(Here are some photos from the Johnny D’s party.) 

Booty Vortex was the perfect booking choice for Halloween Night at Johnny D’s. They’re a rocking disco/funk band — a bunch of great musicians having fun. (You can hear samples on their website, 

Wearing a foxy nurses’ costume, singer HoneyChild got everyone hopping as the band launched into tunes like “Lady Marmalade” and “Disco Inferno.”  Waitress Jenny came dressed as a cowgirl.  Marie came as a toddler.  Craig was dressed like the Beatnik he really is at heart.  There was a contest for best costume, but even those who didn’t win an offical prize still won on the dance floor as Father Time got his chance to dance with a Slutty Stewardess, and the guy with the pencil head danced the Hooter‘s Girl. People were dancing and partying all night.  (If you missed this party, Booty Vortex will be playing at the club again on New Year’s Eve.) 

Our youngest waitress, Nikki, came dressed in prison garb.  The letters on the back of her shirt originally read “Dept. of Corrections“ — but John Bonoccorso couldn’t resist making one small alteration. While the staff finished the set-up he grabbed a sticky-note pad, wrote down the capital letter “E” and then made like he was simply patting Nikki on the back. 

Nikki was a good sport when he finally told her, and she let him snap this picture.  She took the yellow “E” off before the party began . . . too bad, because she would have made ridiculous tips if she’d left it on. 

John has worked on the bar with me at Johnny D’s for years — he recently moved up to general manager. Owner Carla DeLellis and her husband Sean have four kids, ages 8 – 16.  John will give them have a little more time with their family, but they‘ll never change his sense of humor.  (You can take the bartender out from behind the bar, but you can’t take the bar out of the bartender.) 

Bartenders Jeremy Newcomer (left) and Will Henry (right) both wanted to come as Boston Celtics star Rajon Rondo.  Neither would give in, so they came wearing the same costume.  They got a referee‘s shirt for me wear in the middle. 

Will and Jeremy are roommates.  They’re both in their twenties and they‘re bartenders at a nightclub. I wish their landlord and their next-door neighbors good luck. 

Below are a few more photos from Johnny D’s Halloween Night. 

(We’ll be adding everyday pictures of other bars, restaurants and nightclubs from across the country.  You’ll be able to view them by clicking the “Photos” and “Videos” links on the black navigation bar at the top.  Right now the pictures are only from Johnny D’s . . . but that’s your fault isn’t it?  Send us yours!  See “Contact Us” for details.) 

Back with more stories about life on a cocktail napkin next week. 

Mike Q (still bartending, after all these years)

Nikki and Jenn, the cowgirl

Craig the beatnik




Booty Vortex from the stage

Oscar in drag (now that's scary!)

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(This note is about one of our good friends at Johnny D’s)

Dave at Johnny D's (with Jenny)

Dave is huge. He must be 6′ 7″, and more than three hundred and fifty pounds. I can’t imagine that he wasn’t a football player in college. He’s so big that he holds his drink glass between a thumb and a forefinger, the way someone might hold a small shot glass. (Don’t believe me? Compare Dave’s size to the longneck bottle in Jenny’s hand.)

Fortunately, he’s also a good guy. Always friendly, polite. I don’t know what he does for a living, but he has an air of professionalism. He‘s totally relaxed and confident.

One night at the club he left his drink and his jacket at the bar, and got up to dance. Dave loves to dance. He’ll dance all night, and he’s amazingly light on his feet.

While Dave was dancing, a young couple came up to the bar and there was only one seat open next to Dave’s jacket. The girl sat down and the kid with her took Dave’s seat, ignoring the drink and the coat. I figured it was OK. When Dave came back the guy could get up.

This new guy and his girlfriend were in a foul mood. They were fighting about something and he was treating her like dirt. “Who would ever marry you?“ I overheard him snort at one point, “You’re trash . . . you’re a loser.“

He was a real jerk. Loud, stupid, obnoxious. But he hadn’t quite crossed that line where I felt it was my place to step in. The girl didn’t look around. She didn’t try to catch my eye. This was still a private conversation. She sat there listening. She looked so beaten down.
I was sorry now that I’d given him that first beer, and warned the other bartenders that we shouldn’t serve him a second one.
When Dave came back he let the guy know that this was his seat. Dave was polite; he was smiling. But the guy was an asshole, and dismissed Dave with a wave of his hand.
They began a conversation and next thing I knew the guy stood up and they were arguing. Dave is usually the type to let things slide, but the kid’s attitude was starting to get to him.
“Take your fucking jacket . . . and get out of my face!” the kid yelled at Dave.
Dave’s head snapped back a little on that massive neck. This guy was probably 5′ 8″, maybe 150 lbs. It was an incredible mismatch, the two of them standing face to face. The guy kept cursing up at Dave.
Dave’s face was beet red.
I went over to the two of them. “Calm down” I told the kid. “You’re in his seat.”
The guy wouldn’t listen.
“This man is a friend of ours,” I told the kid.
“Fuck you! Fuck all of you!” the kid kept cursing. He wouldn’t stop.
“Time for you to leave,” I told the kid. By now two doormen were standing behind him. “Just walk away,” I said, “ . . . Head for the door.”
The kid didn’t budge. He looked at the doormen, at me, then at Dave. His fists were clenched. We rarely see any real trouble at the club, but I thought, “Is this kid crazy enough to throw a punch at someone? Did he feel like a big man because he was able to push his girlfriend around?
It was ridiculous, the two of them standing there. It would have taken three or four of this guy to fill Dave’s bulk. Then Dave spoke quietly and calmly, although it looked as though he was about to explode.
“Listen pal,” Dave told the kid, “I’ve taken shits bigger than you.”
Either Dave’s size, something about his voice or what he said finally brought the kid back to reality. He looked around once more, then walked toward the door on his own, luckily for him.
It was one of those situations that could have gone either way. I think if Dave had squeezed the kid’s head between a thumb and a forefinger, his face would have popped open like a grape.
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JOEY CIGARS and the one-hundred-dollar bill

(This note is from The Cantina Italiana, in Boston’s North End.)

The Cantina Italiana

Boston’s North End is the Italian district and as you’d expect the food in the neighborhood is fantastic. Working behind the bar, the best part of the night at The Cantina was the shift meal – Zuppa di Pesce, Bombolotti with Italian sausage, Linguine with Clam Sauce, Pollo Abruzzese. I was in heaven.

The North End is also one of the safest places to live in Boston. Women love to find apartments in this part of town because they feel free to walk down the street day or night.

But times do change, and for a while there were persistent break-ins at some of the neighborhood three-decker tenements. Residents put the blame on a few local junkies.

Who else would be crazy enough to start trouble in the North End?  Invisible to the tens of thousands of visitors who regularly enjoy the food and culture of this district, there are some really, really tough guys living and “working” here. Wise guys. Connected guys. They keep things under control.

Some of them hung out at the bar at the Cantina. If you didn’t know who they were you might have thought that the quiet man sipping his espresso was someone’s uncle or grandfather, and of course he was someone’s uncle or grandfather – but he might also be a wise guy.

Joey Cigars was one of those guys. He was a reputed mob hit man, recently released after serving ten years in jail. Joey was a stocky man, medium height, but his square shoulders made him look as wide as he was tall. He had an aura that steamed off him like the smoke from dry ice. He had a glare that made you want to flatten yourself against the back wall, or slink to the nearest exit.

Joey Cigars and the other wise guys weren’t happy with the break-ins going on in the neighborhood. They had friends and family living here. This wasn’t supposed to happen on their turf.

Joey Cigars came into The Cantina one afternoon when I was working. He was wearing a tan trench coat although it was a warm, sunny day. He ordered a drink, sat at the bar looking around, then left.

Later I heard that he had walked from the Cantina over to the Peace Garden, half a block down the street. The Peace Gardern is a small church park adjoining St Leonard’s — it’s a quiet area with religious statues, fountains and flowers. Strangely, the local junkies used it as their afternoon hang-out.

Joey Cigars walked up to a group of young thugs gathered by the main statue. He stood silently for a minute, his hands in the pockets of his trench coat. The protrusion of two pistol barrels bulged ominously from under either side of the coat.

“Do you see that fire house?” he finally addressed the group. He nodded toward the fire station on the corner. They acknowledged they saw it.

“My mother lives on the other side of that fire house,” Joey said.

“If you’re walking down the street carrying a hundred-dollar bill,” he continued, “if you drop the bill and the wind blows it on the other side of the fire house . . . don’t go after it.”

“Don’t go after it,” Joey Cigars warned. “Don’t try to pick it up. My mother lives on the other side.”

“Don’t ever go further than that fire house,” Joey said, “Not for anything.”

About a week later, Joey Cigars was sitting at the bar and one of the guys he’d been talking to at the Peace Garden came into The Cantina. I only heard a little of their conversation, but he was apparently trying to convince Joey that he wasn’t involved with those break-ins.

“It’s not me,” the guy told Joey. He was maybe in his mid-twenties, not yet a broken-down junkie, but a small, ratty-looking kid.

“It’s not me!” he said.  Just the way he was acting and the tone of his voice convinced me the kid was guilty. I kept busy, cutting more limes.

“I told you once,” Joey Cigars set his drink down, “I told you . . . I want the shit to stop.”

“It’s not me, Joey,” the guy kept protesting, “It’s not me. It’s not me!”

Joey looked to the side for a moment, then turned back to the kid. “Listen,” he said quietly, “I said I want it to stop. Do you understand?”

There was a long pause, then Joey Cigars spoke again.

“Do you understand?”

I never saw the kid again. A couple of weeks later I asked one of the regulars, who I was pretty sure was a connected guy, if he had seen the guy around.

The regular’s answer was cryptic.

“Naw,” he told me, without looking up. “You won’t be seeing him anymore. He’s missing.”

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(This note is from Johnny D’s, a Boston area restaurant and nightclub owned by the DeLellis family.)

Kenny at Johnny D's

Kenny Branco is a great guy.  He’s been a regular at the club for twenty years.  He’s a real estate agent who does so much business at the bar we should charge him rent.

He sits with a cold Bud Light in one hand and a cell phone in the other.  It’s not unusual to see him with TWO cell phones, one at each ear.  “I want you to make them an offer,” he’ll speak into one phone, “I want that property, but don’t go higher than $450,000.”

”No . . . not you!”  He’ll turn his head to the left and speak into the other phone.  “I want you to SELL!  Yes, the property on Mulberry Street . . . put it on the market!”

Sometimes he looks like a cartoon character, a short Portuguese man with cell phones held at each ear.

We love Kenny, but we also love to bust his balls.  That’s the guy everybody likes best, the one who gets a hard time.  “Oh no . . . look who’s here!” we’ll say when Kenny walks in.

Kenny had a new cell phone, a private listing, and he was determined that none of us would ever have that number.

But we managed to get it when he left the phone on the bar and went to the men’s room.  After a few minutes, one of the bartenders used the back phone to call Kenny’s cell.  He breathed heavily into the phone until Kenny hung up.

Eight or nine times that afternoon Shawn Day rang Kenny’s cell and Kenny sat at the bar yelling for him to knock it off, that this was a business line, and stop calling him.  “I know that’s you, Shawn!” he screamed into the phone.

Shawn kept calling.

His phone rang again, and this time Kenny let loose.  “Listen, you fucking asshole!” Kenny yelled, “Stop calling this fucking number!!!”

Then he abruptly stopped talking, phone still at his ear.

“Oh, No . . . no, I’m sorry Auntie Rosie!” Kenny said.  He was so nervous he was stuttering. “No, Auntie Rosie . . . I wasn’t talking to you!  I’d never use that type of language with you!”

Auntie Rosie, his mother’s 80-year-old sister, must have said something about telling his Mom.  “Oh, no Auntie Rosie! I don’t think that’s necessary.  No, don’t tell Mom!  You see, this bartender kept calling . . . ”.

Kenny was still trying to explain what happened to his aunt as he walked out of the bar.  He couldn’t hear above the laughter.

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(This note is from a recent night when John Bonaccorso and I were closing Johnny D’s.)

John Bonaccorso at Johnny D's

John Bonaccorso is a really, really good-looking guy. Sometimes I wish I could hate him.  He always has a stunning girlfriend, usually blond, and beyond that every woman who comes into the club can’t wait to talk with him. But heavy is the head that wears the crown.

We were closing Johnny D’s that night, having a drink and talking while I restocked the coolers with bottled beer and John recorded the empty liquor bottles. “I think she and I are quits,” he said as we worked, talking about his current girlfriend. He’d been unusually quiet throughout the shift and now I was beginning to understand why. “I think it’s over,” he said.

This woman and John had been dating forever and wound up living together. They were planning for the future, talking about buying a house, and it looked as though John might be ready to settle down.

“But I don’t think I can do it anymore,” he said.  “The relationship, I mean. I don’t think she can do it anymore, either.”

He talked about her being too needy, and him wanting more time to himself, more room to breathe. He talked about the usual ups and downs in a relationship, but he said there didn’t seem to be any magic now, the enthusiasm that had once made any problem between them seem small.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said, as we poured another glass of beer and finished the closing. “If I look back at the way she and I were, and the way we are now, I can’t even figure out how we went from point A to point B . . . I never saw it coming. I just woke up and suddenly I’m the middle of a terrible relationship. She and I, both, are in a terrible relationship.”

“How did this happen?” John was asking himself more than talking to me. “How did things become so bad, with neither of us aware it was happening.”

“There’s an old Italian parable,” he said as we sat down. (I’m half-Italian too, just like John, but my parents split when I was a kid, so I wasn’t raised Italian.) “They say,” John continued, “That if you toss a frog into boiling water, it will jump out so quickly that you’ll never have a chance to slam down the pot lid.”

“But if you put a frog in lukewarm water, and gradually increase the temperature, that frog will stay in the pot until it’s dead.”

“That’s the way I’m feeling now,” he said, as we locked the club door behind us

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