Monday, June 24, 2024

 


  

The Old Pink
My Old Pink story starts in the early 80’s at the establishment next store, Mulligan’s Brick Bar. It’s also when the Old Pink was still The Pink Flamingo or as we called it—The Pink. The Brick Bar became a thing when my friend and fellow Brockport State washout Kevin McNamara started working there. Not only did he work there, but he quickly rose to the rank of manager—no one could ice up a case of OV Splits like KevMac. Of course, as it is a best practice of the most effective managers everywhere, he used his elevated position to hire all of his friends, including me—the worst White Coat/Bouncer in the history of the Brick Bar. 
Remember the White Coats? We used to circulate through the packed bar witnessing a thousand broken dreams and missed connections as we picked up and disposed of dead cases of OV Splits, beer bottles and spent glasses of vodka and ice tea. We also had a secondary function of keeping the peace in the bar. 
While the Brick Bar atmosphere was always festive the music pumping from the DJ booth was so loud conversations got reduced down to single line questions like: “ARE YOU HOLDING?” Or great pick up lines like: “HEY BABY, YOU SHOULD CALL A DOCTOR BECAUSE THAT ASS OF YOURS . . . IS SICK!!!” Given the inability to communicate adequately misunderstandings often occurred, thus requiring White Coat intervention. Also, there were instances where miscommunication had nothing to do with it—lots of times guys (and it was always guys) were just assholes.
Despite having been given that White Coat I should mention I was never cool or tough. In high school I had a brief moment where I was on the fringes of being popular, but that probably was just of some leftover charisma from my legitimately popular older brothers that accidentally fell to me. After that moment passed I would become a bit aimless, a little drunk and very self conscious as I tried to figure out what to do with my life. Cool and tough were never part of the equation. 

So, one Saturday night, with my deficit of coolness and lack of toughness on full display, I’m gathering up glasses and bottles from the wooden rail just below the giant stuffed elephant head jutting from the wall—yes, in 1984 a stuffed elephant head wasn’t abhorrent like it is today—and KevMac calls me over from behind the bar and he’s kind of pissed, which is hilarious because Kev has this perpetually optimistic demeanor like some Ferris Bueller wanna be. But there he is trying to draw up a Clint Eastwood scowl on his dumb Ferris Bueller face. He points to some nondescript guy with a bad porn mustache halfway between the bar and the rail where I was picking up spent drinks and says: “Kano, take him out.”

Piss and Mr..Clean

I have no idea what this guy’s crime is and make my way through the crowd to talk to him. I don’t remember the conversation other than the guy wanted to stay. At this point in my life I’m not a great problem solver and don’t really know what to do. I yell to KevMac: “HE DOESN’T WANT TO GO.” Kev rolls his eyes at me and motions to the guys at the door and they come over and drag him out. Needless to say I wasn’t long for the bar business and the Brick Bar in general. 
The Brick Bar was a party bar for the newly initiated, when a night out was mostly about getting all blottoed and being in with the “it” crowd. The migration to the Pink came in a couple of stages. It started as an escape from the Brick Bar’s high school atmosphere. Though the Pink had a punk ethos it was relatively calm and dark, smelling of equal parts piss and Mr. Clean. A welcome break, nevertheless, from the football assembly environment of the Brick Bar. You could get a drink and a steak sandwich and not ever hear the pop stylings of Madonna or Whitney Huston, unless it was called for in a moment of irony.
By 1985 KevMac and a bunch of the other Brick Bar mixologists had graduated to working at The Pink and it became our go to place as we inched through our twenties. I was still aimless, a little drunk and self-conscious, but I also had become more sophisticated and observant. Along with a lot of freaks and mutants it was obvious that The Pink was also the go to place for Buffalo’s musicians, artists and other trend setters. I remained among the severely uncool in my golf shirts, jeans and baseball caps but never felt out of place there. There was this kind joyous indifference to whoever walked through those doors. Though pretty caucasian it was in the neighborhood of being the melting pot we falsely congratulated ourselves for being. But still, that was something. 
Another component to The Pink was the music. Except for the short lived WuWu 107.7 FM and Buffalo State’s WBNY 91.3FM which you could sort of pick up within a mile or two of the school, sleepy Buffalo radio was either stuck in the 70’s, going lite or playing pop while Jon Bon Jovi got his business plan together to take over America. But The Pink had a diverse mix of sounds. In fact the eclectic cutting edge sounds were one of its main draws for my friends and I. You could hear Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Stranglers as well as Neil Young and Crazy Horse—my apologies to Terry Sullivan for that night I was kind of bombed and asked you over and over again to play “Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere,”  Club DJ’s never get recognized for their patience in dealing with drunk assholes who want to hear “Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere,” but they should. At any rate, the music at The Pink was such a revelation and it remained that way I’m told to the very end when it was the Old Pink.
If you’re lucky and aware enough in this life you’re sometimes able to stop the world for a second or two and really be in the moment. As a kid I remember feeling like I was in the absolute center of the universe skating at the outdoor rink at Caz Park on cold winter nights. Another moment came in the car with my daughter who was hating high school and we bonded to The Mountain Goats, “This Year,” (I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me). And lately, walking in the park with my dog on a blustery fall mornings seeing the wind snake through the burnt red and orange leaves. I always felt that way at The Pink in those days—like it was forever the approximate center of the universe. 
KevMac, Me, Rich Hannotte

The last time I was in the Brick Bar was probably KevMac’s last shift in 1985. Same with The Pink in 1989, which would soon become The Old Pink. KevMac went on to create the whole Chippewa Street phenomenon when he went to work at the Third Room with Rich Hannotte.

I would become a little less aimless, drunk and self-conscious, but remain as uncool as ever. My days of going to bars or having a go to bar pretty much ended with The Pink over thirty years ago. Still, the live shots of it burning on social media were heart wrenching. To be alive is to lose things—family, friends, classmates and here in Buffalo we’ve had our share of collective losses, but instead of feeling cursed which is often the avenue we take in this town I’m going to remember The Pink for the fun we had there and how it welcomed me and a thousand other freaks without judgment or enmity.
If only in the recesses of our broken memories long live The Pink Flamingo, The Pink and The Old Pink.    





1 comment:

  1. Nice article, and for me it was constantly requesting the Replacements.

    ReplyDelete