COLUMN FIFTY-SIX, FEBRUARY 1, 2001
of Wine and Roses
[This story first appeared in the
Dallas Observer of November9-15, 1995. More writing by Josh Alan Friedman
can be found by clicking on http://www.joshalan.com.]
In 1992, when I began performing
Monday nights at the Winedale Tavern on Lower Greenville Avenue, it was Skid
Row's royal palace in Dallas. There,
some patrons behave as if released from Parkland Hospital's observation ward
directly to the Winedale; others, as though sprung from the dog pound.
The audience is the show, and favorite evenings are those in which
gorgeous, albeit demented, young girls sit interspersed with babbling,
nose-bleeding derelicts. No matter where I'm booked, I try not to miss this
Playing for the homeless seemed a
noble cause when I filled in one night for local songwriter-emcee Bob Ackerman.
I agreed to cover one more Monday---but my run has extended three years.
in 1985 by local restaurateur Lota Dunham, the Winedale was conceived as a
red-tablecloth "class" establishment.
Indeed, it initially drew members of the Dallas Opera, being close to
Nero's, the opera company's favorite Italian restaurant.
But as the Dallas Opera began its slow decline in the late '80s, the
Winedale began to attract a more derelict element.
One can imagine Lota's trepidation, her dreams of polite society sipping Pouilly
Fuisse giving way to a posse of dust-bowl panhandlers and
Reagan-era homeless, who celebrate the art of alcoholism.
went the tablecloths. The Winedale
became the Last Stop for those banned from every other bar on Greenville Avenue. The only beer joint on Greenville opens at 10 a.m. No poor
bastard became truly homeless until he was banned from the Winedale.
quintessential Winedale man of this era was Lance. Though homeless, he had a
debonair gait, like a movie pirate. In
fact, he had one eye. When on the
rebound, he carried himself with dignity, wore an eyepatch, bathed, slicked back
his hair. Although he slept
outdoors behind dumpsters, he managed to assemble a natty outfit.
In this mode, Lance could actually score a slow dance with one of the
Winedale's femmes fatales.
just as often, he was on a downslide, lost his eyepatch, and exposed an empty
black socket, a grim abyss within his head.
There was a shriveled mess of skin around this black hole.
Without the eyepatch, his cockeyed look was downright menacing to women
he stared down. The socket had a
hypnotic effect, and women found themselves staring back helplessly before
turning away in revulsion.
hard-looking 42, Lance estimated he'd been in jail 250 times.
These included overnight drunk tanks, three-day weekends, ten-day
psychiatric observations. His
longest stretch was three years at Rahway, New Jersey.
your time in a county jail," he advised.
"Stay away from the federal pen.”
Monday or two might pass without Lance. Then
he'd proudly saunter in, freshly sprung from Lew Sterrett Justice Center.
don't seem like a bad guy, Lance," I'd say. "What could possibly have put you there this time?"
"Tickets" was his stock
was known that Lance held a job in construction during his youth, and that he
was good. Building contractors,
impressed with his suave demeanor, offered construction work.
Lance graciously accepted jobs, toasting a beer to salvation.
But he never showed, up. He was determined to live off the streets,
banishing the work ethic forever.
sitting here because I ain't all there," he would often say, pointing to
on during my tenure at this deceptively humble shotgun bar, I noticed Winedale
bartenders burn out fast. In my
first six months, four were committed to convalescence or rehab clinics.
I regretted losing barkeep Tom Hedges, a scrappy little
round of waters for the house, on me!" I'd announce, through the PA, after
the crowd had drummed along, hands beating along on the bar counter, to my
acoustic take on Wipeout.
outta water," Tom would bellow. "But
the first drink's on God."
beers were served to Jezebels twice his size.
He struck out with all of them.
first, Tom ascribed to good bartending theory: if you miss a customer trying to
order his first beer or two, you lose him for the night.
Once he's had two, he'll likely stay for four or five.
But this strategy was abandoned while Tom disappeared to the bar next
door, downing more shots each week. (The Winedale has no hard liquor license.)
Long before last call, he slumbered on
the silver beer refrig, curled up in fetal position, his hands angelically
tucked under his head. Rouse him
awake to order a Coke, and he'd glare at you like you were insane.
He eventually left the asylum to the inmates, letting gutter alcoholics
fetch their own beers on the honor system.
day after Tom was mugged while wandering disoriented up Maple Avenue, his
friends arranged an "intervention," committing him to the V.A. rehab
hospital. He stuck with the
program, and began to excel at garden chores.
Sadie, my second Monday night bartender, feared no man.
She described half of her job as being "a professional escort to the
door" for the unruly. Sadie
eighty-sixed an average of five guys per Monday night, swiftly and without
incident. She was a strict elementary school marm presiding over
older men with arrested developments.
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.
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 the Highland Park matron
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
"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 countertop slut dancing to this day.
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.
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.
came Pedro, a hardened, humorless pro who worked other shifts at the Winedale.
His sideline business was stenciling house addresses on sidewalks.
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
Like a baseball umpire, Pedro would throw up a thumb for strike three and holler. "You're outta here!'
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 it
was, Pedro would issue an order to stop. By
the third violation, Pedro threw his thumb up for strike three and hollered,
"You’re outta here!"
scale his side of the bar, arguing chest to chest with a grizzled old offender.
"And I don't take no lip!" smiled 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 trouble-makers 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 these derelicts to fish out their beggar’s change and order the
girls beers. Then the girls
abandoned the suckers for the pool table.
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
off my bicycle," was her stock answer.
her bosom buddy, hadn't a clue that she was indeed attractive.
With a low selfimage 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.
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.
Whenever I announced a Ladies
Choice "Dance With Lance," it was Tara who obliged him.
She was the Winedale's top drink scammer, 21 years old, blushing on
Lance's shoulder, misfits at the high school prom they never attended.
Lance's song was Sleepwalk, a slow, crotch-grinding chestnut that
I played in Greenwich Village with the doo-wop group, City Limits. (Back
then, our diesel-dyke impresario of several lesbian cabarets softly professed,
"I kissed my first goil to that song in high school.")
Follow-up Winedale dance
announcements included a Necrophiliac's Choice, as well as singalong sections
isolating just the ladies, then just
men, then the ex-cons, those out on parole, those with one eye or leg, etc.
This was no joke. The
Winedale resembled the Howdy Doody Peanut Gallery, shot to bell.
Pedro never cracked a smile at my
smartass routines. Though he'd
outlasted my previous three bartenders, I noticed his patience thinning. He was Born to Bounce---especially older, enfeebled violators
who came for the music, not the beer. Order
a water and he would begin the umpire shtick.
Ultimatums came quicker. He
communed with a few scowling cab drivers at the back of the bar, boasting how he
bounced out truckers and bikers twice his size at previous bar jobs.
The cabbies returned with tales of customer altercations that led to
fistfights and macings. Pedro's corner turf became a separate Winedale nation from my
acid vaudeville show up front.
"Lance could make something
of himself," Pedro often complained, "but he don't want to work."
If Lance arrived without the eyepatch,
Pedro disapproved. He considered
this uncouth grooming, improper etiquette during his shift.
He reminded people that he ran this bar, and how all the street people
knew not to mess with Pedro. But he
usually kept his distance from Lance.
"That guy can take care of
himself. I wouldn't want to mess
The Winedale is a shabby oasis,
detached from the club circuit. I
prefer its sublime natural acoustics to most rock clubs.
If a stranger interrupts my set making unrealistic demands ("Play
some Smothers Brothers, goddammit!”), a protective layer of hobos will form to
“Play your own shit!" cry
my alcoholic defenders, deflecting James Taylor requests from SMU students.
My three ultimate taboos: James
Taylor, Cat Stevens, and Jim Croce. This
unholy trinity constitutes the musically illiterate's microscopic vision of what
someone with an acoustic guitar is supposed to cover.
I always felt secure that if I
ever ended up overnight at Lew Sterrett, some guardian hobo from the Winedale
would surely be there. Most likely
Lance, who saw jail as a paid vacation from the streets.
He awoke behind a dumpster most mornings, happy as a lark, amazed to open
his eyes and hear the chirping of birds.
thankful no one waltzed by with a crowbar to bash my head
in," he told me. He ripped
tubes from his body when he awoke in hospitals, propositioned nurses, and
chuckled his way down back stairs with stolen drugs---anxious to make
Monday at the Winedale.
Lance claimed to have shared a
cell in California with David Crosby. If
his drug and legal problems weren't enough, Crosby must have been bombarded by
Lance's song lyrics. He pulled
crumpled sheets of paper from his trousers, rattling off fresh verses composed
in jail, full of real-life hardship and hobo angst.
He'd break into a thumb-popping hard sell, slinging lyrics at me while I
was onstage, in the middle of a guitar solo or between songs.
Since Crosby, Stills, Nash & Lance never materialized, he hoped to join forces with me.
homeless regulars, disenfranchised though they were, felt compelled to go
to bat for my career. One old leprechaun, reminiscent of Walter
Houston in Treasure of Sierra Madre, showed up with
a million-dollar record deal in the works.
He enlisted backing from McDonald's, whom he alleged had finally
warmed to my anti-jingle, Thanksgiving at McDonald's in Times Square.
The McDonald's leprechaun claimed to be tight in his pre-wino days with
McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. Every
week he returned with progress reports and recording studio dates.
Then someone recognized the wino from his days handing out discount
Chicken McNuggets coupons in the West End.
His sphere of influence ended there.
Called on the delusion, he cackled
so hard I thought he'd need a straitjacket.
Lance, who himself had some TV deal in the works for me, wasn't charmed,
and punched the poor guy out, which sent him scurrying off from the Winedale
Pedro's nerves disintegrated slow
but steady, like shock absorbers on a New York taxi. One night a young girl got onstage to sing Roadhouse Blues.
It was her first time onstage; she dreamt of being a folk singer.
Some little stone freak hippie in front became overly taken with her.
"She's great!" the
hippie exploded, continuing to applaud after everyone else finished.
"She's great ... and I suck! She's
great, and we all suck! This place
sucks. You suck, I suck, and fuck us all!"
At surreal moments of truth like
this, when someone was about to go over the edge, the whole bar would come to a
hush. Pedro took charge, hands upon
hips, not about to take shit.
"All right, pipe down!"
"She's great!" hollered
the little freak, stalking toward Pedro. "You
suck!" he ranted in meth-driven rage.
"You suck, she's great, she's better than all of us!" he went
on, now jabbing his finger.
"You're outta here!"
Pedro yelled back, hopping over the bar.
"I suck!" the freak shot
back, continuing his odd outburst with passive aggression. The guy insulted himself profusely, confusing Pedro enough so
that he shrugged and headed back behind the bar.
Lance was ultimately banned from
the Winedale. Though he behaved
commendably on my night, he apparently crossed over the line, prompting another
evening's bartender to brand him persona non grata. If one Winedale bartender saw fit to ban a customer, all
other bartenders upheld the decision. Lance,
sans patch, may have whispered one of his hair-raising sweet nothings into
women's ears at the bar:
"How 'bout lettin' Lance in
yer pants? Any chance?"
Lance began to appear like an apparition at the door each Monday night, peering
in like a pauper at a Christmas store.
in there, Lance," I'd announce through the mike. "This ain't no Shangri-La, this ain't no promised land.
It's just the Winedale."
round of ”amens” rumbled from the privileged class inside. But
a tear fell down Lance's cheek from his one good eye.
Cold, weatherbeaten, having lost weight, he was too cowed to enter.
My wife, who considers Monday a school night, had come on a rare visit.
He gingerly tipped the front door and whispered to her:
it OK if I open it a little, to just listen?"
With Pedro's threshold for tomfoolery down to one strike, more regulars received permanent evictions. Especially music fans, stripped of citizenship at the Last Stop on Greenville Avenue. Banishment from the London Tavern, Service Bar, Nero's, or Simply
Banishment from Winedale was the ultimate humiliation; Josh spoke up for Lance but Pedro wouldn't budge
Fondue was taken in stride. But
Winedale banishment was a humiliation most found hard to accept.
Excommunicated winos and old hippies paced before the window each Monday,
pining to come in, awaiting forgiveness, shouting their favorite requests from
I spoke up for Lance, but Pedro
Ironically, it was another bartender who banished Lance, and neither Lance nor
Pedro had a clue as to why.
"Speak to Pete," Pedro
Shouted to Lance outside. "Clear
it up with him. Until he says
yes, you can't enter."
"What'd I do?" Lance
would ask from the door week after week.
He claimed not to know the bartender who banned him, couldn't fathom the
infraction. But Pedro held
I played Thanksgiving At
McDonald's each week for Lance, who beamed at the door with other
undesirables, slapping each other with high or low fives.
Among my sidewalk audience was Ray the Poetry Mugger.
A black street hustler, he cornered yuppies on Greenville Avenue with his
tip jar, jabbering psycho poetry as they stared vacantly.
Stalking college coffee houses, he'd hold a whole table hostage with an
epic like The Days Of Your Week: "Monday is a work day, berserk day, get
up early wash yo'shirt day..."
I often bring traveling guest
musicians to the Winedale. A
recovering Texas blues
"Give this man a
hand," I told the audience, as he strapped on his guitar.
But he'd fallen off the wagon that night and fell, in mid-song,
off the stage. He collapsed in
sections, out cold from a combination of beer and hard dope.
"Is that the blues?"
boys, hovering over his body, seeking musical knowledge.
"Not exactly," I said.
"B.B. King don't collapse onstage.
Now, give this man a hand."
Pedro began giving me the brushoff.
Whenever I ordered a drink he'd
say, "Get it yourself." When I finally got my own beer,
he saw this as the ultimate affront to his authority. A three-strike offense.
The worst infraction a musician can commit against a club is to
help himself to a beer. Might throw
off the books. He rallied his
corner of the bar against me. A
Mexican who ran illicit cockfights began flipping cryptic hand signals my way.
I knew one of us---me or Pedro---had to go.
Lance appeared at the door. It was
winter, and he'd bottomed out with the shakes.
He stared into the bar mournfully.
I was whipping out final songs of the night before two dozen
hardcore customers. Suddenly,
Lance began a game of cat and mouse. He
opened the door. Pedro put his
hands on hips. Then Lance took one
step over the borderline of public sidewalk into the establishment. Pedro shot but his thumb:
At this moment, the crowd started
rooting for Lance. I began my
oft-played bouncer's march, Howdy Doody Time (sung to Tra-La-La-Boom-De-Yay").
The whole bar, rather than hushing, became the Peanut Gallery, and I was
Buffalo Bob Smith. The joint went bonkers, all the winos clapping and singing
along. Especially Lance, a demonic,
overjoyed grin on his face, stomping an Irish jig.
He danced into Winedale singing, "It's Howdy Doody Time, it's
Howdy Doody Time!”
Pedro, summoning reserve strength
at the end of the night, bolted over the bar, locked an arm
around Lance's elbow, and backpedaled him out.
A weakened, underweight Lance danced madly backward, belting out the
chorus, He fell in the gutter.
Satisfied that he bounced the guy, Pedro regained his
authority, brushed his hands of the affair.
He took his position behind the bar.
And who should come goose-stepping back in, but Lance, more berserk with
Howdy Doody than ever. The rafters
shook with choruses of "Doody."
Another shoving match.
But this time, with the entire Winedale Nation's energy against him, the
bartender didn't win. Pedro's
shoulders went limp, his resolve defeated.
He backed down. He took
shit. Lance was home free. It
was truly Howdy Doody Time at the Winedale.
Something in Pedro died that
night. He mumbled under his breath.
He told me I was through playing the Winedale.
But he was fired the next day. After
a month of soul-searching, he recovered somewhat and was rehired to work other
shifts. Word has it he's been
raising chickens. He won't take
shit from poultry.
My current bartender, Steve Vail,
has been with me two year’s running. His
stock warning to panhandlers: "This is not a soup kitchen for the
The demographics have changed a
bit over the last two years, shamefully, upscaled---though mostly Wednesdays,
when dashing young rockers, The Carsons, bring in the well-scrubbed.
But even a poorly attended evening can take a sudden surreal twist.
Not long ago, a tour bus pulled up
at midnight to unload 50 French gynecologists.
Impeccably dressed in smart designer outfits, they were in
Dallas for a vaginal summit. How they happened upon the Winedale I'll never
know, but they lustily reveled in their discovery of an authentic American dive.
I'd luckily brought my Silvertone and
Dan Electro guitars, drenching them with Texas blues. One doctor spotted the
first 50 beers with a hundred dollar bill.
The next 50 longnecks were popped open on credit.
By 2 a.m., ties loosened, sweat circling beneath their pits, they'd
danced and enjoyed life, bon vivants free from the constraints of the
medical establishment. It was the only night I ever saw bartender Steve get looped.
When the last of the gynecologists had boarded the departing bus, tearfully
waving au revoir, Steve realized they stiffed us on the beers, As is
peculiar to France with its anti-tipping tradition, there wasn't one penny in my
or the bartender's tip jars. Feeling
diplomatic, I was glad they chose the Winedale for a taste of America over the
plastic tourism of a Hard Rock Cafe.
Rarely does Steve have to bounce
anyone, as he is beloved by all and doesn't need to assert much authority.
Once I saw him take out his black midget bat when a sinewy mental patient
refused to leave. Steve gave him
guy wouldn't budge. He just
presented his head, called Steve's bluff, awaiting the crack of the wood.
When Steve wouldn't strike, he left disappointed.
Steve already excels as a sailboat skipper.
Lance collapsed dead on Christmas
in a construction foreman’s car. It
was the first day of a job he actually showed up for.
note: Pedro, Nellie, Tara, Sadie, and Tom Hedges are pseudonyms for actual
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN FIFTY-SIX
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS
Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address:
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ