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
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.
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).
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.
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.
Chips was built
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.
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.
remember it happening again after Buffalo Chips
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.
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.
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
thought for just a split second and replied,
“Why, the one with the biggest tits, of course.”
He was hired on the spot.
House characters that most of you probably
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.
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.
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.
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.
there was Jinks …
visit former Oar House manager Mike Grzanich in
Cabo San Lucas, I always fill him in on the
latest status of Jinks.
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.
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:
has nothing to do with The Oar House, except
that it involves Jinks.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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 …
Spend Some Time in Purgatory:
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
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
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.
Spend Some Time in Purgatory
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
like the laughter went on for at least a
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.
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.
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):
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Cinco de Mayo
at the Oar:
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.
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.
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.
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?