Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Johnny California: It’s So Hard to Say “Au Revoir,” so Let’s Just Say “Hors D’oeuvre”

 by JB

In which the author is left ALIVE after more than fifteen months of “The California Experiment.”

Well, the customers who found temporary night-time pals are leaving in pairs. Some big drunks are using the restroom one last time before the long drive home. Movie buffs are checking their phones to find out what’s on TCM tonight, and I am slowly cleaning the bar with a filthy rag.

“Closing time. One last shot of alcohol, so finish your whiskey or beer.
Closing time. You don’t have to go home, but... “

I’m thinking the management needs to install a small washer/dryer combo in the back room, so we don’t have to rely on the towel service... I could easily throw in a small load of bar towels during a lull and avoid wiping the bar with a towel that smells like mustard gas and roses.

Uh-oh! Two rowdy patrons have just discovered that the clock above the bar is twenty minutes fast. I thought all bar clocks were twenty minutes fast, to facilitate getting customers out the door by legal closing time.

“Okay, out you two pixies go! Through the door or out the window!”
We’re almost closed. Then I can mop the bar, search for change, and use it to play “The Happening” by Diana Ross and the Supremes on the jukebox while I clean up and restock. “The Happening,” I am convinced, is a song tailor-made for mindless chores. Some nights I play it five times in a row, if I can find enough change.

“What, pal? Yeah, you do have time for... one more Mai Tai.”

I might just make myself one of those. I’m nursing a Halloween hangover, and I’m dying for a little hair of the “Devil Dog, Hound of Hell.” I have been enjoying how early the Halloween season starts, which seems to date back to COVID. This year I was a little disappointed when every retail outlet offset the early trick or treat rollout by ending it earlier so that the Christmas season could start early. Where I’m living now in Southern California, Halloween began to peek out at Home Depot, Target, and the like around mid-August, but it was virtually gone by mid-October. Maybe Spooky Season is beginning to resemble clothes shopping: most of it is done a season ahead?
Or am I just getting old? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Halloween is the best holiday: you get candy, and you don’t have to see any relatives.

“Ladies and gentlemen? Last call.”

I leave you with some random thoughts from this year’s Halloween season:

1. Screenings in theaters are fun. The Regency Buenaventura by my place obliged with two Scary Screenings a week for the month of October: Shaun of the Dead, Ghostbusters, The Addams Family, Twilight... it was an embarrassment of riches except for Twilight. Fathom Events held screenings nationwide of the original Exorcist. Patrick & Adam Riske obliged with honest-to-goodness theater screenings of The Funhouse, Wishmaster, and Phantom of the Paradise, which made travelling back to Schaumburg the week before Halloween worth every dime. Patrick had warned me ahead of time not to watch Cobweb, as he was screening it at this year’s Scary Movie Night, and it did not disappoint. Cobweb shows what a filmmaker can do with a little shadowy lighting and a lot of imagination. I didn’t even figure out that the mom was played by Lizzy Caplan until the film was half over! No One Will Save You (which I just accidently typed as No One Can Kill You) was so goddamn entertaining that I could not understand all the blowback, including people on the Twitter machine who bragged about turning it off before it was finished!
2. I actually dressed as J-Bones the Ghost and hung out at the haunted wishing well by my new condo on Halloween, giving out treats to passersby. I got the timing wrong though, and I missed the school busses bringing all the kids home. Also, I didn’t buy enough dry ice and there was too much wind, so my dream of having dense white fog billowing out of said haunted wishing well was also foiled. My make-up and costume left a lot of residents scratching their heads. Next year, I need to do a lot more “advance work...” or maybe NEVER EVER DO IT AGAIN. The Halloween Happy Hour for our neighbors that followed, however, was a resounding success. “Okay, out you pixies go! Through the door or out the window!”
3. I successfully avoided seeing The Exorcist rip-off, uh... I mean... reboot.

4. The Criterion Todd Browning set is one of the discs of the year. Not only do you get Freaks and The Unknown, but David J. Skal’s commentary tracks are alone worth the price of the disc. Remember, the Barnes & Noble Criterion Collection Sale starts in a few days, and you can purchase this great set for 50% off!
5. My friend Bruce once again broadcast this year’s Halloween CD, “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me” on his Vinyl Voyage internet radio station, along with several other Halloween CDs from the past. You should check out Vinyl Voyage Radio... or I will scream. He also posted the mix to something called “Soundcloud,” which I am convinced is the work of the devil.
6. Devil Doll, a tasty little pre-code horror film with Lionel Barrymore, is finally out on Blu-Ray, courtesy of Warner Archive.

7. Be on the lookout for the Scream Factory 4K of Dead Zone around Christmas. The new disc features no fewer than FIVE audio commentaries, including one with Mike Flanagan. Speaking of Flanagan, his long-awaited Fall of the House of Usher was certainly a highlight of this Scary Movie Month. Did anyone else enjoy this Poe tour de force as much as me? I think not.
That concludes “Johnny California.” I’m taking a few weeks off; bartending is hard work, and some of these customers are a real f’ing test. Rest assured that I return... as soon as I have something interesting to say.

Drive safely.


  1. Love all your contributions to the site! Enjoy your time off

  2. PHEW! I got a smidge worried at the premise...glad to know its only a
    TEMPORARY, wellllll deserved time off. Thanks for all ya do Captain JB!!!!!!

  3. Enjoy your time away from having to think about writing, J.B. Planning on seeing any movies during the break?

    Here in northeastern Pennsylvania the Halloween items stay out till the end of October. Some stores I visited near the end of the month had placed what was left of the merchandise in a small area for clearance pricing, but I did not notice any place that had gotten rid of everything before Halloween.