Last Call

Lindas Doll Hut, 1989-2001

Mikey and Cher's first date was at the Hut, on a Valentine's Day. There was champagne and flowers for the ladies. They have been married for almost three years and have a very nice little baby. And there are at least 20 couples like them, who met and married because of Linda's Doll Hut. "The marriages are lasting. That's the weird thing!" Linda exclaims. Rikk Agnew owns the Doll Hut couch on which his daughter was conceived, the crowd swears. There's a placard over it.

A few days later, Linda and her pretty niece Ashley are sitting by the pool behind her mom's house. Linda is talking about her debt, the red ink she acquired trying to keep the Doll Hut going. Once she was rear-ended, and the $20,000 settlement went straight into the Hut. When she used to scout bands for Time Bomb Records, her paychecks went straight to the Doll Hut's landlady.

"Maybe I'm not a very good businesswoman," she admits. And she's not speaking of the debt-ridden business she ran as a labor of love. Now that she's calling it quits, she doesn't want to sell the Hut but bury it. "Selling it would be the right thing to do from a business standpoint. I'm not about the money, but I need to get out of debt," she says. "My ego would love to think that no one else could do what I did." She laughs. "But not selling it would be like junking a car that still runs just so no one else could have it."

She seems to be thinking about it as we speak. She says she'll entertain offers and promises that if someone does what she did for the first six years—work behind the bar six nights a week and book the bands herself—money can and will be made. And if the place sells hard liquor—not just beer and wine—they'd make a mint. They'd have to take the name "Linda's" off the sign—it would be false advertising if they didn't—but the Doll Hut has a history dating back to 1957.

Linda's been thinking about it a lot: What went wrong? She's come to the conclusion that—once again—the Mouse is to blame. The Hut's financial difficulties started about three years ago, roughly the moment Caltrans began tearing up the offramps and onramps for the nearby 5 freeway. People couldn't figure out how to get there on any given day. I'd frequently leave Linda's at two in the morning, only to be shunted off the freeway within an exit or two—no signs, no arrows, just cars splintering off in twos and threes until all of a sudden, yours is the only car left, and you're staring at a scarred and scorched pit straight out of Blade Runner, with no earthly idea how to return to civilization. It was a nightmare, all so that Disneyland could get its own offramp and a face-lift.

John Pantle, the Downtown Disney House of Blues' talent booker, agrees. "It's not the economy," he said. "Concerts do better in bad economies, as long as they're not the $40 or $50 tickets. You know what the best concert market in the country is? Detroit, and their economy's been in the shitter for 15 years. And with Linda's, with a $5 cover, it's definitely not about that at all. It's all about location. Linda got screwed by her location."

Linda—who has paid for people's cab rides home for the past 12 years out of her own pocket; on whose couch so many broke or out-of-town rock stars crashed; who has thrown numberless benefits for worthy causes (most especially the Orangewood Children's Foundation) in the past decade—is telling me about a guy she once 86ed:

"He was the new singer for the Stains. They're all big Samoan guys, and he wasn't. I didn't realize who he was, and he ordered a beer, and I accidentally charged him for it instead of buying it for him. I didn't know, and he didn't say anything about it. So they go up to play, and I think, 'Oh, no, that guy's the new singer, and I didn't buy his beer!' Before a word even comes out of his mouth, he kicks in my monitor and bashes my mic down on the bar, busting it."

He was immediately wrestled outside, but not before screaming at Linda, "YOU'RE A YUPPIE BITCH AND YOU MAKE LOVE TO YOUR MONEY!"

"I was furious," Linda says. "I was so mad I offered the bouncer 50 bucks to kick the guy's ass. But he wouldn't do it. He just said, 'Linda, you don't mean that.'"

A week later, the guy came back with a baseball cap down around his eyes.

"He was trying to be incognito," Linda says. "He said, 'I came in to apologize. . . . BUT YOU'RE A YUPPIE BITCH AND YOU MAKE LOVE TO YOUR MONEY!"

For the record, Linda is not a yuppie bitch who makes love to her money. Still, she could use some after all the debt she's incurred on behalf of all of us.

These days, Linda is managing the band Wonderlove, a group of five nice boys with whom she's absolutely besotted—but not in a sexual way. She says she can and will make them famous. Their sound unplugged is beautiful, Beatlesesque melody. Plugged in, they're extremely loud—too loud for my ears.

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