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In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Home of the Classy Boozehound

It's sad that after all these years, you can hardly see the mural of Stars of Yesteryear at the Sandy Hut anymore. It's too dark in there, a Golden Tee machine covers most of the last panel, and while I approve of the archival thinking that caused them to put a sheet of plexiglas over the
damn thing, it's kinda too little too late, and now the reflection it causes makes it almost impossible to take a picture of it.

When I first encountered the Sandy Hut, it was dark in there like it is now. It was entirely the purview of old men and hookers. As the years went by, more and more people realized that you could get a brain-damagingly strong drink there for pennies, and they were none too diligent in their carding. So lots of young 'uns like me started patronizing the joint. The lights came up a lot higher, almost to industrial cafeteria strength.
This revealed exactly how nasty the place was. A fine sheen of brown gravy covered everything: years of neglect and airborne nicotine had made it so. At some point, a dancefloor that could house perhaps two and a half dancing patrons had been installed and forgotten. There was a shuffleboard table.

But of most interest to me was the mural. The way Sinatra is depicted says that it dates back to the early '50's, and the only sort of signature was the enigmatic tag line, "Color by Vera". Its conceit was that of The Bar in Showbiz Heaven, where all the great ones got sauced.
And I used to annoy my friends by asking them how many of these highly recognizable faces they could put names to.

The first panel actually starts out with an indistinct bit of anonymous customer and a waiter with his back to you, signalling an order. Then comes Danny Kaye, Adolphe Menjou ("The Best Dressed Man In Hollywood". His grandson lives in Portland, and we worked together for a while), Harold Lloyd, Bette Davis, Dame Edith Sitwell, Arturo Toscanini, Frank Sinatra sitting with Marilyn Monroe, someone that is either Clark Gable or John Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson and Marcel Marceau as 'Pip'.

The middle panel is given over to comedic stars o' yesteryear. W.C. Fields has an enormous bottle, while Buster Keaton has a tiny, tiny shot glass.

Charlie Chaplin has his back to you. Groucho and Harpo Marx are there, but no Chico. (Much less any Gummo or Zeppo.)

Laurel and Hardy are present, but does that rightfully cancel out any sort of Abbott and Costello presence? "Who's On First?" (like it or not) pretty much provided the template for most modern American comedy.

Exactly why Harold Lloyd isn't in this panel is anybody's guess. Or for that matter, George Burns, Fred Allen, Jack Benny...

(Or Bob Hope! Or Bing Crosby! Anyway...)

The final panel has Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong crossing clarinet and cornet over the action below, which happens to be an unlikely table at which Jimmy Durante and George Bernard Shaw might mingle, with Peter Lorre looking ominously on. Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein are also present, but so is Veronica Lake. Someone that is either supposed to be Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo is ignoring all of them.

Behind that stupid video golf machine is Pablo Picasso (that one stumped me for years, and then someone pointed out that both of his eyes were on one side of his face) and Kate Smith. It's easy to forget how much of a star she was, once upon a time.

I had the idea over the years that maybe someone should do the same thing on the wall opposite, but with stars of today. But who would that be? A bunch of people who you wish you saw less of anyway? People whose work you might appreciate, but frankly aren't especially distinctive looking?

Especially when in charicature, Tyra Banks would look like Beyonce who would strongly resemble Vivica A. Fox. You would recognize Obama, or Schwarzenegger, but do you want to look at them while drunk? I like Catherine Keener and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (for instance), but would they make any sense as cartoons?

And besides, to be really true to the idea, you would need to include statesmen and philosophers. Famous artists. (And, I suppose, any famous mimes you could think of.)

Funny too that the Sandy Hut ("Home of the Fat Man Sandwich," it said for decades on its sign, while having discarded it from the menu long ago) was probably never a classy joint, but the conventions of the day caused it to somehow need to present at least the cultural signifiers of classiness, because drinking alcohol is always to be presented as fun.

In short, it didn't promise you an evening with Garbo, just the idea that any evening spent drinking was going to be a romantic adventure. Even on a flatiron block at NE 15th and Sandy Blvd. in Portland, Or.

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Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

I would like to go to there.

6:34 AM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Well, it's settled then. Yer movin' to the west coast.

7:57 AM  

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