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“a woman walks into a bar…” with radio superstar, John Rabe

on 11/12/13 at 9:54 am

a woman walks into a bar..., Booze News

woman-barfinal2Here’s what going out to drink with John Rabe is like. Wait, let me first introduce you. If you met John Rabe in life, you would probably have to look up. He is very tall. And has the kind of looks that could be in GQ or a moody ad for time-sharing a jet. I think he should have been a model but he is in love with radio. And radio loves him. Listen to his quirky, cool public radio show, Off-Ramp, about local stuff and you’ll hear what I mean. Watch out, he could be the next Huell Howser.

We meet up at John’s house and his guapo, art gallerist and loco funny, husband, Julian Bermudez, joins us. We pile into John’s huge, block-long 1980, 300sd Mercedes and chug off to Sonny’s Hideaway in Highland Park. Here’s John sounding off just as we pass a sign for an anger management class. Coincidence?anger management

Arriving at Sonny’s, we take our place at the bar and, of course, everyone knows John and Julian. John Kelly O’Hare, bar manager, offers up a very good cocktail list. The Old-Fashioned is John’s test drink, Cutty on the Rocks is his fallback, but he orders a ‘traditional’ martini, 1 – 2 parts vermouth to gin (this time Navy strength) and 2 olives…but he got three.

“What makes a bar a good bar for you?” John looks for a place that remembers you the second time you come in. I don’t need to point out that it would be hard to forget 6 feet 4 inches of a an inimitable human being. He likes it when “patrons have easy conversation with neighbor people”…just like in a bar! “Have you ever been in a hostile bar?” “Yeah, when I sang karoake.” He loves the water at Sonny’s, A+, and likes that it doesn’t have a hipster vibe. Uh, JR wisdom: “Hipsters don’t have hips. And they don’t have butts from riding a bike.” Ok, this was into the second drink which was another Navy strength martini.martini

John is a great reminiscer and regales me with stories about his dad who was a member of the Detroit Press Club. John’s adored dad died when he (John) was 26 and John nostalgically looks for places he and his dad would have liked to go together. It is very sweet.

Suddenly (I mean it…no warning), John is on his feet, turns around to the tables next to the bar, which are filled with employees from the York having their rather sedate Christmas party, and booms out a toast to the crowd. He’s a radio guy and that voice commands attention! People might have been somewhat puzzled, but no matter, it’s THE HOLIDAZE! John adds: “They were having a Christmas Party and nobody had offered a toast. That’s just WRONG. Somebody had to!”

John’s Drink #3: Goldenrod – Seagrams Canadian whisky (a nod to me, no doubt), soda water, angostura bitters and a twist, in a Collins glass filled with ice. “Refreshing.”

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John’s liquor cabinet

John’s liquor cabinet has two cocktail reference books. The first, The New American Bartender’s Guide, which he actually uses, has drink recipes, booze history, and advice on how to avoid getting ripped off at clip joints. The second, Mr. Boston: Official Bartender’s Guide, includes undrinkable 1950’s concoctions like the Hi-De-Ho Special (ahead of its time), Chinese Cocktail (you’ll probably want another one right away), Bachelor’s Bait Cocktail (could go either way), Special Rough Cocktail (alrighty!) and the Princess Pousse Cafe (use your imagination). But Mr. Boston is pretty and bright red. John swears by both. “I like a book…I’m 47…not an iPad.”

Old school booze

Old school booze

We wrap it up at Sonny’s as we get ready to move on to the next place, Colombo’s restaurant in Eagle Rock, for more drinks and a bite to coat the stomach. WAIT, there’s more! John has a joke: “What was Dicken’s martini dilemma?” Ready? “Olive or twist.”John

To be continued in Part Deux of “a woman walks into a bar…” with John Rabe at Colombo’s

Sonny’s Hideaway
5137 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Neighborhood: Highland Park
(323) 255-2000

Princess Pousse Cafe
3/4 oz apricot brandy
1 1/2 tsp light cream
Pour brandy into a pousse cafe glass.
Pour cream carefully onto brandy, so that it does not mix.
Recommended glass: Pousse-Cafe Glass (never heard of it)