Tag Archive for 'cocaine'




From: Krissy@….com
To: hgould@heywoodgould.com
Subject:  is that really you???

Wow, look at you! Got your own web page. Is that old man really you? Picked up some dents since ’75, but still got that crinkly squint, laughing at the world. Glad you’re alive.

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com
To: Krissy@….com
re: is that really you???

Thanks. Me too. Today anyway. Laughing now, but in ’75 that “crinkly squint”  was probably a hangover.

From: Krissy@….com

Not liking yourself so much back in the day, huh? Well, join the club. I get a hot flush every time I think of some of my escapades…

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

Which were?

From: Krissy@….com

Vanity, Vanity, huh?  Thinking you’d remember me from a name after all these years. Krissie, the skinny blonde with overbite (since corrected.)  I used to come into Spring Street bar with my cousin, Charlene. We’d hang out and watch the show. Charlene was a big girl, loud laugh, really big drinker, never got drunk. “Here’s the lady with the hollow leg,” you would say. Charlene was really mortified the first time, but then she realized this was Soho, nobody judged. Anyway it kind of made her a celebrity, although she probably drank more because of it. 

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

Still drawing a blank.

From: Krissy@….com

There was a redheaded cop named Phil. You bet him fifty bucks one night that Charlene could drink more beer than he could. She matched him fourteen  big liter  cans of Foster’s lager. He wobbled out banging into the walls,  and you declared her the winner. But then he came back and wanted to keep going. “I  just went out to take a piss,” he said. And you said “house rules: you can’t leave the field and get  back into the game.”  He waved his gun and said he was going to kill us all. And he pointed it right at you behind the bar.  And you said: “That won’t get you out of the bet, Phil.  You’ll still  have to pay my heirs.” He opened and closed his mouth like a fish, then slammed some money on the bar and stumbled out.  And you said you knew he wasn’t going to shoot you because  you were supposed to leave one chamber empty in a revolver. And anyway a smart lush like Phil probably unloaded his gun when he went out drinking. You tried to be nonchalant, pouring yourself a big shot of Martell. And I said: “you’re scared out of your mind.” And you whispered “don’t tell anybody,” which was funny because everybody saw you shaking like a leaf. 

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

Doesn’t ring a bell. In those days weird things happened every night. 

From: Krissy@….com

I dug up a picture, maybe that’ll help. We were pretty friendly.  I came to NY to be a star. Remember you laughed when I said I’d played Juliet and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in high school in Tulsa. I get a hot flush thinking of what a pathetic little diva I must have been, although I guess we would have said prima donna in those days. I was uptown studying at Stella Adler and you said “she’ll bury you, she only likes the male students.” So I came down to Neighborhood Playhouse and you said Sanford Meisner would be mean to me and he was. So I got a job taking care of kids in a pre school and you said “you’re doing God’s work.” There was this actor who hung out at the bar who was in a play with Diane Keaton. And he said he was infatuated with her, but she was ignoring him, wouldn’t even say hello. They had this scene where he was supposed to slap her and he’d been doing a stage slap. And you said “give her a real hard Brooklyn smack, that’ll get her attention…” And he came in a few nights later, drunk out of his mind. You always said: “beware the guy who gets a head start in another store.” (You guys always called bars “stores” for some reason) And he was screaming: “you sonofabitch bastard dirty motherfucker. I took your advice. I slapped her so hard her lip started bleeding on stage. And now they want to fire me and she’s making an Equity complaint against me, you sonofabitch bastard, motherfucker….” And he jumped over the bar and tried to choke you and your partner Richard had to pull him off you. Everybody was laughing. But  you ran out after him, saying: “I’m sorry man, can I buy you a drink…”

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

Is that one of those machine photos? It’s a little out of focus. 

From: Krissy@….com

Remember when your first novel came out? You  said  “I’m only writing books to tide me over until I  get a good bar job.” You were supposed to be very nonchalant about your art in those days. Not to take yourself seriously. You had three copies that night. I said I wanted one. “You’ll have to earn it,” you said. 

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

I think I’m about to get one of those hot flushes.

From: Krissy@….com

You poured  me a split of champagne with a couple of shakes of bitters. I never drank anything but beer and this was gooooood!   After closing we went to this diner across from Bellevue Hospital where the waiter gave you tons of free food for a twenty dollar tip. You had a room at the Martha Washington Hotel in the ’30′s.  It was like a horror movie, dark and creaky, old people in the lobby at 4 am. It was the smallest room I ever saw. The radiator was banging. As soon as the hot air hit me it all came up–the champagne, the eggs and bacon and rice pudding –everything. I was in this tiny bathroom and I knew you could hear me retching and shitting. Oh God, I just got another hot flush. I didn’t want to cry because everybody laughed everything off in Soho in those days. You said: “I know I’m not a great lover, but I never made a woman puke before.” You opened the window and the cold air came in. You had this Slippery Elm Bark tea, or something.  It put me out like a light. When I woke up you were watching the new cable station. “It’s a Cagney festival,” you said, really happy. We watched Cagney movies all day and then the basketball game came on. “James Cagney and the Knicks,” you said. “This is a day to remember…”

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

Not by me. Well, at least  I remember the room. It was a short crawl to the bathroom. You could reach the TV, radio, little refrigerator, toaster and  hot plate without getting out of bed. One of those old people left the hot plate on one night and that was the end of the Martha Washington.

From: Krissy@….com

Once at 8:30 I was waiting for the bus to take my kids up to the Museum of Natural History and you walked right by without seeing me. You were as gray as a tombstone, smoking a cigarette. So close I could see the white crust on your lips. But I didn’t want the principal to see me talking to you, I was such a little Miss Prim…

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

Gray as a tombstone. Think I’ll steal that.  

From: Krissy@….com

 There were these three Colombian guys, who had leather jackets and watches and jewelry.  You called them “los tres majos” like the Three Wise Men in the xmas story. You guys guessed they were drug dealers probably doing business with the mafia in Little Italy. “Chocolattes, amigo,” they would say. You poured  cognac, creme cacao and heavy cream over ice and sprinkled nutmeg.  They loved it. “Cheap Brandy Alexander,” you said. “They think I just invented it. Like the Connecticut Yankee in  King Arthur’s Court…” They were always sliding rolled up bills across the bar. You would go into the little wine closet behind the bar and come out all glassy-eyed and light up a cigarette. New Year’s 1976 the bar was like rush hour. People passing drinks and money like at a baseball game. At 4:30 in the morning the place was still jammed. You were at the door yelling: “party’s over, everybody back on their head,” which was the punch line of some old joke. Finally, you got everybody out. The Three Wise Men were piling mounds of coke right on the bar. You were laughing and shaking your head. “No podemos aqui. Felice anno, amigos y adios…” They were so loaded they dropped a full bill on the way out. This bartender Louie who was in Andy Warhol movies got a straw and started snorting the floor, getting dust and ashes up his nose. It was too much for me so I left. The Three Wise Men were jumping around in the snow. One of them grabbed me, but another guy said: “es la pequenita del barman…” They gave me a dollar bill: “Happy New Year flaquita.” You had already locked the door, but you let me in. I was pretty disgusted.  I put the dollar bill on the bar. Everybody gathered around as you opened it. “It’s the size of a golf ball,” Louie said. I just walked out. I  was sure you guys were all going to die.

From: hgould@heywoodgould.com

 Some of us did. I decided to wait for natural causes. I’m a grandpa now. Even cigarette smoke makes me nauseous. Happy New Year.

From: Krissy@….com

I’m a grandma. Happy New Year to you!





Part Two

Summer of ’61. There are no cell phones, computers, emails, Facebooks, Twitters. But everybody knows where the party is.

You don’t have to make plans. A fifteen cent subway ride takes you to Washington Square Park where hundreds of young people from everywhere in the city and the world congregate every night. Wander around, you’re sure to find someone you know. A familiar face is good enough to try a tentative “What’s happenin’?”

The Washington Square Arch was designed by Stanford White, a Gay Nineties debauchee, famous for drugging and raping teenage girls. Dope dealers cluster around the arch determined to continue his tradition. Hard-eyed desperadoes in their ’30′s they stand under the inscription “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair” selling “beat” marijuana, which they call “Village Green,” made of a few stalks of the real thing mixed with the crushed leaves and twigs of the indigenous Elm trees. Whispering men flit in and out of the darkness, faces glowing ghastly white. For a buck they’ll squeeze a “taste” of amphetamine from an eye dropper onto your tongue. Junkies mingle around the benches at the entrance to the park, sucking cigarettes. Finally, the “connection” appears and leads them like the Pied Piper out of the park to a “shooting gallery” nearby. LSD is still a CIA secret. Cocaine is for esthetes only.

Only a few months before the folksingers were denied permits to play in the park and were dispersed whenever they gathered. Then, they marched a thousand strong up Fifth Avenue, singing and chanting. The police called it a “beatnik riot,” and waded in with horses and billy clubs, singling out the blacks for arrest and mistreatment. In a time of Freedom Rides and sit-ins, New York City, the bastion of liberalism, called off the cops. Now the park is thronged with folkies, blues singers, orators and drummers. It’s a lukewarm melting pot. Blacks and whites feel each other out. Mixed couples are safe in the park, but if they venture onto the sidestreets of Little Italy they risk a beating from the locals.

My friend Benny plays congas at the fountain with a group of Puerto Rican kids who bring their drums and gourds and cowbells down from the Bronx. They are a tight clique and don’t like people to mess up their beat, but Benny gets me a hearing. “My boy plays pots, man. You gotta hear this.”

I have been playing pots since I was a kid and created a drum set in my mother’s kitchen–soup pot for the deep tones and sauce pans for the trebles–banging away until my grandmother cried, “what is he, a red Indian?” Struck with the fingertips a pot’s metallic ring is crisp and resonant and provides a bongo embellishment to the relentless rhythm of the drums. This is new to the Bronx kids. They nod and slide over, making room for me.

Saturday night I meet Benny outside the liquor store on Sixth Avenue. A wrinkled, brown clerk in a gray smock opens the cooler. “Cold wine for a hot night, boys? May I recommend Italian Swiss Colony?”

A pint of sweet wine and four Romilar cough tablets confer an ineffable feeling of well-being. The drums are pounding as we walk to fountain. In a few minutes we have drawn a crowd. A skinny blonde girl in gym shorts and a sleeveless blouse is whirling like a dervish, hair flying. Her boyfriend, shriveled and balding, although not more than twenty, jumps and lurches, clapping, “go man, go,” and clawing at the patchy blonde scraggle on his face. You can always tell the rich kids. They’re purely decadent. More crazed and reckless than the inhibited lower classes.

The drummers wear sleeveless undershirts, showing off their muscles and tattoos. I wear a golf shirt stolen from my uncle. The blonde dances closer and closer, choosing her mate. We play louder and faster.

The boyfriend comes up with the rest of his crowd. “You guys are cool. You wanna play for our party?” His friends are blotched and loutish in khakis and dress shirts. But the girls have that alluring sheen of wealth. We don’t have to consult. “Yeah, sure, we’ll play,” Benny says.

I’m new to Manhattan and have never been to the Upper East Side. We take the Lexington Ave Express to 86th. Street and walk down Park Avenue. Liveried doormen glare as we pass. We turn down a quiet side street of four story brownstones and stop shyly outside the address the boyfriend gave us.

“Anybody know the cat’s name?” Benny asks.

“What apartment’s he in?”

“There’s only one bell, man…”

“So ring it, man…Shit, what are you scared of?”

The boyfriend opens the door. “Hey guys c’mon in…I’m Bobby…”

A narrow hallway leads to a large living room jammed with more rich kids, pot smoke swirling, liquor bottles on the tables. The blonde jumps off a couch and runs right at Benny.


“Who lives here?” he asks.

‘I do,” the blonde says. “Well I mean my parents…I’m Celeste, who are you?”

“Benny,” he says and takes her hand. “They must have some cool pots in this kitchen,” he says to me and walks away with Celeste.

I walk through rooms, gleaming with gilt and dark wood, figured carpets, paintings under lamps. Familiar faces in every room. It looks like they’ve swept up every lowlife in the park.

In the kitchen people have raided the huge refrigerator, emptied the pantry and are cooking eggs on the six burner stove. Somebody has broken the lock on a wine cabinet and taken out all the bottles. I get an ominous feeling.

People rush by me on the stairs, going up to the third and fourth floor bedrooms. There’s a library on the second floor. A beautiful room; bookshelves floor to ceiling; leather couches and a large oaken desk. Complete collections–Harvard Classics, Modern Library. I see a series of slim volumes, the Collected Works of Rudyard Kipling. I pick up The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant. My philosophy professor at Brooklyn College said “Kant is a bridge between the experienced world and ultimate reality.”


Celeste dazed and exhilarated, jumps out of a false book shelf in the wall. Benny walks out behind her, cool as usual.

“Like one of them secret doors in the movies,” he says.

“You got some great books here,” I say to Celeste. “Is your dad a professor?”

“Professor?” she laughs. “He owns shitty supermarkets down South, hundreds of ‘em…”

“My boy loves books,” Benny says.

“Take as many as you want,” Celeste says. “He never reads them…”

She runs out.

Henry, one of the drummers, comes upstairs with a frightened look. “Them guys from the park are gonna wreck this house…We’d better fade…”

Celeste comes back with a large leather satchel. “Fill it up,” she says.

“Your old man will be pissed if he finds his books gone,” I say.

“My mom will just order new ones,” she says. “They’re for decoration. They buy them by the pound.”

More people are coming into the house as we leave. Just before dawn, we steal the bakery delivery outside a Gristede’s on 72nd. We go to a hill in Central Park and wash down the warm rolls with pints of Borden’s Chocolate Milk.

I’m home just after sunrise. I fall asleep thumbing through my haul of books. The next day is Sunday. I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything.

A few months later, I see a headline DEBUTANTE DEAD IN TRUNK under a photo of Celeste. She had OD’d on amphetamine and her boyfriend, identified as “Robert A…….g” kept her body in the trunk of his car for four days.

Bobby is declared insane and spared a prison term. A year later he takes a running jump through his stepmom’s picture window and lands 19 floors down on Fifth Avenue.

I still haven’t read Critique of Pure Reason.



It’s 1973 and nobody goes home until they run out of money, drugs or hope. At 3:45 am Le jardin in the Hotel Diplomat on Times Square, is so crowded that short people are having trample anxiety. The dance floor is too jammed to do anything but bump and grind. The DJ has forsworn elegant variation and is blasting one jump tune after another. Drunks pass out and are held up by the crowd. People hang over the ledges of the roof garden nine stories up, flashing boobs, dropping pants. Behind the bar I’m confronted by a wall of clutching hands. In my dive joint experience, a four deep bar at last call means one shove too many, an elbow, an angry word and suddenly an ugly brawl, which the bartenders, in those pre-bouncer days, are required to break up. But we are in Disco Eden, before the fall, and good spirits prevail. There is a lot of pushing, groping, giggling, waving money, making friends. Not a cross word or a clenched fist in the crowd.

Sal Mineo is surrounded by devotees, talking theater. Jill Haworth sits outside the charmed circle, the beard that’s no longer needed.

Roy Cohn is leading his muscle boys in a spirited rendition of “God Bless America.” He glares at me. “Don’t you know the words?”

Ira slips under the bar and lifts the drawer to remove the stacks of 50′s and 100′s. My paranoia flares.

“Can you put a slip in saying how much money you took out?” I say. “I don’t want to be short in the total.”

Ira grabs a fistful of 20′s. “Now who would ever accuse a bartender of stealing? Don’t worry, a man comes in and re rings the tapes for Uncle Sam every morning.”

An hour before the tip cup had runneth over, bills sprouting like a bonsai. Now it’s almost empty. Has Jimmy been skimming? I check the cup. The singles, fives and tens have been “married” into a thick stack of twenties. Jimmy gives me a thumbs up and I feel a twinge of guilt for my suspicion.

People are screeching in desperation. “I didn’t hear you give last call.”

Bianca Jagger squeezes through the crowd and holds out her glass. She’s been drinking Cinzano, but now says: “Can you make me something better?”

If I get the drink right I’m in. I decide on a stinger, Remy and white Creme de Menthe, shaken over ice. She takes a sip…”Delicious…” Before I can ask “are you Bianca…?” her German friend pushes her aside…”And a Tequila Sunrise, extra grenadine…”

Suddenly, the music stops. Everyone is frozen in the silence for a moment. Then, they charge John Addison, pleading for one more dance. He shakes his head, sternly. “There’s a cop in here somewhere, checking his watch, who would love to lift our license if we serve a drink at 4:01.”

As senior man, Jimmy divides the tips. I get fourteen nice crisp twenties, the most I’ve ever made. That’s almost half my child support. I’m jubilant.

“Hold out your thumbs,” Jimmy says. He sprinkles cocaine on both my thumbnails. “Blast off…” This is not a good idea, but I have to show solidarity. I jam my thumbs into my nostrils and take a huge snort. The coke races like a burning fuse. I can feel the brain cells flaring like emulsifying film.

Jimmy holds his thumbs out. “Do me…”

The coke makes me edgy and talky. I’m wiping the bar, cleaning the ashtrays. Jimmy shows up with two shots of 151. “Going off drink…”

We click glasses and throw down. I am immediately on fire from my throat to my scrotum.

“C’mon boys, leave some for the customers.” It’s Addison. I can’t place the accent. “Are you Australian?” I ask.

“No, are you a fucking college graduate?” he says.

On the way out I get the wobbles. The Pippin gypsies are pushing into the elevator singing: “Gay Gay Gay/Is There Any Other Way?”

“I’ll take the stairs,” I say.

I descend into the seven circles of Disco Inferno. Every landing a different sexual permutation, a different piece of paraphernalia. Clinging to the banister I stagger through smoke and over writhing bodies. People are moaning, screaming with laughter. Somebody grabs my ankle.

Finally, the fresh air of Times Square. I cram the tip money deep into my sock and leave a twenty in my pocket to satisfy any mugger I might encounter. It’s a few blocks to the subway and then to an unmade bed in a sweltering apartment where I’ll lie in wakeful torment. Suddenly, death seems a viable alternative.

A redhead in white short shorts, black boots and a halter top runs across the street and right by me to Jimmy.. A big kiss.

“This is Adrian,” he says. “She dances at Robbie’s Mardi Gras.”

“Robbie’s Mardi Gras used to be the Metropole,” I say. “A Dixieland club. You could see the greatest musicians playing on the bar—Gene Krupa, Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Marty Napoleon…” The coke is talking, but I can’t shut it up. “I used to stand out there in the freezing cold to watch these guys–Max Kaminsky, Pee Wee Irwin and Pee Wee Russell who wasn’t really that short…”

A stretch limo glides up and Bianca’s German rolls down the window. “Get in tarbender,” he says.

The limo is crammed. Bianca is sharing the jump seat with two skinny blondes who are dressed like twins. She smiles an invitation. Is that Addison in the front seat?

“We’re going to 228 and then I’m preparing omelets for anyone who is still breathing,” the German guy says.

228 is an after-hours club in the Village. It’s in an old sweatshop with blackened windows where you can lose days at a time.

I can’t go.

“The Loew’s 83rd. Street had a kiddie matinee at 11 today,” I say. “They show cartoons and the Seven Voyages of Sinbad. Sometimes they even have a clown…” The coke is broadcasting again. “I take my son, you know. He gets really mad when I fall asleep and keeps poking me–’wake up, dad, wake up–so I should try to get a few hours…”

The limo rolls away, but I’m still talking…”Although I’ll have to take six Advil and then I’ll be groggy all day and he’s going to want to fly a kite…”

I never worked at Le jardin again.

The Disco scene was too good to last. Everybody got too high too often. They lost control, talked too much, did too much and ended up dead. Everybody got too rich and drew too much sinister attention. The wiseguys who ran the gay bar scene in the Village branched out into the clubs. Addison had to seek police protection from a very tough guy from Brooklyn, who later became a big TV star. The IRS locked up all the major club owners for tax evasion. The wild sex turned lethal in the 80′s when the AIDS epidemic hit. Life became dangerous for the hard partyers. Sal Mineo was stabbed to death outside his West Hollywood apartment. Roy Cohn died of AIDS, denying to his last breath that he had it. John Addison also died of AIDS. By the late ’80′s Disco was dead. Only the music lived on.

It wasn’t all bad. Jimmy gained 50 pounds, married a model and became a movie producer.

And Bianca Jagger must be a grandma by now. If that was Bianca Jagger.



NEW YORK, July ’73… Discos have exploded out of the hard partying gay sub culture. Everybody wants to wear glitter…Get loaded…Dance with wild abandon…

Everybody but me. I want to get a pastrami sandwich and go to the James Cagney festival at the Bleecker Cinema.

It’s a drug culture. Booze is not a factor. Most places just serve juice to wash down the drugs. And the drugs are all about sex. “Poppers” (amyl nitrate inhalers) which were developed to treat angina, generate frenetic energy and explosive orgasms. Quaaludes, promoted as a malaria cure, produce relaxation, euphoria and what the doctors call “aphrodisia,” the desire and the capacity to have endless sex. Women and gay men report incredible results. Not me. I gulp a ‘lude one night and wake up in a chair six hours later. Cocaine, originally used as an anesthetic for eye surgery, is reputed to make the user fatally attractive and non-stop horny. People on cocaine spend a lot of time admiring the way they look and the wonderfully clever things they have to say.

Not me. After ten years of hallucinating and learning things about myself that I didn’t need to know I’m off psychedelics and back on the booze. I just want to get crocked and wake up the same person I was the night before.

Music drives the scene. The British Invasion, Motown, The Philly Sound and the first stirrings of Disco keep people on the dance floor as much as the drugs. There are no B- sides. One great song is replaced by another. Soul Makossa is played over and over with the dancers chanting “Mama-ko Mama-sa Maka Makossa.” DJ’s are the new celebrities. Cutting between two turntables they can extend a dance beyond the normal length of a record. They change clubs like ballplayers or Chinese chefs and take their followings with them. Songs are personal anthems– Everyday People, Papa Was A Rolling Stone. In two years Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive will become everybody’s life story.

But not mine. While Diana Ross and The Supremes are going platinum I’m sifting through the bins in Colony Records looking for old Lester Young sides.

Everybody participates in what one writer calls “the democracy of the dance.” Stockbrokers, drag queens, suburban couples, bikers—everybody’s out there “shaking their booty” on the dance floor.

The clubs intimidate me. The dancing is athletically demanding and everybody seems to know the steps. The girls are insanely supple, in hot pants and halter tops. The guys look like they could do triple pirouettes in the Dance of Theater of Harlem and then beat me one on one. The only klutzes are the silent partners–the scowling wiseguys in the Armani suits with the pinky rings. And they don’t dance.

I’m a poster boy for the space-time curve. I share a material world with these people, but I’m in another era. I hang out at the Blarney Castle on 72nd and Columbus—a buck for an ounce and a half shot; corned beef and cabbage with a boulder-sized boiled potato. The only dancing I see is the pas de deux as Tom the bartender rousts the geezers who have drunk up their Social Security checks.

I’m working at the Hotel Diplomat in a dance hall for Italian immigrants, downstairs from Le Jardin, the newest, hottest disco in town. The place has been open three weeks and already it’s in Page Six every day with a new celeb sighting. But up until a week ago I didn’t even know it existed.

One Saturday night I’m in the liquor room scraping rat hairs off the lemons when Lester, the night manager comes to the door. “You wanna work Le Jardin tonight?”

A dark guy in a white suit is standing at the door.

“This is Mr. Addison,” Lester says.

Addison looks me up and down and is not impressed. “At least he’s young,” Addison says. “You’re going to make a lot of money tonight,” he says. “Don’t be greedy…”

In the elevator Lester confides: “The Saturday bartender Dennis got beat up at Riis Beach. I told them you could handle it…”

A narrow vestibule opens onto a room decorated with palm trees and potted ferns. The interior is white—white banquettes, white tables. Waiters on roller skates are laying out bowls of fruit and cheese. A guy with with a gelled goatee stops counting the bottles behind the bar.

“You from downstairs? What’s your name?”

“Woody,” I say.

“I’ll be judge of that,” he says. “I’m Ira…”

Ira takes me into an office room. A muscular guy in jockeys is combing his hair. “This is Jimmy, your partner for the evening,” he says. He steps back, squinting like a tailor. “Do you mind showing your legs? The bartenders wear uniforms…” He gives me blue sleeveless basketball shirt and shorts. Pinches my biceps. “Did you ever hear of the Y?” Groans at my work boots. “You look like the Bus and Truck tour of the Village People…”

“Ira’s a snap,” Jimmy says, getting into his uniform. He seems straight, but I’ve been fooled before. “This is a cool job. They do all your prep, cut the twists, make the sour mix, even wash the glasses…” His voice drops. “They’re paranoid about stealing. Don’t buy drinks, they hate that. If a customer buys you a drink make sure to take his money. They’ll be watching so don’t get cute. I think they’re connected…”

We go outside. It’s nine-thirty and the place is empty. A skinny lady with wiry red hair looks at me with hostile surprise. “Where’s Dennis?”

“In a urinal at Riis Park,” Ira says.

“That’s Fifi,” Jimmy says. “She’s Addison’s wife or hag or something…”

Ira shows me a tupperware container full of twists and lime. “In case you want a fruit…” He opens a box of stirrers. “Do you have a sizzle stick or a fizzle stick?”

Now he’s all business. “Two dollars for speed rack, two-fifty for call, three for cocktails. Pour a good shot, John wants happy customers…”

I’m strictly a dive bartender. The thick goblets and the sharp edged glass tiles on the bar make me nervous. “You could kill somebody with one of these glasses,” I say.

“We don’t feature brawling here,” Ira says. “Everyone’s a friend of the house…”

It’s ten o’clock and nobody’s there.

“The place is dead,” I say to Jimmy.

He smiles. “It’s a late shot. It’ll pick up.”