By holdup Emmet
It might not have been the funniest night of all time. But it was pretty close. Renaissance man Jon Bailey (photographer, artist, wine maker and raconteur) reminded me of it this week, since he was the star.
You have to remember Rockland in the old and gritty days when the windows on the bottom two floor were covered with plywood, the air reeked of rotting fish from SeaPro rendering plant and a motorcycle gang terrorized the downtown.
We are talking at least 30 years ago.
A Belfast entrepreneur named Danny Fox renovated a former bank created a horseshoe bar and created an urban oasis called the Georges Bank Restaurant on Main Street. The place was magic. It was like sitting in Philadelphia or New York as soon as you walked through the door. For me, it was the beginning of the city’s turnaround.
Fox had the brilliant idea to hire Claire Seekins as bartender, who drew men from all ends of the country. Reporters in the area adopted the place at once and literally ran down the sidewalk to get a good seat for happy hour. The second it opened, it was the coolest place in town.
My memory fades and the chronology is shaky, but somehow Fox abandoned ship and new owners took over. To publicize the reopening, the owners decided to stage a fake robbery of the former bank. They found a vintage car and hired a gang of “robbers” to pull off the stunt. Unfortunately, they hired Bailey.
You have to understand that everyone in the city was there from semi-distinguished politicians, real bankers, almost lawyers, the gentlemen and women of the keyboard. Everyone. You know what free food and drinks do to the human being.
Well the “robbery” went off without a hitch and the “thieves” went on the lam with a bag of money. Everyone turned to their free food and booze, buffet style. Bailey went home, unfortunately only a few doors away. He discovered that he still has a small grenade in his hand. It was actually very serious fireworks given to him to be used in the fake robbery. On the street, presumably.
He returned to the “bank”, stood in the doorway, and while passing motorists watched, lit the fuse and threw the “grenade” into the crowded restaurant.
You have to understand that this was a bank building, with marble floors and heavily reinforced walls. Inside, the cream of Rockland society was standing, chatting with their free dinner in their hands.
Screams and shouts. The free food and booze went everywhere. Most people ended up wearing their dinner.
When the smoke finally cleared in the driveway, Bailey strode into the room. It was an entrance that Cecil B deMille would have envied. Another man might have run away. Not Bailey. For that single golden moment, Jon Bailey was the most hated man in Rockland. Not by me. I laughed like a hyena.
Harold “Bud” Doughty, captain of the Rockland Wrecks softball team, approached Bailey. “You can have my dinner. It is stuck to the ceiling,” He said.
It made for an amazing night. It could have been the funniest night ever.
My ears are still ringing.