One of my first jobs in NYC was working at a Gay bar named Uncle Charlie’s. Uncle Charlie’s was located at 55 Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village. It was a quiet storefront located on a neighborhood street. Seth would often call you into the office and try to intimidate you. The office was in the basement and you had to walk down long crooked stairs (well actually half stairs/half slide for booze). He was usually on the phone when you got there and he would signal you to have a seat. Then, in between pauses with whomever he was talking on the phone, he would tell you what he expected of you that night. That way he rarely had to come upstairs and make an appearance during the evening. When he was done with you, he would wave you away with the flip of his hand and continue his phone conversation.
One of my favorite bartenders who worked there was Steve. Steve was sweet and kind, and usually drunk by the time the night was over. He would also overpour a drink so you could join him in his drinking. He loved to make B52s and Mind Erasers. Steve looked like an L.L. Bean model, and was actually an actor on the side.
Another one of the bartenders was named Joe. He was also an actor, but unlike Steve, most of the patrons had seen his work. He was the star of “The Pizza Boy: He Delivers” and yes it was exactly what you imagine it might have been. He was the guy in the film who ordered the delivery. We were warned that if you ever wanted Joe to give you drinks or not make your night really bad, you were not to mention his film resume anywhere around him. He was this big Italian jock with a crooked smile and a thick Brooklyn accent. He was also one of the dumbest people I have ever met.
Every now and then someone would run out of liquor and whoever was not doing something would go get it from the basement. On the way, there was a maze of beer boxes of stacked to the ceiling. One of the favorite games of the employees was to toss glass bottles of beer at each other as someone would enter the maze. If you got to the end of the maze first, you would grab loose beers and throw them over the boxes into the maze. The beers would hit the floor and explode like mini grenades, showering whoever was in the way with sticky foam.
Also living in the maze were rats. Now, I’m talking NYC rats, smart, cunning, and scared-of-nothing NYC rats. They would dive at you on your way through the basement. The cellar doors opened onto the street so our busboy David could bring the garbage right outside. Rats seeing a good thing would scurry inside and set up home in the basement.
David the barback (a runner who stocks the bar with ice and alcohol) was nice but a little odd. He was my age, but told everyone he had fought in the Vietnam war. He dressed every night in army fatigues and carried a large knife. The knife was for the occasional waiter threatening and rat beheading. Our manager Jeff actually had been in Vietnam and would have “flashbacks” during work. These usually caused him to stop working and stare blankly into space.
Our front door was protected by John; he was a really nice guy who modeled his look on “Super Fly”. He sported a large Afro and had a black belt in Karate. John refused to show us any tricks because in his words, “Karate is no joke.” During the fall and winter, we would add Alan to our family. He would set up a coat check in a little cubby across from the front door. The word was to never go into Alan’s booth unless you wanted to get felt up and believe me, no one wanted to be felt up by Alan.
One time while I was working a shift, a patron who had been coming to the club for several weeks decided that he was going to take me home. He took my tray, threw it to the floor, tossed me over his shoulder, and made a run for the front door. This guy was 250 pounds 6'3'', and had the thickest Russian accent I’d ever heard. Everyone thought it was a joke until I started screaming and he pried my fingers off the door jamb as he dragged me out the door.