the Beer-Boarded Confessions of Ed "Weedy" Wedemeyer

Session 1   Session 2

I believe Ed "weedy" Wedemeyer has seen it all.  He recently allowed us to Beer-board him to get these beauties.  Thanks Ed for taking one for the team - ED

My Oar House Genesis:

I turned twenty-one in August of ‘65. I had been hearing rumors about this dive in Venice called The Oar House for several months. The father of one of my buddies, in fact, was a pilot with Western Airlines and flew with Al Ehringer, the principal owner of The Oar. I suppose it was sometime in the fall of ‘65 that I first went there with two or three other guys.

A couple of things caught my attention right off the bat. First of all, in those days that part of Venice was a real arm pit. It was not a place you wanted to wander around alone, especially at night. Why would anyone open a bar there? And then at the door, there was this burly, surly, black doorman — can’t remember his name right now, but he turned out to be a great guy — carding everyone, including people that were obviously on social security.

My first impression when I entered was that this place was just a rip off of The Pitcher House in Hermosa. Well, that notion didn’t last long. The Oar House had a better selection of crap strewn about the place. The Oar House has a better selection of psycho customers in those days, comprised mostly of Venice locals. The Oar House had a better selection of sounds on their stereo (don’t know what most of you remember, but initially it was mostly sound effects, folk music, show tunes, and a rare Beatles song).

I couldn’t believe the chute that came out of the ceiling to fill up the giant peanut barrel, the chute that had the “Caution: Phallic Dust“ sign on it. The ritual of filling the peanut barrel was something to behold. And then there was the huge statue of the Ubangi holding its kid next to the service bar. Sadly, it was one of the treasures that apparently didn’t survive the fire.

While my friends and I were enjoying our drinks, several peanut fights broke out. Plus, we were shelling and eating peanuts like crazy. Finally, a giant mound of peanut shells filled our table. The bus boy at the time — I seem to recall his name was Tony — came over and very carefully scooped all the peanut shells and cigarette butts into a very neat pile, and then brushed the entire pile onto the floor.

That was my introduction. I was hooked. More later.

When Buffalo Chips was built

 I guess they also did a few structural improvements to The Oar House itself. I say that because in the very early days there was a large hole in the ceiling. The hole was located … well, if you were going back to the heads, just before you took that step up to the back bar area, look up to the right and there it was. You could see the rafters up there.

The hole apparently opened to the outside world somewhere else in the roof because there was a flock of pigeons that roosted up there. Every so often they would swoop down into The Oar, crap all over the place, and then go back to their residence. It seemed to fit the general ambiance of the place. Didn’t happen often, but once was enough, especially when they crapped on the Happy Hour free food.

I don’t remember it happening again after Buffalo Chips was built.

By the way, how many of you remember the free food — cold cuts, etc. — during Happy Hour? I was very poor in those days and it saved me from starvation more than once.  All I needed was a quarter to buy a beer.

Mike Grzanich

M ike was a manager at The Oar from ‘64-’70. It’s funny that I don’t remember him there at all, but I got to know him very well later. Anyway, one time when I visited Mike in Cabo San Lucas, he told me the story of his job interview with Al Ehringer.

I’m not sure I have it exactly right, but the interview went something like this. Al talked to Mike for awhile on various subjects. Then he asked Mike a question. “You have two applicants for a waitress job. One of them finds a hundred dollar bill on the floor. She picks it up and turns it into the manager. The second one picks it up, looks around furtively to see if anyone has seen what happened, and then keeps it. Which one do you hire?”

Mike thought for just a split second and replied, “Why, the one with the biggest tits, of course.” He was hired on the spot.

Some Oar House characters that most of you probably missed:

In the first couple of years of The Oar House’s existence, there were some strange local characters that frequented the place. They all seemed to disappear by the end of the ‘60s.

One character was Dirty Al. I don’t know how he got that name, except that the only words that ever seemed to come out of his mouth were “f*** you!” No matter what you said to him, that was his response. He used to drink a drink he called a “snow cone,” which was beer in an ice-filled mug. He was often with a buddy that rarely said anything. Can’t remember his name, but Weird Ed comes to mind.

There wasn’t a lot of rock in the early mix of stuff on the sound system, except a very infrequent Beatles song. There was sound effect, show tunes and Mitch Miller sing-along stuff. Every so often “The Stripper” would blast out. Now, if a local guy named Jack was there, he would hop up on a table with a couple of bar towels and do the bumps and grinds sexier than any woman you’ve ever seen. When he was done, everyone in the place was cheering … and panting.

Another semi-regular was an African guy named Louis. He claimed to be the son of the chief of some African tribe. Indeed, he had a very cultured African accent. He was also very athletic. He often sang along with some of the music, and he could actually drown out The Oar’s stupendous sound system. When a song particularly moved him, he would pick up the nearest woman in his arms, hop up on a table and leap from table to table singing at the top of his lungs, while the woman’s date would just stare in disbelief.

And then there was Jinks …

How to Eighty-Six Jinks:

Whenever I visit former Oar House manager Mike Grzanich in Cabo San Lucas, I always fill him in on the latest status of Jinks.

Mike has frequently told me the same story about Jinks. He eighty-sixed Jinks on a temporary basis whenever Jinks got too hosed, which was regularly. It got to be such a habit that Jinks finally started eighty-sixing himself. Here’s how that worked. Mike would walk up to Jinks with that “you’re outta here” look on his face. Jinks would then grab his own right shoulder with his left hand and pull himself out the front door hollering “and don’t come back again” all the way out. Mike didn’t have to lay a hand on Jinks or even say a word. I’ll bet all you ex-managers wish it were that easy to throw out someone who had too much to drink.

Mike Grzanich now runs Latitude 22+ in Cabo, http://www.lat22nobaddays.com. It’s a great place for food, booze and ambiance. Mike has almost as much crap in his place as The Oar House had. It should bring back some memories.

One of My Favorite Jinks Stories:

This story has nothing to do with The Oar House, except that it involves Jinks.

One evening Mike Grzanich and I were having dinner and a drink at a place called The Buccaneer, right near Manhattan Beach Pier. Mike was an Oar House manager in the very early days. At the time of this story he owned a bar in Manhattan beach called La Paz. He now owns the best bar/restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, Latitude 22+ Roadhouse (http://www.lat22nobaddays.com). So much for the commercials.

Mike and I were having a good chat when Jinks came in the front door. When he saw us, he came over and sat down at our table. Jinks was clearly troubled by something that was weighing heavily on his mind.

It might help you to know that Jinks was raised with a devout Irish-Catholic background. In fact, he even spent some time trying to become a monk in the Christian Brothers order. Hard to believe, I know, but it may help you understand if you remember that the Christian Brothers supported themselves by making and selling fine wine and brandy.

Anyway, Jinks started to tell us what was troubling him. “I had this dream,” he said with a worried look on his face. “I dreamed that I was one of the apostles sitting at the Last Supper with Jesus. Jesus broke the bread and passed it around. He blessed the wine and passed it around. Then He said, ‘One of you has betrayed Me.’ There was stunned silence at the table.

“The silence was broken by a knock at the side door. One of the apostles went over and opened the door. It was the Budweiser delivery guy wanting to know where to drop all the kegs.”

This dream apparently tested Jinks’ Catholic sense of guilt and he felt it bordered on sacrilegious. On the other hand Mike and I laughed ourselves silly. Only Jinks …

 

Why I’ll Spend Some Time in Purgatory:

After a lifetime of exemplary behavior, countless good deeds and bringing comfort to my fellow humans, I expect I’ll have no trouble getting past St. Peter. Well, there is this one blot on my record.

Not too far from The Oar were two lesbian bars. One was called Scotty’s at Lincoln and Rose. Scotty’s was usually filled with women ranging from passable to quite attractive. Then there was Big Brother’s on Washington Place (now Abbot Kinney) near Venice Boulevard. It was where the Dikes on Bikes crowd gathered, and was the only bar I’ve ever been in where a bartender vaulted over the bar, Western movie style, and smashed a bottle over a patron’s head. It seemed someone was messing with the bartender’s date. Of course, all three in this particular triangle were women.

Every so often, after a night of striking out at The Oar, a buddy and I would stop off at one of these places and try to talk the lesbians out of being lesbians. That didn’t work, either, but it was always worth a few laughs.

 

 

Why I’ll Spend Some Time in Purgatory - continued

One horrendously crowded Friday night in The Oar, a couple of friends and I were squeezed elbow-to-elbow with a zillion other people. We were right near the bar. There were three Marines sitting at the bar, freshly returned from combat in Viet Nam. One of them tapped me on the shoulder and asked where they could find some women. Without hesitation, I pointed in an easterly direction and said, “Scotty’s at Lincoln and Rose.” I assured them that there were plenty of women there, and they took off in eager anticipation, graciously offering their seats at the bar to us.

About twenty minutes later, I turned to my friends and said, “You know, those Marines are going to think they died and went to Heaven when they walk into Scotty’s. About ten minutes later, they’re going to figure out that they’ve been had. They may come back here and beat the crap out of us.” So we drank up and split to Big Brother’s. After all, if the Marines tracked us down, we figured the Dikes on Bikes crowd would protect us.

Today happens to be Veterans Day, so maybe my conscience is bothering me. I always felt kind of bad about pulling a crappy trick like that. I think it’s worth a few dozen years in Purgatory. But on the other hand, I assume they didn’t get laid, so what’s wrong with them going through the same thing I was going through?

 

One of My Other  Favorite Oar House Stories:

The best and worst bartender The Oar ever had, in my opinion, was a guy known to all the staff as Tweetie Pie. I don’t know how he got that handle. He worked part-time at The Oar while finishing his masters degree at UCLA in thermodynamics, a word, incidentally, that he never learned how to spell.

Okay, let’s start with some background information. The first manager, as far as I know, was a guy named Don Thomas. He had a very strict dress code for bartenders: white shirt, tie, red vest. Tweetie conformed to that for awhile. However, one Easter Sunday he came to work in a head-to-toe bunny suit. Don Thomas was horrified, but Don’s wife happened to be there and thought it was cute, so Tweetie got away with it. He never wore the standard uniform after that. One time he came dressed as an accident: bandages covering his entire body with blood stains and gore everywhere. One time he came dressed as Hitler, and so on.

So one time — maybe it was on a Halloween — everyone, including Don Thomas, decided to surprise and upstage Tweetie by coming to work in costumes. Now Don was a roly-poly guy, hairy body and bald. He came in a grass hula skirt. Not a pretty sight. I don’t remember what anyone else wore. When Tweetie finally rode up to The Oar on his motorcycle — fairly late, as usual — he was dressed in a complete scuba diving outfit: wetsuit, tanks, mask, flippers, etc. And that’s the way he worked the bar that night. The staff never tried to outdo Tweetie again.

About the Hitler costume … sometime during the night he wore that costume, a particularly spirited Beatles song came on the sound system. Tweetie happened to be making one of those drinks that required a shaker. He hopped up on the bar and was dancing around shaking the drink above his head. By this time half the people in the bar were looking at him. Suddenly, the two halves of the shaker separated and the drink poured down all over him.

Okay, now to the main story … Tweetie was living at a place called Israel Levine’s Senior Jewish Community Center, which was on the Venice beach only a few blocks from The Oar. Think about that: a twenty-three-year-old gentile living in a Jewish old folks home. I had to see it to believe it, so one night I dropped by Isreal’s while Tweetie was getting ready to go to work at The Oar. We were rummaging through his stuff trying to come up with a new costume. The best we could do that night was to dress him in drag using a blond wig, a sweater (with only one boob) and a borrowed skirt. When he was set, I drove him to The Oar.

About an hour into his shift, one of the waitresses came in to start work. Her name was Mary Ann. She was gorgeous, sexy, outgoing, and easily raked in more tips than anyone else in the place. Tweetie always lusted after her, as did everyone else. Okay, so Mary Ann went behind the bar to stash her purse and coat. She saw Tweetie and started laughing uproariously and hollering at everyone within earshot to check out his costume. By now, all eyes were on the two of them behind the bar. Mary Ann then grabbed Tweetie in a huge embrace and put a lip lock on him that wouldn’t quit. Must have lasted twenty seconds. She then stepped back and eyed him from head to toe laughing, while he was breathless with eyes spinning. Finally, she reached down and lifted up Tweetie’s skirt. Now this presented a few problems. First, just about everyone in The Oar was watching all this happening. Second, Tweetie forgot to put on any skivs under the skirt. Third, Mary Ann’s prolonged kiss induced a major case of EF (erectile function) in Tweetie.

It seemed like the laughter went on for at least a half-hour.

By the way, that night I had to leave before last call, so Tweetie had to walk home through Venice wearing a dress. More on Tweetie later.

MO TWEETIE!

One spring break from UCLA Tweetie and a pal, Tricky Ricky, went to San Filipe, Mexico to relax and raise hell. While they were there, they got into a barroom brawl with two guys named Igor and Lardo (sounds like two guys you don’t want to mess with). Tweetie ended up with a world-class black eye. Shortly after that trip, he had to have his driver’s license photo taken, and the shiner on his left eye showed up beautifully.

After Tweetie’s bartending days, he and I would occasionally go to The Oar. Because of staff turnover almost nobody remembered him. He loved it when he was carded at the front door. First of all, Tweetie pulled out his Cub Scout wallet with great flourish, making sure the doorman saw it. And then when he displayed his driver’s license showing the very prominent black eye, the doorman knew he had seen it all.

Going Out of Business Sales (GOOBS):

For those who never attended an annual Going Out of Business Sale (a.k.a., Oar House anniversary), they occurred on a Sunday in October. The place opened earlier than usual, 6:00AM, and closed, as usual, at 2:00AM.

My first Going Out of Business Sale was in 1966, I think. That would be the fourth Going Out of Business Sale, which was actually the second one. You see, they numbered each one two more than the previous one. If that confuses you, just have a drink. You’re probably behind anyway.

I went to The Oar not knowing anything special was happening. I showed up about sunset and the line at the door was practically a block long. My bartender friend, Tweetie, was ending his shift, and he snuck me in the back door. I was lucky to find an empty seat at the bar. The first clue I had that something momentous was happening was when I found out that all drinks were 25˘. I forget what beer was selling for, maybe 10˘. I’m normally a beer drinker, but the price for mixed drinks was too good to pass up. I ordered a gin gimlet.

That went down the hatch rather quickly. So I ordered another. The bartender was a guy named Roger Small, and he was clearly overworked that night. When I ordered my third, he said, “Can’t you see how hard I’m working? Why the hell don’t you order a double?” So I ordered a triple. It still cost me a quarter.

Well, my first Going Out of Business Sale lasted about forty-five minutes. I was completely hosed. I practically had to crawl out on my hands and knees. And I think I spent a buck.

By the time the next Going Out of Business Sale rolled around, I had sufficient warning and training. A group of about five of us started banging on the front door at 6:00AM on a foggy Sunday morning in October. One of the managers, Tony Parmely (sp?), opened the door. My girlfriend and I survived until 2:00AM the next morning. We didn’t pass out, we drank steadily, our hearing and our livers were completely shot, and we sure had fun. I don’t know how many people have ever survived the full twenty hours, but we did it once, and once was enough.

At one Going Out of Business Sale, Jinks disappeared at about ten in the morning. We couldn’t find him anywhere. We figured he went to the nearest Catholic church to pass out. He often did that, good Irish Catholic lad that he was. But we were wrong. I’ll explain. In the early days there was a partition in front of the men’s head, but nothing blocking the entrance to the women’s. Finally, someone spotted Jinks’ tennis shoes (they were multi-colored and very loud) in one of the stalls in the women’s head. Jinks was in them. He needed to pass out for awhile, and that was a nice, private place to do it. Made sense to Jinks.

I only went to a couple of Going Out of Business Sales after that. I think my last one was in 1973, or so. Did they continue having them until the bitter end? And (I’ll ask once more) when was the bitter end?

Cinco de Mayo at the Oar:

I decided to spend one Cinco de Mayo at The Oar House. You would think the special for that night would be some kind of tequila drink. But no, it was something they called “The Green Zipper.” I don’t know if it was a standard drink, or something they just dreamed up on the spot. I never heard of it before or since. It turned out The Green Zipper was a pitcher full of just about every kind of booze they had behind the bar. What made it green was a final shot of Creme de Menthe. It looked harmless enough. What the hell; I ordered one.

I put a straw in it and sipped it throughout the night. I was having a great time. When I was about two-thirds through the damned thing, I began to realize I was completely hosed.

My friend, Tweetie, was supposed to meet me later that night, so I sat at a table waiting for him. Sometime around 10:00PM my tunnel vision was coming to a point about two feet in front of my eyes. The only way I could really recognize anything was to scan it, like a TV camera, and then try to assemble the various lines and points into an image in what was left of my brain. Does that sound familiar? After awhile, I noticed that someone was sitting across the table from me. After about a minute of scanning, I realized it was Tweetie. I asked him, “How long you been sitting there?” He said it had been about a half hour.

That did it. I figured I’d better get home before I passed out. I said, “Adios,” to Tweetie (in keeping with the Cinco de Mayo spirit), and staggered out to my car drove home using every back road available.

I’m not prone to passing out, but that was about as close as I’ve come … well, except for the time that Tweetie and I stopped in The Pitcher House for “just one beer,” and rolled out an hour or two later after splitting twelve pitchers.

 

 

Come on Ed we just gotta have a few more.....please?