Last Call

Lindas Doll Hut, 1989-2001

Photo by Jack GouldLinda Jemison would be the last person to point fingers, so I'll do it for her:

You killed Linda's Doll Hut. You, and you, and probably you. All those nights you showed up at her legendary Anaheim roadhouse and didn't buy beers. I was behind the bar at a Cadillac Tramps show. You people should have been loaded. But bartenders Yvette DeSpain and Greg Antista got to watch the entire show unmolested by pesky requests for drinks, with nothing to distract them from lead singer Gabby's enormous belly.

And then there were all those nights you didn't show up at all. Last year, almost no one attended the Alejandro Escovedo gig. Jesus, Thelonious Monster played to an empty house last month—Linda lost her ass on that one, promoting it six weeks in advance, for nada. You didn't show up for Hank Williams III either—probably, to be fair, because you figured he'd cancel again as he canceled his first two scheduled appearances. (He's got his granddaddy's legacy to live up to.)

And not just Linda's Doll Hut—your neglect has winged Club Mesa, too, with its punk rock quicksand floor that was almost as legendary as the vomit-stiffened carpets at the Hut. And Long Beach's Lava Lounge? Well, Snoop Town City Councilman Frank Colonna gets to mount its stuffed head on his wall, but I wouldn't be surprised if all of you were in cahoots. And whatever happened to In Cahoots, anyway? Is it still there? And where were you when they shot Kennedy? Kennedy killer!

And if you weren't enough: Disney construction diverted drivers around the Doll Hut. Her core clientele aged, had babies, stayed home more often. Then there was the natural, undeniable pull of outside interests (bands to promote, a deal with Time Bomb records) and romance in Linda's life, forcing her to transform a one-woman operation into something a little more complicated. And expensive.

No, Linda (hereafter referred to as "Linda" in blithe disregard for Associated Press style because Linda does not need a last name in this county) will never point her finger at you or give you the bitch slap you deserve. She won't blame outside factors—not even Disneyland. It's not her style. And even if it were, she doesn't blame you anyway. This is not a story about what a well-respected and universally beloved sweetheart Linda is. For a thousand stories about that, do a Net search. This is a story about what she created. Linda's Doll Hut has been (as my colleague Jim Washburn said in the OC Weekly's very first issue) the jewel in the belly of OC's music scene for the past 12 years. And now it's time to bow out gracefully. Linda's Doll Hut will close its doors Aug. 31.

A bunch of us are sitting in the small living room of Linda's pretty Fullerton apartment. While the Doll Hut may be a dank, windowless hole whose walls remain plumb only because generations of band stickers serve as mortar, Linda is, in fact, a girl. Her apartment is carpeted in springy greens instead of Coors. There are Winnie the Pooh toothbrush holders in the bathroom she shares with her grown niece, Ashley. There is a table full of lovely refreshments, and we are telling tales about the Hut.

Jimmy Camp, now the political director for the California Republican Party, was in the Earwigs: the first band to play the Doll Hut, a week after Linda opened it with her then-husband in 1989.

"This cute girl was fliering for her new bar," Camp says. "The fliers read, 'A beer bar by and for musicians.'" (Linda began drumming when she was 12.)

Camp continues, "The grand opening had 25-cent beers. Everyone we knew was there. We told her she needed music, but she said they weren't gonna have any. So we totally lied and told her we were from Austin and were only gonna be in town for a week. I told her I'd go to City Hall and take care of the permits and everything. I never did. We played all night."

That set the stage—or lack thereof in the case of Linda's Doll Hut where, through a kind of utilitarian aesthetic or democratic impulse, there is no stage, just a single, small floor bifurcated by the bar in a house that really is no bigger than a hut—for Social Distortion, Thelonious Monster, U.S. Bombs, the Muffs and Southern Culture on the Skids; for the Adolescents, Billy Zoom, Brian Setzer, Candye Kane and Everclear; for Exene and John Doe, Jonathan Richman, Hot Club of Cowtown, L7, Lee Rocker and Lit; for Mike Ness, Mike Martt and Mike Watt; for the Offspring, Reverend Horton Heat, Wayne Kramer, Weezer and the Supersuckers; for every band that's come out of Orange County. Linda gave people their first gigs straight from the garage. Big-time rock stars found at Linda's the chance to feel connected instead of bloated and isolated in their jewel-encrusted mansions.

"Tour managers and roadies for professional bands hate us!" Linda says with a laugh. "There's no stage, no back line, no dressing room, no food."

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