[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.]
Service isn't the name of the game at the Sandpiper. If you want hospitality, go to one of those fancy restaurants perched around downtown Laguna Beach, places where they'll kiss your ass and pretend to like you. The Sandpiper is so wonderfully out of place in this modern-day Laguna, where the billionaires gentrified out the millionaires, where Pacific Coast Highway turned into a long stretch of ritzy boutiques, art galleries and overpriced restaurants. I could only imagine how it was in the days of the Hippie Mafia--maybe it was out of place even then? After all, this bar was a high-end eatery when it opened back in the 1940s.
Nowadays, it's known and loved for being a dive bar--the dive bar. The locals call it "the Dirty Bird," and it's an accurate nickname based on the stories folks recall from the bar. My experience wasn't as wacky as some nights my Laguna friends boast about (something about being topless and a cop car . . .), but we can't all be locals.
Two bouncers greeted me as I strolled up one Tuesday night. When I walked in, it took a second to get oriented; it's a big place with a few different rooms. Drinking glasses are stacked pyramid-style on the bar back. A large surfboard floats on the ceiling. There are stickers--lots of stickers. HB stop sign lots of stickers. Oh, and there's even a tiny fish tank.
I took a seat next to two ladies who nearly instantly struck up a conversation with me, wanting to know who I am and what I do. Upon finding out I'm a reporter, the lady sitting farthest from me informed me she was a publicist for many years. "Ah, you're on the other side of the fence!" I said. "Who did you do PR for?"
"Ozzy Osbourne," she replied.
Now there's a man I wouldn't want to represent, especially in the 1980s. And guess when our new friend Marele worked for him? She said she actually ran the press conference for his "Suicide Solution" trial fiasco--you know, the time Ozzy and CBS Records were sued because an Indio teenager shot himself and the parents tried to blame the Ozz Man.
Marele was now visiting from Simi Valley, sitting at the Sandpiper with close friend Christine and drowning the fact her mother died 27 years ago that day. As the drinks flowed steadily, so did the tales of rock gods in the '80s. She would ride in a limousine to Rod Stewart's concerts with his psychiatrist. She recalled the time he played Madison Square Garden in the mid-1980s and walked out playing a cover of "Hungry Heart" by Bruce Springsteen. The crowd started chanting, "Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!" which he mistook as booing. He stormed offstage, offended, and then it was up to Marele and Rod's team to convince him to go back out. (Reminds me of that Simpsons episode in which Mr. Smithers tells Mr. Burns, "No, they're saying 'Boo-urns!'")
Then she tells me about when she escorted Ozzy to legendary rock DJ Jim Ladd's house for an interview. They're in the elevator to Ladd's home, and when the door opens, Ozzy lets out, "Are you fucking kidding me? It's a bunch of fucking monkeys!"
"And, no kidding, there really was a bunch of fucking monkeys," she said. "Jim Ladd's wife was the curator of the LA Zoo." Apparently, the Ladds were holding the monkeys there for some reason, but Marele had long since washed away the memory.
Marele spilled out these stories, and I feverishly jotted down notes in the dark bar, my handwriting becoming less legible on each page. The bartender gruffly asked my guy why I was writing notes, anyway. "Oh! I'm just writing down her stories," I said as he looked at me sideways, then silently walked away.
We were drunk as hell by 11 p.m., by which time the Dirty Bird was packed. I bid farewell to my new friends and called the boys at Drunk Rescue to drive my drunk ass home in my own car (awesome!). I talked our driver Peyton's ear off all the way up PCH, thinking I was funny as all hell; the sweet kid took it just fine, even joking every once in a while. Once home, I stumbled inside, puked and passed out. Thanks, Sandpiper!
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BEST LINE OF THE NIGHT: "We all have our day in the sun; we all have our day in the ditch." --Marele
GO HERE FOR: The sign that reads, "The early bird gets the worm, but the Dirty Bird gets the cougar."
The Sandpiper, 1183 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-4694.