[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 had heard around town that the relatively new Posse Bar in Westminster was a “cop bar.” No one ever really elaborated beyond those two words, so when I pulled up to Posse, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would I see a bunch of off-duty officers and their mistresses? A few highway-patrol officers from the station down the road grabbing a brew on their breaks? Or would a swarm of cops greet me when I left?
I pulled on the large horseshoe door handle and walked into a bar covered in light wood and decorated with western flair. Taxidermy and life-sized cutouts of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne surveyed from above. Antlers were adorning ceiling fans, and bits of decorative crumpled tin and mirrors were placed here and there.
So far, no cops.
I sat at the bar to scope out the beer. The draft selection was modest, but the bottled selection included relatively obscure beers for a cowpoke-style dive. The liquor selection was ample, with a shelf dedicated to varieties of moonshine.
At first glance, I'd say this was more of a cowboy bar than a cop bar, but then I saw dozens of patches from the county's various law-enforcement agencies attached to the shelf above the bar back.
Grabbing a Hefeweizen, I moved to a high, round table near a pool table. I observed the atmosphere, jotting down notes in my phone because writing on a pad of paper often draws unwanted attention. As I typed away, a bespectacled man in jeans and a faded Spider-Man comic-book-cover shirt (but damn, did he have nice black cowboy boots) approached me, commenting on how I was ignoring my partner at the table for a cell phone. My plan had backfired.
My drinking mate explained that I review bars and was just taking notes. I rolled my eyes, as I don't like to be “outed” when I'm “researching.” But the middle-aged man with a childlike visage seemed to understand. He leaned on his pool cue, and we chatted a bit more until it was his turn to shoot.
The jukebox spewed out deep tracks from Social Distortion and the Clash. When two spots opened up at the bar, my drinking mate and I saddled up, and after a few minutes, our Spider-Man friend was back. (I learned his name was Walter.) After indulging in friendly chatter, I excused myself to use the ladies' room. Upon my return, Walter declared, "You just missed it!” He had put on a song and told the story of how pinup starlet Bettie Page had sung to him at Disneyland when he was a baby in 1962. (He said Bettie Page, but it's more likely to have been mid-century pop star Patti Page.) She walked into the audience while singing "Old Cape Cod,” picked up infant Walter and cradled him in her arm.
He peed on her.
She laughed, gave him back and kept the show going.
So this guy had piqued our interest. As our conversation carried on, comparisons to a soft-spoken Robin Williams kept coming to mind. Apparently, Walter had been coming here since before the new ownership. Posse took over the old Woodie's location, and Walter shared tales of gruff locals whose goal was to scare off the new flock of hipsters before they shut down.
Walter likes the new owner, John Gentile, whom he says is a former cop. Actually, Gentile had saved his life several years ago, he tells us; Walter had a seizure in a parking lot, and John was the first person to find and help his former high-school classmate. And now this is where Walter drinks on Friday nights.
You ever had that refreshing kind of drunk in which the world around you becomes a source for a childlike wonderment? Conversation, culture and those around you rise anew on your "give a shit” scale. Well, that's what kind of whiskey wave this guy was on. Everything we said was profound to him, and he told us whimsical tales of a hundreds-of-years-old book he was reading by Thomas James, the first librarian at the Bodleian Library at Oxford. He compared me to Leslie Caron (the leading actress in Gigi) and had us look up photos of the most beautiful places in the Middle East because he doesn't have a cell phone (or a credit card).
Our Finer Things Club meeting came to a halt thanks to the pesky 2 a.m. alcohol curfew, so we bid farewell to our fancy friend.
Who says going to dive bars is slumming it?
BEST LINE OF THE NIGHT: "Litrally.” Walter says "literally” just like Rob Lowe's character in Parks and Recreation–and often.
FAVORITE FLAIR: The stuffed boar's head with a cop hat and badge necklace.
Posse Bar, 13093 Springdale St., Westminster, (714) 894-1212.