Far and away the best place we visited in New York City was a place most tourists probably never heard of or would have even considered visiting. We only heard of it because of Lloyd’s connection to a pair of New Yorkers who had worked on a documentary – later shown on PBS – about his family during our final year of school.
Lloyd first shared with us the exciting news about the documentary the previous fall. One of his brothers got to know a member of a film crew that was in Muncie working on a larger project that was a continuation of sorts of a famous study conducted on the city more than half a century prior. Six films were produced covering varying aspects of life in Muncie, a city once considered to be “Middletown, USA”. One film covered the city’s recent mayoral election. Others covered religion, marriage, sports, and high school life. The film about Lloyd’s family, titled “Family Business”, covered his father’s efforts to keep his Shakey’s Pizza franchise open during a time of a national economic downturn.
Lloyd and the family were excited about the film and what it might do for their family-operated pizza parlor… at first. The first several stories Lloyd shared with us were comical in nature. The stories soon took a sadder turn. Lloyd often shared with me the stress his father and the family was under and how the presence of the film crew and the changes made to their home to make filming possible was adding to that stress. Things came to a head that year during a family meeting that turned rather emotional and was the most powerful scene in the finished film. Lloyd told me some of the details of that meeting and was hopeful that things would get better as a result.
Filming had finished before the school year ended. Lloyd, knowing that much of the crew was based in New York, told a few of the crew members of our impending trip to the Big Apple and they gave him their phone numbers to contact them when we arrived. Two of them, Phil and Bob, promised to show us all a good time.
They delivered on that promise starting at a little place called Ye Olde Tripple Inn.
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Lloyd called Phil and Bob to arrange for something to do on one of our free nights. They recommended the Tripple Inn, giving him a time to meet them and directions to get there. They promised something extra for after dinner.
Our little group made its way to 8th Avenue and 54th Street as per the directions then turned east down 54th. We spotted the Tripple Inn as soon as we turned the corner. What really caught our eyes, though, was the marquee to the world famous nightclub, Studio 54. Some of us had stars in our eyes at the possibility of getting inside and meeting such celebrities as Brooke Shields, Cheryl Tiegs, and Al Pacino. Sadly, we – THEY, not we – THEY found the nightclub closed. After THEIR disappointment THEY joined the rest of us at the entrance to the Inn. We weren’t sure what we would find inside as we opened the door.
Thick smoke filled the bar and yet was not enough to cover the smell of stale beer. We looked around the place from our vantage point just inside the door. The bar was on our left and a blaring jukebox on our right. The bar wasn’t as dark as expected. We noticed lit up Christmas lights hanging all around the bar, giving the place an unusual glow. We also noticed decorations for St. Patrick’s Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Halloween. Jeff, Lloyd and I loved it. We had just found paradise.
Phil and Bob waved at Lloyd from the end of the bar and motioned us down to them. The two of them warmly greeted Lloyd then tried to keep up as Lloyd introduced the rest of us. They were happy to meet us and led us upstairs to a smallish landing where they had kept a table free.
The two were eager to find out what we had done so far during our trip. Lloyd did most of the talking for us with some input from Oz and the chaperones. Phil and Bob were impressed with all we had crammed in during our stay and suggested a few off-the-wall destinations if we had the time.
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Following dinner, most of our group headed back downstairs for some beer, music, and the opportunity to scope out this amazing bar. Jeff and I were each enjoying another beer when we noticed our buddy Mike was nowhere to be seen. We knew there was one place in the bar that would be a sure-fire draw for Mike – the jukebox. Jeff stood up, laughed, and announced, “Yeah. He’s at the jukebox.”
We ambled over to join Mike to see what he was so enthralled with. It took but a second to figure it out. The first column of selections was nothing but Beatles 45s. The second and third columns were filled with Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. The remainder of the jukebox was filled with artists like The Kinks, Lou Reed, and Queen. Mike was in heaven. Most of the songs available were garbage in my musically unenlightened mind.
I stepped back from the jukebox to scoff at the lack of good music and tilted my head back to pound some more beer in my belly. That’s when I noticed a familiar red, white, green, and black circular pattern to my left. When I looked to investigate I found myself eye-to-eye with a dart neatly centered in the bullseye. It wasn’t one of those cheap plastic darts. It was one of those nice darts that serious players play with. This wasn’t good.
I slowly turned to look to my right and saw some dude about seven feet away with a dart in hand and ready to throw. He and his friends looked none too happy.
I sheepishly grinned and saluted them with my beer while taking one very large step forward. The dart-throwing dude didn’t move and yet didn’t take his eyes off me either. He glowered a few seconds more to let his displeasure sink in a little more before looking back to the dartboard and throwing another bullseye. He shot me another look. I gave him one to imply thanks for not putting one in my ear.