[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.]
It's a week before Christmas, and the Beach Ball in Newport Beach has a large sign out front: "Merry Christmas! Our gift to you . . . We're open 6 a.m.-2 a.m. 365 days a year." And with an oceanfront view and rare Newport air conditioning in the summer, the Beach Ball truly is a gift.
Though a bar opening at 6 a.m. isn't exactly a rarity (county stalwarts the Fling and the Quill have been doin' it for years), it seems to be the main draw to the bar–and it's in a perfect location. "It's a rite of passage if you live down here to party all night, then come drink here until Mutt's opens," explained Newport local and Johnny's Saloon bartender Woody, out on her night off at the Beach Ball. Conversations with regulars of past and present at the Beach Ball all seem to lean toward mornings at the Ball, with stories of lines forming to get in at 6 a.m. and hangover-curing Bloody Marys. But the nights there aren't without merit.
I went on a Wednesday night, and it was the beginning of the yearly Balboa Boat Parade, so the Poorman (who's writing for us now, by the way–have you checked out his weekly writings on our Stick a Fork In It food blog?) suggested I come down, check it out and hop over to a Newport dive while we're at it. I arrived a bit early, so I invited a few other writer friends in the area to join me at the Ball while I waited. It has a cool setup, with the bar up top, a drinking area down below, a few pool tables and a photo booth. Jäger memorabilia are everywhere, and a few of the deer even have red Rudolph noses on them for the holiday. The Internet jukebox, manned by the bartender that night, was playing country; at that moment, Hank Williams Jr. was on (who the hell would prefer that douche over his legendary dad?).
Two men sat at the end of the bar by the window. "The thing about living here is you can drive to whatever it is you wanna do," one said to the other. "But if you're from Bumfuckmyass, Montana, for example . . ."
"Bumfuckmyass is where my grandpa is from, actually," said the second guy. "He was a svelte man. A real mensch."
The bartender and I joined in on their laughter.
This rag's music editor, Nate Jackson, then found us. He was newly devoid of the admirably large curls he sported a few days prior. Not long after, the Poorman sauntered in from a fancy Balboa Boat Parade viewing party. He lives the high life these days! "Poorman! Longtime fan," Nate said, extending his hand.
After Poorman made his greetings, he got down to business. "Let me buy you guys a drink. This round's on me!" And the price was certainly Poorman-approved–three beers and one cocktail came out to $22. The bar only has four beers on draft, so I ordered the next closest thing to a Blue Moon: a Shock Top. There's a larger bottled beer selection and ample liquor, including the curious new Jose Cuervo cinnamon tequila, Cinge; it sat front and center on the shelf. The dangers of Fireball and tequila all in one–yikes! I was not brave enough to try it.
Ever charismatic, Poorman charmed his way into the group of fellow writers with anecdotes from the radio industry ("I've burned more bridges than MacArthur in WWII. I've been fired from six radio stations!") and even had a bit of advice for us youngsters.
"Do any of you guys have kids?" he asked. We didn't. "Well, here's the secret to raising kids: Let them do whatever they want. My son had no rules growing up, and look at him: He's getting his master's at Rice. The kid's a genius!"
Thought I'd share this sage bit of advice with you 'cause the best place to get parenting advice is late one night at a dive.
BEST QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "Don't ever buy sushi from a gas station."
FAVORITE PIECE OF FLAIR: The tiger-striped felt lining on the pool tables–awesome!
The Beach Ball, 2116 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, (949) 675-8041; www.beachballbar.com.