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

I WAS THE BARTENDER at the Sher­aton Inn in Scranton, Penn­syl­vania., in 1976 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.


 

 

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