So, Bluefish Walks Into a Bar…
A fine gentleman from Montauk, NY, whom we admire, was asked to interview one person that he admires. Chris Watson chose to sit down and ask his father George a dozen or so questions.
Chris Watson: In 1973 you were a firefighter for the FDNY and your father was still on the job there also. How exactly did you manage to convince him that moving to Montauk to buy a saloon was not only a good idea but that you needed his money to help you do it?
George Watson: Well I had just passed the test for lieutenant which made my father very proud, kind of cemented my future in the City. It sort of broke his heart when I told him I was leaving. On top of that, I asked him if he could mortgage a piece of property and lend me money to do that. His question to me was “What’s gonna happen if you can’t make the payments on the bar? You’re gonna be shitting in your pants.” I said, “Well, I can always paint houses.”
I didn’t like the idea of a TV in the bar
CW: When you purchased the bar from Bob Fitzgerald, you didn’t have enough money to make any big changes but you did make some. What exactly were you adamant about changing?
GW: For one thing, we had no money, Terry and I. We had to borrow money so we could drive out and pay the tolls on the way. But there were two things I knew I wanted to get rid of right away—one was the pool table, which was always a source of fights and number two was the jukebox. I’ll put my own stereo system in.
CW: And the TV, right?
GW: Oh yeah, I 86’d his old TV. I didn’t like the idea of a TV in the bar at the time. People bust my balls nowadays about our small TV in there, but that’s my only concession to modern technology.
CW: So you got rid of the pool table which was just outside the restrooms, but later on you added a dart board to the wall where the phone booth is today. Why did you add the dart board and do you miss it now that it’s gone?
GW: Darts were a big draw at the time. We used to get people from out of town. We had dart tournaments, actually. There was a place up in Promise Land called Merrill’s and they had dart boards as well, and people used to bounce back and forth between Merrill’s and our place and we had these dart tournaments. Serious dart players at the time but it devolved into being a pain in the ass—drunks throwing darts from across the room then little kids using the dart board. So, eventually, I got rid of it.
I was dragging a guy across the floor trying to open up the door and he was on his back and he started kicking me and I started punching him and I broke the last two knuckles of my hand.
CW: Fights over the pool table. Fights over the jukebox and the dart board. Sure were more fights back then. Any stick out in particular?
GW: The one that sticks out most in my mind I would say is the time I broke my hand. I was dragging a guy across the floor trying to open up the door and he was on his back and he started kicking me and I started punching him and I broke the last two knuckles of my hand and I didn’t know what to do. I had stopped punching him and I was holding him by the throat and the guy said, “Give me one more beer and I’ll go.” I said, “OK. Come on up to the bar.”
CW: Working with a cast must have been fun, huh?
GW: Yeah I had my right hand in a cast for a while. During that time I came into work one night and my sister Alice was tending bar. And she said “Look, you have to get rid of these guys in the middle of the bar. They are drunk and one guy just pissed on the floor.” So I went up to him and I hate to say it…I didn’t want to fight…I swore I would never get in a fight and I was begging the guys to leave. But all I was getting was, “Fuck. You. Fuck you.” And the next thing I knew I was punching him in the face with my left hand.
Oh yeah, and there were two guys out here who were twins—Erik and Edmund. I forget their last names. They subsequently wound up in federal prisons. They were real whiney ball-busters and they came in one time with fish. They wanted to give me a bluefish and I told them I didn’t want it. So one of the brothers goes to the bathroom, and when I’m down at the other end of the bar, the other brother takes the bluefish and he balances it on top of his glass of beer. Then the other one comes out of the bathroom and they start arguing. Then they start bitch-slapping one another, which really annoys me, because if people want to fight it’s quite easy to step out the doors and you can beat the shit out of one another. But starting a fight in the place is total disrespect. Now they were by the front door and I foolishly charged the two of them and suddenly I’m wrestling them both outside. Luckily, I was saved by a couple of my customers. But I’m bleeding and I’ve got my shirt ripped off. I come walking back into the bar and I see the damn bluefish—it’s still on top of the beer. The brothers are outside. I grab the bluefish and fling it out the front door at them. Then I come back down the length of the bar and I’m mopping the blood off my face and the next thing I know, the bluefish comes flying back in the door. So, I went charging outside and I attacked the two of them again.
Then they start bitch-slapping one another, which really annoys me, because if people want to fight it’s quite easy to step out the doors and you can beat the shit out of one another.
CW: Well those were clearly different times. Montauk has changed. The harbor has changed. Many of the old characters have either died or moved away. Who are some of the characters that you just couldn’t picture in the Montauk we know today?
GW: Well, I guess Kenny Flounder Foot, Chester Shore. He used to call himself C. Shore from Rockaway Beach. Then there was Buster the Hunchback who worked down at Uhlien’s. And I guess one of the weirdest guys was Loud Bob or Quiet Bob as he was sometimes known or Slow Bob. He used to keep some kind of a crazy Hungarian fancy chicken. He would keep it under his shirt and the chicken would pop out of his shirt and jump on his shoulder on occasion and crow.
CW: Until recently you spent most every night and day at the bar. Any time that you weren’t there that you really wished you had been?
GW: There is one that sticks out in my mind. I grew up watching The Jackie Gleason Show. I just loved Jackie Gleason. And on my day off one time… I came in the next day and the girls told me, “You’ll never guess who was in here yesterday.” I said “Who?” and they said “Jackie Gleason!” and I just couldn’t believe it. I said “Why didn’t you call me?” and they said, “We didn’t want to bother you.” I asked what was he doing. They said he was running through his whole schtick doing “away we go” and “good booze.” He was buying everybody drinks. I can’t believe it. I guess I’ll never see him, him being dead and all.
Then there was Buster the Hunchback who worked down at Uhlien’s.
CW: What is your favorite time to be at the bar?
GW: I like to tell people now that I am semi-retired. I used to do the day and the night, but now I’m getting too old. I can only do the day. I’m down to 60 hours a week. My favorite time? It used to be at night. I would blast the music, drink as much as I wanted, get totally shitfaced and pass out on the bench. Now that I’m getting a little older my favorite time is 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. when I’m cleaning up down here and getting the place ready and having a coffee and maybe smoking a cigar and there is no one here.
CW: Last question: does the name Bronson Lamb mean anything to you?