NAME DROPPING by Barnaby Conrad


Tales from My Barbary Coast Saloon
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 Conrad (Time Is All We Have, 1986) tries in vain to recapture the heady days at the San Francisco bar he opened in 1953 with the proceeds from his best-selling novel, Matador. Certainly, the era's jet set passed through El Matador's doors, but the stories Conrad tells about them range from dull to just plain silly. Jack Kerouac once sat at the bar and tried to repeat ``Freud's a fraud'' three times fast. Truman Capote tamed a ferocious bulldog by cradling it in his arms and murmuring ``Bulldog, bulldog.'' Lines or hijinks that might have seemed fresh at the time are now as stale as old crackers. John Ireland's joking response to the rumor that he was ``one of the ten best-endowed men in the world'' barely provokes a smile. And Ava Gardner's pouring a drink down a waiter's pants at Horcher's in Madrid is no longer the shockingly salacious act it must have been in its day. The only endearing factor here is democratic treatment; Conrad blithely reveals the foibles of the rich and famous, mostly the excessive drinking habits of people like Bing Crosby. (It is more than ironic that Conrad, whose last book was a memoir of his stint at the Betty Ford Center, tries to wring humor from drunken behavior.) In his introduction, Conrad mentions that he opened his bar with a Casablanca-like fantasy of meeting the woman of his dreams, even though he was married at the time; he ends with the story of ``The Girl'' who finally fulfilled the fantasy. Aside from these two references, the book follows no discernible logical path of organization, chronological or otherwise; it leaps from one banal reminiscence to the next. A breathless tone that is alternately society-page and frat-boy influenced (on Marilyn Monroe learning a dance step: ``When Marilyn bounced, everything bounced'') does not help matters. About as entertaining as a hangover. (12 line drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-258507-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994