Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
March 6, 1969, Vol. XIV, No. 21
The Celebrities Are on the House
by Walter Troy Spencer
Other people are always bumping into celebrities in West Village saloons. Some bartender-on-the-way-up he was in the Riviera on a Saturday morning and had a pleasant chat with Lee Marvin who just happened to be having a bloody mary and watching the traffic go by — that sort of thing.
The only people I ever run into in Village bars are industrial chemists from Long Island who provoke arguments about what Cavendish discovered, or how you spell van Leeuwenhoek’s name. On a really snappy night, I may meet long-haired Maurice hawking copies of The Voice.
But there are always odd-shift bartenders and literary girls who toss out conversational tidbits about Jimmy Baldwin being back in town; saw him in Casey’s the other night. In fact, Casey’s seems to have developed a portion of its heavy Friday crowd from people hanging around to see if Michelangelo Antonioni shows up again on his way back through town.
Even Jeff Jacks succumbed to celebrity-baiting recently when he surprised Jason Robards hanging out in the No Name. That was just a few days before another bartender sprung the story of Jack Warden in the White Horse.
Enough tourist traffic of the “look-at-the-authentic-old-bohemia” school lingers that a White Horse bartender may still tell a particularly bad Friday night couple that Dylan Thomas is buried under the depression in the tiles at the middle of the bar, or confide about the says when Steve McQueen was working the stick.
With those routine pressures, when anyone authentic comes along, everyone pretty much lays off him. That’s how Warden was sitting alone enjoying a late afternoon beer like anyone else on his way home from a day’s work.
But then the little troll who delivers the sawdust came in. He dropped the bags with the bartender and then ordered himself a beer, when he spotted Warden and ambled down the bar.
“Don’t I know you from someplace?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Warden said, “maybe.”
The troll pulled his stool up next to Warden and though for a couple of sips.
“Hey, I’ll bet you’re a cop,” said the suddenly inspired troll.
“Yeh, that’s right,” Warden answered.
“I knew I had you pegged from somewhere,” the troll said.
“Lemme buy you a beer.” He yelled at the bartender, “I wanna nother beer for my friend in blue.”
Warden nodded when the bartender sat the glass down in front of him.
“I gotta hand it to you guys,” the troll said. “You got it pretty rough these days. All this heat you get from them pressure groups and nobody has any appreciation to say for you.”
“Yeh,” Warden said.
“I mean it,” the troll said. “I’m all for you guys. You don’t have an easy life.”
Warden drained off his gift beer and mumbled a “thanks.” When the bartender came by, he pointedly ordered one beer. When it came, he turned slightly toward the corner, away from the troll.
The troll sat silently and sipped his beer for a couple of minutes. Then he loudly clunked the glass down on the bar and slapped Warden on the back.
“It was real nice talkin’ to ya,” he said, picking up his empty sawdust sacks anf heading for the door.
“My pleasure,” Warden said without moving.
The troll went out the door, then suddenly stuck his head back in and called, “Hey,” loud enough to startle everyone at the bar.
“Wait till I tell my wife I had a beer today with Jack Warden,” the troll yelled and disappeared.
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]