Once a month the cooks from the East store and the West store met in downtown Columbus at a restaurant-bar called “The Clock.” The Clock was pretty much halfway between the steakhouses and wasn’t all that far from Columbus Civic Center which housed a big concert hall. I saw Simon and Garfunkel there and Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen too.
I was all of twenty-one now and getting old. Mary had taught me how to do the prep cooking, how to make all the soups, sauces and specials they made there. Henry Lee had taught me to cut meat, and I was a fully seasoned broiler cook able to handle a full Garland, a charcoal grill and a second Garland if I had to. The line in the east store had a second Garland; we barely lit it up, but on holidays like Mother’s Day, when we could do more than 1000 covers, it came in really handy. The second Mother’s Day I was there, we did 1500 dinners, and more than 1200 of them were steaks. That day, the second Garland was a godsend.
Jim Morrison and The Doors were playing two nights at the Civic Center. None of the cooks really cared and even if I’d wanted to go see them, I had to work anyway. One of the concerts coincided with our meeting night at The Clock but they were essentially two unrelated events, ships passing in the night.
We were pretty toasted. Only four of us had shown up, Alvin and Henry Lee and Robert and me. Henry Lee and I had gotten there around midnight. We had been drinking at work, Henry Lee having hung out because I was driving him and because he was doing the night salad girl, a skinny buck-toothed girl named Phyllis. Phyllis was married too, so she and Henry Lee were a good pair, each with as much to lose if they got busted, which they did. That’s a story which appears in The Kitchen Stories. BB, the barmaid, was feeding us beers and Henry Lee had his own bottle of JTS Brown which we were sipping from. Henry Lee and Phyllis had disappeared downstairs for about a half-hour after the dinner rush while Jimmy and I cleaned up the line, and then they’d returned to the kitchen so Phyllis could clean up the salad station and set it up for Bee for the next morning. That downstairs meat room: if walls could talk!
When we had gotten to the clock, Robert and Alvin were already sitting in a booth. As you walked in, the bar was on the right, a row of booths on the left and beyond both was a rectangular dining room. Heading toward them, I stopped and said hello to a girl I knew who was sitting in a booth with four other girls. She was the sister of a former girlfriend. She and her friends had been to The Doors concert and had come to The Clock afterward to eat and hang out.
At one o’clock the bartender hopped over the bar and locked the double doors. This wasn’t the liquor law time, but it was a weeknight and that’s when The Clock closed on weeknights. Nothing much was happening. Only a couple of men sat at the bar and only a couple of booths were occupied. The dining room was empty and the kitchen already closed. About one-twenty there was a knock on the door. The bartender didn’t do anything and a moment later the knock came again, louder this time. The bartender still ignored it, but I heard “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God” being frantically shouted from that booth full of girls. “It’s them, it’s them.” The girls jumped up and ran for the entrance on the other side of which stood Jim Morrison and The Doors.
The girls stood there jumping up and down. We had looked from our booth but kept talking and drinking. The bartender, though, sprang into action. He pulled his shotgun from under the bar and came around. Stepping past the crazed girls, he pointed the shotgun at The Doors and called out “Get the F… out of here, you goddamned hippies.”
Not stupid, they immediately left. The girls informed the bartender of just who they were, but the bartender, shotgun still in hand, made it clear that it could have been Jesus himself and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Guess it was the long hair! But that’s how I met Jim Morrison and The Doors.