There was a helluva buzz going around Preservation Pub and Scruffy City Hall on July 24, a general headiness and tingling of spines that saw folks who were in the know glancing, furtively, throughout the evening, checking the clubs’ entrances, looking for a certain Someone to materialize from the ether of the night and stride grandly through the front door(s).
Along the walls, scruffy local jazz musicians shuffled and hawed, looking uncharacteristically like starry-eyed children as they watched for HIM to show; waiting; hoping…
The HIM in question was none other than Wynton Marsalis—august jazz personage, classical virtuoso, arguably the greatest trumpet player currently walking the face of this great big rock we like to call Planet Earth. Marsalis played a gig in town at the Tennessee Theatre that evening, and the good word was that he planned an après-show appearance at one of our two favorite venues—instrument at the ready—for a round of drinks, a little tete-a-tete, and perhaps a chorus or two of horn magic on either the Pub or SCH stage.
And so everyone waited. And waited. And waited… And HE never came. Something to do with a long night, hours of politicking at the venue, too little time or energy to make it all the way back to the hotel room for a clean sport coat and a fresh dab of powder on the nose, then out again, to the Clubs, for more pressing of the flesh and hobbing of nobs and yet another exhausting round of impeccable hornsmanship on another overheated stage…
That’s how the apple splits, Jake. Sometimes a piece falls your way; sometimes it doesn’t. And it’s not the first time our Pub has been jilted by Celebrity. There was an occasion, a couple years back, when a dozen or more hot-shot guitar players checked into town for a Jimi Hendrix tribute show at one area venue or another. And rumors ran hot that after the performance, the venerable Buddy Guy—maybe our greatest living bluesman—would make a Pubside appearance with bassist extraordinaire Billy Cox, our best last connection to Hendrix himself.
They never showed, either. But the Marsalis affair (or lack of same) has stirred the ashes of memory. We cataloged in this very space a couple of weeks back how on so many occasions past, famous folk from every walk have stopped over in our little corner of Market Square. And upon further reflection, it would appear that we neglected to recount more than a few such occasions
Like, jusferinstance, the time ‘80s New Wave rockers The Fixx happened in on a Tuesday night, during the Pub’s regular singer/songwriter showcase. Given an open tab—there’s nothing like a little 80-proof Good Will to grease the wheels—the blokes from the U.K. were coaxed on stage for rousing renditions of the old radio nuggets “One Thing Leads to Another” and “Saved by Zero.” By the second song, the upstairs bar was packed to overflow with onlookers, many of them standing on tables and cheering, partying as if it were… well, 1983…
Not all of our best-known guests have been musicians. The 2013 Fanboy Expo at Knoxville Convention Center brought a weird and misbegotten line-up of aging sitcom stars, horror-movie troglodytes and forgotten action heroes to town, and several made their rounds at the Pub.
Fanboy guests included Anthony Michael Hall, who was reportedly well-regarded by staff and patrons alike—even if he did take a few too many liberties with the ladies, if you catch my drift. The 45-year-old former John Hughes poster boy stumbled around two floors like a drunken frat boy at the end of Hell Week, doling out high-fives and getting his rocks off to the heavy blues of Knoxville’s Big Gene and the Loud Pack.
That same weekend—and I hope I’m not bursting the bubbles of any hardcore Star Wars fans here—Kenny Baker, the diminutive actor who portrayed R2D2, showed at Pres. Pub with Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund at his side. The general consensus on Baker, in the wake of his visit: “A total asshole, and cheap as hell.”
Who knew that the heart of an ill-tempered miser dwelt deep within that cute little tin-can suit?
Andrew Bird seemed like a reasonable sort the night he came by after a performance in town. He mostly kept a low profile, throwing back shots with friends in the upstairs bar.
Even further down on the down-low were members of Swedish stoner rock band Ghost, who stopped in after a Bijou date last year, unrecognizable without their trademark ghoulish face paint and hooded robes. The Ghost fellows took a liking to K-town, it would seem, so much so that they damned near left the city with a souvenir in the form of a comely Oodles waitress stashed in the back of their tour bus. She was rescued, prior to said bus’ departure, by friends with clearer heads and lower BACs.
Perhaps the most auspicious guest ever hosted by the Pub was none other than Quentin Tarantino, in town just a few years back on a potential location scout for the then-yet-to-be-filmed Django Unchained.
Tanrantino came by on the invitation of a former Pub bartender, who—while off-duty—met QT on Gay Street and offered to buy the famed director a beer. Tarantino repaid the kindness, after holding court in the upstairs Speakeasy, by leaving with the bartender’s date. No good deed ever goes unpunished, Jake.
And that will be quite enough for now. Maybe we’ll continue this little reminiscence at some time in the future. But for the moment, it’s time to move on, to smaller and lesser things. Keep in mind, though, that here at Preservation Pub and Scruffy City Hall, we do not have brushes with greatness. Greatness seeks us out and brushes us. And says ‘Thank you’ when it’s done.