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Paranormal radio and paranoid palm readings 

Wednesday, Jul 25 2007
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Art Bell is retiring, something he has threatened to do on and off for a few years now. This time it's really happening, if the tribute show that they cobbled together last week was any indication. If you don't know who Art Bell is, you obviously aren't enough of a kook to dig my column. But in the interest of clarity, I'll give you the quick summary. Art Bell is a radio host whose program, "Coast to Coast AM," ran in the late evenings all over the country. In our humble neck of the woods, it started at 10 p.m. on the arch-conservative talk channel 560 AM, right after the Mark Levin show.

I always tuned in 10 minutes early to Bell's program so that I could hear the end of Mark Levin's, where the latter salutes all branches of the armed forces and plays their accompanying theme songs. "The Navy!" he screams out, then you hear the Navy's patriotic tootle of whistles and snare drums. "The Air Force!" he continues. "The Army!" Then Levin really gets excited and starts throwing out stuff like "the Merchant Marine!" (In case you were wondering, the Merchant Marine does indeed have its own theme song.) I have a little joke that I tell myself that always makes me laugh. After Levin says "Merchant Marine!" and plays more music, he always adds, "Police officers, fire personnel, and rescue workers ... ," after which I yell out, "Meter maids!"

Then I have a good chuckle. God, am I funny.

Anywho, Art Bell's show — which has now been taken over by my other favorite host, George Norry — is about everything that no one else talks about, like demonic possessions, UFOs, ghosts, reptilians, Big Foot, and conspiracy theories. It can really scare the shit out of you, especially if you live alone and lie in bed in a big dark house all by your lonesome with no one to hear your screams. (Well, actually, the neighbors across the driveway have probably heard my screams, and wonder why I always yell out "meter maids!" at 9:55 each night.)

I'm bringing up Art Bell because he was an integral part of the Bouncer experience, creating a bookend of sorts for each evening out. As I drove for hours looking for a parking space each week, his dulcet tones would soothe me with tales of Moth Men and Area 51. Then later, my whistle sufficiently whetted, he would escort me home. Last week was no different, only this time, it was the last time I would hear his voice.

I went to my favorite S.F. neighborhood, the Inner Richmond, and visited the Dogs Bollix on Clement. Here's the Bollix in a nutshell: sorta smelly, often crowded with guys wearing backward baseball hats, and not the sort of place that one pulls out the Badgley Mischkas for. The bar takes up about a fourth of the space, wrapping around the liquor and various pub-ish signage. There's a larger area out back, a pool table, and a gnarly bathroom that I would recommend avoiding like the plague. To quote my junior high health teacher, "Cross your legs and think dry." The place is also known for its terrible DJs, which, if unavailable, cede to an even worse jukebox. That said, at least this joint has the, er, bollix to not take itself too seriously, which we all know is a virulent affliction in S.F.

On the evening in question, George Norry was supposed to host an Art Bell tribute show, complete with his broadcasts from the '60s onward. Even that didn't put me in a good mood, though. I had received a rather negative tarot reading earlier in the day, and was understandably agitated. Between my Bell mourning and the impending doom that the cards promised, I was ready for a drink.

No matter what negative things people have to say about the Bollix, no one seems to fault the bartenders there. They are great. My host for the evening was a skinny dark-haired lassie with an Irish accent and piercing eyes. She was tiny, the kind of person who is so small that you wonder how all her organs fit inside her. She greeted me like an old friend and served me up a Jameson.

My mind drifted back to my tarot reading, though, which said that I will be single for a long time (I'd just dumped someone who was probably using crystal meth and had lied about it.) I would also probably be stolen from in the next few weeks, possibly by said drug addict, so I should keep a close eye on my stuff. Finally, I needed to improve my communication and perception skills, as things wouldn't always be as they appeared. If Art Bell has taught me anything, it's that it is OK to believe in screwball shit like tarot cards.

I focused on a painting of Dinah Shore that was hanging in the back of the room. Ah, I thought to myself, now how cool is that? A painting of Dinah Shore in an Irish bar. The two things had nothing in common. As a matter of fact, why in the hell would someone take the time to immortalize her in oils in the first place? And how did it end up here? I looked a little closer. Oh shit, it wasn't Dinah Shore. How could I be so stupid? No, it was Frederick Douglass. Jesus, how could I mistake a black man for a major white chick? The cards were right. My perceptions were off. But again, why would an Irish bar salute Frederick Douglass?

The bartender began shaking her butt to AC/DC. I always get uncomfortable when a female bartender lets loose like that in front of a bar full of men. I figure it lowers my own odds.

At this point I was determined to find some connection between Douglass and Ireland, other than the obvious penchant for Thin Lizzy. As I got even closer to the painting, though, I realized (crikey!) not only was the painting not Dinah Shore, but it also wasn't Frederick Douglass. It was some white dude. Probably some famous Irish white dude whom I should know. He looked like the keyboardist for Van Morrison or something.

I reached into my pocket to buy another drink, but I had no money. I thought for sure I had arrived with a 20. Bollix. The bartender was looking over her shoulder at a group of young guys, a coquettish grin on her face. If I left now I could catch "open lines" on "Coast to Coast AM," where truckers, lonely hearts, and loser writer chicks call in with their Bell memories. I made my exit just before 10.

"Meter maids!" I yelled, backing out of my spot and almost hitting a pedestrian. What can I say? My perception was a little off.

THE DOGS BOLLIX. 408 Clement St. 752-1452.

Katy.StClair@sfweekly.com

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Katy St. Clair

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