Acadiana bartenders recount some of their unusual on-the-job experiences.
“So this guy walks into a bar ...”
It’s the setup that’s launched countless jokes. The variations are endless, too, often involving a priest, a rabbi, or multiple animal species. Mix them together with a bartender who usually plays the straight man, and you’ve got the timeless cocktail for barroom comedy.
But the best comedy is rooted in real-life experiences. And when it comes to bars, the presence of alcohol is often the precursor to some of the most unexpected and unusual situations. The Independent Weekly gave Acadiana’s bartenders the set-up — “So this guy walks into your bar ...” — and asked them to finish the sentence with a true story.
True to form, in the truth is stranger than fiction department, their responses included three blind men, a possum and a mysterious midget.
FURTHER REMINDERS THAT DRINKING AND DRIVING DON’T MIX
For Jeramiah “Pugz” Tassin of Maurice’s City Bar, having a rowdy patron isn’t that out of the ordinary.
“About five years ago, probably at about 10:30 or 11 o’clock at night, this guy got asked to leave,” says Tassin. “It wasn’t really a big deal. It wasn’t like he threw a fit or there was a fist fight or anything like that, but they had to ask the guy to leave.
“He got really upset, to say the least.
“One of the bartenders was in front by the jukebox, and when he turned and looked, he saw headlights come up over the ramp and kind of flash through the windows and go up. I was by the pool table, and the next thing I see Adam [another bartender] dive in one direction. Next thing you know, this guy plows his car through the two front doors — literally drives half of his car onto the main floor of City Bar. I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding.
“It’s a miracle nobody got hurt. People were jumping out of the way. It was a busy night. He had to have been going 15, 20 miles an hour. It wasn’t like he was blasting through, but it was fast enough. He plows through the front doors and then he throws the car into reverse and takes off. The whole door was all busted up. Nobody was hurt, so they just kept going [serving drinks]. What’s the point of shutting the bar down?
“It took a couple of days, but they finally caught the guy and the whole nine yards. Then about two weeks later, somebody did basically the same thing at the Bulldog.”
Tassin isn’t kidding, as Manny Silver of The Bulldog confirms.
“These guys are over there playing pool, and they’re just yelling and yelling and yelling,” remembers Silver. “They had a tab open; they had been here all day, drunk as s--t. We went up to say, ‘Hey guys you got to keep it down.’ They were like, ‘Yeah man, no problem.’
“No more than five or 10 minutes later, we hear them yelling again. We were like, ‘Hey guys, we asked you to please calm it down.’ It was two warnings.
“Five or 10 minutes later, they’re yelling again. ‘All right guys, it’s time to go.’ They got up in our faces, so we grabbed ’em and threw them out.
“They were parked across the street. We were watching them walk to their car. So they get in their car, and they backed up to the back of the parking lot and their lights are on. We were like, ‘What’s this dude doing?’ So he drives up right on the sidewalk, just drives up and stops right before the door.
“I’m talking to Deano, who’s the manager at the time. I was like, ‘There’s no way they’re going to try to come through the door, you think? He says, ‘No, they can’t be that stupid.’
“They backed up and drove up right through the door. A little bit of the hood is inside the Bulldog. And I guess they realized how stupid the thing that they just did was, so they take off.
“But the best part is, they left their tab open. We had their names, a perfect description of the car, and the license plate. There’s no way they could have gotten away with this. And so we called the cops and we told them. The cops came by and said, ‘We already found ’em.’ They had crashed into a mailbox a mile down the road. What a couple of idiots.” — Mary Tutwiler and Nathan Stubbs
EVERY TIP COUNTS
The Bulldog’s Silver is also surprised by how brazen the clientele can be at times.
“Bartending, we generally work for tips,” he says. “So this girl, she takes a dollar. Right in front of me, just takes a dollar [tip] off the bar. The thing is, she’s not just taking a dollar from me, she’s taking it from all the other bartenders working and the barback, cause we tip out the barback. “And, I said, ‘What are you doing? I just saw you take my dollar.’ So I told her to get out.
“Her friend she’s with, this dude just butts into the middle of our conversation. He says, ‘Hey man, what’s your problem?’ I said, ‘Your friend just stole my dollar. That’s my problem.’ He goes, ‘Aw dude, that’s messed up. Why you gotta kick her out?’
“So he throws a 20-dollar bill at me, on the bar, like that’ll solve the problem. So I took the 20, and I ripped it up right in front of him and threw it in the trash, and they all left.
“The girl that did it, she came here all the time, and she’s a nice girl. That’s why I was like, ‘What are you thinking?’ She came in a month later and apologized. I was like, ‘I forgive you, but don’t ever, ever do that again.’” — Stubbs
NOT CONDESCENDING, JUST MISUNDERSTOOD
“These three blind guys used to come in all the time,” says Clifton Andrus of Don’s Seafood & Steak House. “And they decide to sit over there at a table across from the bar. So I run to the table and I say, ‘I’m going to give y’all good service. I know what y’all want.’
“They say, ‘Yeah, what do we want?’
“I say one wants a Bud, one wants a shot of Crown, and one wants some vodka.
“They say, ‘OK, fine.’
“I come back, I put the drinks on the bar. Vodka. Crown. Budweiser.” [Andrus loudly placed each drink on the bar so they could hear.]
“The guy says, ‘We’re blind. We’re not stupid.’ They say, ‘Who’s the manager anyway?’
“I said, ‘Mrs. Helen.’
“They said, ‘Go call Mrs. Helen.’ Mrs. Helen comes to the table. They say, ‘This guy, he’s condescending.
“I said, ‘How can I be condescending?’ I don’t even know what that means [laughs]. They thought I was being rude.
“They said, ‘We’d like [the other bartender] Jamie to wait on us.’ They tipped her a dollar and then the guy pulls out a 20 and says, ‘This is for you, and you tell Cliff this would’ve been for Cliff.’ He knew I was standing right there (within earshot). Jamie had to wait on ’em from then on.”
After 42 years behind the bar at Don’s, Andrus admits he’s managed to upset a few customers but is grateful to the scores who keep coming back. — Stubbs
“A group of professional looking ladies arrived in our bar one evening,” remembers Christi Guidry, general manager of Tsunami Sushi. “Like most of our patrons, they were dressed nicely and appeared very well mannered. One lady complimented the food, atmosphere and overall success of the restaurant and mentioned that she was also a restaurant manager. Graciously, we accepted the compliment and thanked her for her continued patronage.
“Well, imagine the shock hours later when there was some sort of commotion in the bar involving the nice woman who had complimented the restaurant earlier. Noticing that she was rather intoxicated and surrounded by a group of men wasn’t surprising, as this occurs in establishments across the globe. What was shocking, however, was that the woman had warranted a crowd of men because she offered up her panties. She lifted her skirt and produced said undergarment to a group of all too eager men, who passed around this woman’s intimate garments. What the men did with them shall be left to the imagination.
“I can only imagine that the only thing she harbored the next morning — besides a mind-blowing hangover, was an overwhelming sense of remorse. We never saw the woman in the restaurant again, I’m sure of it; the impression she left is hard to erase from the brain. I have little doubt that the men that were there that night feel the same.” — Leslie Turk
WHAT GOES ON IN THE VIP ROOM ...**
“So a guy walks into Grant Street. He’s showing up for work, but he’s four hours early,” Dave Maraist says. One afternoon Grant Street owner Maraist arrived at his club around noon, long before the performance of Ziggy Marley scheduled for that evening. One of Maraist’s co-workers informed him that a stage hand, who was supposed to be there at 4 that afternoon to help load in musical equipment, was holed up in the VIP room with a 12-pack of Miller High Life and a female dwarf.
“You could hear them in there,” says Maraist. “They were just rustling around in there or doing whatever they were doing. I never really confronted him. I just had too much going on.”
At the end of the evening, Maraist finally pulled the stage hand aside and asked him what was going on in the VIP room earlier in the day.
Maraist recalls, “He said, ‘Well, I wanted to show up early for work, and I wanted to make sure I was really rested. So I was kind of sleeping around in there.’ But he never really said anything about the midget.
“But then I asked him why he brought the beer in, and he said, ‘Well, I didn’t want to drink yours.’ I guess in his mind, he felt like he was being responsible and contributing to Grant Street by showing up early, bringing his own midget girl and drinking his own beer without drinking ours. It was obvious that he was perplexed as to why I was even questioning him. He was confused as to why this was wrong. And I guess maybe it did make sense, in some people’s world.” — R. Reese Fuller
So this possum waltzed into the Blue Moon Saloon, and he apparently dug the vibe of the outdoor bar, the multi-level deck and the music coming from the little stage tucked away in the corner beneath the glowing neon sign advertising Blue Moon beer that he hung around far longer than anyone expected. He never informed management he was checking in or if he was ever planning on checking out. He just showed up one day and decided to call it home.
Bar manager Holly Harrison says he was first spotted this past fall. “There were sightings,” she recalls, “and it was really exciting.” At first, the fat possum pretty much kept to himself. But then his occasional appearances became a common occurrence, and the Blue Moon staff began to speculate he was bedding down in the rafters.
“It must have lived in the rafters,” Harrison says. “But I don’t understood why it hung out there. It’s just so loud. I don’t understand how it could hang there.”
As the weeks passed, the possum grew bolder, undaunted by the loud music or the people gathered there to unwind with a few drinks and live music. One night, a group of women was visiting with one another, when the possum scurried from the roof and sauntered across the fence on his way to a nearby tree, passing the women, who scattered like cockroaches exposed to the light.
And while his appearances made for occasionally exciting moments, his presence, not always seen but always felt, coupled with the thought that he may be lurking nearby waiting to spring at any moment, added a sense of uncertainty to the open air bar. “I would get creeped out when I would open the bar,” Harrison says, “wondering ‘Is he going to be in there? What am I going to do if he is? I’m not touching it.’ I’m scared of those things.”
The frequency of the possum sightings increased, along with the staff’s concern. A possum posse was formed, and a trap with a spring-loaded door was set to round up the vagrant. The trap worked on several occasions, netting four cats but never the possum in question. The pest control man was brought in for his advice on the situation. When he saw that the trap was being baited and then placed on the floor, he pointed overhead. “You probably should put it up higher,” he said.
Harrison and the staff ignored the suggestion, and the result was the most brazen public display of defiance to date on the possum’s behalf. One evening, while Lil’ Buck Sinegal was setting up on the stage for a performance that evening, Harrison says a trickle of water appeared to be leaking overhead, nearly hitting Sinegal. “Well,” Harrison says, “it was the possum. The possum almost peed on Lil’ Buck. Everybody was in an uproar.”
The possum had declared war and had chosen one of Lafayette’s most esteemed and beloved guitarists as his target. There was a renewed sense of urgency to track down the possum and bring him to justice. But strangely, after his aggressive stance, he disappeared from sight.
“We thought he had left,” Harrisons says. “No one saw him again. We didn’t hear anything in the rafters, so we thought he must be gone, that he had relocated.” Growing weary of catching cats, they no longer set the possum trap.
But two weeks ago, the familiar sounds above the rafters returned. Harrison and her staff took a broom and poked around overhead until the culprit showed his face, with his beady little eyes. They managed to flush him out as he headed to his familiar tree for safety, but a brave patron snagged it by its tail before it could climb the tree.
“That was exciting,” Harrison recalls. “It was good because the possum was gone. But it was also sad.”
The possum was later transferred to a pillow case and driven out to the country where it was released. The Blue Moon and its patrons have since remained possum-free. — Fuller
(Photos by Terri Fensel)