July 4th, 2003 there I was, minding my own business crossing a sleepy enough side street in West Hollywood en route to my favorite LA spot. Scene of the crime and hey you two, stop! There was no talking ourselves out of anything, especially after Jack colorfully told the police officer he should hurry up and just write us the tickets so we could get inside with our friends. And the good officer did, and I couldn’t blame him one bit. Jaywalking, guilty as charged, officer. The good news was that the bartender at Barney’s took pity on us and bought us beer all night. I mean, how many of you have ever brought a jaywalking ticket into the bar with a huge smile on your face and a you won’t believe this story. On July 4th no less. So the $100+ ticket (yeah, it seemed expensive to me, too), sort of paid for itself. And it’s a story I haven’t forgotten, and every time I go back to LA, Barney’s is always at the top of my list. And since there’s still no easy way to get there without jaywalking, I tempted fate for maybe more free drinks, again.
You see, we’re not talking Santa Monica Blvd here, people. Also, Barney’s has multiple locations but for me it’s West Hollywood or bust. So this is the spot we went to after the Team Ruck Up (TRU) in Runyon Canyon, which is basically the high ground north of Barney’s. A 1-2 combo worthy of your time and everyone else’s, too.
Newspaper menus and pool and shuffle board and foosball. But one thing, let me make this clear. Google has it all wrong, Barney’s isn’t an “iconic sports bar”, it’s a rock n’ roll bar, a watering hole with food good enough for anyone enjoying the spirits of the night.
But first a milkshake. I thought it was kind of weird when Christian stole it from his new friends then finished it up like Jules Winfield in Pulp Fiction. But luckily we’re all friends by now, and cooties whatever.
In case the company you come with turns boring (no fears there on our end), or you have to hit the head (definitely eventually), there’s plenty of things to look at all over the place. Stories and pictures local to this spot, here, that no chain could replicate from an office somewhere not where the magic happens. These are my favorite kinds of places.
LA is full of bartenders and service staff on the verge of musical and acting and modeling greatness. Real talent gathers in this town, waiting for its chance to shine. I lived with a few of them, here, before I joined the Army. It was a clash of priorities and still we bonded through the same vulnerabilities because we weren’t where we wanted to be, in life. Over time, what I found out is that hoping for someone else to validate you, to give you your big break, is a recipe for willful depression. Fortune favors the brave, you make your own luck. But if you get lucky along the way, just say thank you and be on your way. Like, if you’re trying to get found and you’re a singer, karaoke at Barney’s is a good place to start. You never know who’s watching your greatness. So we did that, and we were great, and no doubt everyone loved it. I mean, how can you not love 3 dudes singing Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer at 1am?
But wait, from our seats absolutely nobody is paying attention, except for Christian, who’s paying attention to taking a picture of nobody paying attention. When chasing your dreams, find something you’re good at, I guess.
Pouring your heart out into a song makes all of us thirsty, and here’s to us and those like us.
The night dragged on and LA descended. When in Rome, right? But that’s not why we left.
At 2am all good things come to an end at Barney’s. It’s time to head back to the hotel. Be extra careful crossing the street, make sure to look both ways and stuff or you might get your next bar tab free at Barney’s. It’s that kind of place.