Jan 31st, 2004

By Request

Someone asked about an item on my 100 Things list: they wanted me to tell the whole story about the night I met P.J. O'Rourke in a bar.

Let me set the stage. It is March, 1977, and I am living in New York City, in the Village, to be exact. I have just turned 22. This is the opening night party for what will become, for a time, one of the hottest night clubs in the city, The Lone Star Cafe. There is a sizable contingent of Texans living in New York at the time, enough that the New Yorker makes up an acronym (TINYs: Texans Living In New York) and many jokes for/about them.
The Lone Star is at the lower end of 5th Avenue, and sports on its roof a 10-foot sculpture of an iguana, complete with red neon eyes. Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys will become the unofficial house band. I will meet BB King and Lucille there. I will see and hear most of the best country/rock/blues bands of the day. My girlfriend and I will personally cause the cut "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life" to be removed from the jukebox because we will play it over and over and over and laugh ourselves sick each time.

But that's all in the future. This is opening night, and they are throwing a Texas Independence Day Party to introduce the bar to the city. And I am there, wearing, what is for me, my casual uniform: a Hawiian print shirt and a pair of army fatigues. I'm drinking shots of Cuervo Gold and backing them with Dos Equis Darks. I am slightly drunk and very, very jolly.

I see, across the room, one of my personal heros. There is PJ O'Rourke, editor of the National Lampoon, one of the best and the brightest of my generation. He is tall and handsome and arguably the funniest person I have ever read. He has not yet become an apologist for the Right Wing. I am going to meet him. I just need to think of an opening line that would be worthy of his genius (and mine).

I go up to him, poke him gently in the ribs with my beer, and say "Hey! Who are you and what are you doing with PJ O'Rourke's face on the front of your head?"

He looks down his patrician nose, from his great height of six-foot and change and says "I AM PJ O'Rourke. What do you want?"

I say, quoting PJ, as a matter of fact: "Lick you all over for a dime. C'mon PJ, say something funny."

What he said was "Get the hell away from me." So I did.

I ended up talking to a man who was a writer for the Atlantic Monthly (I think. There had been a bit more tequilla and beer by then.) We were brilliant. The banter and rapier-like wit between us was worthy of the best odd-ball comedy of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. He finally said, rubbing his cheeks, where they hurt from having laughed so long and so hard, "You are the funniest woman I have ever met in my life. You need to meet my friend, because he's the funniest man I know. Hey! PJ, come over here, I want you to meet this girl."

PJ still didn't find me amusing "We've met." and took George and left.

Somewhere around 3 in the morning a guy tried to sing the Texas A&M fight song. He was thrown out into the snow by a very angry mob of UT alumni (HOOK 'EM HORNS) and the doors were locked behind him. I had found my neighborhood bar.

PS: there's still time to vote on my BlogMadness entry "Back Home."