A client in sunny Southern California needed our assistance, so I donned my tights and cape and booked a flight on American Airlines. They made me take off the cape while going through security, but for the good of all mankind I was allowed to pass through with my tights on. I arrived at LAX Wednesday night, rented the Sid-Mobile (actually a Pontiac G6, the same kind Oprah gave away, so I guess it was more an Oprahmobile), and made my way to the Westin. Westin is branding the entire hotel experience as “heavenly”. It started with their new fancy heavenly beds, but now includes a heavenly check-in, heavenly elevators, heavenly key cards, heavenly thermostats, heavenly showerheads, heavenly wake-up calls, heavenly desks and heavenly bellboys. That last one sounded a little too gay porn and I made most of them up except for heavenly showerhead. They make it sound like when you die, St. Peter will check you into the great Westin in the sky where God is hosting a manager’s heavenly reception in the penthouse every evening. But I digress. It’s not a bad place, except for the Celine Dion, Donald Trump and creepy Alfred Molina billboards staring into my room. They were slightly offset by the Rebecca Romijjn as the up-and-coming, but klutzy, Pepper Dennis, who always gets her story billboard (Tuesdays 9/8C on the WB). After checking in I had a dinner at Second City Bistro in El Segundo. I went with the filet mignon with blackberry peppercorn sauce, port soaked cherries, mashed potatoes and spinach. It sounds good, but was all kind of piled together like a rugby scrum and all those distinct flavors got lost in the mess. It wasn’t bad, but would have been so much better if they weren’t trying to be so eclectic with the presentation and just served it up on one of those compartmentalized Chinet paper plates (I'm pretty low maintenance). I considered stopping at the Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge next door, but decided that fat, drunk and naked was not the best way to return to the Westin. If it had been a Monday I don’t think I would have been able to resist their famous manicure and martini night ($10).
The next day I managed to finish up business in El Segundo by 4 p.m., returned the Oprahmobile back to Hertz and was ready to return to DFW when I suddenly realized it was Holy Thursday. Holy Thursday is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates both the institution by Christ Himself of the Eucharist and of the institution of the sacerdotal priesthood (as distinct from the "priesthood of all believers") for in this, His last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover, He is the self-offered Passover Victim, and every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice, by Christ's authority and command, in exactly the same way. The Last Supper was also Christ's farewell to His assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny Him before the sun rose again. (I stole all that verbiage from catholic.org since I’m a CCD dropout and didn’t readily know the significance of Holy Thursday.) But Holy Thursday also represents the day when West Coast Ray (WCR) and I would wash the feet of dancers at the local titty bars. I could not betray my friend by leaving So Cal without calling, so I rang him up, found out where he was, and grabbed the first cab to Santa Fe Springs. I found him at SB II, which I learned is short for the name of the sports bar Scoreboard II (since Scoreboard I was apparently a smashing success). He was waiting with a co-worker named Sarah. (Her real name is spelled Sarrah, but I’m leaving out the second “r” to protect her identity.) Sarah had come to have her favorite Leper Pop blog signed. It happened to be one of Moist Rub’s posts, so I signed it “Barry Manilow” and returned it with a smile. Since I missed the excitement of the crosswalk sting, in which Santa Fe Springs police would send little old ladies through the crosswalk of busy Firestone Avenue and then ticket drivers who hit them after failing to yield, we made plans for the next stop.
There were rumors of a mean, evil bartender at the Santa Fe Inn, so WCR wanted to take on the challenge of finding this troubled being and proving xe as just misunderstood. Just like Bumbles in Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Santa Fe Inn was a classic dive with a diverse group of drunkards balanced precariously upon rickety stools. WCR’s stool threatened to face plant him into the bar, while mine threatened to body slam me back into the floor behind. The wicked barkeep of the west was off-duty, but on-premises with her head buried in a video poker machine. She did pop out to buy Sarah a drink and seemed harmless enough. The actual barkeep on duty was even friendlier and gave us the remote to one of the bar TV’s to try and find the Mighty Ducks game since all she could find were repeats of Friends and Yes, Dear. I wanted to watch Friends since it was one of the episodes where Ross had the monkey that was just so darn cute, but relented after the other patrons threatened to rape me on the pool table. We couldn’t find the hockey game and instead settled on an NBA game that nobody cared about, while Mrs. WCR sent text message updates on the Ducks from the homestead. But more importantly karaoke was awaiting, so we packed up and took off for Bruce’s.
Bruce’s karaoke was already in action and we took our seats at the bar as a woman who looked like she ate Shania Twain sang Still The One. WCR grabbed the songbook and flipped to the Elvis Presley section. The usual rotation of Frank Sinatra wannabes, blue jean country crooners, burned out classic rockers and other aberrant songsters rotated through the spotlight when WCR was finally called. The distinct opening bars of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling played out as he took the stage.
“Yo, yo, yo, dawg, awright, awright, y’know it was a little pitchy in the beginning, y’know what I’m saying, but, dawg, you pulled it off.”
“Oh, WCR, I love watching you every week and you have the greatest voice and you can soil my hot tub anytime!”
“WCR. I thought it was well done, but….”
(audience boos… gets punched in arm by Paula)
“But…. you need to work the room a little more.”
Behind the scenes we learned that the karaoke DJ made a rookie error and cued up the Righteous Brothers version instead of the requested Elvis version (ahm sorry, DJ, but you’re just not roit for our house band). More determined than ever to win over the judges, WCR pulled out the songbook and knew exactly where he needed to go. He decidedly filled out the request sheet, turned it over the karaoke queen and confidently took a seat while waiting his turn. I took a long draw of diet coke from my glass and, full of aspartame courage, filled out my own song request. The karaoke queen was losing the crowd by approving When The Music’s Over by the Doors, turning the vibrant lounge into a poetry slam attended by a crowd of lizard killers wanting to rip the tail off the diminutive Jim Morrison imitator. With that WCR took the stage again and suddenly good times never seemed so good. I looked at the night and it didn’t seem so lonely.
Neil Diamond filled the air, the bar swayed, hands, touching hands. Randy named a wing of the dawg pound after him, Paula passed out in an orgasmic tizzy, Simon got caught doodling pictures of unicorns on his pad of paper, the barkeep bought a round of drinks on the house, and confetti dropped from the cork ceiling overhead. And when it was all over, they called Sid to the stage. Suddenly I knew what it was like to be JD on the Switched On tour. As the opening chords of the Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go filled the hall, I fluffed up my beard and dropped into my best leg splay. I channeled Joe Strummer and did the best damn version of the tune ever by a guy dressed in business casual wear and a fluffed up beard in a full leg splay at Bruce’s that night. Sarah attempted a photo, but I hear the battery ran out. So you’ll have to trust me. After I finished, the next singer sang a Chicago tune. That’s right… Chicago with lead singer Peter Cetera, who did a duet with none other than…….
Now that we owned Bruce’s we packed up and decided to conquer the unknown. WCR needed an evil looking, bearded sidekick to back him up just in case the locals weren’t too friendly during his first trip to a nearby roadside saloon. In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. We pulled into the parking lot of Hedz or Tales and were greeted by the Karaoke banner flying haphazardly over the entrance. As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by a Latina porn star in a “Got Stiffy?” spaghetti strap tank top moonlighting as a bartender and currently in the middle of a hot hip-hop karaoke performance. Despite the assault on our high morals, we didn’t want to be rude and walk out so we took a seat at the bar right in front of the welcoming Wild Turkey sign. There were only about 10 other patrons, including a Jack Russell of Great White look-a-like. He took the mike and while we steadied ourselves for a hair metal classic, he busted unexpectedly into another hip-hop song and, as far as I could tell, nailed it with some fitting improv vocals of his own included. Neil Diamond would not fly here, so WCR dialed up some Green Day and took his turn at the mike. Soon the PA system burst forth with the Stone’s Midnight Rambler. WCR did his best Ashlee Simpson and jigged over to the DJ and slapped him upside the head, explaining the difference between Green Day and the Rolling Stones. The DJ seemed to understand and cued up some Pointer Sisters. And then some Judas Priest. And then some Garth Brooks. And then some Don Johnson, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Money, Marky Mark, Beastie Boys, and Slayer. Each time WCR rejected the opening bars like a vegetarian rejecting a Big Mac. Eventually, the DJ gave up and admitted he couldn’t find the song while WCR informed him he’s just not roit for our house band. Jack Russell jumped in, changed gears and offered up a fine rendition of some death metal classic about Lucifer taking his hand and going out for Thai food or something. Several minutes later, an excited Jack Russell came running over to us with a songbook to tell WCR that he found Green Day. WCR explained that he had found it as well, but the DJ was the one that got stoned and mislabeled his CD collection. Jack looked like somebody had just told him Oz Fest was cancelled because he forgot to reserve the arena. We couldn’t stand to watch the disappointment in his eyes anymore and departed for our next stop.
Group Therapy is WCR’s home bar and where I was introduced to everybody as Sid from Montana, where I lived among the grizzlies with my beard and a jar of peanut butter. That seemed to frighten them a bit, which gave me the opportunity to sit back and enjoy my selections on the jukebox (Garbage and Van Halen) without the distraction of idle chitchat. At one point WCR was outside keeping company with the smoker contingent when he sent over his buddy Melody to introduce herself to Sid (the guy with the beard). What he failed to realize was that a Jesus look-a-like was in the bar to re-enact The Last Binge. I enjoyed the confusion of the ensuing conversation between Melody and Jesus for a few moments before volunteering that she was probably looking for me and not the false idol before her. As WCR says, “All you bearded freaks look alike.” Although I had been reluctant to leave the Latina porn star bartender at the previous establishment, WCR made sure I was aware that the Group Therapy resident stripper was tending bar that evening. She wore a white fishing hat and hence earned the name Gilligan for the night, although I preferred to call her Maynard to further confuse things. I also learned that bartending is a great second gig for a stripper since all the drunken guys in the bar are more than happy to help restock the bar, sweep the floors, clean ashtrays and kiss your ass as 2 a.m. approaches. As the closing rituals progressed, we realized that we hadn’t eaten in the last 14 hours and planned a trip for some late night burritos.
We ordered up the burritos, then took them out the patio where there is usually something entertaining going on at 2:30 a.m. Upon our arrival, there was but one person out there. A girl of about 17, sitting with an order of french fries and a tall boy of Miller Genuine Draft. Greatness. We had a chat about closing times at area bars and the various food options after closing. Then we were joined by a group of about six college age guys, their leader a chatty fellow with a backpack who quickly christened WCR with the name Bill Gates for no apparent reason other than the fact that he was wearing glasses. Backpack Boy then entered a debate with Bill over computer technology, talk radio, politics, and geography that sounded more like dialogue from Pulp Fiction rather than a dweeb trying to impress a 17 year old girl by trying to annoy a couple of old farts out past their bedtime. The next several minutes consisted of some decked out club goers, the threat of a food fight, the threat of a real fight, a female bodybuilder and a peace agreement brokered by WCR before our departure. The patio never disappoints.
We took the 17 year old girl home with us, but Mrs. WCR made us take her back where we found her. We claimed that she just followed us home and asked if we could keep her, but the Mrs. wasn’t buying it. I made that last part up, so I hope you weren’t buying it, either. The rest, however, is my story and I’m sticking to it.