Perhaps this is something I ought to be telling a therapist, but I never wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo as a kid – I wanted to be one of the creepy freaks getting wasted at the Mos Eisley cantina while listening to that alien swing band (apparently George Lucas wanted the band to sound like an alien interpretation of Benny Goodman). In fact, that bar scene was (and still is) my favourite part of Star Wars.
So in honour of the first bar I ever fell in love with, here’s my list of the top fictional bars I’d like to drink in:
The Sawdust Saloon in On the Road by Jack Kerouac
If I could drink anything in any bar in any time, it would be a spodiodi in this unnamed 1950s sawdust saloon on Folsom Street, San Francisco, where the jazz players wailed and the crowd was in a frenzy.
“It was a sawdust saloon with a small bandstand on which the fellows huddled with their hats on, blowing over people’s heads, a crazy place, crazy floppy women wandered around sometimes with their bathrobes, bottles clanked in alleys.
“In back of the joint in a dark corridor beyond the splattered toilets scores of men and women stood against the wall drinking wine-spodiodi and spitting at the stars — wine and whisky.”
Oh yes: wine spodiodi is a liquid sandwich made with port, then bourbon, and then more port. Some drink it in three separate shots – others layer the liquor in a single shot. Not what I’d normally drink, but in this case it sounds like heaven.
The Roadhouse/Bang Bang Bar – Twin Peaks
The only bar that can rival either Cantina or Kerouac’s sawdust saloon for music is Bang Bang – or is it called Roadhouse?
In the murky and ambiguous world of Twin Peaks, it’s appropriate that even the name of its dark dive bar is uncertain.
Whatever the name, I would love to visit (albeit with a bodyguard) if only for the music acts alone – David Lynch chose a great array of bands to play on the show (the soundtrack to the 2017 revival is worth checking out). Just don’t ask a stranger for a light.
The Night of Joy – A Confederacy of Dunces
If I ever opened a bar myself, I’d name it after this Bourbon Street stripper bar that plays a large part in A Confederacy of Dunces, my favourite novel of all time.
Sure, it has a stench, the barman’s surly, the glasses are dirty and the drinks watered down – but it also has a padded chartreuse leatherette door (which I believe every bar should have) and it’s home to Darlene, who’s paid to hustle customers for drinks but dreams of one day becoming an exotic dance act with her phlegmatic cockatoo.
The bar in Piano Man
Lord knows I’ve been to more bars than any man’s liver should be able to take – and yet I’ve never found a bar that matched the one in this video clip (although Minsky’s in Sydney, back in its heyday, got close).
Plus I love the line: “They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.”
The Deca Dance nightclub in Earth Girls are Easy
Yes, that’s right – I started this list with a respectable (if pretentious) mention of Kerouac, and I’m ending it with a reference to a trashy 80s movie. But what a trashy 80s movie.
It had Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum.
It had the line “Have a mental margarita.”
It was directed by Julien Temple, the guy behind the Sex Pistol’s doco The Great Rock And Roll Swindle.
It gave me the pick-up line “Why be with a hero, when you can dance with a zero?” – not that it ever worked for me.
And it had the funkiest dance club I ever saw on film:
Have you got a favourite fictional bar? If so, leave a comment: