Blondie's Is Where El Modena High Goes to Die
Taylor Hamby / OC Weekly
[Editor's Note: We all know local music and dive bars go hand-in-hand. So in the interest of merging the two together on Heard Mentality, we bring you our weekly nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read as our bold web editor, Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby, stumbles into the dive bar scene every week to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
I was sitting alone in this dark, very brown saloon, the only fully clothed female. A few TVs silently flashed sports. It had been dead quiet before a guy finally wandered over to the retro-looking jukebox. I whispered along to "Highwayman" by the Highwaymen until the thunderous riff that introduces "Los Angeles" by X burst into my ears.
Funny, I thought. I had never heard X in a bikini bar before, and funny that the girl who first taught me about the band also told me about Blondie's--in seventh grade. You see, her dad would hang out here until it was time to pick her up from Santiago Middle School down the road. And that's pretty close to the crowd here: middle-aged men, day drinkers and male El Modena High alumni finally old enough to drink. No, this ain't the place to pick up women, but rather to escape from the ones in your life for a bit. Even though the bartenders are female and barely clothed, Blondie's isn't a dating service for them, though our gal of the evening was professionally flirtatious.
In contrast to all of the stores surrounding it in this strip mall, with their lit signs announcing their presence, the bar has but a small white decal that reads, "Blondie's Saloon" and "Somewere in Orange, CA"--complete with typo. The walls have wood paneling, there are two pool tables with Bud Light race cars as hanging lamps over them, and decades' worth of old sports trophies lining the brown walls. The microwave behind the bar perpetually blinks 88:88. There are five beers on tap, the rest bottled, but no liquor. Bikinis yes, but booze no.
When I pulled out my card to start a tab, the bespectacled brunette behind the bar explained to me Blondie's doesn't do tabs--you pay as you go. If you want to use a card, you're charged a $20 minimum and a $1.50 service charge--but you get the balance back. A young man in a light-blue plaid shirt walking to the back of the bar dropped a $5 bill in front of me. "I got her beer," he said and walked away before I could thank him. Thank you.
The bartender explained the same policy to another patron a while later. Only this guy didn't get a blue-shirt benefactor--instead, a young man with a long beard chimed in. "But be careful," he cautioned. "Get charged the fee twice sometimes. I go home and look and say, 'Fuckin' bitchhh.'" "That's Jesus," said the bartender, referring to the bearded man. "She just calls me that," he said.
The vintage-style Internet jukebox beckoned. I called up the unofficial theme song of this column: "Holy Diver" by Dio. As I turned around to return to the bar, a guy playing pool stopped me. "Hey, did you go to ElMo?" he asked. Yep.
"Yeah, I recognize you," he said. "You got hot."
"Yeah, I had that punk-rock look going on back then," I said with a laugh. "That wasn't my thing back then, but now you look good," he said. "You have a boyfriend?" Fellas, this is not how it's done.
When I told him I did, he pointed over to my fellow Weekling, LP Hastings, who had just stopped in to catch a few beers with me. "What's the story with your friend then?" Sure, just cast a wide net, dude, and see what you can catch.
LP and I had a few more brews and mingled with some of the less-forward locals before it was time to call it a night. As I walked to the car, I breathed in deeply, taking in the unparalleled smell of Double Doubles cooking at midnight.
BLONDIE'S DON'T: Play "Enter Sandman" by Metallica on the juke. It will get muted.
FAVORITE FLAIR: The hanging Budweiser Clydesdale globe that you see at every other dive. That's as close to flair as you'll find here.
Blondie's, 3425 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-9832; www.blondiessaloon.com.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.