(Ed. note: We found “Cindy!” We’d lost touch with the young woman in this story — real name Wendy LaHaye — when she left Fidelity Investments and moved to California. Now she’s back in the Boston area with a company she co-founded, n2N Commerce. And she called us this week. Woopee!!
A new post is coming tomorrow so I’ll leave this unchanged, but the story now has a different ending!)
On Thursday (March 17th), a good portion of Americans will be out celebrating with friends old and new, singing Irish songs at the tops of their lungs and having a blast.
Not me. I’ll be working.
That’s OK . . . for a bartender, any night off is a potential St. Paddy’s day. Even on a work night when we finish last call, we usually raise hell afterwards.
First, let me tell you a little about Cindy. She was in her late twenties, a short girl, medium-built with curly brown-hair. She was one of our favorite customers a few years back.
We loved Cindy. (That’s not her real name and I won’t tell you exactly what she did for a living. I’ll only show you a retouched photo of her, for reasons that will become clear shortly.)
Cindy was simply the best regular any bar could have. When she stopped in to see a show, she was always upbeat, funny, a genuine delight to have at your bar.
She was also a great tipper . . . she’d been a bartender herself while working her way through college.
Cindy was an executive at a top-rated, internationally-known finance company. She probably had a larger annual salary than all of us bartenders combined.
But when she was at the club, she was just one of the guys, joining in the brouhaha like she’d just gotten out of prison.
Of course the person everyone likes best is the one the bartenders always give a hard time.
Cindy couldn’t come in for a quiet dinner or spend a weekend night at the club without the bartenders trying to think of new ways to bust her chops.
We’d do something that would draw attention to her as she tried to blend with the crowd. We’d embarrass her in a friendly way with all the other customers watching.
Let me give you an example:
One night Cindy went to the ladies room, and bartender John Bonaccorso (he’s Johnny D’s general manager now) began frantically writing on a small white sign. He posted the sign high on the ceiling above where Cindy had been sitting.
When Cindy came back, John kept her busy with endless chatter so she wouldn’t notice it, and we let her sit there with the handwritten sign directly over her head, visible to everyone in the club but her.
The sign said, “SLUT,” with an arrow pointing down.
It was hard not to laugh out loud when the first customers came from the dance area and walked slowly by the bar . . . they’d stop, look up at the sign . . . then keep on walking with their heads still turned.
More and more of the customers did the same thing. Cindy couldn’t figure out why they were staring at her. One guy kept coming back, walking more slowly each time, glancing surreptitiously in her direction.
He eventually came over to her, and was then joined by another guy who was also curious to find out what the hell was going on.
When we finally told her, Cindy swore at us and hopped up onto the bar to rip the sign down, but she was laughing as she did it.
“You assholes!” she shouted, “You’re all ASSHOLES! I don’t know why I keep coming back here!”
But she was laughing the whole time along with everyone else.
This friendly busting of chops wasn’t confined to the club. We expanded our efforts.
I managed to get her email address at the high-powered investment firm where she worked. I sent her porn ten times a day.
(It was mostly soft core stuff, although I did send eventually some explicit pictures — until her company put up a new firewall that kept salacious email from getting through.)
Sure, I knew this was childish — but I felt my status as a bartender gave me diplomatic immunity. Why always behave like an adult?
We didn’t spend all our time busting Cindy’s chops. We did nice things for her, too.
One year we surprised her on her birthday. We convinced her friend Linda to bring her to the club, making her promise not to tell Cindy what would happen.
We had a large cake made for her with a huge, realistic penis mounded on top in flesh colored frosting. We gave her present after present, each one wrapped with so much paper it was difficult to open. We gave her the largest battery-powered dildo we could find. It came with four AA-size batteries. Not realizing what was in the package, she unwrapped it with everyone at the bar watching.
We had nice presents for her also, an expensive silk scarf and a beautiful pen and pencil set that we thought suited her corporate position.
We took a lot of time thinking about what to get her that night. We spent what was for us a considerable amount of money. Cindy couldn’t hide her delight as everyone in the bar watched her unwrap each one, trying to figure out who was this person to get all this attention, and wondering what was in the next package.
During one Christmas holiday, we gave her a mound of gifts which we presented at the bar.
The next Christmas we did the same thing, but this time Cindy had a nice present for everyone on the bar staff. One by one she had discretely asked the other staff what each of us might like for a gift.
It became a Christmas tradition at Johnny D’s.
But the biggest thing everyone remembers about Cindy is the after-hours parties we had at her apartment.
It started innocently enough when John and I gave her a ride home one night after a Beatlejuice show. (Brad Delp, the lead singer for the band Boston, had formed a Beatles cover group with some of the best musicians in town.) The next time Beatlejuice played three or four of us went back to Cindy’s place, and with each show the size of this new after-hours tradition grew until sometimes there were fifteen or twenty people.
Cindy had an apartment large enough for half a dozen people to live in easily. Her job kept her moving back and forth across the country, so she had never bought a home, just always rented a really nice place.
Cindy kept a well-stocked bar, and when that bar began bursting at the seams, we all chipped in and bought her a larger one. It was a really nice wooden bar with plenty of under-the-counter cabinets and an ice bin with a drain.
Cindy filled that new bar with top-shelf liquors, sometimes with three and four back-ups of the things we drank most.
She had Patron tequila; Anejo, Reposado, and Silver. She had two types of single malt scotch, Macallen 14 yr. and Laphroaig for those who liked a more peaty taste. Ketel One Vodka, Caribbean rums, Knob Creek or Maker’s Mark for those who preferred bourbon.
Cindy would never let us help restock her bar, but we always brought at least one gift bottle with us. Once we gave her a couple Magnums of Dom Perignon, but at next party she opened them and they were gone in minutes.
Just off work, we often had the munchies so someone would stop at the 24-hour Shaws on their way to Cindy’s and pick up bagfuls of snacks, or stuff to warm up or cook. I remember the night when one of the waitresses said something about wanting an omelet later, so Felick picked up cartoons of eggs, crabmeat and cream cheese. Felick was a bartender but he was also a great cook. He stood at Cindy’s stove, working two pans at a time until everyone had a crabmeat and cream cheese omelet to go with their frozen margaritas.
We would party until dawn, although Cindy usually headed for her bedroom around four or five in the morning while the rest of us continued.
Those were great parties.
But no matter how great the parties were and no matter how much we loved Cindy, we were mindful to play some prank on her before we left.
It became another tradition — to leave Cindy something besides a trashed apartment to remember us by.
We wanted to show how much we liked her.
It began one night with a can of Pringles. We were half-in-the-bag and someone came up with the idea that we should take some of the Pringles out, put something inside and then replace the remaining Pringles, putting the can back on the shelf.
He took off his underpants and after putting his jeans back on, stuffed the wadded underwear into the narrow can, replacing a good amount of chips back on top.
We pictured Cindy after a long day at work, sitting in her living room watching TV. She’d take out one chip after another from that can, until she hit the cotton surprise. We delighted in imagining her shock.
What can I say? We were drunk and couldn’t come up with anything better.
After another all-night party, we spent an hour stretching overlapping layers of masking tape from one side of the outside frame of her bedroom door across to the other side. We taped the outside of her bedroom door from top to bottom with masking tape so thick that the only way for her to get out in the morning would be to find something to cut a narrow passage to slide through.
Another time John and I snuck into her bedroom after she was sound asleep and carefully moved her large, six drawer dresser against the inside face of her door. We stacked other furniture and anything we could find on top of the dresser and all around it. That dresser was so heavy Cindy could never have moved it on her own.
We left through her bedroom window and imagined Cindy getting up in the morning, and wanting to head for the bathroom — but she’d have to crawl out the bedroom window like we did. Of course, she’d be doing this in broad daylight, dressed in her nightgown.
Cindy never complained. She kept coming to the club with a smile on her face, and after each Beatlejuice show she seemed to bring more and more people back to her apartment.
So we kept it up.
There’s no one quite like John to bust chops. One night he decided to take Cindy’s toilet seat as we left.
He unscrewed the bolts underneath and lifted it off, leaving her with nothing but the porcelain bowl. We imagined (hoped) that the next morning Cindy would sit down without looking.
Now John had her toilet seat, but he wasn’t done yet.
Cindy had told us that she had a high-powered meeting that Saturday morning after the party.
He called her secretary to say that an important package would be arriving — and that Cindy expected it, so be sure to give to her immediately.
Sitting at the head of her conference table, Cindy accepted the package and began unwrapping it. All of her underlings were seated at the table watching. She only opened the package enough to discover what was inside.
“Now then,” she later told us she said calmly to everyone there. She quickly rewrapped the package and set it down by her chair. “Now, let’s get back to the Dreyfus Fund project.”
But things change.
Brad Delp’s tragic death in 2007 left a hole in the Beatlejuice performances for a while. Joel and Carrie, two from that group who were dating at the time, got married and had kids. Other people moved. Those who remained showed up less often as their lives became more complicated (some would say more adult).
Cindy still came in, but less and less each year.
Then, — and I don’t want to pass the buck, but someone had her phone number — we lost track of Cindy.
The person who had her number left the club. We had a black phone book at the bar which had Cindy’s number, but one of the new bartenders recopied most of the numbers into a new book, not realizing that hers was important.
It’s the kind of small tragedy that probably happens in a lot of bars.
We tried calling some of the other regulars she hung around with, but a lot of them had disappeared too. And none of the numbers we’ve gotten from the people we have been able to talk with turned out to be Cindy‘s.
Cindy, if you’re reading now . . . why did this happen? How did we lose touch?
Please give us a call, Cindy. Just to say hello. We really miss you.