Rob JR. in Iraq

Sad, terrible news . . . Ex-Navy SEAL Rob Guzzo Jr. died Sunday night, November 11, 2012, on Veterans Day.

We’ve written about Rob Jr., and his Navy SEAL veteran dad Bob Sr., in several of our posts.

Rob JR. was a member of the physical education fraternity Beta Phi Epsilon at Cortland State (NY).  His dad had also been a member; I remember when Bob SR. pledged.

On the day of the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center, Rob called his father from the Beta house saying that he wanted to join the Navy SEALS to personally engage in this fight against terrorism.

“I’d been through it myself,” Bob recalled, “He’s my son, and I was concerned about him getting involved.  There’s no guarantee when you go in that you’ll come out alive.  But I supported his decision.”

When Rob JR. finished Special OPs training he was awarded his father’s TRIDENT, the first medal Navy SEALS receive upon graduation.  He entered into combat in Ramadi, Iraq where he lost his good buddy, Marc Lee, the first Navy SEAL killed in the Iraq War.

After a distinguished and lengthy combat record in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rob JR. gave up his commission in Navy SEAL Team Five to begin a career in action movies  Here’s a partial list of his credits on the big screen and television . . . you may have seen him in one of these films.

*Role- Zimmerman on Lennox’s Team, Transformers 3

*Role- Bravo Team Member 2, tru TV’s Crises, Dir. Tom DeSanto
*Role- Direct TV Commercial, Iwo Jima

Web Series:
*Role- Petty Officer Henderson,, now a featured film.
*Role- Soccer Hooligan, short film “For the Cup” sponsored by Upper Deck.

Short Film:
*Role- “Boom Operator,” Indie comedy, I’m a Human Directional
*Role- Jerk Boyfriend, Music Video “Obsession” by band Hypnotic Odyssey

But Rob didn’t come home from his combat missions completely unscathed.  Although often silent, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be as deadly as enemy gunfire.

For this site, and for all the members of Beta Phi Epsilon, our thoughts and prayers today are with Bob SR. and his family.  And may his son, this fallen American warrior, now rest in peace.

(Remembering the good times . . . Rob JR. and his dad, Bob SR.)










(Ed Note 11/16:  From the Rob Guzzo Memorial Page  on Facebook — a beautiful, heart-breaking musical scrapbook on Rob JR.)

(Ed Note 11/22:  There will be a memorial get-together for Rob JR. on Sunday 11/25, from 1:00 – 4:00 PM, at The Brick Alley Pub, 140 Thames Street, Newport RI.  The gathering is open to the public; many of Rob’s Beta Phi Epsilon fraternity bros will be there.  Brick Alley Pub is owned by Matt Plumb’s family; Matt played Varsity football with Rob JR. at Portsmouth High.)   

(The Brick Alley Pub, Newport RI)











(Ed Note 1/12/13:  Some of you have asked how Rob died.  Click the picture below for a video on the tragic story from The Washington Post.  Click the highlighted letters for another report about it in The New York Daily News.)

Rob in Iraq

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(Part two of) CHEAP PEOPLE

As I mentioned last week, 99.9% of the customers at our club are welcome any time.  It’s a good crowd, and they treat us well.

But anyone who works in this business runs into cheap people now and then . . . the cheap 00.1%.

Two weeks ago, about an hour before Wanda Jackson was scheduled to play, this one couple walked up to the bar.

They found two empty seats and I took their order . . . but while I was making their drinks, they kept looking around.  They got up and moved to another spot further down.  They kept looking at the stage in the performance room.

“What happens?” the man asked when I set down their cocktails, “What happens if we’re just here for drinks?”

(Wait a minute . . . you just got up and moved three seats to see the stage better.  You went out of your way to find the best view, but you’re not here for the show?)

“We’re not into that rockabilly, or whatever it is you have playing tonight,” the man continued, “We’re just here for drinks.”

At Johnny D’s we do allow people to sit on the bar side when it’s slow.  But when a show is about to sell out, we’re not going to let the people willing to pay just stand outside.

I explained this to the man, and told him that if they decided to stay, someone would be over to collect the cover charge.

“Well we’ll just sit here for now, if that’s OK with you,” the man snapped.

(If it’s OK with you?)  I didn’t like the snide tone but I remained polite.

“That’s fine with me,” I said, “But it won’t be my call when the doorman comes over for the cover.”

“But you do work here, don’t you,” he snapped back.

Now he was pissing me off.

I gave a short laugh before answering.

“Well, yeah,” I said smiling, “You’re right . . . I do work here.  And if you plan to stay, you’ll have to buy tickets.”

I motioned with my hands as though asking if everything was good with their drinks … then walked away.

A few minutes later I happened to be walking by them again.

“What time does “Romano” go on?” the man asked.

(Wait a minute . . . Daniel Romano is the opening act.  You know the name of the opener, but you’re not here for the show?)

“He goes on at 8:30,” I explained, “Would you like to pay the cover now?”

I’ll let you know!” the man said with a snarl in his voice.

“We’ll have two more,” he gestured to their empty glasses.

It’s an old trick.  He was trying to order another round, maybe order food, so they could pretend to take a long time finishing while they watched the show.

“Well,” I said smiling, “I wouldn’t want to give you fresh drinks, and then ask you to gulp them down.”

“Why don’t we check with the doorman first.”

He tried to stop me.  He was about to say something more, but I went down to the bar phone to call on the intercom.

“The couple at the middle of the bar . . . the little guy with the glasses . . . make sure he buys tickets,” I said.

“He was a bit of a dick when he came in,” the doorman replied, “I’ll be right over.”

When the doorman came up to him, the guy was squirming in his seat.

I remained a discrete distance and didn’t hear what was said, but it was clear the guy was still trying to weasel his way out of paying.  He was talking rapidly, making little agitated gestures with his hands.

The doorman leaned forward on his toes.  His body language was saying,  “So, what will it be, hmmm?  Planning to stay for the show?

The man’s face was turning red, and his cheeks puffed out a little.  His face looked like a gigantic belch was bubbling deep inside that just wouldn’t come out.  (My apologies to Ralph Lombreglia for this variation on his metaphor.)

“I’m not a crook!” (Image from

Have you ever seen someone with their lips moving back and forth, even though their lips were tightly pursed?

He looked so guilty, and the more he protested, the guiltier he looked.

Finally he let out a pained sigh.

When he reached for his wallet — no moths flew out — but I could almost hear the creak of the leather, that wallet had been opened so infrequently.

The doorman returned his change, and the man stuffed the small bills into his wallet quickly — as if he didn’t get them back into his wallet fast enough, someone might steal his money from him.

After they’d paid, the woman began to loosen up a little.

She had a second drink (they’d been nursing that first round for over an hour), and later she ordered a third.  She was thoroughly enjoying the show, talking with the people next to her who were also having a great time.

But throughout the entire show, that man just sat there with the same sour frown, his lips still tightly clenched.

By now his first drink was nothing but a shallow pool of melted ice cubes, a squeezed lime at the bottom of the glass, with a sip stick sticking out of the top.  For three hours he sat there clenching that empty glass.

I refilled his water glass repeatedly, smiling each time.  “Would you like a little more water?” I asked.

I have to admit I was enjoying his misery.

But as I said . . . he was the 00.1% among the crowd that night.

After the show, the most amazing thing happened.

Wanda Jackson — a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a woman who’s been called “America’s first female rock and roll singer” — Wanda Jackson sat in the kitchen doing side-work with the wait staff.

And when someone at the bar was telling Wanda’s husband how she’d always followed his wife’s career, and that she had waited a lifetime to see Wanda perform live — he asked her if she’d like to meet Wanda.

Wanda Jackson (Image from

Wanda’s husband lead the lady back to the kitchen where Wanda was doing roll-ups.

When the woman returned to the bar, she couldn’t stop gushing — she’d met Wanda Jackson.  She’d talked with Wanda Jackson.

Wanda came out later and sat with at the bar with this lady, who was there with her daughter.

A small crowd gathered around.  People were buying Wanda drinks, her husband was buying them drinks in return . . . and the two of them sat in the middle of all this as though they were simply in a neighborhood bar, and it was just another Saturday night.

It really was a beautiful scene.  (Listen to Wanda Jackson.)

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This tip was supposedly left by a rich banker showing his disdain for restaurant workers. (Image from

Nobody likes cheap people . . . but in the restaurant business we really don’t like them.

Take 99.9% of the customers at Johnny D’s, and we have no complaints.  But then there are the remaining 00.1% — the cheap, nickel-and-dime c*ck s*ckers.

Understandably, not everyone can afford to be generous.  At Johnny D’s the focus is on live music, and when it comes to World Beat crowds, or Reggae crowds — these people often have alternative life-styles, and probably not much money.

So I can’t complain about the loose change they leave (or don’t leave.)

But it’s the obviously well-off folks . . . those who have the money but are simply too cheap to part with a dime . . . those are the people that really bug me.

Back at The Lark Tavern, Tommy Talbor had his own way of dealing with these folks.  If someone left him a short tip — especially if they offered an insincere apology, or excuse — Tommy was quick to respond.  He’d tell them:  “That’s OK . . . people generally tip what they can afford!”

Tommy’s whole attitude behind the bar was biting and sarcastic, but over the years I have used his line once or twice myself.

There was one guy at Johnny D’s one night who left me a quarter as a tip on a $19.75 round.  I probably wouldn’t remember him, but he made such a big deal of setting the quarter down on the bar.  He had this smug look on his face — an irritating little smirk, as if to say — “I know you expected more, but that’s all I’m leaving!”

He stood there smiling as if his smug grin was intended to add insult to injury — like the $1.33 tip illustrated above, with its “get-a-real-job” jab.

I picked up the quarter, and smiled back at him.

“Thanks,” I said.

That threw him off for a second, but he continued to look at me and shrugged his shoulders as if to repeat, “Hey, that’s all I’m leaving, pal!”

“Don’t worry about it” I said to him, still smiling, “I never expect people to tip more than they can afford.”

Now he looked as though he was choking on something.  He wanted to say something more, he wanted to have the last word, but he wasn’t sure what that was.

“Just try to keep smiling, guy,” I thought as I gave him a quick thumbs-up with one hand, “I just called you an asshole.”

Then I tossed the quarter into the tip jar, and continued making drinks.

There’s a reason all this comes to mind . . . last Saturday night we had one couple who clearly belonged to this cheapskate 00.1% of customers.

Wanda Jackson (Image from

Wanda Jackson was playing at the club that night . . . she’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she’s called “America’s first female Rock and Roll singer.”

It was a great crowd that came to see her . . . or at least 99.9% of them were.  Early in the evening we had one cheap couple who tried to sneak into the show for free.

But that story is for part two of “Cheap People,” and it’s coming in the post next Saturday . . .

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Late Saturday Night

. . .  It’s 4:30 in the morning and after a Saturday night of working behind the taps, I’ve got nothing ready to post.

Wanda Jackson played at Johnny D’s tonight. (Image from

This has been a long two weeks at the club as we put the bar staff back together — a lot of extra shifts and seemingly endless, endless training.  Thankfully three new bartenders are now ready to go and they all look good . . . no, actually they look great.  We should be back on top in no time.

But tonight instead of pulling together the usual Saturday/Sunday post, and I’m going to have a few beers instead.  We’ll be back to the regular schedule on Saturday, October 20th.

Here’s one quick story from tonight’s show at Johnny D’s.  We had Wanda Jackson — a woman who dated Elvis “back in the day,” and then was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame based on her own stellar career.

This is about something that happened after the show, . . . and about someone being amazingly “down-to-earth.”

After her performance, Wanda was sitting in a chair in the kitchen (she said she was too tired to fight through the crowd back downstairs to the dressing room.)  She was enjoying a post-gig glass of wine.

The wait staff was still working, and the cooks were finishing their “night-before” Sunday brunch prep.  Even though the show was over,  it was still all-work-and-no-play for the staff.

Anthony was doing the brunch roll-ups.  (Johnny D’s has a juggernaut of a brunch requiring 600 – 800 brunch roll-ups prepared ahead of time.)  Anthony was sitting between large steel tubes of clean knives, forks and spoons, . . . and chest-high stacks of linen.

As Wanda watched him work, she didn’t feel comfortable just sitting there enjoying her wine . . . so she moved her chair close to his, and began helping him.

I’m not kidding.

This legendary Hall of Famer — she’s called “America’s first female Rock and Roll singer” — sat there doing roll-ups with Anthony.

“Doesn’t feel right doing nothing while someone else works,” she said as she continued to wrap silverware.

Then she looked over at the chef and his staff still bent over the hot stoves, finishing the brunch prep.

“But don’t expect me to do any cooking!” she continued.  She looked down at the red sequined dress she’d worn for the performance.  “I’ve got too many frills on,” she said.

She’d said it in all seriousness, and now looked as though she didn’t quite understand why everyone was laughing.

There was such an innocent honesty about the whole thing . . . I don’t remember anything quite like it.

Anyway, that’s it for this week . . . a full post coming Saturday.

Now back to some ice–cold beer.


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“VENGEANCE DOUCE” (sweet revenge)

(Image from

I like what I do for work.  I love tending bar.  Hell, I’m in a good mood today even after working extra shifts this week.

I certainly don’t have the complaints most workers have about their jobs, but that doesn’t mean I have no complaints about anybody.

The gripe . . .

I do have an issue with one particular gang of customers — the French.  My encounters may not reflect the French populace in general, . . . but the overwhelming percentage of unpleasant experiences vs. good ones is just too large to ignore.

What is it with the French?  Didn’t we bail them out twice — once in World War I and again in World War II?

Snapping your fingers and speaking down to bartenders or wait staff is rude regardless of your nationality.  And when it comes to pompous, arrogant-for-no-reason attitudes, nobody seems to do it was well as the French.

Maybe things are different over there.  Maybe in France anyone who makes or delivers food and drink is immediately considered a servant — the lowest rung on some social caste ladder.

Is this privileged attitude the reason they don’t like to tip?

I remember one French couple at a place I won’t name.  Nothing was right for them — their steaks came out one-hundredth of a degree too-well-done.  They didn’t like that other people were sitting on either side of them at the bar, as though they should have more space . . . an extended section of the bar top reserved for themselves only.  They thought the place was too noisy, that there was too much going on.

And after all this . . . the thing that bothered them most was that pesky blank line at the bottom of their charge slip.  The blank line that was waiting for them to fill in a tip.

As I worked I watched them lean together and talk it over.  This was really bothering them, that blank line.

Then after a minute, one of them laughed.

“Well, we don’t have to leave a tip,” the man said, “ . . . We’re FRENCH!

They turned to look at each other, and now they both laughed.

“We don’t have to tip, . . . we’re FRENCH!”

(I swear that’s what they said.)

They laughed again.  They were cracking themselves up by stiffing us.

Vengeance douce (sweet revenge) . . .

The couple left, and good riddance.  Just a pair of assholes now gone and forgotten . . . but my sweet revenge would come just a few years later.

There was a performer at another bar I worked at in Harvard Square (we used to book entertainment on the weekends.)

I’ll call him “Antoine Poupu-pon”, and he was supposedly one of the best acoustic guitar players in France.

He was such a flaming asshole.

For some reason he thought he was High Lord of the Manor, and our only purpose as his lowly servants was to jump at his every bidding.  And God forbid, after we’d completed our menial tasks, that he could so much as offer a glance or nod of appreciation . . . much less say something as simple as “Thanks.”

“I need a glass of Wha – tur!” he commanded as he walked up to the bar, ignoring that at the time I was busy with a wait staff order and two other customers were already in line ahead of him.

“I NEED A GLASS OF WHA – TUR!” he demanded again.

I stopped what I was doing to hand him a glass of water, and he turned away with a little upward twist of his nose, as though piqued that it had taken him so long to get what he wanted.

It was as though during the entire two seconds it took me to hand him the water, I was somehow depriving him of what was rightfully his.  (What was really rightfully his was my foot up his ass.)

That’s the way it went for the entire night with this guy.

After he had finished his first song on stage, he stopped the performance to demand that the TV’s on the back bar wall should be turned off while he was playing.

We always had the games on TV without the sound.  The silent TV’s were the length of the bar and the entire dining and performance area away from the stage.

He would have had to crane his neck to catch even a glimpse of them from the stage . . . but somehow the faint flicker of light all the way back at the bar was disturbing his highly-tuned artistic sensibilities.

At one point he asked the people to stop eating while he played.  Customers would sit at their tables enjoying their drinks while they listened, and some ordered food during the shows.

But all that clatter … a knife hitting a fork while they ate … that was too much for him.  He stopped the performance, and demanded that people should only eat later.

I’m serious.

No glasses could be stacked while he was playing.  He didn’t want us to ring anything in the registers.  He asked us to stop making that noise with the cash registers.

After his long, painful performance, he once again approached the bar.  I knew he was about to demand something else.

“I need Wha -tur!” he commanded, “Wha -tur!!!”  He made a fluttering motion with his hands on his face  . . . as thought he wanted some luke-warm (exactly ph-balanced) water to splash on his artistically-fevered brow.

He spotted a plastic bottle sitting on the service station’s counter top.  Before we could stop him, . . . before we could say NO! . . . he grabbed the bottle.  He pointed it towards himself and squeezed the trigger, spraying its contents directly onto his face.

“What is Zhis???”  he exclaimed.

He was shocked . . .  aghast, his face now dripping.

“Zhis is not Wha – tur!”  The look on his face was one of pure horror.

“Zhis is not Wha – tur!!!” he said.

“No, you fucking idiot,” I thought.

But instead I said, “No, . . . it’s not water.”

“The wait staff uses that stuff to clean with . . . if you hadn’t grabbed it without asking I would have had time to tell you that.”

“You’ll be fine,” I told him as I handed him a dry bar cloth, and a pint of regular Wha-tur.

“It’s just water with a little vinegar in it . . . for cleaning.  You’ll be fine.”

Of course he would be fine.  The wait staff used it all the time without wearing gloves . . . if you accidentally splashed it on your hand, no big deal.

But now he soaked that bar cloth with Wha-tur from the pint, and rubbed the wet cloth frantically all over his face as if someone had just thrown acid on him.

It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

And one of the most well-deserved.

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