For the longest time, Stephen had said that he wanted to keep punk rock alive in Old City and the last time I talked to him about it, he really felt that he had done his part. People weren’t coming down to see the bands. It wasn’t the booking, I believe — it was changes in the neighborhood.
I stopped working there at night because it was getting to be a really ugly scene, especially on the weekends with fighting. Whichever sports event was going on — if the Eagles lost a big game you could expect a bad night. People would go out and get drunk. With all those places being open till 1:45, there were always fights.
Some of my highlights: I was thinking about all the celebrities that I’ve met while working there, and pretty much how nice everyone was. I felt that we gave all those people something that other places didn’t. Unlike the other places that they toured, they felt like, wow, I feel comfortable here. Not like family but, this is the kind of place I would hang out. People weren’t going up and bugging Jason Schwartzman for an autograph, or Jared Leto. They just enjoyed hanging there. They stuck around, there were some nights where celebrities would come in and we’d play cards with them at the end of the night. You get to a point where, like, Horatio Sanz isn’t fun anymore. You want him to go. You start saying things like, “Aren’t you supposed to be funny?”
This is something I always think about whenever I read books about movie stars and stuff — what’s that famous saying? “When it comes to the legend and the truth, always print the legend.” With The Khyber, it’s always the truth. People aren’t waxing your car when they tell you the stories about when Iggy Pop played that special show. The woman who was walking around with him, she would rest her poodle on her breasts, and that’s not legend, that’s truth.
Back to the celebrity thing, what’s his name, Jackson Rathbone was one of the vampires it the Twilight series, and he’s in the Last Airbender. His band [100 Monkeys] played here last summer. He wound up hanging out, he was enamored with [bartender] Jamie Davis because he’s toured with all these hardcore bands. He’s like, “You were with this band? You were in Bad Luck 13?” It’s like that feeling people get. That’s what made The Khyber special for me. I was able to talk with Jason Schwartzman about — I love movies so I know that Talia Shire [Rocky’s Adrian] was his mother. [Schwartzman’s band] Phantom Planet were supposed to play around 9/11 and it didn’t happen, but the band still came down. We had talked about hooking up and going on a tour of places where they were shooting Rocky. Those fell through, those were drunken plans. But I think he appreciated, like, “Wow, I’m getting asked different things here.” Not like, “Oh, what was it like playing Max in the movie?”
I started at The Trocadero, and I was bar backing there. I got moved up to door man and sort of because Dave Simons and Jo Nguyen owned The Khyber and The Trocadero, I got some shifts working the door at The Khyber. Tactics that were used at The Troc I soon found out did not work at The Khyber. You can’t be like, “Get the fuck out of there,” because it’s just you alone. There were times I nearly got the shit beat out of me. Then they closed [in 1996] and I think it was about six or seven months later, I was living in the neighborhood, and Stephen was hanging outside the door. I could tell there was work going on inside. Stephen and I had had animosity between each other. I think I thought he didn’t tip me enough at The Troc once. He told me he was reopening The Khyber and I was like, “Oh, cool.” I can’t remember if I’d asked him if there were any jobs. He said, what do you want to do? I was cleaning there when Dave and Jo owned it, and I was like, “I’ll do the cleaning if you like.” He was like, “Cool, you can do it.”
I grabbed some door shifts. From that point I became very familial with Stephen. It showed a lot, he taught me a lot about how to forgive and forget. This was a person that I’d assumed did not like me, and as a result I was like, “Fuck that guy.” And he completely turned me around. He’s the guy who taught me how not to curse. I don’t like it when people say the F word, and he taught me that. I feel like over 14 years, even though there were many times that at any other place I would have been fired, I haven’t been fired because it would be like firing someone in your family.