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|Remember the old Cheers TV show where the bar is touted as a place where
“everyone knows your name”? Well, even in the friendliest and warmest of pubs that that’s not
exactly true. Regulars usually do know your name but it’s often not the one on your driver’s license. Of all
the places in all the world none surpasses a bar for creating poetic nicknames of great majesty.
Take “BT” for example. I’ve spoken to him on a weekly basis for years now but to me and everyone else he’
s “BT” which is short for his formal, full name, “Barking Tom”. Tom is a very, very nice person. Tom enjoys
drinking. Tom drinks beer, whiskey, wine, and then more beer. When Tom drinks too much, a not unknown
occurrence, he barks. Yes, a bark. It’s not quite a howl but it’s far from a whimper. It’s definitely not a
poodle or Chiwawa like annoying, effete, little yelp either. Tom barks like a good old American Bulldog
who just found a can of Alpo or an Alaskan Husky sensing the first snowfall of the season.
I think it’s his bark’s authenticity that prevents management from throwing Tom out.
For the record, no one at the pub one calls him “Barking Tom” to his face since we’re not quite sure he even
knows he barks. It’s possible he may think he’s just clearing his throat or, being the gentle guy he is,
meowing like a contented kitty.
Nicknames are of invaluable help when a bar has several regulars with the same first name. At my local
there are at least three stalwarts named Brian. There’s “Treasurer Brian”, “Long Hair Brian”, and “Sicfi
Bri”. The logic in each of these names is impeccable. Treasurer Brian is just that, treasurer of our beer
club. Brian is both honest and smart making him the perfect person to control the vast sums of money in
our beer club treasury. Unfortunately those same traits disqualify him from ever becoming a professional
Long Hair Brian has, you guessed it, long hair. Neatly pulled back, he reminds me of a young Steven Segal
but without the ability to kung-fu you into oblivion, though I’ve seen him put a few people in that very same
state by out-drinking them. Long hair Brian likes to boast that he relies on brain not brawn. He tells the
story of a time in Texas when he cut his hair and passed himself off as a Missouri haberdasher in a
(according to him) successful attempt to avoid paying a rather large and long overdue bar tab. Wisely, he
was on a flight north before his hair grew back in.
“Scifi-Bri” got his nickname due to his oft repeated claim that he attended every Star Trek, Comic-Con, and
Unicon event ever held. I guess that’s good thing. After a few beers “Sci-fi Bri” would wander around the
bar happily giving everyone the “live long and prosper” Spock hand signal. As you see, like Barking Tom,
he is a nice guy too. Some people tried responding in kind but found the official figure position too difficult
so they settled for holding up one finger. I think Scifi Bri got the message.
After a significant number of pints Scifi-Bri would sometimes demonstrate the dreaded Vulcan neck pinch
to lucky bar patrons. I can only assume that this was his way of practicing for the time at one of our beer
club meetings when he pinched a half a dozen Anchor logo glasses. Sadly, after that incident he never
returned to the bar. Maybe he was finally beamed up, purloined Anchor glasses and all.
Sometimes an entire group gets a nickname. Take the four “Spaten guys”. At one of my regular watering
holes I see them every time I stop in. We nod hello, pass a few quick words of meaningless small talk and
carefully avoid calling anyone by name since none were ever given or asked for. Even the bartender, who
told me they come in 4 or 5 nights a week, doesn’t know any of their individual names. To her, like
everyone else, they are simply “the Spaten guys”. It’s a more than fair nickname since that’s all they drink.
Now I doubt if any of the Spaten guys realize their beloved beer comes from Munich and is sold as
Munchner Hell in Germany, Muchen in the UK and Premium in North America. Alas, they are not serious
beer guys; they are quantity guys. You see, at this particular pub, the beer is served in very official, monster
sized 22 oz., gold rim Spaten glassess. That’s nearly 40% more than liquid than we non-Spaten, 16 oz.
shaker pint drinkers get. Now before you think they’ve beaten the system, just remember they are drinking
Spaten – watery, skunky, and bland. To me, getting Spaten in the huge glass is just more of less.
The Spaten guys cemented their reputation as fanatical brand loyalists during the infamous “day the Spaten
died”. Yes, it did happen – the pub ran out of Spaten. With the next delivery not due for five more days the
Spaten guys, not to agreeably, switched to other beers. In a desperate attempt to make those hitherto
shunned brands palatable the Spaten guys paid extra to have them poured into their hallowed 22 oz.
Spaten glasses. It didn’t help. They sent beer after beer back as not to their liking. They complained,
nitpicked, and nagged the poor bartender daily. Finally in desperation the bartender prescribed several
alternate remedial beverages. For one she poured Irish whiskey, another wine, another a martini, and the
last something with a little umbrella in it. It seemed to help. Then, as they were ordering a second round of
their newfound pacifiers the bar manger rushed in to say THE truck had arrived. The Spaten guys joyfully
sprinted out to help unload it. It was the personification of the classic Cheers TV episode when Sam greets
Norm with "What'd you like, Normie?" and Norm says: "A reason to live. Give me another beer."
Nicknames come in all shapes and sizes. Take the chatterbox “Fra-Fra”. He’s a non-stop talker who
speaks out of the side of his mouth (think Brando in the Godfather). Regardless of what he says it all
sounds like fra-fra. “Farts” usually sits alone, understandable since all his friends know he does just that
after every pint. “Flame” usually wears red shirts and neither confirms or denies the rumor that he once
beat an arson rap. “Boozie Woozie”, is an attorney who is known to slide off his barstool after a few too
many. “Loaf” sings along with at least three juke box plays daily of “Bat Out Of Hell” by, appropriately, Meat
Loaf. “Mr. Wee Heavy” isn’t what you were thinking; he’s actually quite thin. It’s just that he only drinks
Belhaven’s Wee Heavy, between shots of Scotch of course. He likes to be nationally consistent.
And there’s “Leo”, so named because he drinks wine from a bottle with a lion on it. I know this is a beer
article but I thought that mentioning Leo would add a little gravitas to it. Leo is the bar’s version of the Dos
Equis Most Interesting Man in the World. He wears hand tailored suits Donald Trump couldn’t afford,
speaks with a mysterious, vaguely international, accent, and carries himself as with the aplomb of a private
dective hero from a 1930s film noir thriller. Most impressively, before his rear end hits the bar stool, a
bottle of his special vintage wine is open, waiting for him. To his credit, Leo retains a link to the common
man. He always asks about my beer.
Oh, I almost forget to mention “Trader Dom” a/k/a “GG” (as in Gordon Gekko). In his non-bar time GG sits
in front of a computer all day earning a living by figuring out the ups and downs of Wall Street. He’s, no
surprise, often frazzled and forlorn. However, last week I saw him at his most joyous. When I asked if he
had a good day with the stock market he gleefully said “I just made back 95% of my losses!” With success
like that I can only wonder how he ever pays his tab.
Maybe my favorite bar nickname of all is “Suds Bambino”. You know, “Suds” as in beer, and “Bambino” as
in the Babe, the Sultan of Swat, the Wali of Wallop, the Rajah of Rap, the Caliph of Clout, the Wazir of
Wham, Maharajah of Mash, and the “The Colossus Of Clout". I don’t know anything about the guy other
than he drinks beer in the copious amounts ascribed in legend to the great Ruth. And true to his
namesake, Suds Bambino is an incredible Yankee fan. He has a Yankee logo phone, car keys, and
shoelaces. He wears a necklace with a charm filled with Yankee Stadium dirt. He watches every game and
chugs a beer on each Yankee home run. Even better, he buys a round for the house on a Yankee grand
slam. When Suds Bambino is around everyone is a Yankee fan…..or more accurately a grand slam fan.
Now if you don’t have a nickname at your local pub that’s quite all right. Just wait awhile and eventually
you’ll get one. If you’re the impatient type you might consider using one of the many nickname generators
online though I do not recommend them. When I tried it gave me the names “Cosmic”, “Audacious, and
“Moustache Rock N Roll” (huh?).
Think I’ll just stick with my “Mr. Lucky” moniker. I got it one night when I walked into my local pub and said to
the bartender, “I’m in a gambling mood. I’ll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap.”
The bartender poured and said “it looks like beer” to which I responded, “just call me Mr. Lucky”.
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