[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.]
There's a framed sign dated 2013 hanging on the wall at Blackie's By the Sea, hidden among decades of old photos and nautical taxidermy, commemorating a man for 50 years of drinking there. Let that soak in for a moment. This man has swilled at this seaside bar longer than the average American marriage lasts. He was sipping beer here before the Beatles invaded America. How's that for commitment?
I've never met the man honored, but I imagine he'd tell me that Blackie's hasn't changed much since it opened in 1953, even as Newport Beach turned from a playground for the rich into a playground for the ultra-rich. The biggest difference is Zooport is nowadays an all-seasons destination, so the bar is open year-round instead of just from June to August, as in the 1950s and '60s. But it has remained the Peninsula's ultimate spot, only taking cash and serving $3 beers as the photos on the wall fade with age and from the sunlight that shines in from the beach through the open doors and windows. The mounted fish, life preservers and vanity plates hanging throughout are coated in dust, and the blue-and-black-painted bar back is falling apart, chipped and decaying from years of spilled drinks and frequent use.
Blackie's has the coldest beer in town, and it advertises it, too, displaying a lit-up sign with the current beer temperature above the door–the Blizzard Beer System keeps that number right around 30 degrees, give or take. Plus, the mugs are always frosted. “They could serve piss, and it would still taste good,” once quipped beautiful Blackie's dweller/Johnny's Saloon bartender Woody. Even from the outside looking in, you can get an idea of its quirky charm. The sign stating, “Sorry, we're open” is as much a Newport icon as the Wedge. Less famous, but no less hilarious, is the sign that reads, “We card if you look under 71”–which the man running the door last time I visited did not. He actually more resembled a patron of the bar than a bouncer, considering he was holding a frosty mug of beer when he checked my ID.
Though the crowd is somewhat varied, older white men definitely dominate. They're good for a chuckle if you sit at the bar and listen to their banter with the bartender, who at the time was also an older white dude. Those beer slingers know how to jive with the locals, jabbing back with playful quips, as well as how to treat out-of-towners such as me with just enough courtesy to bring them back. Of course, the bar has been home to some notorious brawls, including the famous Hells Angels bar fight of 2007 (footage available on YouTube for the morbidly curious) that sent a bunch of guys to the hospital and jail. That's not the vibe I got when I visited one afternoon, as the sun shined brightly through the windows, illuminating the place, and the locals joked and chuckled with one another, enjoying the carefree sunny winter day.
A guy with a big nose and white hair around the temple started yelling orders at our bartender, rattling off a long list of beer and concluding with “and a blonde with big tits!” Then a well-endowed blonde with perfect comedic timing walked up to the Rip Taylor with flip-flops look-alike. “A dream come true!” he roared, much to everyone's amusement.
Or there was this guy: “I'm 46. I got hemorrhoids and prostate [problems]–all sorts of things goin' on. I don't even get laid anymore. . . . Well, that's not true. There's still the massage parlor. Thank God for Kogi.”
FAVORITE PIECE OF FLAIR: The hammerhead shark on the wall.
BEST OVERHEARD LINE: “She says she has a favor to ask, and it isn't money,” said the bartender. “That means it's probably going to be worse.”
When not running the OCWeekly.com and OC Weekly’s social media sites, Taylor “Hellcat” Hamby can be found partying like it’s 1899.