Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Venice Cafe

After the Oyster Bar closed I worked at a few different places until Jeff Lockheed offered me a job at his bar the Venice Cafe. He said he’d hire anyone that slept with Monica Reed.

I’d like to make a list of everyone that worked there because they were all talented but I’m afraid I’d leave someone out.

The Venice was originally Jeff’s home. We would sometimes end up there after the Oyster Bar closed. The upstairs bar used to be Jeff’s bedroom. He had a large scoreboard from some old ball park over his bed.

Jeff is a pretty original painter and the house was filled with art. I still have some of his Christmas cards. They were very funny, psychedelic, Pointillism drawings. There was a huge canvas that hung over the fireplace that depicted Christ on the cross with a cartoon word balloon that said, “This hurts!”

Jeff also lived in a boat at Portage Des Sioux. He pretty much gave up living at the house and opened it up as a coffee house. At first he kept it open until 3:00am and a lot of under age college students came. That all changed when he got a liquor license.

Before I started working there I didn’t know his partner Paul Cuba. Paul was really the boss and Jeff seemed to be more of the P.R. man. Paul was also a painter. He mainly did huge Hyper-Realism pieces. He reminded me a lot of my boss at the Oyster Bar Dennis. He was a good guy. He died a few years ago. I’m not sure how.

A friend of mine named Meagan had 2 Harlequin Romance novels published that were hiding somewhere in the Venice’s library. The library was scattered throughout the bar and she was too embarrassed to point out the books. I never could find them.

Another friend, Wren, did my tattoos. They’re simple Mercury wings on my ankles. I wanted them to look like I’d gotten them in prison. The idea was that as a skydiving artist I was the winged messenger. Oh well, Wren is tattooing for Trader Bob now.

One year the Venice was invited to appear at the city’s St. Patrick’s parade. The only rule was that everyone would wear green and white. The guys all showed up in Girl Scout outfits and roller skates. The Venice was not invited back.

The following year Soulard had their first St. Pat’s parade featuring the roller skating Girl Scouts. I got to drive the lead car carrying our Grand Marshall Ray Hartman. This was before he sold the Riverfront Times to the Village Voice people.

We were in Jeff’s art car. It had a stock propeller and you had to double clutch it like a truck. It was open to the air and we had a case of beer behind us in the back seat. It was so cold the beer actually got colder as we drank it. I ran into Ray years later and he said the only thing he really remembered was the painful coldness. I was dressed in a drum majors outfit in complete Mardi Gras drag. No one in the crowd recognized me even though I yelled at everyone. The car is pictured with Jeff.

It seemed like a lot of us scattered after marriage and kids. I’ll have a lot of stories about the Venice.


Anonymous said...

hi david....just read your blog on the venice, a place i always used to hang out in when i lived in st.louis. jeff was/is still a good friend. margo who works there is my ex-roomate and still very close good gal pal. i live in az now and margo and i went to mexico earlier this year - great fun in puerto vallarta. wild girls having wild times. just wanted to let you know that paul died of a heart attack. too young to go. was shocked when jeffrey called me. also had big tears to shed as he was a great guy. i have a great picture of paul kissing me on the cheek that is a treasure of mine from crazy memories at the venice. it was my favorite place to stay late, help jeff throw paint on canvases and have more fun that i could stand. still is on rare occasions when i'm in town. this was a nice blog story. brought back some nice memories. db

Doggie said...


bobrains said...

Man, I miss Paul Cuba. I just found out he passed on a trip to St. Louis, really pained me to hear the news. We used to hit Blues games and drink until they stopped us, good times. RIP PAUL CUBA, you were a good dude in the finest sense of the term.

Jason McHenry said...

I think I know the Christmas card you're talking about! [It had a pregnant woman with and eye on her belly if I remember correctly.] I've lost mine a long time ago. - I went right as it was opening and my Aunt Nancy did some of the mosaic work downstairs. I spent a lot of time there in high school and especially so when Visual & Performing Arts was temporarily moved. It drank the bottomless cup of coffee and decades later when I ran a coffee house I incorporated that same idea.

I really remember the band that played there kind of a lot: The Rock Clowns. I loved those guys and wish they'd do a reunion gig or ten.