“Many people just like me,
Dreamin’ of old used-to-be’s,
Oh, the night life ain’t no good life,
But it’s my life”
— Willie Nelson, “Night Life”
Do you ever dream of your old used-to-be night life?
Or is the night life still your life?
Either way, it’s a fact of life that peninsula Charleston’s night life is expanding as more people pour into town.
That stirs not just more drinks, but more debate.
City officials are trying to fairly balance the positive prosperity that a thriving night life can deliver with the reality that folks actually live near those gin mills.
The Late Night Activity Review Committee will present “conceptual recommendations” at 5:30, 5:50 and 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Charleston Maritime Center.
Shouldn’t it add presentations at or even after midnight when the downtown joints really start jumping?
Do bars still have bouncers?
If so, when bouncers have nobody to eject in their first couple of weeks on the job, do they still start fights to justify their employment?
But rather than wallowing in ongoing arguments about closing times, new-bar moratoriums, bouncer methods and the vomit routinely deposited on city sidewalks by tavern patrons, reflect on your own night life — or lack thereof.
For many of us older folks, the night life shifted way back from getting falling-down drunk to falling asleep while seated — and even sober — on a couch watching TV.
However, even staying up late (and awake) to watch the Golden State Warriors advance toward their first NBA title since 1975 can’t match the nostalgic buzz of fondly recalling a long-lost Charleston tavern scene from that same era.
Those were the good old days when you didn’t have to be 18 years old to legally drink alcohol. Here in our Holy City/Sin City, you could even drink at a younger-than-legal age in some bars with cool secret knocks and passwords.
So when some of us aging natives hear “Charleston night life,” we don’t think of 2015’s Warehouse and the Recovery Room.
Instead, our increasingly scattered minds drift back to local 1960s through mid-’70s drinking venues, including (warning: facts may be blurred by past intake of demon rum):
The Brick (not the more recent one on East Bay, the older one on Fulton): Laid-back vibe and pool tables. Was once a brothel, though not during my night-life time — at least not to my knowledge.
The Three Nags (on George): Kind of a hippie hangout where mood enhancers weren’t limited to legal intoxicants. Though it drew plenty of pretty girls, females of all types were banned from admission to Laurie’s pool hall across the street.
Big John’s (on East Bay): Namesake played for the New York football Giants.
Big Wally’s (on Market): Namesake wasn’t nearly as big as Big John.
The Caravan Club (on Cumberland): The Counts, with me on keyboard, played long nights into early mornings there. The cozy venue also featured an occasional high-stakes card game in the back room.
The Merch (on East Bay): Another of my music workplaces. Frequently the scene of epic brawls.
Fudgy’s Name of the Game (on Pinckney): Often the scene of culture clashes between non-Citadel cadets and Citadel cadets, who for some reason didn’t take kindly to being called “bellhops.”
The Hogpenny (on St. Philip): College crowd heading downstairs in more ways than one.
Beyond peninsula bars:
The Flying Dutchman (on Dorchester Road): Big North Charleston establishment brought in some fine bands — and some battle-ready sailors.
Sassy Fats (on St. Andrews Boulevard): Live music and rowdy sorts on both sides of that West Ashley bar.
J. Michael’s Road House (on Coleman Boulevard): Mount Pleasant dive where, for me, going out to bars started to seem boring.
Then again, when you go from drinking a lot to not drinking much if at all, you generally quit going to bars.
That’s because when you’re sober, the company of drunks across their wide range of conduct (mean, sweet, sullen, sappy, surly, loud, quiet and sloppy) can become tedious.
Another powerful motive to stop going out to bars back then can be found in this lyric from a 1978 hit song sung by North Carolinian Alicia Bridges and written by her and Susan Hutcheson:
“Ooh, I love the night life
I got to boogie,
On the disco ’round ...”
Yes, during my 1975-79 matriculation at Clemson, a trip home revealed that the dreaded disco plague had infested Charleston’s night life.
Fortunately, that menace was eradicated and hasn’t come back.
Another healthy night-life change: Going out no longer requires taking in secondhand smoke.
So hey, if the night life is still your life, go for it.
Just please, stop puking on the sidewalk.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.