Continuing with SFist Memoirs' tradition of featuring spouses' back-to-back stories, we present Anthony Gordon, Loquat's bass player and husband to Kylee Swenson Gordon. Anthony took our request to hear stories about aspects of San Francisco that no longer exist seriously and with very comic effect. Loquat is celebrating the release of their new album, We Could Be Arsonists, with a party at The Independent on Friday. Win tickets over at FunCheapSF!
I first moved here as a delinquent teenager in '93 or '94 and ended up living on Clement Street for nine years. Back then they used to have live food markets between 4th and 6th Avenue where you could buy live chickens, live fish, frogs, weird stuff. I had just moved there, and it was like moving to Chinatown. I remember I went out one morning to get a cup of coffee, and a guy at one of the markets was putting out a live turtle on the table. I thought, "Oh, that's kind of a novel thing to see. Someone will take it home as a pet." Then he pulls out this jagged, curved knife, opens up the shell right in front of me, and starts putting in little flags with Chinese writing on them, maybe naming the different organs of the animal that people could buy. That was something I wasn't expecting to see.
At the end of the day, anything that didn't sell would get thrown into the gutter, and huge swarms of seagulls would come in. If you want to know what San Francisco used to be like, this is one of those things that's changed. Clement Street used to be super gross to walk down. People did not ever want to go down there. It's a lot different now. It has a French restaurant, book shop, kids' store. Now it's pretty clean. It's not Walnut Creek or anything, but there aren't half-dead animals in the gutters anymore.
I worked in a bar that I hung out in for about six months before I turned 21. Then I had my 21st birthday there. It's closed now. It was called The Other Place. It's where the Dogs Bollocks is now. Before that, it was The Holy City Zoo, which was one of the most important little comedy clubs in the city before it closed in the early '90s. Robin Williams started there, and one night, Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled up in a Humvee to see him perform. It was the spot.
Back to The Other Place. I knew the owner, and he knew me. He said, "Hey, man, thanks for having your birthday here. You've been really supportive of the bar since it opened. You work at the coffee shop down the street, and I figure if you can make coffee, you can make cocktails. I'd like to offer you a job here."
Anyone who's been a regular in a bar knows that being offered a job in a bar is like, "Yes!" I was 21 and a day, and he's like, "You're hired, Jeremy."
And I said, "Dude, let me come clean, that's the name on my fake I.D. My name's Anthony. I'm 21 now. Here's my real one."
The manager of the bar, who was a raging alcoholic, wanted to ban me for life. The owner, who was a bartender over at The Last Chance Saloon over in Oakland for a long time and had saved up all of his cash to open The Other Place, said, "You son of a bitch. You could have put me out of business." But I got the job anyway.
The owner made me have a drink-off with the manager my first night on the job. I had never had Fernet before, and he said, "This is what bartenders drink." We downed shots of it, and I almost vomited. He said, "We drink Fernet at this bar. We're going to finish this bottle." And it was a real-drunk, anything-goes, dangerous bar on a Friday night, my first night on the job.
The bar was struggling, and it only started finding its ground when the first Star Wars prequel was coming out. It was right next to the Coronet Theater, which is now an old-folks home. The Coronet had the biggest screens in San Francisco back then. It was where everyone went when something big was playing.
The nerds started lining up at the theater weeks in advance of the movie. We decided to make a drink for the crowd called the Darth Maul. It had black vodka, some sort of red Schnapps, and a floater of Bacardi 151 on top that flamed. It was disgusting, but we couldn't have sold more of them if we tried.
We started to get real sloppy with it. If we were going to make ten shots, which we often would — there were often big groups of wookies and stormtroopers, we'd line up shots on the bar and set the bar on fire, so it would jump into the drinks. So unsafe.
This guy comes in, who looked like Luke's uncle but probably thought he looked like Obi-Wan, ordered a Darth Maul. Normally, when dudes would order the Darth Mauls, they'd pick them up, blow them off, and then chug them. This guy must not have been a big drinker, or a big thinker. He picks up the shot and doesn't blow it off and chugs down this flaming drink. He shoots it back, and says, "Oooh." He doesn't realize it, but he set his beard on fire. I grab a wet rag from behind the bar and slap him in the face with it to put out the fire. He jumped across the bar at me, thinking I was bullying him. His friends pulled him off and said, "Dude, you were on fire."
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