Guy Walks into a Bar circa 1997, Hollywood

Karen Lillis

So this guy walks into the bar last Thursday, and he sorta “lets it slip” that he’s Lawnchair Larry. This older guy, you know? He says it to me right before I’m gonna tell him what he owes me for a light draft. I was looking at his face, trying to remember what Lawnchair Larry looked like. What year was that? Early ’80s. I was looking at him for a while, I was thinking that maybe he looked like a guy who just lost privileges at his usual barstool. Never seen him before, but he’s a regular somewhere, you know. Finally I said to him, “That’ll be three bucks, sir.”

Well, he stayed in the bar a while, several rounds, you know. But it was before happy hour, it was still pretty slow. The guy tried cozying up to a few girls when his drink was getting short, and he’d lean in and whisper something to them, and I’d see the look on their face, like, “Lawnchair WHA??” and they’d move away so he had to talk louder and he’d say “Lawnchair LARRY,” and I couldn’t help it, I’d start laughing. I kept having to pretend I was laughing at goddamn Johnny Fantastic’s jokes. Poor Johnny starts smiling thinking that he’s funnier than usual with those stupid gags. He even took the mousetrap out of his pocket. Eventually Larry left.

So happy hour came around and it was real busy, and I forgot about Larry for a while. But then Sophie came in. Right around seven-thirty or something, it was slow again. And as soon as I saw her, I remembered how much she loved Lawnchair Larry, so I started laughing again. And I tell her,

“You’ll NEVER guess who the fuck came in today!” And Sophie’s all, “Dweezil Zappa? Jon Spencer? Who?!” with those big eyes ’cause she’s the last unjaded girl in Hollywood. And I scream “LAWNCHAIR LARRY!” and the two of us die laughing. I’m doubled over behind the bar, and Sophie’s sprawled out ON the bar, and every time we catch our breath, Sophie says it again, “Lawn . . . chair . . . LAR-RY!” and we start laughing again. Until I have to tell her to stop, I’m at work.

But then Sophie doesn’t let it go. I mean, we quit the laughing part, but every time one of the regulars comes in, she’s all, “Minx, guess who came in today?” “Jake, guess who came in today?” “Mercury, d’ja hear who came in today?” The beardos came up to the bar, the rockabillies, the riot grrrls, the bike punks, the skaters, the Mexican goths, and she did the same thing every time. The thing I thought was funny about it was finding out who’s from here. It was almost strictly down coastal lines. The people from California and the Southwest knew who Lawnchair Larry was, and the people from the East Coast had never heard of him. I mean mostly.

Tony said Lawnchair Larry was about as interesting as a cat stuck in a tree.

Sophie was really enjoying describing Lawnchair Larry to anyone who didn’t know about him. She loves the part about him dropping the pellet gun, she works up to it real dramatic, you know? She makes it sound like he’s not coming out of the clouds alive. But then a bunch of kids showed up who thought that Lawnchair Larry had died a few years ago, and some other kid at the bar said he’d heard that his death was just a rumor. Conor said he suicided for sure. “My mom went to high school with his sister,” Conor said. He said Larry went to Vietnam after graduation and never got married, never got good with society, walked away and shot himself in the woods. For Conor, it all added up. But Sophie was convinced that he was the guy from earlier. “Maybe he faked his own suicide so that he could finally live down the fame,” she said. Conor was being a hard ass: “So then why’s he want to come into a random BAR telling everyone he’s Lawnchair Larry?” “Well, ’cause his plan didn’t work. He doesn’t actually WANT to live it down—it’s his life’s dream! It’s what he’s got!”

Around the time Seth comes in for his pool game, Sophie got on a kick about the band name all over again. I thought we had finally decided on Boneless Skinless, but she starts on about wanting to name it Larry and the Lawnchairs. I really didn’t want to fight about it, so I just served her another one and figured we’d talk about it when she was sober. Or better yet, just forget about it entirely. You know Sophie, sometimes she likes to say one phrase over and over all night, and then she never says it again. I thought I’d let this one play out like the rest of them.

That beach freak Lars has been stringing Sophie along for weeks. I don’t know why she’s so into him, but when he sat next to her at the bar, I didn’t hear anything about Lawnchair Larry for the next hour. They were just talking low over their drinks, and Sophie kept chewing her ice and playing with her straw. Sophie was so quiet, I could hear Johnny telling Conor his oldest jokes: “Skeleton walks into a bar . . . ,”
and that one about the midgets and the prostitutes. Finally Lars gets up to use the payphone, and Sophie calls me over and whispers, “Crystal—I just threw up in my mouth.” I gave her a seltzer with lime juice and told her to go gargle it in the bathroom.

A little later, Tony came up to the bar. Mistah An-thony fuggin’ Balladucci, from Bensonhoist, Brooklyn. You’ve seen him, he’s that hot short guy who plays bass for White Courtesy Telephone and drinks Jack-and-Cokes. Well, Tony and Sophie got into it over Lawnchair Larry. Tony had heard of Lawnchair Larry alright, but he told Sophie he thought he was stupid. He said Lawnchair Larry was about as interesting as a cat stuck in a tree. Not only that, he starts making it into this New York vs. LA thing, saying that if you want to see a real stunt, you’ve got to look at the guy who walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Sophie starts getting her panties into a bunch, but meanwhile Johnny Fantastic about lost his MIND when Tony explains that yeah, a guy walked a fucking tightrope between the towers back in the ’70s, several times in a row, and he didn’t even die. Johnny couldn’t believe it. It was like his whole geek act went up in smoke in the space of one sentence.

But it keeps going from there, with Sophie and Tony throwing down these random reasons why LA is so punk rock and why New York will always rock harder, why LA is the city of the future and how LA isn’t a city at all, and if that’s true why did you come here, until I asked them to go somewhere and write the article for LA Weekly already because they’re giving me a headache. So they took the debate over to the jukebox.

You know those gaffer guys who come in and drink Blackened Voodoo at the end of the bar? By one a.m. Sophie gets them to pick her up in a chair and act like she’s Lawnchair Larry going up in the sky. Only it’s more like the drunkest Jewish wedding you’ve ever been to, I knew they were going to pour her out of that chair for sure. And then Tony’s there tightrope walking with the pool stick on the edge of the pool table, with his bandmates sitting on the other side of the table so it doesn’t tip over. The gaffers are parading Sophie AROUND the pool table, and Sophie’s telling Mercury to feed the jukebox for the Eyes and the Germs and the Bags and L7, while Tony gets Seth to play Television, Unsane, Boss Hog, “Chinese Rocks,” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

Welcome to LA, 1977: John Doe, Exene, Rand McNally, and Black Randy, photograph by Ruby Ray

Welcome to LA, 1977: John Doe, Exene, Rand McNally, and Black Randy, photograph by Ruby Ray

Right when Sophie thinks she’s nailed the last word by getting most of the bar singing OUR WHOLE FUCKIN LIFE IS A WRECK!, something goes wrong at the pool table. I didn’t see it, but Glen Vereen said that Jake got up from the band side of the table to get another drink, that tipped the table a little, and then Tony lost his balance and slipped off the edge, landed on a beer bottle. Before you know it, I’m calling the ambulance for the second time in a week.

And now, Sophie’s over at Tony’s place while he’s stuck there with his leg in a cast. Yeah, she went to Los Feliz and got him some zines and soymilk and everything. I wouldn’ta figured them together, but why not, they’re the same height. They seem kinda sweet on each other. Course, we’ll see what the story is when Tony’s mobile again.

Anyways. It got her mind off Lawnchair Larry in a hurry.

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