Pour an artist a cocktail to “stir the creative juices,” then hand over a Sharpie and a napkin. What doodle will result? We find out in this just-for-fun Friday series.
The Cocktail: The McSweeney Sour, Irish whiskey, Simply Lime limeade and a flambéed twist of lemon, by Joe, the bartender at Joe’s Café.
The Artist: Bill Christman, bohemian genius behind Beatnik Bob’s Museum of Mayhem, Mystery and Mirth inside St. Louis’ world-renowned City Museum. A life-long aficionado and painter of signs, his passion for a fading vernacular is expressed in The Art of the Sign exhibit, which will run through the end of June at the Ars Populi Gallery. This amazing hoard of Americana spans works from the 1920s through the 1960s and features everything from neon flamenco dancers to terra cotta ice cream cones. Put together by Christman and his fellow enthusiast, Greg Rhomberg, it features a wide range of symbolic gems from both local and national collections.
Joe’s Café is Christman’s Thursday night music venue for people over 30. It’s full of oddities, from giant garden statuary in the shape of a tar-papered Easter Island head to a liberated portrait of striptease artiste Evelyn West. Christman is photographed at left as his hard-drinking alter ego, Mick de Bitzko, whose papier-mâché head he rescued in 1974 while working backstage at the Muny painting sets.
“We used to get all the wreckage from Veiled Prophet parade floats there,” Christman says. “This head belonged to a drunken bum in a beat-up fedora, leaning against a lamp post. I gave him a watch cap to make him look a little more surly. For a while, I had his oversized arm, too, and would drive around with it sticking out of the trunk of my car.”
FEAST: Why did you order the McSweeney Sour?
C: I wanted something light and springtime fresh to suit this beautiful evening. Since I’m Catholic, I asked Joe to use Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. Had I been Protestant, I would have demanded Bushmill’s. His inspiration for this cocktail was a limerick that starts out, “There once was a man named McSweeney,” and ends with the word “martini.” The lines in between are too vulgar to recite in mixed company. I also garnish whatever cocktail I’m drinking with the gum I’ve just been chewing. Today it’s orange-flavored, but that’s not a must for a McSweeney Sour. The gum can be any flavor. Why be precious?
FEAST: What sort of restaurants do you like here in St. Louis?
C: The Diner over on Route 3 in Sauget has really good diner food. Crown Candy Kitchen, of course. I also like Duff’s. Once when Tim (Kirby, one of the restaurant’s owners) had just declared himself an oenophile, I popped on my Mick de Bitzko head and an old wino trenchcoat then stumbled into his bar clutching a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.
I want to open a Tasty-Freeze-sized restaurant named De Bitzko’s , with a 30-foot high version of Mick’s seedy short-order cook head on top, and the smoke from the grill coming out of his cigarette. The food will be cheap and delicious, but at a price: the service is going to be Don Rickles-level rude and insulting. Sort of like Ed Debevic’s in Chicago, whose motto is Eat and Get Out.
FEAST: What kind of food do you eat at home?
C: Anything my wife puts in front of me. I also like cereal: Cheerios and Raisin Bran are the boxes in the pantry right now. Sometimes I’ll eat the cereal with milk, and sometimes I’ll eat it with vanilla yogurt. A friend told me to try Greek yogurt with red wine on top; sounds awful but it wasn’t half bad.
Joe’s Café, 6014 Kingsbury Ave., 314.862.2541
Check back next Friday for more Booze Doodles by St. Louis artists!