in the line of fire at a 70s disco in scranton, pennsylvania

In 1976, I was a bartender at the Sheraton Inn in Scranton, Pennsylvania. When the various candidates made their rounds for the Democratic presidential nomination, one of them (I actually don’t remember who it was) stayed at the hotel for a night. I was the main bartender and had the night shift, in the lounge, which had turned into a rather busy place in the preceding months. 

The lounge had been converted into a ‘disco’ the previous year; for those of you old enough to recall, they simply added a raised dance floor with colored lights beneath the floor, the de rigueur mirrored globe with a couple of spots on it, and a station for a live DJ to spin records and patter up the guests.

Oh yes, and they gave what was once merely the “Sheraton lounge” a discoey name—which were somewhat less silly than some of the supposedly psychedelic names that had been given teenage dance halls a few years earlier and which I have fortunately also forgotten.

As the Democratic National Convention was held in July that year, this must have happened in late spring or early summer. That day, I just happened to be a few minutes late that day—and I am rarely late for anything, let alone a job. So I was hurrying as much as possible on 81 to the exit for Scranton and the hotel.

The parking lot was packed, meaning that the rooms were full and that I would have a bar full of thirsty customers and a line of waitresses waiting for drinks for the dining room.

As I pulled into the parking lot, there was a late ’60s model Chevy in front of me with two men in the front seat. They were driving VERY slowly and holding me up. I mean S-L-O-W. I assumed that they were geeks come to gawk at a possible president of the United States of America.

So I beeped my horn at them.

Once.

A short, sharp beep.

Nothing obnoxious or threatening.

Had no effect.

So I beeped a second time.

Same beep, same lack of effect.

Eventually, the car turned and I found a spot, pulled into it, parked, and hurried off to the bar and my job.

About two hours into my shift, a customer at the bar calls me over and asks if I owned a lime green ‘69 Pontiac Catalina Ventura. I did. He told me that I had left my lights on. I called my manager in and he watched the bar while I ran out to the parking lot.

Sure enough, my lights were off but the light switch on the dashboard was on.

And I never leave my lights on!

I got in and tried to turn the car over but it was dead, and there was nothing I could do about it then. So I went back to the bar and back to work.

The customer who had alerted me to my situation was still sitting at the bar. I told him that, yep, somehow I had left the lights on and my battery was dead. He was very sympathetic, ordered another drink, tipped me reasonably well, and then headed to his room. Needless to say, I never saw him again.

I gave last call at 1:30 AM to my few customers and closed the bar at 2:00 AM. I didn’t finish up until 2:30, at which time my manager came out and drove his car around to my car to jump my car. I sat there for twenty minutes waiting for the charge to take before I had the courage to drive the eleven miles back to my place in Wilkes-Barre.

When I got home, I turned the car off and immediately tried to turn it back on.

Nothing—it was dead.

And there was nothing I could do about it until the next day, when I had to borrow my grandmother’s car and go buy a new battery.

Later that day, I was back at the Sheraton for my evening shift. The brouhaha of the previous day had died down as the candidate, his entourage, and the hangers-on had left earlier. So it would be just another night at the Sheraton.

As I walked in, my manager called me over. “When you came to work yesterday, were you behind a light blue Chevy with a couple of guys in it in the parking lot?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “but how did you know?”

He said, “They were Secret Service and it pissed them off that you honked at them. So after you got out of your car they waited a while, then they jimmied your door open and turned your lights on and locked the car up.”

“What?!?”

“The guy at the bar who told you your lights were on was one of the feds.”

“How do you know this?”

“He told me today, just before the candidate’s entourage left. He wanted you to know that that he was f*cking with you!”

And that, my friends, is how the men hired and trained to guard the most important political figures in out country think and act, all the while using taxpayer’s dollars. How I was far from being in the line of fire at a 70s disco in scranton, pennsylvania.

Somehow, I just can’t see this predilection for bloody sophomoric shenanigans in Agent Frank Horrigan when he was in the line of fire . . .


Comments, suggestions, additions, and arguments welcome!