Billy the Bartender got fired. No, he was “put on a break.” You might know him – big guy with a black beard and Wayfarers.

Ramona and I arrived at Little Joy at six, and Billy put on Crazy Horse. He mentioned, “My dad was the bassist.”

That was his only claim to fame. The volume was just right, all midrange 'cause the speakers were blown out.

Billy always gave us the first couple for free, which seemed too generous for dirt-cheap happy hour. Then, he'd take a couple shots with us and pocket the few dollars we put down for beers.

He had a fan base and liked it that way. He was funny and didn't care and slept all day until a couple minutes before his shift when he sauntered down the hill and into the bar.

We started going down to Little Joy about three months prior. It was a comfortable place; filthy and modest, lots of plaid, some Mexican GWAR-lookin' dudes hanging around, traces of hipsterdom in the jukebox (Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti , etc.).

The place was fine for those couple months, and you could even go on a Saturday night without having to face the onslaught of Hollywood bar-hoppers plaguing every other East Side “dive.” I wondered about this joint – which looked like it was once a Chinese restaurant – and found out it used to be a cop bar, home to the Rampart Division.

The Little Joy used to be called the “Short Stop,” now a popular singles bar up the street. The old Short Stop was decorated with regalia, badges and shit, and even had a place in the back for patrons to hang their firearms.

I read a story from '79 where some unsuspecting black stick-up kid came in with a comb wrapped in a towel. All the cops opened their holsters, and the kid gets blasted to hell on the sidewalk right in front of the bar.

The cops then erected an effigy in the teen's honor with a paper halo reading, “Use a comb, go to heaven.” (See Nancy Rommelmann, LA Weekly ; February, 1999). At some point the cops moved up the street, and the little dummy-head became a Polaroid of Billy's face, taped onto the inside of the lamp above the pool table.

I didn't even realize there were DJs until I glanced behind the bar through a little hole in the wall and saw a few guys standing with glasses and record crates. I became more familiar with the schedule: Thursdays were Arthur nights, associated with the fledgling hippie rag; Saturdays consisted mostly of boring garage-psych detritus; and Friday nights were the best, with nerdy white-boys playing early '90s East Coast rap.

Billy suggested that I bring music for some upcoming Sunday. Joe, the manager, was in control of the schedule. All I knew about him was that he was the pompous, older herb who Billy didn't get along with and could most often be found talking out the side of his mouth with two underage girls.

In the following weeks the crowds really began to grow. On one Friday night, the bar was shoulder-to-shoulder around midnight. Ramona assumed it was due to Chloe Sevigny's mention of Little Joy in a recent interview, but I supposed this probably happened about once a year.

Then I thought, where's Billy? I hadn't seen him for a while. And one night I found him, standing by the door with a flask under his jacket.

It seemed like he preferred not to talk, but when I approached him he mentioned Joe. He seemed pretty downtrodden.

It became pretty clear to me. The crowds, the DJs, Billy's absence: Joe was exerting power and felt justified due to increased business. Then he lands himself a girl half his age and the rims on his glasses get even thicker!

So my friend Oscar meets someone at Little Joy. She's an insider, a veteran of the group who only hangs out in the back room.

I ask her what she thinks of Joe. She says she's very close to him. And Billy? Turns out she helped get him fired.

Oh yeah? What's the deal with that? She tells me that Billy has a lot of other issues , serious stuff. Well, shit! What can I say? He's got a drug problem, but he's a great guy?

In retrospect, the nights Billy played his dad's old records seem pitifully nostalgic. The last time I saw him he had on an old Levi's jacket with a big Crazy Horse patch on the back. He didn't have much else.

Billy's out in Arizona right now. I hear his mom's taking care of him.

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