Wednesday, April 4, 2012

No. 792 – La Grange

Performer: ZZ Top
Songwriters: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard
Original Release: Tres Hombres
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None

When I transferred to sports at the Flint Journal around Christmas 1990, it didn’t take long to be introduced to the department’s weekly ritual of closing the section on a Friday or Saturday night and racing off to the White Horse for some post-work partying. I suspect that it was Dan, who was the most veteran member of the sports copy desk, who brought it up first, “Hey, a bunch of us go over to this bar afterward …”

Dan and John always went (as did I) if either was around, and depending on who was helping out or covering something late—or was just out and about that night—Robb, Brett, Brendan and, later, Paul and Mark were regulars. Occasionally, after hockey season started, Bill would show up, and once a year, the Big Cheese himself—Dave, the sports editor—would make a celebrity (and tab-picking-up) appearance.

The White Horse lay (and still lies, I guess) near where Court Street split as it entered downtown. After that, heading East, Court turned into 5th until you got past 475 where it merged back into Court again. The White Horse is a fairly nondescript tudor building, like an English pub, and has a sign by the corner with an illuminated white horse high atop.

I’ve described the inside a bit. It had at the time, again, a Tudor theme and lots of dark wood. There were two rooms—the large one that curved like an L around the bar in the center and a back room where the crane game and one of the few TVs that was in the joint sat.

After a while, we almost always sat at the crook of the L, as I’ve mentioned, and from there we could see the bar’s other TV that was in the corner opposite the back room. This was important just in case something broke late and one of us had to run back to the paper to put out a one-star (late) edition to cover the update. As far as I recall, no one ever had to do that, although Dan one night had to go back and recap a late game that we watched the end of on TV.

The waitresses, as I mentioned, were legendarily hot. The usual outfit was a black knee-high skirt, white tuxedo blouse and black bowtie: demure and super sexy. The exception would be during the Buick Open when they would switch to tan knee-high skirts and pink golf shirts. I don’t remember that there was any restriction on footwear, that is, I don’t remember that they had to wear high heels. In fact, I seem to remember Jenna more wearing tennis shoes—practical, and what the heck, the rest of the look was plenty good enough.

Our usual m.o. would be to show up and order individual pizzas after we got there—Dan would sometimes get a burger; John always got fries—but sometimes, if we were really hungry, we’d call in the order from the Journal, so it would be ready by the time we got there. For a while, Jenna would put out a reserved sign for the table in the corner—for us. And once she had our drinks on the table waiting for us. (So we were predictable: You go with what you like.)

And speaking of going with what you like, this song became the official kickoff song of the night. Brendan would play this song first if he’d get to the juke first, and I liked it there. So I started playing it first when he wasn’t there, and before long, La Grange was ALWAYS the first song of the night—and the only time it was played—regardless of who was picking the tunes. It was the official fanfare that it was party time. Time to saddle up and ride, gents.

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