Just before the game on Sunday (you know the one I mean, it’s been in all the papers), Joe Namath appeared on screen for his personal analysis. And the first thing that came to mind when I saw him wasn’t his illustrious on-field career or shocking Super Bowl win which put the Jets and the AFC on the road to legitimacy, but rather his on-field antics in 2003 when a clearly drunken Joe Willy tried to kiss his interviewer. Who was Suzy Kolber. (Or maybe that thought had come to mind ’cause my friend’s wife sitting next to me brought up the incident. I can’t remember which as there were pre-game cocktails!)
But either way it does go to show how one sorry moment in a public life can dog that person’s career despite his accomplishments. We see it all the time in politics (right?) where some clown’s brains end up in his shorts and from that day forward he’s known as the guy who did such-and-such. Can anyone hear the name Larry Craig and not think about his Fred Astaire moment in a men’s room? Or Anthony Weiner’s “hot dogging” on his Facebook page? (I’d hate to think if I had been famous back in my oat-sowing youth, can anyone say the words, “one man blooper reel”?) Anyway, getting back to Joe’s “forward pass” which wasn’t nearly as bad as most things out there, Ms. Kolber handled the whole thing with class both during and after the incident (“A really good guy having a bad moment” is how she described the incident), and so did Joe in the aftermath as that incident proved his wake-up call to finally do some serious thinking about his drinking. Which he did and then quit.
After discussing Joe at length and seeing there was still some time before the kick-off, I shared with my friends another embarrassing wake-up call. And a rather funny one I think which occurred a few years ago.
I’d always been a night guy back then (I still am come to think of it), and every night when I came on duty I inherited the “happy hour” crowd which goes with the territory. But which also includes those pains in the ass who can actually kill the “happy” like this guy, Marty…
He was always drunk when I started my shift having been there since four or five, and I always had a problem settling him down. If he wasn’t babbling his bull to someone both loudly and non-stop, he was glad-handing this one or that one totally uninvited. Now I have to admit that he did mean well and he really wasn’t a bad guy, he simply had had too much by the time I got there. And since the day man seemed to like him just fine (rest in peace, Big Gene), I always continued to serve this guy out of respect. Until one day I finally had had enough having watched him annoy far too many, and I pulled him aside for a little bit of R&R. (That’s Rules and Regulations according to the Scribbler.) The “Rule” was to be he could only have one after I came on duty, and the “Regulation” stated he’d stay in his seat when he drank it. In other words no more working the room like a bad politician.
Well he followed the Rule part sure enough as I had control over that, but he just couldn’t stay in his seat which broke Regulations. So one day I cut the guy off completely and told him when I came on duty he’d have to leave. Period! And being, as I said, a good guy he thankfully abided.
Now cut to a few weeks later when a friend of his came in.
“Where’s your man Marty been?” I said to Marty’s friend. “We haven’t seen him in weeks.”
“You haven’t heard?” he said, suppressing a smile. Now normally those words might’ve signaled a death especially with a guy like Marty who was no spring chicken, or spring rooster, but again this guy was grinning so it couldn’t be that.
“No I haven’t heard a word,” I said, “what happened?”
Here’s what happened…
After Marty had left our establishment the last time he had been in, he moved on to P.J. Clarke’s to continue his evening. Another fine establishment. But his ongoing spree didn’t last very long as he showed up already blitzed, so the Clarke’s guys shut him off after just one drink. Disheartened as Marty was however he finally did get the message, Maybe it’s time to jump in a cab and go home. So he paid his tab, downed his Dewar’s and walked out. But then what to his wondering eyes should appear the moment he hit the sidewalk? A wonderful stroke of good luck is what the man reckoned. For right there sitting in front of the bar without him having to hail it, was a cab at a time when cabs are usually un-hailable. Especially when one is damn near legless which often causes a cabby to keep on going. So Marty thanked his personal gods, piled himself into the cab, and shouted in drunken bliss, “Take me to Queens, my good man.”
Well the gods must have been in a humorous mood because two good men were up front, and both were wearing matching uniforms as Marty had boarded a cop car not a taxi. (Obviously the light on the roof is what confused him.)
Shocked to the core and totally confused, Marty just sat there and tried to piece this together. Holy shit! he thought to himself, looking at the men in blue through a haze of Dewar’s, and that jail-like grating, Is this a freaking dream or am I in the hoosegow???
But the good part was these were good men and after a lecture on “when to say when” they actually drove Marty all the way home for his safety. A gesture to me above and beyond the call. And speaking of “call” this whole event turned out to be Marty’s wake-up one, as it scared him so and embarrassed him such that it put him on the path to sobriety the following day. (At least according to his friend who was also a colleague.)
Now did Marty stay with the program from that day forward? Well because I never saw him again and Big Gene was his favorite bartender, I’d have to say the answer to that is yes.
So in closing (and not to get too heavy here because that’s not why you came here), let me offer this bartender’s bit of advice. Any time you get a wake-up call, especially one this dramatic, it might just happen for a very good reason so don’t go back to sleep without at least pondering it. In other words, if you stumble home without your pants, sporting a facial tattoo and a bright pink Mohawk, and you work in a bank, to my way of thinking that might just be worth pondering!
See you next time, dear reader, and thanks for stopping by! (By the way, who did win that Super Bowl???)