A while back, in our article “Two Notable Bukowski Bars in the News,” we told you about The King Eddy Saloon, an LA Skid Row bar where Charles Bukowski supposedly drank. The King Eddy Saloon has just changed ownership, and its longtime manager claims Bukowski used to be a regular patron of the establishment.
Did Charles Bukowski Really Drink at The King Eddy Saloon?
What they didn’t mention was that, according to 74-year-old manager Bill Roller, who has worked at The King Eddy Saloon for 50 years and served as its manager for the past 34, this happened during the early ’90s.
Cherkovski, author of the book Bukowski: A Life, seems right to question this tale. At that point in his life Bukowski was married to Linda Lee Bukowski and they were living in San Pedro. As rightly noted by Cherkovski, while Bukowski spent some time living on Skid Row in his younger years, the record of that is spotty and he was known to have hated Skid Row. By the 1990s he would have had no need to go there.
“I wonder, did he really drive from San Pedro to a Skid Row bar for coffee?” Cherkovski asks, in an email to blogdowntown.
The King Eddy Saloon
Richard Schave, a Los Angeles historian and the founder of Esotouric, a tour company which focuses on L.A.’s more off-the-beaten-tourist-track sites, with a particular interest in obscure literary spots, also doubts the Charles Bukowski, King Eddy’s connection.
Esotouric does stop at The King Eddy during its Bukowski tour, but not because they are convinced he drank there.
While the tour makes a stop at the King Eddy, it’s not because of its association with Bukowski, but rather its connection to Bukowski’s literary hero John Fante.
Both Roller and Schave can agree that Fante frequented the saloon. The King Eddy is even featured in Fante’s Ask the Dust – the novel Bukowski attributes to getting him into writing.
It’s this literary inspiration that makes the King Eddy a focal point on the Bukowski tour, not the number of visits he made to it, Schave said.
But just because the idea of an elderly Bukowski driving back to the Skid Row hell he escaped from for a cup of coffee and a writing session – which, going by interviews and discussions of his writing process in his work, he seems to have always done at home, on a typewriter, not on a piece of paper in a bar – doesn’t mean he never went to King Eddy’s in his earlier years. In fact, that seems downright plausible. Fante’s son seems to agree:
But Dan Fante, John Fante’s son and an author himself, said in an email that he is sure “Hank” – as he calls Bukowski – drank at the King Eddy, just like his father John.
“The bar is located in the belly of the beast – Hank’s old downtown haunts,” Dan Fante said. “There’s no question of that.”
So whether or not Charles Bukowski ever drank at The King Eddy Saloon, it will still likely remain a Skid Row bar of interest for Bukowski sightseers.
You see, it’s things like this that make me want to move to the Pacific Northwest. Washington’s King County Library System have created 260 book cover posters and placed them around the state for their “Take Time to Read” project.
The posters are in Bellevue, Black Diamond, Burien, Crossroads, Duvall, Issaquah, Kirkland, Kent, Maple Valley, Mercer Island, North Bend, Renton, Vashon, and Woodinville.
One of the books chosen is the Charles Bukowski novel Ham on Rye. The Ham on Rye poster is in the town of Burien, at923 SW 152nd Street. It is next to the Tin Room Bar & Theatre.
You can find the entire list of posters and their locations here.
So if you happen to be in or near Burien, go check it out. While you’re at it, take a picture with yourself next to the poster and Tweet it to us. You can follow us on Twitter here. We’ll give you an RT and everything.
This Charles Bukowski poem comes from the collection Dangling in the Tournefortia. As described on the book’s dedication page, “The tournefortia is a large tropical tree, ideally suited to the Southern California climate, that produces small delicate flowers and a kind of flesh fruit.”
The poem “sick” deals with Bukowski’s time working awful jobs, which he had a lot of experience with before making it as a writer. This topic is the main focus of the novels Post Office and Factotum, and also shows up in the book about his childhood, Ham on Rye.
Sick, by Charles Bukowski
I had this night job and I’d sit in bed
looking out the window in the late afternoon
the last of the sun filtering into the room
through the leaves and branches of a large green bush
and when I thought about what was out there
waiting, I’d reach for the telephone.
the office clerk knew my voice:
“yes, Bukowski, what is it this time?”
“just writing something down,” I’d tell him,
“common cold, flu, the clap…”
I’d hang up.
it was good watching it slowly get dark
listening to people coming home
parking their cars, turning on their tv’s
making kitchen sounds, talking.
then I’d get up and drink for three or four hours
then go back to bed and sleep.
and the next night at the factory everybody
would seem very small and wrinkled
and I’d walk in tall and shining
eyes calm and cool
the men didn’t understand and the girls
all loved me, and the foreman would come forward
to speak to me of absenteeism
as I took out a cigarette, lit it and
The poem “sick” appears in the Charles Bukowski poetry collection Dangling in the Tournefortia. Click the image for more information.