The first night I ever met Frank, he strode up to the bar asked if he owed me anything.
I explained that I had never seen him before in my life and he laughed and ordered a beer
. I discovered later that that's just his thing - he's walked out on so many tabs in his time, he now just marches straight up to the bar and offers to pay whatever is outstanding, even when he doesn't have any money, which is almost always.
He rolls his own cigarettes and has fake teeth. When he laughs, and he laughs a lot, he sounds like Sid James
after hearing a really
dirty joke. They call him the Mad Monk
. Within 20 minutes of our meeting, he had declared his undying love
for me and
started a fight with me.
- Don't you think you can just mosey into town, hitch your horse to a post and start treating me like some kind of cunt. I suppose you think you know all about me. They probably told you everything you need to know about the Mad Monk. They told you about the kid, and now you think I'm just a fucking tosspot.
- What kid, Frank?
(Sudden, almost invisible change in gear and a tiger-like smile) - How about you buy us a pair of chupitos and we can forget all this nonsense, eh?
-Sure thing, Frank.
He tells stories.
Everyone tells stories, but one of the hardest things about working in a bar is staying awake all the way through to the end. Sometimes I even pretend to need something from the storeroom
, have a long yawn inside there, and come back to hear the end.
Frank's stories tend to have drugs
and lots of swearing
. I like the one with Bryan Ferry
- We were getting these uppers sent to us, man, they were illegal diet pills from Asia or something. Anyway, so at the time i've got myself this job in a nice little dry cleaners - tidy bit of cash, not too much work, great tips, cause all our customers are fucking minted.
- One time Bryan Ferry drops off his suit and he's got this little wrap of charlie in the lining. Well, I takes a little dab, and I know straight away, it's fucking garbage. I says to me mate, "this man is a national treasure! We can't have him snorting this shit!" So I dips into me little medicine bag, and stick three pills in the lining of Bryan Ferry's suit. Just for a laugh, you know.
- Next week, someone drops off Ferry's suit again. He says nothing, just leaves the suit. Except this time, there's fifty quid in the pocket and a note saying "can you sort me out with another dozen of those?"
All the stories end with the same dirty laugh.
He took a lot of drugs in his earlier days, and I mean a lot. They're still part of personality now. Sometimes he'll be having a normal, civilised discussion about some innocuous topic or other, then he'll suddenly change. He explained to me once that it's just something that's been permanently changed in his brain chemistry after years of amphetamine
abuse. His eyes will start spinning, and flecks of spit fly from his mouth as he swears and screams and pounds the bar. Once, through pure serendipity
, I discovered that these moods came with a safety word. I just have to whisper the word gently now and he immediately calms, as if he's woken from a nightmare.
The word is speedfreak
- Back then, when you said a bit of leb you usually meant something pretty shit like you found it behind someone's sofa or something, but this one time I was doing a film shoot and my mate shows up and says "have a puff of that". I'm telling you, I went green, me knees were shaking, and we didn't get no fucking work done that day.
- After a couple of weeks, I'd built up a bit of a tolerance and getting through the stuff morning, noon, and night. So one day me and the other fella are outside having a quick toke and who walks out? Only the star of the movie, Mr David fucking Bowie.
- Alright, Dave
- Alright, lads. What you got there?
- This? We looks at each other and we're trying not to giggle. This? It's only a bit of leb.
- Well, before I know what's going on, Bowie's locked in his trailer, puking his ring out, and the director's yelling at us, "if you ever set one fucking foot on my set again, I'll murder the fucking pair of yis! We told him to stick the job up his arse. Shit film anyway
Once, I threw him out of my bar, using much the same language as the director. I did it because Frank had spent the last two hours speaking in Unwinism
. It was almost the first time I punched a customer.
Frank's is a walking monument to every drug he's ever taken. He doesn't really go beyond the occasional spliff these days, because
- All drugs, all drugs, these days are shit. I did a line of coke a few years back, and I fell asleep 20 minutes later. That's impossible with real coke, it's fucking impossible.
I'm not convinced this is entirely the reason why. I think it may be something to do with the kid he mentioned that first night, but he refuses to talk about it
- What happened with this kid then, Frank
- Don't you worry about that, sonny, you just get another pair of them chupitos up on the bar.
Of course, that doesn't that nobody else is willing to tell me the story. Consensus seems to be that a 14-year old ODed
at one of Frank's parties. After that opinions vary. Some versions have him cracking up and having to spend a few months someplace quiet. Others have him in a failed attempt to hide the body, but I don't believe that. Regardless, he takes it easy these days.
Sometimes at the end of a story, he pauses for a second, and I know he's playing a highlights reel of his life in his head. What he doesn't regret, he misses, and what he misses, he doesn't regret
Doors closed, lights down, just us in the bar. We raise a glass.
- Here's to Saturday nights