Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Yesterday I went to Tom Bergin’s, an “Irish tavern” here in LA that opened in 1936 before it moved to it its present location where it’s been for the last 63 years.  There’s been a recent, clever refit that still manages to make the place look as though it’s been there forever, and the menu, though updated, is still very old school, corned beef and cabbage, cottage pie etc.  The cottage pie was pretty decent.

But the most remarkable thing about the place – and I’m not sure if this came with the refit or whether it was always like that (somebody will perhaps tell me) – were the double bar stools.   See above.  Things must get quite intimate when two people sit on one of those things, which I suppose is the whole point.

 This reminded me of the great photographer William Claxton, who died in 2008. I used to see him at parties once in a while with his wife Peggy Moffiitt - that's the two of them above - and we’d exchange a few words, though I wouldn’t claim I even made it to the status of acquaintance.  Bill had heart problems for some years, and eventually had a defibrillator implanted in his chest.  The notion was that when his heart slowed or threatened to stop, the device would kick in, zap him with a bolt of electricity and get him going again.

I said that must be quite a shock to the system.  And he said, “Oh yes, sometimes it throws me right off my bar stool.”  I’m sure it was a line he’d used often, though I don’t doubt it was true.

And thinking about him in Tom Bergin’s yesterday I did wonder whether being on a double bar stool would make things better or worse.  On the one hand your partner might be able to hold onto you, but equally the pair of you might end up on the floor together.  Still, a small price to pay, I suppose: definitely better to be alive on the floor than dead on a bar stool.

Claxton took a lot of people of musicians, actors, models, the kind of people who don't like to be seen eating.  And he took many, many photographs of Steve McQueen.  But McQueen didn't worry about being seen eating, which was no doubt because he could still look the epitome of cool (if frankly a little studied), even when eating a doughnut.

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