Monday, April 15, 2019

A Farewell to the Good Luck Bar, Where It All Began

Maria and I were sad to read about the impending closure of the Good Luck Bar, a Los Feliz institution that has been at the intersection of Hollywood, Sunset, Virgil and Hillhurst, around the corner from the Vista Theatre, for at least 25 years. Apparently the landlord is looking to tear down the building to build either condos or a hotel — and the Good Luck Bar has been given notice.

With just a few weeks (or if we're lucky, another month or two) left before it disappears, we headed there on Saturday — for the first time in years — in order to pay our respects and also reminisce.

The Good Luck Bar is where we met, nearly 20 years ago, and although the world and L.A. have changed a lot since then (not to mention our lives — two kids later!), it was always comforting to drive by the Good Luck Bar sign and know that it was still there.

On Saturday, the bar was packed. Clearly, a lot of people had the same idea. A line snaked down Hillhurst and we had to wait a bit to get in. But I'm glad we did. It's hard to believe that a chance meeting at a bar all those years ago set us on this path.

In 2009, on the 10th anniversary of when we first met, I wrote this:
Ten years ago, on the evening of July 3, 1999, I was lounging in my West Hollywood apartment -- flipping through channels -- when the phone rang.

It was my friend Pang-ni. She and a few friends were heading to the Good Luck Bar on Hillhurst in Los Feliz. They were also hanging out with some off-beat guys, and well, they needed to be rescued. Would I join them?

Hmm. I was already in for the night. And Los Feliz was a hike from West Hollywood. But I had promised myself to make more of an effort to get out and meet new people. Plus, it was the July 4th weekend, I thought to myself, and I oughta be out having a good time.

So I got dressed, hopped on the surface streets and headed to this "Good Luck Bar."

Inside, Pang-ni and Brenda -- two friends from my college dorm -- were there.. and yup, I saw what they meant by these guys. It was a busy holiday weekend night at the Good Luck Bar, but the group had managed to snag one of the last seating areas -- which had just been occupied by two girls. Pang-ni had struck up a conversation with one of them, and I wound up sitting next to Pang-ni.

Before long, I was talking to Pang-ni and the new girl to her left. And later, I wound up talking to that girl a little bit more. She seemed pretty cool, and we talked about all sorts of nonsense. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Where we grew up. And what we did for a living. She told me she designed CD packages at Rhino Records. Oh -- and her name was Maria.

She was there, having a mini "girls night out" with her friend Andrea. (Turns out she was in a similar "what the hell, I'm gonna go out into the world, and if I meet someone, I meet someone" phase as well.) At the end of the night, she wouldn't give me her number. But I gave her my card. I was intrigued.

Later, while leaving the bar, Pang-ni asked me what I had thought about another one of her female friends who had been there that night. But all I could think about was this girl I had just met.

I didn't want to be too eager, and I didn't want to be Creepy McStalker. But I knew her first name, and I knew where she worked. I was going to wait a week, and then call Rhino. (Probably too long in hindsight -- but again, I wanted to play it cool and not scare her off.)

But before I finally got the nerve to call... I was in the office on Thursday night (back at my old gig at the now-late Electronic Media) when the phone rang.

"What were you doing giving your number to a drunk girl?" laughed the voice on the other end.

It was her. I couldn't believe it. Honest, to this day, she teases me that I was never going to call -- but I was. She just beat me to the punch. And thank God she did, because it gave me a bit more confidence to push hard for a first date. Soon.

We arranged to meet the following week at Lola's on Fairfax for drinks. And that led to our first full-fledged date: Drinks at 360 (now long gone) and dinner at the old Luna Park (also long gone), where Pancho Sanchez also performed. That led to another date at Campanile's Grilled Cheese night. And so on.

It all led to now -- marriage, home and Evan -- plus another addition, just a few weeks away.

And to think it all started that night, ten years ago. It's crazy to think how so much has resulted from that phone call from Pang-ni -- and that split-second decision to get off my lazy ass and drive all the way to Los Feliz. And ditto Maria's decision to meet up that night with a friend at a bar that, like me, she'd never been to. (And yes, we've felt cheesy for years that we met in such a cliched fashion -- at a bar, and a bar named "Good Luck," no less.)

We're hoping to visit the Good Luck Bar at least one more time before it closes — and buy a T-shirt too! 

Go before it's too late: 1514 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

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