Jekyll And Hyde

Last week I had to go up to New York City on a business trip. It’s part of the reason why I haven’t been so involved with the site for the Halloween countdown. Sometimes work just does that. But I did happen to pay a visit to a spot where Halloween rules the roost and it rescued me from having to pull an article from my fourth point of contact. (Airborne reference) This special place is a restaurant/bar near Greenwich Village called, Jekyll and Hyde and it is everything and more when it comes to a spooky good time. You’ll fall in love.

Call it fate, call it karma…I believe there was a reason I decided to walk to my client’s office instead of cabbing it. Had I taken a cab there is no way I would have walked past a street sign with the words “Spooky Hour” chalked on it. Or would I have seen the adorable ghosts and ghouls painted on the windows. It’s as if a higher power said, Will/Bill’s blog sucks and he needs a gift”. It was a gift and if you are in the area, this gift is also yours.

There are two Jekyll and Hydes in NYC; one in Greenwich Village and another in Times Square. This is not the one in Time Square though I am told that’s the better one. Sorry folks, I plumb ran out of time. I’m only reviewing this one and can not vouch for the other although the manager says it’s a lot more elaborate.

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I know this is a really dark photo but what you are looking at is a fully functional animatronics dining room. Every decoration has a little more to it that what you think. From a werewolf’s head on the wall to painting with eyes that follow you around the room. It’s creepy but in a really cute way. I like to compare it to a satanic Chuck E Cheese. The even have arcade games. Well, an arcade game.

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As you can see, I wasted no time making friends because I knew I would be here for a while so I may as well have the locals get used to me and my nagging nags. This is Anna, an awesome bartender, actress and all around cool person. We talked for hours and I learned more about the sketchy side of New York City than a dude from a little old town in North Carolina should. But I loved it.

She and the manager gave me the full tour of the place since I was the only person there for three hours so I have quite a bit to show you. I almost felt a little guilty about eating up their quiet time but I bought them lunch proving there is nothing that can’t be accomplished with the persuasion of tacos.

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In a break from conversation this dude popped out from behind the curtains and said something eloquent but it caught me so off guard, I nearly threw my beer at him. I wish I could remember what he said but at that time I looked like a stupid tourist, caught up in something that happens three hundred times in a week.

See? This is a place that has surprises around every corner and in this case, a coffin door behind a curtain with a sophisticated corpse. I love it.

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Like they say, you only rent the beers you drink and soon I was in search for a men’s room but that too was an adventure. At the far end of the dining room there is a long hallway lined with bookcases. I walked down to the end and back again, met with the staff who giggled at my obvious discomfort and total confusion. Anna said to try harder and read the clues like the sign at the end of the hall. Makes one wonder how much puke they clean up on a busy Saturday night from a drunk patron who had no time for clues or hidden doors.

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Okay, so it’s not the best clue. I had already done that maneuver on my own. It is kinda cute though, don’t you think? Where else can you solve a puzzle while having a pee-pants incident at age 35?

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Oh we have much success! I just prayed that I hadn’t found the woman’s restroom instead. I lead a life of 50/50’s and I am 100% wrong all he time. Lucky for me, this was a fluke.

After that little adventure, I wandered back to my bar stool, well aware of the eyes following me from painted pictures and eyeballed skeletons. When I passed the manager he asked if I wanted to see one of the animatronics shows while I was in the dining room. I said no. NO WAY I WOULD MISS IT!

I took this crappy video on my iPhone so you’ll have to bear with it. I never anticipated having enough time to get a real video on this trip.

Wow, that video is pretty terrible and super huge on this WordPress blog but you get the point. It’s a room of mechanical wonders and not too far off from the Rock-A-Fire Explosion.

I sat back down, completely satisfied with my experience so far only to find out they have an upstairs.

They have an upstairs? And it’s just like this only darker and more macabre? I don’t mean to sound easy to please but if you have singing skeletons, hot bartenders, beer and bathrooms behind bookshelves, I am yours. To add to that is like telling me I won a monkey who plays the ukulele and makes perfect lasagna. It’s beyond a bonus.

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There are two stairways to the second floor; one leads to Bwana Bob’s Safari Bar and the other to Laboratory Lounge. I had to rub my eyes because now we are talking about three distinctly different bars all strange and unusual, just like me. I can’t decide which is better so I will say their personalities crossed the finish line together.

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It’s a weird thing to be in an empty bar full of skeletons and angry tiki masks with the sun shining bright while monkey sounds and native chanting bellow from the speakers. It’s surreal  for a place that had been established in the early thirties, the creep factor was high. I absolutely can’t show you everything without turning this into more of a picture blog than it already is so I will share the ones I thought painted with the broadest brush.

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It was really cool of the manager to join me after I wandered around for thirty minutes. He said that this part of the restaurant isn’t open to the public but they are working to restart it. He went to the control room (which I have plenty of photos but don’t feel comfortable sharing) to start up the animatronics show. Before I knew it skulls appeared out of the walls, mouthing to the headhunter songs as the bridge rippled up and down. They really include the patron into the show and I find that so neat because getting drunk should always be an experience.

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If you are going to drink a mai tai, you should drink one sitting next to a skeleton in an aviator’s cap, pretending you are stranded on an island full of tribes who will shrink your head and probably eat you. Another positive note, no malaria carrying mosquitos!

After I took in all of Bwana Bob’s Safari Bar, I walked to the next room that was not nearly as fun but certainly as cool, the Laboratory Lounge. I couldn’t get over what a change in atmosphere it was because there was no separation between the two rooms!  Amazing what a skylight can do.

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It’s no secret that life-size monster statues are my thing. Especially the ones that have creepy signs with stories from horror literature. This is a two-headed abomination that a mad scientist created only to have it turn and kill him. Pretty dark but this is a place for it to hangout. Don’t try to buy it a drink because your bill will always be double. (I’ll be here all week folks!)

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Here’s another couple that let’s you know you’re not at a Chili’s. We see a patient and a doctor before what looks like an attempted surgery sans the drugs. It might be just me but that doctor looks like he got his MD online. And looking closer, it appears he’s being coached by his patient. That’s kind of high for a vasectomy. I’m sure they’ll get it right after a few attempts.

I would show more photos but the Lab was getting renovated to be open for the Halloween season so besides a few more skeletons and a bat..thing, there really isn’t much to show for now. I am sure it’s pretty insane since my visit.

I made my way back down the other stairway to grab another beer and gush over what I’ve seen. I must have sounded like a person from a country full of famine who discovered a Whole Foods. They had a good laugh at my “and then I saw…and after that…did you see…” type gibberish.

Pretty soon my mouth began to get dry. You know you’re pretty high when your mouth is dry. I had to say my long goodbyes and throw cash at Anna. Parting is always such sweet sorrow but I still had a meeting with a lady on a rooftop bar back at the hotel and slurring is not something I mask well when talking about financial and techno mumbo-jumbo. Plus, I heard a rumor that the people who own the Jekyll and Hyde’s also own this little hotspot around the corner:

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That’s for next time.

I also needed real pizza.

Thanks for reading and if you have the time, means and are close to New York City, pay them a visit. It’s a neat place to have a beer. Or ten.

Showbiz Pizza And The Rock-Afire Explosion

I believe Showbiz Pizza for me as a child was much like an opium tent for Ralph Dunning. When I was there time flew by so fast because it was like a system overload. It was just too much for a 7 year old to digest when placed in an environment that had pizza, video games (they were new back then), a pool of plastic balls, skee-ball, and tickets to trade for things like this. There was, however, an animatronic band that I was less than enthused about. The Rock-Afire Explosion.

I can remember a specific birthday party and sitting at the table closest to the stage. While all the kids were busy drinking cups of suicide soda and shoving pizza in their face I was keeping a suspicious eye on the animatronic rock band. Perhaps I was too close to the stage because I heard less music and more of hydraulic hissings and the metallic hurks and jerks. The smell of the electronic heat from the cyborg-like apes and bears over powered the smell of pizza and sweaty kid. After the ten minute show was over and the curtain closed, curiosity over powered me and I crept to the stage to peer behind the curtain to make sure they weren’t taking a five minute smoke break. But what I saw was just eerie.

Behind the curtain the band stood silent with their eyes open, staring straight a head at the closed curtain. The dim lighting and the motionlessness of the characters gave me an uneasy feeling much like sleeping in a room with a three foot doll. In the background the sounds of screaming kids and the bells and whistles of the games were heard but I was fixed on the duality of life and death represented between what happens when the curtain opens and closes. Then it happened.

Before the curtain opens the band starts to move. While I was deep in thought about the eeriness of the lifeless band the hydraulics kicked in with the “pfffftts, screeeeee, weeeng” and they began to move. I can’t recall how it happened but before I knew it I found myself in the ball-pit with my shoes on. This terrified me to no extent and I didn’t even mind getting yelled at for wearing my Keds a “no shoe zone”. For the rest of the day I stayed close to the front, skipping the birthday cake and present opening. At the end I grabbed my parting gift bag and was all too happy to leave.

That night I had a terrible nightmare that Fatz Geronimo, the ape keyboardist, jumped over his keyboard and chased me around Showbiz.

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