Friday, June 17, 2005

A Really Fun Friday

I was going to meet Larry McShane and his brother at Siberia but I hit midtown a bit early to drop of a tape of my German television spot, all of two minutes long, at Langan’s for Steve Donleavy. He has a cameo (sorry Steve, I couldn’t resist) appearance and I thought he would get a laugh out of it. Steve’s photographer makes a brief appearance as well. Well Steve wasn’t there, which is a good thing or I probably would still be there myself. He has that affect on people. Anyway, I had a bit of time to kill so I walked across the street to:

563) Pig ‘n’ Whistle

Right across the street from Langan’s at 165 West 47th Street is this Irish pub. It has a long, dark wood bar with a footrest and dark wood bar chairs with dark green vinyl seats. Hanging over the bar are large, dim orange, globe lights under old looking metal shades. Five large mirrors are behind the bar and are separated and flanked by wood pedestals. The pedestals are topped by coppery looking arches that frame the mirrors. Televisions sit on top of the four middle pedestals and there are two more televisions, one at each end of the bar. The center mirror is adorned with the bar’s name, the fact that it was established in 1969, and a nattily attired pig, complete with a top-hat, blowing a pipe, apparently trying to lure small children into the bar. An ample supply of liquor sits on tiered shelves under the mirrors.

Booths line most of the wall behind the bar and the yellowish tan walls boast pictures of actors ranging from Humphrey Bogart to Abbott and Costello. The booths, and pictures, are separated by wide wooden panels each framing two narrow mirrors with a candle-like lamp mounted between them. The portion of the wall towards the front has a poorly rendered (is that supposed to be Frank Sinatra at the piano?) picture of people drinking in a bar with very large windows, I think. Next to that is a poster featuring a dozen famous Irish writers. Next to the entryway to a small dining area in the back is an old red telephone booth with a Budweiser sign on top.

I had a draft Widmer Brothers Hefewiezen.

564) Siberia

Next was my stop at Siberia and what a stop it was. Behind the, while non-descript would be an overstatement, unmarked entrance is a surprisingly cavernous bar. A classic dive bar, but a dive bar in all the ways that make this a place you want to hang out in and come back to whenever you have the opportunity. Everyone in there seems to know each other and the owner, Tracy Westmoreland, says that is the way he prefers it.

The Owner

The bar itself looks like it is made of plywood sporting a decent light-wood top with the requisite cigarette burns. A Playboy pinball machine, photo-booth, and large orange Harley Davidson add to the eclectic décor. The artwork on the walls has a vaguely Japanese anime style to it and is done by a local artist named, I think I have this right, Richie Miller. They have a decent sound system and although Tracy managed to get the bartender to put on something vaguely Country Western it had somehow switched to Tears for Fears by the time I left. Well, he can’t keep an eye on everything. He also owns Bellevue around the corner which explains the similarity in ambience. Bellevue is much smaller though but, as you can tell from my earlier review, still a great dive bar.

They have entertainment here and there is a basement area that can’t possibly look more like a basement than the upstairs. I didn’t make it down there this visit but I will have to stop by again. I met Joanna Parson who puts on shows there including “Reddy or Not,” a humorous treatment of Helen Reddy. I picked up a flyer for “fag APALOCZA,” a musical review slated for Friday, June 24th. Too bad I will be out of town or I would have stopped by to see it.

When you stop by, be sure to ask about the toilet bowl with the blow-up doll apparently barfing into it. That toilet bowl has been to Japan and you need to find out why.

I had about three Budweisers here well chatting with everyone including Larry’s brother who had to leave early because he was taking a test the next day. Such discipline.

Larry was tied up working on a piece about the second helicopter crash this week so Tracy walked me over to the Holland Bar, where everyone seemed to know him, bought just about everyone, including me, drinks, and we hung out there for a bit.

565) Holland Bar

Just around the corner from Siberia and a couple of doors down from Bellevue at 532 9th Avenue is another classic dive bar. Jeez, I am starting to love this neighborhood. Once I finish my 1000 bars I might just hang out around here all the time, just sleep in the bus terminal across the street from Siberia. The story is that this bar used to be located in the Holland Welfare Hotel, hence its name. This place and Bellevue have about the same dimensions, kind of like a large hallway. Just enough room for the beat-up bar, the stools, and barely enough room for another row of people to stand behind them. And the place was packed. Once again, a very friendly crowd, but then everyone seemed to know Tracy. The bartender goes by the name of Doctor Billy and hands out little notes from the doctor written on what looks like a prescription slip to get you out of work if you overindulge. And I would guess that most people who stop in here do overindulge.

There are all kinds of newspaper clippings hanging on the walls and a really great Holland sign hanging behind the bar. I asked if I could take a picture of it and people in the bar started hollering “Get Charlie in the picture.” Doctor Billy obliged by jumping on top of the bar and grabbing a gold urn that contained the ashes of former beloved patron Charlie. He put a green St. Patrick’s day hat on top of it and posed for a picture.

Doctor Billy and Charlie

I never had a chance to meet Charlie, but he must have been a hell of a guy.

I had a Budweiser and Tracy and I headed back to Siberia to meet up with Larry.

Well, that was three bars for the day bringing my total to 565 for the year with 435 left to go. I would like to say I headed home, but as you can see, I didn’t. I ended up hanging out for a bit longer with Larry and several other Associated Press guys, this must be their regular after work place. We dumped down a few more Budweisers and a couple of shots of Jameson. Tracy had put me on a scholarship which basically meant I got to drink for free. He also asked me if I wanted to be a guest bartender at either Siberia or Bellevue one day. I said I thought that would be great fun (I won’t have to know how to make any fancy drinks, that’s for sure) and we are going to set the date and place sometime next week. I will be sure to keep you posted.


Danoots said...

Just sharing my opinion that Siberia, at it's new location, in it's current incarnation, sucks. I'm all for dive bars, but the prices are outrageous for a dive, the liquor pours are offensive (they gave me a Maker's Mark "up" served in a tiny 1 oz. plastic shot glass), and the juke box has gotten silly. They used to stock the juke with interesting, if self-consciously cool albums, but the last time I was there, they had wayyy too many soundtracks by Andrew Lloyd Weber (including "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat... Toronto cast starring Donny Osmond").

rAD said...

I don't think Siberia is a "dive bar" in any sense of the term. Yes, a motorcycle is part of the decor. It's loaded with kitsch. But a dive? As the previous guy said, it's totally expensive. Japanese anime? Couches? Hip jukebox? Nope. If you're looking for a coolish place while you're stuck at work or waiting for a bus/train in midtown, by all means, go to Siberia.

The Holland is the best place in the area, hands down. I'm biased, though, because I'm in the picture of it that the guy posted here. But just sayin'.

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