Juke Making Me Crazy!

Cruising Huntington for someone to say hi to

Think your milkshake is better than mine?
Invite me out egriley@ocweekly.comMaybe it was the red, lace-up wrestling boots I was wearing. Or, to be more specific, that it was close to midnight on a sluggish Thursday at Johnny's in Huntington Beach, and I was wearing red, lace-up wrestling boots; drinking a fabulously stiff Jack and Coke; and feeling feisty. Regardless, when my eyes met those of the cute punker boy sitting on the barstool next to the door—said cute punker boy having previously caught me eyeing the bar—I sneered and tossed a defiant "What?" his way.

I had expected at least a sneer in return. Hell, in my mood, I was just shy of demanding that he throw his drink in my face. Instead, he smiled. "First time here?" he asked, noting the prolonged, wide-eyed gaze I'd struck upon first entering the bar.

"Yeah," I responded, my feistiness rapidly giving way to an inclination to snuggle with this clearly kind patron. "Is it that obvious?"

"Nah," he reassured me, in a not-so-reassuring, by-"Nah"-I-mean-"Are you a fucktard?" voice, adding, "I looked just like you did my first time here. Welcome to Johnny's."

Such a nice cute punker boy!

Returning to my friends, who had by this time found a choice spot between the bar's two pool tables, I joined them in gawking at Johnny's décor: from its shelves of countless, empty Jack Daniels bottles, to the traffic signal with the words "Drink," "More," and "Jack" etched into its respective red, yellow and green lights, and finally, to the skeleton perched atop one of the shelves in a wig and bustier, yet another empty bottle of Jack suggestively positioned near where her naughty bits had presumably once been. My friends and I had unwittingly entered a half-haunted house, half-saloon whore house of a temple devoted to Jack Daniels, and this formerly fiesty whiskey fiend had finally found her home.

Except for one small problem. Outside of Johnny Cash and the Clash's "Guns of Brixton," I couldn't identify a single song playing on the jukebox. Not that any of the songs were bad, mind you. In fact, the cute punker boy and his friends appeared to be enjoying them immensely. I even thought about tapping one them on the shoulder and asking for a tutorial on punk rock, since everyone seemed so damned drunk and amiable and everything, but I chickened out. I was already the new kid at the bar—any new-kid points that I had scored on the come-say-"hi"-to me scale weren't worth jeopardizing.

Besides, I'd had my fill of jukeboxing earlier in the evening, although it was admittedly at a markedly different venue down the street. Break Zone—or "The Breaking Point," as I had mistakenly believed the pool hall to be named—was featuring an hour of free pool for anyone with a college I.D. as part of its Thursday night "College Kegger" promotion. And, as anyone worth their red-plastic keg cup knows, few things go better than expired I.D.s and copious amounts of beer, so the gang and I headed over to check it out.

The hall was empty—and entirely too well-lit for my pasty mug—when we arrived, but instead of turning around and walking out of the neon spray painted wonderland, I spotted two of the most guilty of my guilty pleasures: Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade and an Internet jukebox. As Cynthia, the Zone's only employee so far as I could tell, twisted off the cap to my Mike's with a tired sigh, my friends and I cooed over the endless song selections that were available. Lionel Richie's "All Night Long"? Sure! Followed by Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness"? Even better! Capped off by Hall and Oates' "Maneater" with Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen" as the cherry on top? Yum!

But you know what the best thing about drinking Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade in an empty pool hall while using a cue stick as a microphone to belt Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" is? There isn't anyone to come say hi to you.

And so we left and found Johnny's, where everyone is nice and friendly and probably would tutor me on punk music—or throw a drink in my face—if I asked them to. Next time, I just might.

Johnny's, located at 17428 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-0676, features drinks so stiff they'll make you wince, a jukebox full of the best punk music I'd never heard, and the tallest bartender in Orange County; Break Zone, just down the street at 19092 Beach Blvd., (714) 962-6518, could really just use some more patrons. Play on!

Eight Days

Thursday, Feb. 5

When I saw Harland Williams a couple of years ago at the Irvine Improv, he had to deflect virtual panties. Bizarre, really. The man has no chin and has starred in some of the worst television shows imaginable—most co-starring Kirk Cameron, if that gives you any idea—and yet frat boys and mortgage bankers were crowding around after the show like he was . . . oh, who do frat boys and mortgage bankers really, really love? Hootie? This is not a normal response to a comedian—and honey, we've known comedians. But his show is such a joyous performance, so titillating and smart and stupid and addled, there's no way you can keep your panties in check. 8:30 p.m. $18. Irvine Improv, 71 Fortune Dr., Ste. 841, Irvine, (949) 854-5455.

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