It Takes All Kinds

a Few Stories and Profiles by Erik Hedegaard
mainly from inside the pages of Rolling Stone
(with additional commentary and folderol provided by the author aka Charlie, sometimes)



The Words of Leonard Carlo

Posted on | October 22, 2008 | No Comments

Leonard Carlo’s problem with the Colorado state liquor agents is, they shouldn’t have come in and ripped the 29 signs off the walls of his bar, Leonard’s II, on East Platte in Colorado Springs. He feels about his signs the way he felt about his two Saint Bernards. He adored those dogs. Those dogs meant the world to him. “They my babies,” he would say. And then they got old and had to be put down. Leonard couldn’t do it himself. He had to call for his wife, Miss Gerri. She had to do it. Leonard sobbed.

Leonard misses those signs.

“Let me get my drink,” he says, nodding at the bartender. The bartender pours the boss a shot of Christian Brothers brandy. Leonard grips the edge of the bar, leaning into it. He is 65 years old. He has a bald head and a puffy white beard and looks almost exactly like Leonardo da Vinci. Leonard sways, steadies himself, and gulps the top off his brandy.

“Okay, now I’m ready,” he says, and then launches into it. “You see, I had all these signs, 29 of them, around here. Like where the men’s is, I had a sign that read, FUCKING MEN. Where the women’s is, FUCKING WOMEN. I had the sign NO FUCKING TAP BEER OR DRAW BEER, CHILDREN, ANIMALS, TABS, OR CHECKS. I had NO FUCKING FREE WATER OR POP. I had NO FUCKING NOTHING FUCKING DUMB FUCKING STUPID BERT. I had IF YOU WANT SERVICE, RING THE FUCKING BELL. The word fuck is just a word, right? You say tomato, I say fuck you. But then the liquor inspectors come in here on an anonymous complaint, ripping all my signs down that day. It hurt me. It still hurts me.”

He is silent for a moment, shaking his head.

The state has charged him pursuant to Colorado Regulation 47-900 A., 1 CCR-203-2, in which it is said that licensed bars “shall not permit profanity” on the premises. Actually, the state has said it believes that Leonard’s signs are “beyond mere profanity” and that they could lead to fistfights and “all manner of disorderliness” and that it has a “public safety basis for prohibiting [such] Iangauge.” Consequently, the state has ordered Leonard to show cause why his liquor license should not be suspended or revoked.

In response, Leonard has gotten the American Civil Liberties Union to back him in a suit charging the state with violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech and the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. He has said things like, “I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing this for everyone. Because if they get me, baby, you’re next.” He has gotten a judge to issue a temporary restraining order against the state, which allows him to post new signs. He has gone to see his pal Snake, who runs a local tattoo parlor and who inked a tattoo into the top of Leonard’s bald head. The tattoo reads, “Fuck U. Leave Me the FUCK alone.”

Draining the rest of his brandy, Leonard says, “Oh, yes, I got me a good Jew lawyer from the ACLU. I told him, You little motherfucker, me and you is two cocksuckers who are going to beat them motherfuckers. Is this Germany or the I United States? Fuck you, you motherfucker, this is America. And you are not going to come here and tear my signs down. Communist cocksuckers. Yes, ain’t no doubt in my mind but I’m going to fuck them fuckers like a two-bit whore.”

He looks grim. The bartender refills his glass. Frank Sinatra is on the jukebox, some sweet old song from good old Frank. Leonard sways to the music, his yellow eyes liquid and glittering. After his Saints died, he says, he got two more dogs, named the one of them Motherfucker, the other Fuck You. That’s how deep his feelings run for the F-word. Of course, he uses swear words besides the F-word, like the C-word and the N-word, but the F-word is his favorite. He uses it whenever he can, as often as he can, and in as many varied and interesting ways as he can. Around town, he is a well-known genius of the F-word. That’s Leonard. That’s who he is. He is the most profane man in America. And nobody is going to take that away from him.
*
Leonard Carlo is scrawny, wiry, favors a jailbird’s loosefitting Jean jacket, drinks a quart of Christian Brothers a day, and looks like he’s holding on to life pretty good. Though he doesn’t smoke cigarettes, he’s got a smokers hard voice, probably from all the pot he does smoke and has been smoking since 1947, when Truman sat in the White House. A deeply religious man, he prays on his rosaries daily, takes his Communion weekly, and ejects any customer who dares tell the one about the pregnant nun. He won’t put up with that kind of stuff. Cause a problem at Leonard’s, out you go, maybe forever, with your future soon to be posted on what he calls the No Wall, where handwritten signs say things like NO NOTHING FOR EL STUPIO FUCKING DUMD MEXICAN FROM AUGLAR NEVER EVER and FUCKING NOTHING FOR THE FUCKING 3 KUNTS (KUNT LYNDA KAY, RAT SHERRI, AND RATCUNT BONNIE SUE).

Leonard doesn’t hold back. It’s not in his nature, and it’s a rare day he’s not saying, “You don’t know how much I love this fucking bar industry. You meet better people in bars than you do in your family. The door opens, you never know what the fuck comes through – Mexicans and niggers and fucking peckerwoods and half-breeds. Where do they come from? They come from all over. This is better than color TV, this motherfucker.”

And why should he put a lid on it? Besides the anonymous complainer to the state liquor agents, no one has ever spoken up against Leonard. What his customers say is, “He’s one of a kind” and “No one’s like Leonard.”

“I love the gentleman,” says a regular named Mr. Parker, a black man. “He’s good people.”

What his employees say is, “Heart as big as gold” and “Takes care of us.” “When I came to work here, I heard him say, ‘Dumb Mexican,'” says a bartender named Rosa. “I’m Mexican. I was hurt. But I realized that’s just Leonard.”

It’s a mystery why anyone puts up with the most profane man in America and his bar. It’s probably just one of those things, as if they hear what he’s saying but not really. Or else they believe he has offsetting qualities. Or else they need work. Or else they feel that taking care of Leonard is God’s job – and God may get His chance soon, if for no other reason than how much longer can He put up with a guy like him? In the meantime, Leonard is standing firm, obdurate. “I’ve been in the business 50 years and built over a dozen bars – Dino’s, Gaitano’s, Dante’s, Cuggini’s, the Lair, Union Station, Kojak’s, Shadow Glen, the Glory Hole, the Egg & I, Caesar’s, and the first Leonard’s,” he says. “But I know this one is going to be my last. So, you don’t like it, get the fuck out. There’s 700 other bars in this town.”

The front door opens, sending in a shaft of sunlight and a paying customer. Then the door shuts and it’s dim again. It’s quiet, too, with just a few drinkers whispering, not much traffic coming in from Big Jim’s Pawn across the street or the nudie joint next door.

“You know what?” Leonard says. “If there was just the three of us here – you, me, and Sinatra, nobody else — fuck it, wouldn’t make no difference to me. See, I’ve found what everybody else is looking for. I found it right here. What is it I found? Happiness. Happiness. I’m happy doing what the fuck I’m doing. And when you’re happy doing what the fuck you’re doing, how can you be sad?”
*
When Leonard wakes up in the morning, he leaves Miss Gerri, Fuck You, and Motherfucker behind at his kickedaround ranch-style home on North Union Boulevard, wheels his pickup onto Boulder Street, and heads west, driving straight at Pikes Peak, the lovely, snow-topped mountain that rises solid and forever in the distance.

On the whole, Leonard doesn’t much care for the way Colorado Springs has changed in the past 50 years, turning from a small, dusty, hard-bitten cowboy town into the nation’s 18th-fastest growing city. It’s got huge shopping malls now, suburban sprawl, and too much crime. It’s made a name for itself as the home of the religious Right. It’s also known as the home of NORAD and a probable ground zero in the event of a nuclear attack. It’s nothing like it was in the old days. Everything’s changed, except, of course, for the mountain.

He makes another left, onto Sunset, cutting between Eckhoff’s Firestone and Hamlett Spay and Neuter, and arrives at the rear entrance of his bar to start the day. He goes into his office, which is just a room with an ice machine in it and a sign on the door that reads, DO NOT FUCKING TOUCH, SMELL, LOOK OR FEEL THIS FUCKING DOOR. After a while, he makes his way to the front of the bar, where he opens the shades and eventually steps outside into the light. He checks on the sign that says LEONARD’S II BAR, to make sure it’s still there.

When he comes back in, it’s finally okay for his employees to talk to him. They open their yaps before he’s completed his morning tour, he’ll rip them a new one. Art the bartender hands him a drink. Leonard takes up his usual and customary spot at the end of the bar, where a sign meant to keep customers from standing there says, DON’T FUCKING STAND HERE.

From here, Leonard sips, thinks, and speaks his mind. One thing he wants to talk about today is how to run a bar. The ashtrays always have to be clean. Glasses can’t be empty. The jukebox shouldn’t be too loud, for, as Leonard says, “Music dominating, how can you order a drink, carry on a conversation, or hustle pussy?” And the bathrooms better be spotless.

“This is the way restrooms are supposed to be,” he says, opening the door to the men’s. “Clean, don’t smell like piss, puke, or shit. Two urinals. It’s big, so when you get through pissing you don’t turn around and bump into a cocksucker. The Mall is handicap accessible, because how would you like to be stuck in a motherfucking wheelchair and not be able to take a shit when you go into a bar? Them poor motherfuckers. Anyway, see how clean this motherfucker is? Rest of the bars you go into, you got the little pisser and the little shitter. Fuck you, motherfucker – not here.”

Back at his usual spot, Leonard says a few words about his wife. She is called Miss Gerri because that’s what she’s always been called. He and Miss Gerri have been married 44 years. Leonard loves her. Lord, he loves her.

But he also loves Kelli Sue.

Or at least he fights with Kelli Sue like he loves her. He’s known her since she was 11. She is 35 now, with a big pouf of spilling dark hair, and quite a looker, despite having a chipped front tooth. She’s worked at Leonard’s II since it opened, is known as its CEO, and lives at the apartment Leonard owns next door to the bar. Leonard calls his apartment the Penthouse. It’s where he goes during the day to smoke a joint or two and where he and Kelli sometimes get into one of their huge arguments. Last night, he and Kelli really got into it good. Kelli said, “My dad’s dying, I’m really worried.” Leonard said, “What can I do about it? I don’t care if he’s dying.” Kelli said, “You don’t care about my dad?” Leonard said, “Kelli, fuck you and your dad. You’re born to die.” Then Kelli found a PR-24 policeman’s nightstick that had been stashed somewhere in the Penthouse. Leonard said, “Now, Kelli, you wait.” She raised the nightstick. Leonard said, “Now, Kelli.” And then Kelli ran into the bedroom, threw herself on the bed. Leonard went downstairs to his bar. When he came back, she was gone.

“She’s a beautiful lady, but a wild one,” he says. “I do love the bitch. But see, she requires a half quart of fucking Black Velvet a day, and then she really starts getting a case of cuntitis.”

He seems to be in a philosophic state of mind, “Fuck, yeah, I want her back. But only if she wants to come back. See, there ain’t no motherfucker you can make want to love you or be with you unless they want it. My old lady, Miss Gerri, she’s the best wife, best mother, best grandmother. But she’s got cuntitis, too. She doesn’t like my lifestyle. That’s too fucking bad. She don’t like the way I’m doing, fuck her.”
*
Leonard got his start in life in ’34, in the little Colorado town of Pueblo, where he was born onto the top of a pool table. His daddy was a pool hustler; his mother worked a crane at CF&I, Colorado Fuel & Iron. He first got laid when he was 12. He first smoked dope the same year. He first heard the F-word from his daddy, in the sentence, “Come here, you little motherfucker.” And in this manner was the direction of his future lifestyle set.

“If I ever found anything better than pussy and pot, I’d buy it,” he says sometimes, “I’ve had 53 years of enjoyment from the two of them. Come to think of it, I’m probably one of the oldest fucking potheads and pussy chasers, next to my two mentors, Mr. Parker and George. Mr. Parker, my nigger, he used to be the bailiff for a judge here in town, and me and that motherfucker, we’re bros, because if I love you, I love you, and I don’t give a fuck you’re black, purple, white. He’s solid. And George, he’s 84 and still gets sucked and fucked.”

Leonard chuckles, takes a sip of his brandy. “Truth? You gauge a motherfucker on how he is, and if I don’t like you, I’m prejudiced. And like Mussolini said, ‘In your heart, you know I’m right.'”

Leonard doesn’t like leaving Leonard’s, but when he does, he often goes to see his friend George, who is 84, owns a bar called George’s Union Station, and is apparently quite the ladies’ man.

On the way there tonight, Leonard is uncharacteristically quiet. Then he sees something out the window that sets him off.

“Miserable fucking bitch, put them kids in seat belts,” he says. “It’s always the babies that fly like missiles and get hurt.”

Suddenly, Leonard begins speaking as if he only has a few minutes to live and people need to hear a few things.

He says, “The lowest thing in life is anybody uses the Lord’s name or the Lord’s love to get his dick sucked. These men saying, ‘Now suck my dick and you’ll get to see God.’ Yeah, right. When you’re young and innocent, you should be able to experience popping your nuts for the first time without somebody sticking their dick in your ass or you having to suck dick.”

He says, “When you go east of here, over on Academy, you get shopping centers, traffic, plastic fucking people, and plastic fucking money. I don’t even go over there. I hate plastic, plastic people, plastic suits, plastic hearts, plastic gods; everything is plastic, and plastic is the ruination of the world.”

He says, “My priest over at Corpus Christi is fucking plastic. The only ones that got soul is those fucking niggers. Them Baptists get down. They love God, and you can tell. It makes your heart expand to feel the love.” He pauses, his mind shifting around. His liquid yellow eyes turn dull and potato hard. He remains silent and stays like this until he gets up with George in George’s.

As raw and ornery and bile-filled as Leonard seems, George is sweetwater itself. He wears crisp black slacks, a comfy cardigan, a starched pinstripe shirt, and a nifty bolo tie. His eyes twinkle.

“How many blow jobs you had this week?” Leonard asks.

“I only require a blow job a week,” says George. “You know that by now.”

“Eighty-five years old and still getting sucked and fucked,” Leonard announces to anyone who will listen.

“Leonard and I have been asshole buddies for 35 years,” George says, half apologetically.

A waitress comes up.

George unfolds a dollar bill onto the table and blows at it until it flutters off and the waitress has to bend over to pick it up, showing the tops of her boobies.

“See, this is what he likes, right here,” the waitress says.

“While you’re down there, while you’re down there, ha ha ha,” George says.

And then, after she leaves, he says, “That’s the way I talk to girls.”

“They love it,” Leonard says.

“I get away with it,” George says.

Leonard lifts his glass and says, “To good times and good friends and God loves us and fuck the rest of these motherfuckers.”

“Right on,” George says, clinking.

The night seems to be winding down. While the young people around them giggle and laugh, the two old men sit in silence. Then Leonard gets up and goes back to his own bar.
*
The next afternoon, up in the Penthouse, America’s most profane man takes off his jeans and sits in a chair in his underpants. He rests his feet on top of a console-type TV set that doesn’t have a picture tube in it anymore. He smokes a joint, a nice buzz laying itself across his head.

There aren’t too many people like Leonard floating around anymore. Most everybody is trying not to drink so much, trying not to smoke pot so much, trying not to say the F-word so much, and trying never to ever even think the C-word or the N-word. Meanwhile, there’s Leonard, in his underpants, comfortable, unreconstructed, and determined to stay that way to the end. Maybe when he goes, he will take his shadowy pocket full of bad habits with him. Maybe not.

After a moment, he gets to his feet and flings open the curtains covering a big plate-glass window and rocks back nearly on his heels. Outside, not too many miles off, is Pikes Peak, the mountain rising into mist and clouds, its sheer walls covered with snow.

“Look at that,” he says, “that old whore coming into her glory. Look how she is, how covered with snow. Ain’t she beautiful? You know why? It’s something that’s always there. Like yourself and your faith. Peace and tranquillity. Oh fuck me to tears,” he says, and takes another great big hit on the joint.

Rolling Stone News

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