Music » Night Ranger

King of the Road

A local member of the drinking aristocracy helps us remember KC's cool past.

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One question we're frequently asked is "Aren't you worried that you'll run out of bars?" To which the answer is a resounding no. Kansas City is a big drinking town, and we've barely scratched the surface of the suburban bars, the neighborhood dives and, well, KCK. Plus, new places seem to open all the time. So when we heard about Bobby's Hangout -- the new jazz lounge at 36th Street and Broadway near the Uptown Theater, we added it to our mental list of places to check out.

Then the first scouting report came in over the wire: Our good friends Scott and Shawn raved about it, so we moved it up to priority status.

"It was so cool. Everyone was so friendly," Scott told us. "And the place was packed. We were the only white people in there. When we walked in, the hostess took our hands and said, 'I have just the seats for you,' and led us to the front, by the stage.'" We hurried to catch the same buzz.

Walking into Bobby's is like entering a scene from KC's past. This old-school lounge is classy; it's decorated in red and black tones, accented with a silver Art Deco clock and a sleekly modern silver chandelier hanging from the white minidome in the ceiling. The house band, the Everette DeVan Trio, performs on a small stage flanked by a row of banquette seats off to its side. Older guys were totally decked out in suits and fedoras; the women were resplendent in their fur vests and other such touches of glamour. We felt slightly underdressed in our jeans and orange Pumas.

"This is what I think when I think of Kansas City," Research Assistant Laura commented.

"This is fucking hot," RA Kym agreed. (What's also hot: Bobby's happy-hour specials, which include a selection of $4 martinis. The regular drinks were slightly pricey but rather potent.)

Almost immediately after we arrived, the king made his entrance.

What he was the king of, we weren't really sure, but Jerry, 54, a shortish guy with slicked-back dark hair, a gold cross on a chain, a black chenille scarf, and a loud voice with a New York accent, walked in as if he owned the place, with his taller, quieter sidekick in tow. He regally greeted everyone in sight. He chivalrously kissed the Night Ranger's hand -- several times, in fact, throughout the night. He was easily the most interesting guy in the place on that frigid Thursday night.

"I haven't been here in 35 years," he said, looking around. "It's very red." He told us that long before it was Bobby's, Wilde's or the Other Side, the space was occupied by a bar called the Lemon Tree (though he wasn't sure if that was its exact name), which he used to frequent. He took us back to Kansas City circa 1975.

"They had quarter shots of tequila. That was the only special," he said of the Lemon Tree. "DUI laws were different back then. One night, we had at least 25 shots apiece -- that's 5, 6 bucks -- then left. There was a Volkswagen Beetle blocking me in, and the only way to get out was to latch onto its bumper and push it in the middle of Broadway. I didn't feel too bad," he said with a laugh. "I had to leave."

"What was the Lemon Tree like back then?" we asked, entranced.

"There were lots of braless, T-shirt-wearing young ladies who probably needed a bath," he said. "But that was a sign of the times." Hmm. Sounds like a typical night at America's Pube to us.

"Places were different then. They [bars] weren't the meat market places they are now," he said. "We went to these little places, like Jimmy's Jigger (though there were way too many people) ... we liked to get out of the mainstream. We'd go there or go just south of downtown to places like the Rusty Scupper.... "

"I remember the Rusty Scupper!" the NR exclaimed. "That was my favorite restaurant as a kid!"

"You used to go there to eat?" he asked, snorting with mock disbelief. "We went there to drink. We ate seafood once in a while when we were really hungry, but we went there mostly to drink."

We also found out that Jerry owns a litigation-management company that audits law firms. (That is, he makes sure lawyers aren't overcharging their clients.)

"You're a lawyer wrangler?" asked RA Nadia.

"I'm a lawyer buster!" he answered. He's working on a book (about how you don't have to be a lawyer to control lawyers) and has patented a litigation-management billing system. He's also testified about 50 times in various cases.

"Do you get nervous on the stand?" we asked.

"You know, a big-shit Washington, D.C., lawyer once told me I seemed to be calm. I told him, 'When you're dancin' in the meadow of truth, it's always a nice day.'" Wise words indeed.

Our second visit to Bobby's fell on a Friday night, which attracted a bigger crowd. After three rum and Cokes (one of which was a double), we were decidedly lit. So we had to concentrate very hard when we talked to Sean Tyler, host of the morning show on KPRS 103.3. It turns out that his cousin's dad owns the place.

"The show starts at 5, and I'm up at 3," he told us. By then, it was probably around midnight. "The hardest part is, I'm not a morning person." Ah, that's something we have in common -- just ask the NR bosses.

Because Tyler has an in with the bar, we asked him to describe the weirdest thing he's seen in the few weeks it's been open.

"Well, people wear period clothing from the '70s," he replied. "I thought maybe they were making fun of Bobby, but I found out they dress like that all the time. This place is the perfect fit for someone stuck in the '70s."

We ended our night by talking to others who seemed just as plastered as we were. Such as Rahman, 51, who has known Bobby for 35 years. He started doing a call-and-response with one of the women in his party.

"I'm bold and beautiful," he said. "I've got one life to live. It's the search for tomorrow. 'Cause I'm still young and restless. "

By that point, our guiding light was leading us on to the next venue. (Or was that just the lights that came up at last call?) So go the days of our lives, and on we go to check out the next new thing.

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