The Green Door #19
It's not the Beer Talking
You never know where surreality will appear. On one Thursday afternoon in June, it was at The Irish Pub at 20th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. I was headed to the Men's Room which is in the basement, when I noticed a plaster sculpture of Charlie Chaplin on the wall directly in front of the stairs. Charlie is holding a roll of toilet paper in his right hand that is stretched out to his left. The left hand is pointing leftward toward the corner above the steps. On the length of toilet paper is the word TOILETS.
I paused to contemplate this sight. So many questions... What possessed someone to create such a thing? I've seen most of the classic Charlie Chaplin movies and I can't remember any toilet paper scenes, so why pair the two? Why spell out TOILETS and not something less harsh like REST ROOMS? Ignoring why it exists, why would it be hanging in an Irish Pub? He was English. If one were searching for the restrooms, would one pause to examine an image of Charlie Chaplin for clues to their location? "Look Charlie Chaplin, the rest rooms have to be around here somewhere". If it were Howard Stern, it would make sense, OK almost make sense. Another pint of Murphy's didn't provide any answers.
Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City. On Second Thought, Let's Meet Somewhere Else
On a Saturday night in July I found myself in Atlantic City. I was in a medium sized group of guys on a mobile (chartered bus), highly tame bachelor party. Riding through AC to Bally's, I was reminded of those B movies in which the protagonist is chased around a seedy and mostly vacant downtown by various malevolent forces. The downtown in these movies is always someplace that never seems to exist in the real world. It has too few people around, making it seem dangerously deserted, but there is always a single, hopping nightspot that the hero wanders into filled with tough and/or radical looking people.
After a couple of hours in the casino, we wound up at The Irish Pub. The bar is only a ½ block off the boardwalk. The bus driver parked the bus on a large city-block-sized vacant lot across from the bar. It's after 1am. The scene consists of a couple of very quiet businesses open across the street from the far end of the vacant lot, the lights of the boardwalk, and nobody around. It's like a scene from a movie. The soda machines, hinting of product placement, make it seem even more so.
The folks who own The Irish Pub in Atlantic City also own the one at 20th and Walnut in Philadelphia. Like the 20th Street one, it is huge and mazelike. Unlike the ones in Philadelphia, this one is open 24 hours and has an outside patio area. (24-hour bars are another story and sadly illegal in PA). The patio goes all the way out to the next street where a high iron fence separates it from passers by. The contrast of wealth and poverty, youth and age, hip and sorry is fascinating. Sitting in that patio looking at the tenement type buildings above and watching the amazing variety of people who walk by on the other side of the fence, I realize I've found that downtown of the B movies, it's Atlantic City.
While headed to the Men's Room, I notice a familiar sight: Charlie Chaplin holding a roll of toilet paper. This time Charlie is actually pointing towards the toilets.
Atlantic City Time Machines
I recently caught The King of Marvins Gardens, a movie from 1972 with Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern. It mostly takes place in the grand old hotels of Atlantic City. Almost all of those hotels were torn down in the 80s to build ugly glass box casinos or lovely vacant lots. This movie is a fascinating artifact of an Atlantic City I never knew. A great double feature would team this movie with Louie Malle’s Atlantic City, which captures AC at the dawn of legalized gambling.
Driving down to Sea Isle City in August, I passed a billboard advertising Vanna White’s appearance at an Atlantic City casino. What is she going to do? Turn letters? Sell vowels? I can see it now, "Hey Vanna, I’ve got 250 bucks, gimme an E.., on second thought gimme some A".
The Green Dooris a mostly monthly zine published by Scoats. E-mail: scoats at greylodge dot com. (c) Scoats 1999. All rights reserved. Most wrongs unintentional. Reproduction permitted as long as it accompanied by this entire paragraph. If you do reprint something, please let me know.
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Last updated on 08 January 2003.
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