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The Enabler: King Eddy Saloon and liver regicide

May 1, 2009 |  5:03 pm

John-Fante

On a recent Wednesday, as the noontime sun slanted through the dusty wooden doors of King Eddy Saloon in Skid Row, the Enabler sat nursing a cold whiskey and soda. Frank Sinatra crooned “My Way” on the jukebox, and it did indeed seem that most of the bar’s sodden midday drinkers were doing it their way.

The dive on the ground floor of the King Edward Hotel, which both John Fante and Charles Bukowski favored, is the last of the original skid row bars (outliving even Craby Joe’s, which shut its doors two Christmas Eves ago).  The place appears to be held together with wood glue and paper sports flags. The bar is a large square in the middle of the room, and just behind it a genially beleaguered woman in an apron makes ham and cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets for a few bucks.

The back corner of the bar houses a glass enclosure for smokers, which looks like the most carcinogenic sportscaster’s booth in history. If Fante’s Arturo Bandini had brought one of his oranges there, it would have been the most organic object in the place (and that includes the bodies of the well-seasoned regulars). 

On the Enabler’s latest visit, a lone suitcase stood by the door. Was someone enjoying a cocktail before his inaugural trip up the King Edward Hotel’s stairs? After a long spell, a bearded man grabbed it and began to walk away. “You comin’ back, Jose?” asked a tiny Asian man with giant glasses. 

“I ain’t comin’ back no more,” replied Jose, disappearing into the swell of traffic and wind outside. The little man saluted him before returning to his tumbler of warm Jaeger. The King Eddy had come to Jose the way he came to it, his feet over its sticky floorboards, and Jose had seen enough of this sad flower in the sand.

-- Jessica Gelt and August Brown

Photo of John Fante by the Los Angeles Times

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