Christopher Hitchens penned the now uber-popular Thank You For Smoking movie (and I don't even know if it's come out yet). Chris is not a personal friend of mine and for good reason. Back in '92 when I was but a young pup living in Seattle, he walked into a regular beer stop of mine at First and Stewart. This stop was home to a good number of pensioners who lived above the stop. It was became home to a good number of Hollywood types who knew this stop from previous movie shoots. On Sundays I would wander down and settle in with the New York Times Sunday Crossword and a handful of pints of stout. I would normally spend three or four hours there puzzling and drinking. During the week I might stop by the stop for one or two. Like I said, occasionally a "celebrity" there. Which was actually damn annoying (with the exception of Jeff Bridges) to someone like me who "wants to be left alone" but still "wants to gawk like a gopher". I was warned away from even making eye contact in the bar's very long mirror with Sean Penn. He was at the end when I walked in, sitting at the bar with a stout in front of him and staring off into space. I winked at the bartender and, when she came over, I ordered my first pint and asked her if he was who I thought he was. She didn't even respond vocally, just shook her head and warned me with her eyes. 'nuff said. I left him alone and did my crossword.
So, what is it about the term "crossword"? The good ones only intelligent people finish. And when I say intelligent I mean snob. Many of us work the puzzle in order to challenge our braincells over in the English department. A few of us finish them. A few of us finish them in no time at all. The fastest I've finished a New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle is 1 hour, 47 minutes. It's, also, the only time I've finished a New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle without help from the other crosswordflies. Another good pub where I could find my type of drinker was near 65th and Third. A block up from Slave To The Needle (where I had my photos fleshed). Now, that was a bunch of convivial cheaters. No one would help another if there was the chance of not finishing first. Eventually, though, stubborness would give way to desperation and answers would be paid for with beer. Mind you, this was Sunday and during the lull from 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM.
But I was talking about Chris Hutchins and the Virginia Inn. And how I stood there with my date (the bartender...man, was she hot and aggressive) talking to Kiefer Sutherland about his almost dad who lived upstairs. Kiefer didn't know this and was surprised. Hell, so was I. When Bridges was asked by his table full of buds and "dates" where Kiefer was, he replied "Probably getting rolled in some alley by now". I saw Kiefer with a bottle of Tums sticking out of his denim jacket breast pocket at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon, looking very disheveled. I was impressed. I knew right then that I liked him no matter who he had slept with and I never would. Julia Roberts, for crying out loud. Winona Ryder, for Pete's sake. So far as I knew, no Sandra Bullock. That is why he lives to this day. I'd go after Jesse James, but did you know the fucker has a posse? And they rob banks and shit? Hell, I'd do him for a piece of that action. And his car kicks the absolute crankoil out of mine? Like the baboon bachelor male, I wait my time to infiltrate and subvert. In the meantime I nosh on the perfectly shaped banana. Hi, APJ.
Right. So, Christopher walks in and asks for a table by the window. no one is sitting at either of the window tables. He also asks that no one smoke while he's there. If a clearer sign could be given to light up I wouldn't know what it is. So, we all smoked. There were a couple of people who didn't smoke, but lit up for that one. Hutchins took it with good grace and lit up himself. The immolation was already underway, though. So, we made fun of the waitress instead. We got many anecdotes dropped by Chris himself. Most were selfcongratulatory. Most were funny.
And, so, when his one book that I thought was funny, comes out as a movie I wonder if the film industry can do it justice. I hope so.
By the way, I never once saw Cameron Crowe hanging out in or snooping on the Virginia Inn. And I was a regular there during part of that time. I remember when they shot a scene or two there. And I remember when it became a no-smoking fern bar in the aftermath of the movie's success and the pensioners no longer went there to while away the hours. Pity.