From The Bar ~ The Other Place…

Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon In The Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…


                                       The Other Place

Every business has one.  They try to avoid calling the Other Place by name but every business does have one.  The Other Place is usually in the same business and in direct competition
The Bar was no different.

The Other Place was a short walk from The Bar and was basically a restaurant that had a much smaller bar.  Still, the Other Place had a full service bar and there was room for a dance band, a p.a. system and tables and a dinky little dance floor that was separate from the restaurant itself.  They had a bigger parking lot.  The main difference, to the casual drop-in customer was that The Bar, along with having the showcase back bar, was almost totally devoted to drinking and live music presentation.  True, it had a kitchen but after the first year it became more of a lunch and happy hour food concession.  The Other Place was initially more focused on food.

But that was just initially.
It soon saw the value of the young “party hearty” crowd and started to gear their business to capitalize on this.  They also, being in business to be making money rather than friends,  installed dispensing guns for their alcohol that strictly measured every drop eliminating any possibility of overpouring on the part of the bartender.  This, while impersonal, has a dramatic and positive effect on pour cost, the definitive number that relates to actual profit taken by the business.

Remembering that this entire missive is to describe the rise and fall of a saloon in the latter part of the twentieth century we shall see how in many ways the Other Place was quicker to spot and capitalize on fads and trends. 

Would T.O. have had a longer run with The Bar than he’d had if he had followed their lead?  Hard to say. Looking back on it from the comfort of hindsight I am sure that he would have made more money longer if he had been quicker to capitalize on fads.  Following a lead means the Other Place got the idea first.  And many times, that meant they got most of the money.

Oddly, a band that worked well at The Bar often did not do well at The Other Place and vice versa so at least in that area the competion was not as bad.  But catching the New Idea, the New Trick coming down the road…

An excellent example follows.
One morning T.O. and myself were at the table by the side door reading the morning paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, over our morning coffee.  That’s what Mornings are for… morning things…

I was reading ‘The Datebook’ which is the arts and entertainment section of the paper.
I knew he had already read that section but when I read an article about Karaoke, then a new phenomenon from Japan, I was intrigued.  I had never heard of it.  You hire something like a DJ with a video machine and allow regular people to fulfill their fantasies and sing popular songs with the lyrics projected on a screen.  What a Concept!  We already had a good pull down screen we used for NFL games so it looked very interesting to me.
“T.O., did you see this thing in the paper about this Karaoke business?”
T.O. acknowledged that he had indeed seen it.
“Maybe we should give it a try.”
His response? 
One word.  “No”
That ended that and what happened next was that the Other Place looked into it.  It was a little pricey for the day, costing almost as much as hiring a decent four piece band.  But there were advantages. 
They were not as noisy.  It took up less room.  It got the entire audience involved either as singers or as well wishing spectators.  It was fun.  And the biggest advantage was Being First.
Being First on a new fad gave you a tremendous edge on your competition.  You not only got the reputation for Being First but once the customer was on your premises you could sell them your entire broadside of what you had to offer… music, pretty waitresses… good looking bartenders and a sense of telling the new customer that they will have more fun in your saloon.  Word of mouth does the rest.  Far better than any ad….

The Other Place booked a Karaoke D.J.

And it took off, big time.  The effect on The Bar was immediate and stark.  The Other Place initially booked it for Wednesday nights but after seeing the results at the register, booked it for Friday and Saturday nights also.  Suddenly, the weekends dropped off like a bad day at the stock market.  I mean we cut back from a three waitress night on Friday and Saturday to two and much of the time one of those would go home early.
By the time T.O. decided it might be something worth doing the First Mad Rush of the Karaoke fad had passed through, 
I could never figure out how he thought things through.  He looked at the whole concept of Entertaining People differently than he should have.  I think, when he first saw the coming of Karaoke, he looked at it as something he might not want to do.   Ergo, his customers wouldn’t either.  I don’t know. Certainly the ones that came in and stayed to drink all day would not indulge in a glorified sing-along.  But they would stay if The Bar had sheep grooming contests.  Getting new people, particularly women, into the place was what kept a saloon thriving,  
It is fatal for a club or live music saloon to not keep things interesting. You constantly had to get the public’s attention somehow. 
In any case, T.O. finally relented and we brought in a Karaoke vendor that tried but even with an actual stage and lights available for those who wanted that it just didn’t quite get off the ground.  It just came close to breaking even.

Finally it got so the fad faded at The Other Place too and we all went back to booking bands.

I think we may see a lesson here…

    Some lessons
    Just Don’t Get Learnt…
                      The Write Down Book


Paper Dolls by Vann…

            This one got put on public display twice for about a two week run both times… even with her flaws she is cute.  Shame that the photo is so off color wise… the actual color is softer…


    She is based on a Playboy model I think.  Very light hearted looking gamin…

     I seldom named the paintings.  I would write on the back of them my thoughts about the work after I deemed it finished.  If it was of a specific person I would write “____ is that you?”

As I recall, there wasn’t a name association for this one but “Jamie” comes to mind for some reason…

Paper Dolls~ The Ink…

This one has a story…

My painting lapsed for a while and I was looking at my stock of material one day and noticed that a certain color of red was getting low.  It was made by a company called Pelikan in Germany.
It was this red that I depended on when I painted my subject’s lips.  It was thin and transparent but you could do really nice effects with it.  It was not a color I would want to run out of.
I started looking around to try to stock up on it and found out, even on the internet, I could not find it.  Pelikan ink, yes.  That particular color, no.
Luckily, I knew a German girl, Maren Kohlstock, who was just about to embark on a visit to her home in Germany.  I soaked a label off one of my remaining bottles and asked her to pick me up ten or a dozen bottles of this color if she could find it.
It was a common brand back there and she came back with the ink and the receipt for around 72 Euros for the trove.
I paid it and made this for her.  The signature has been cropped out.  This was done on a small piece of white illustration board with no airbrushing.  I kinda like it.


I don’t really know if she did.
She moved back to Germany and I don’t know if she took it with her or not.

I cropped the signature out of this scan but
“Paper Dolls by Vann” is how I signed my artwork…

Using, what else?  

                    Pelikan ink!

From The Bar ~ The Face On The Barroom Floor…

Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon in the Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…

                                      The Face On The Barroom Floor…

Actually, that’s a poem by Hugh Antoine D’Arcy.

This is more about the face on the barroom ceiling.

One of the Bartenders had an interesting idea, one he had seen at another bar somewhere down the road.

The ceiling at The Bar was simple twelve inch tiles of pressed paper.  His suggestion was to buy new tiles and give them to the customer’s to decorate and put the results on the ceiling, replacing the old ones as we went along..

This went over very well.  For every ten tiles passed out we would get six back.  The missing tiles usually consigned to closets and are probably still there waiting to be decorated. Some were quite spectacular.  One was a four tile masterpiece of a Japanese style tiger.

One was another four tile creation reminiscent of the sixties psychedelic hippie artwork.

Someone put up a cartoon dog.  Droopy Dog.

I put one up.  By then my artwork was taking hold.  I actually ended up putting four up.  One pair of tiles was God’s hand reaching out to Adam suggesting the Sistine rendition and a couple of panels of women’s heads, nicely drawn, one in black and white and the other in color.

But there was one I made that was off to one side.  It was definitely eye catching and seemed to be the most spoken of.  People constantly pointed at it and anyone who made a study of the ceiling project always remarked on that particular panel.

There wasn’t a lot of drawing involved.  The lips and eye mostly.  The shape of the face was just hinted at by a wash of airbrushed paint.

It resembled Marilyn as it was so intended.

In any case, I felt good because I could see how it affected new people.  Any artist likes to know that people really like something he did.

T.O?  Well, he never said anything about it.  At least not about that plaque.
T.O… with T.O, art just wasn’t his thing.  He fancied himself a connoisseur in All Things.  In truth, he had the artistic acumen of a goat.  He tried to control the project of course.  Claiming most of it was crap and he wasn’t going to allow it to be put it up.

I argued that the lesser efforts enhanced the better ones and if the project really took off then the lesser ones could be replaced. But T.O. wasn’t having any of that.  He finally said no tile could go up without his approval and the finished tiles just started piling up.   Some of it unremarkable, some of it superb, all of it colorful…

It got so people stopped asking “Where’s my tile?” as they looked in vain for the piece they had worked on and brought in.  Finally people stopped asking for tiles altogether.  They knew whatever they made was not likely to go up so they didn’t try.

~ Station Break…. Nice shots from Nice Folk…

A couple of quick photos, nicely done….

Sarah Sewell…she has a nice website…


…then there’s this…



Mike Kolb took this shot in the summer of ‘08
with a digital camera.  It’s one of those shots…
You could burn throught a box of batteries taking
pictures all day and not get a light/shadow shot like
this with a point and shoot…

… and now, back to our regular programming…


From The Bar ~ Bartending, Cocktail Waitressing

Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon in the Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…

Bartending and Waitressing
The Focus of the job is this:

The Perfect Customer Space:
1. A clean, dry surface
2. One Drink
3. A dry napkin
4. A clean ashtray
5. No dead glassware

Bartending, and its sister trade, cocktail waitressing, is part of the vast Service Industry of our nation.  Some bartenders take up the trade as a lifelong career.  Most do not.  You might be surprised to know that, particularly among the younger practitioners, Bartending and Cocktail Waitressing has put many an ambitious achiever through school.
As time goes on, some bartenders keep up the trade and become somewhat transitory as they move from saloon to saloon.  The young, vibrant cocktail waitress that likes the trade may learn bartending or move to being a waitperson at a nice restaurant or any of the small business cafes and small eateries that dot the nation.  Cocktailing in a busy, loud, live music saloon is a young woman’s job.

The attractive thing about being a bartender (outside of the social availability of members of the opposite sex, (some of whom see the “mixologist “as a near celebrity) was never the base pay.  Base pay for bartenders at The Bar was a dollar above the prevailing minimum wage.
It was the ‘gratuities’…the tips… That is what the attraction was…
Most bartenders at The Bar went home with between fifty to seventy five dollars per shift, a good sum for the time, more if the night brought in a lot of ‘party hardy’ folks.
The day shift was not only lucrative, but the hours were more “normal” when compared to the workaday world.
This tip money is recieved untaxed.  No declarations or deductions were ever required to be made accountable to the house.  The IRS, of course, expects its citizenry to be honor bound and declare their tips as income at the proper time and pay accordingly.  Caesar, after all, will have his renderings.
Let us strive to believe that this is exactly what a young adult would do with this wad of cash they tucked away at the end of shift.  We will believe they went home and noted the exact amount in their personal ledgers so they could do their civic duty at tax time.

A waitress, be she green or an experienced pro, was always paid minimum wage but could make almost as much, sometimes more than a bartender, particularly if she had a singular beauty to match her abilities at drink service.
The waitress usually worked with a 14” round, cork lined, serving tray with a clip-on clamshell device called a “Cash Caddy” attached to the rim that held their money…kept the coins organized a slot for currency in the hinged lid. Some women preferred “bare knuckling” it, keeping their coins in a rocks glass and their bills in hand. This made room for one more drink for distribution and gave them a literal firmer grip on their folding money. Cocktail waitresses share “war stories” about thieves doing snatch and grabs of their money.
Some arrived on the job with their own “bank” or start money, usually twenty dollars. Most would just write an I.O.U. on a cocktail napkin and hope they made enough in tips through the night to “make their bank” and pay off the I.O.U. And if the crowd was not in a tipping mood this could be a source of anxiety. “Making their bank” was always a relief but they didn’t make money until the I.O.U was covered.
It was a saloon tradition that the waitresses must ‘kick’ the bartenders ten percent of their tips because tradition also said that when the bartenders were making drinks for the waitress to sell they could have been making drinks for their own customers. And since they actually made the drinks it was considered only right that they should make a little more for their trouble and expertise.
Some feel this is unjust but it is also The Way Things Were Done.
Everybody made more money if they dressed right and entertained the customers by adding some personality to their style. Good saloon service is, after all, largely Show Business.

But no matter how you looked at it, being a bartender or a waitress in a saloon that was bringing in good houses was a heady way to make money.

To the customer it looks easy.  You pour the drink, you take the money…Stay tuned as I educate you to the work involved in serving alcohol to the masses so you might have a better understanding of The Trade… a better understanding of what goes into actually providing…

The Perfect Customer Space:
1. A clean, dry surface
2. One Drink
3. A dry napkin
4. A clean ashtray
5. No dead glassware

To be continued…


Paper Dolls by Vann

This is another of my efforts based on a Cosmopolitan model…i have no idea who she might have been.  Hair was always hard for me to do and I think that is maybe why I like this one… I had better luck with her hair…

I loved doing lips.  They took hours because I used a special transparent ink… layered…