there is so much going and so many stories unfolding as I read the March issue of the UK’s Attitude magazine:

  • A well-known blogger (in some circles) walks in and asks to see the manager so he can say hello. Johnny tries to deflect him because people do it all the time to curry favor. Most of the time the manager has no idea who they are – and doesn’t particularly want to. The blogger sees the manager, bypasses Johnny and incurs his Irish ire. I pity that blogger.
  • There’s a cute guy with thinning blonde hair (or brown – I can’t tell the difference) wearing a red t-shirt and a bright smile sitting at my 9 o’clock. I can’t stop staring at him. It looks like he can tell.
  • Two older gentleman sitting next to me strike up a conversation about the magazine I was reading, which leads to a discussion about our disdain for pop music, our joy in Adele’s success and buying CD’s versus downloading.
  • Johnny tells me that a rowdy, drunken patron wrote a mean note to him on a check. A female friend of his, also drunken, is coming to his defense.
  • A customer walks in. Johnny says hello but I didn’t hear a response from the customer. I asked him if there was in fact a response. He confirms there was and tells me how amused he is by the vigilante group of bar regulars that has formed on his behalf.
  • Johnny’s shift ends. I ask if he wants to stick around and have a drink with me but he cold-heartedly rejects my invitation so he can go home and be with this girlfriend. The nerve.
  • Taking over for Johnny is a young brown-haired (or blonde – I still can’t tell the difference) hottie that I’ve seen behind the bar before but have never really spoken to. He jokingly intercepted a general compliment I made about women with a nice rack (Yes, I notice those sometimes. I don’t want to do anything more than notice, but I do notice.)
  • It’s 4:15. The first go-go dancer of the afternoon finally shows up and starts dancing. Right on the bar. Mere feet away from the champagne mimosa that Johnny topped off before he closed out to make up for dumping me to be with his girlfriend. It’s the small things.
  • “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson starts playing. It’s the only song other than “Raise Your Glass” that I actually recognize from all the deejaying throughout the week. I’m reminded of her car commercial with James Lipton and some other people with barely enough rhythm to bob their heads to the beat.
  • There are two guys on the other side of the bar from where red shirt guy was sitting. I think they’re on a date. One of them catches me staring.
  • Johnny comes over to say goodbye. I tell him about this article and how he just became part of it. He says he wants to read it when it’s done.
  • Dancer #2 arrives and takes up residence on the other side of me at the bar from Dancer #1. I had no choice but to put a dollar in each hand, extend my arms, close my eyes and let them do the rest.
  • Dancer #3 arrives. There is some behind-the-scenes confusion over what they’re supposed to be wearing that day. Dancer #3 is wearing pants. That certainly can’t be the uniform.
  • To my surprise and amusement, a group of older people walk into the bar. A short time later, they leave. I don’t think they knew what they were getting themselves into but I imagine one of them knew SOMETHING. It was probably one of the ladies with a secret fascination for all things gay.
  • Dancer #3 asks me about the magazine I was reading. I was reading this heartbreaking article about bullying called “The Invisible Children”. While I was telling him about it, he was approached about the pants he was wearing. I interjected an unsolicited opinion about how those pants need to be shorter, tighter and skimpier.
  • Dancer #3 then leaves. Dancer #4 takes his place and lies stomach down on the bar.

After four hours, I decide to go home. As I start to leave, the guy next to me tells me I’m beautiful. He’s clearly well beyond his first cocktail. Men usually are when they dole out such compliments. I tell him to stop that crazy talk and that I’m “reasonably good-looking” at the most. He asks Dancer #4, who has switched from one side of the bar to the other, for his opinion. Dancer #4 agrees and I tell him the same thing.

Dancer #4 blows me a kiss as I start to walk out. I turn back and notice the drunken bar patron checking out my ass.

I head toward the rear exit, where I run into Dancer #1. I might have given him a hug goodbye as I walk out with a sense of excitement over this article that was already formulating in my head.

For my next trick, I shall spend seven days at seven DIFFERENT bars – once I recover from “Seven Days at Larrabee’s”. 


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