Fear and Loathing and Maker’s Mark
Bartenders usually end up with good stories. One could argue that New Orleans bartenders tell more interesting stories—after all, we do have more hours to play with than most.
Have I ever told you about the time Jude Law and Sean Penn “two-man carried” Hunter S. Thompson into my bar?
It was my first month back from the hurricane and the French 75 was completely empty that night … and then Hunter S. Thompson was plopped on a stool in front me while I was polishing glassware. Just me, Sean Penn, Jude Law and Hunter S. Thompson in the bar. Thompson wore a light-blue long sleeved shirt, suspenders, straw hat and wire-rimmed glasses. Jude Law was the only one smiling.
Twenty seconds after their entrance I greeted them. My maître d’ ran behind the bar and pulled me away from them to ask (in the most eloquent Lebanese accent, mind) if I planned on serving the gentleman who was unable to walk into the bar under his own power. For a slight second I thought I could always tell the world I cut o Hunter S. Thompson … and obviously thought the better of it and told my maître d’ I had things under control. When my maître d’ left the bar, I finally asked Thompson what he’d like. “Maker’s Mark on the f-ing rocks.”
Thompson cussed at me with each request. “Can you get me an f-ing coffee in this f-ing restaurant?” “Can I have silverware with this f-ing salad!” (Indeed I had silverware and a napkin in my hand, judgers.)
“How do I get the eff out of here?”
He continued to curse for Maker’s Rocks even though Law and Penn were primed for a Champagne toast. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut. A little while later Law and Penn went upstairs to their private dinner in one of the many private dining rooms inside Arnaud’s Restaurant. And this is when Thompson tells me why he was so upset, “I don’t want to be carried up any f-ing stairs, how is there no elevator in this place!” Mind you, I’m sober and thinking, “Brah, you were just two-man carried through a dining room full of people to my bar and you refuse to be carried up the stairs?”
He wasn’t drunk; this wasn’t why he was carried to my bar. He was carried because at the end of his life he couldn’t always walk on his own; and since Law and Penn loved him, it was out of their own fun compassion to two-man carry Thompson through the dining room to my bar like the king he was. Thompson was only in New Orleans because Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men was one of his favorite books and he was a “guest authority on the set” for how the movie adaptation from the book was supposed to end up on the screen.
Within a month of me merrily serving him Maker’s on the rocks, he decided it was time he left us. It’s a bittersweet story, regarding how things ended on February 20, 2005, but a story nonetheless. And pure lagniappe for me to understand his sole reason for being in New Orleans on those remaining weeks was due to his love of the book, All the King’s Men. Because I quite fancied the Pulitzer Prize winner myself—so much so I named a drink after the author, Penn Warren Punch … but then that’s for another story.
Cheers, and I hope you enjoyed this one.