She is a tiny, gnome-like woman with pink highlights along the bottom of her curly hair style. She barely peers above the bar where she takes orders from customers at the wait area, and you can barely hear her soft voice. She takes your money and often stuffs it in her bra (yes, she was wearing a bra, apparently). She is 92 years old and I watched her continuously bending over spryly to pick up empty chip bags from the floor. And then, in a flash, she was over by the band, bobbing to the rhythm.
She worked the room like a pro, laying hands on the shoulders of so many she knew so well, and grooving to the sounds of the Southcoast Jazz Orchestra as they played everything from “144” on their playlist to “172” – they had no set sheet for the evening so took Bingo-like requests from the crowd.
The Yuengling light beer was only $2 for the bottle, though the Corona later was $5 (I did pass on a glass and drank from the bottle). I guess the Mexican beer is more popular at Gilda’s, or maybe it’s just that much better.
The audience was a mature one. I brought down the average age. And it was quite enthusiastic and knowledgeable of good jazz when they heard it. And, it was good jazz. The orchestra was a group that matched its audience in age – one was a cardiologist, another a teacher, etc. The two women in the band seemed to be the youngest, and quite talented, as were the men. They played everything from the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” to a Herb Alpert number, for those of you who remember Alpert and his Tijuana Brass.
The décor was rundown but not quite as sleazy as you might think from the outside – well, maybe it was. There were long tables jammed with people, a couple of red Naugahyde booths, a few old couches and a couple of previously owned stuffed chairs. No bikers that I could tell (but then again who’s to say that cardiologist didn’t ride his hog over?). There was no cover charge but, from what I’m told this was the first time they passed the hat for donations for “Gilda’s Jazz Night.” The band had to have played for free out of nostalgia for Gilda’s more active jazz years.
I saw the waitress from the local restaurant, and other local celebrities acting many years younger than they are – in a good way.
In short, it was great fun, and terrific music (though the neighbor who lives in the house behind the bar apparently called the cops because of the noise. Guess they don’t know good noise when they hear it).
I saw a guy tending bar sip a drink he gave a lady customer and Gilda chide him because that apparently is against the rules. “I’m with the band tonight,” he said in his own defense. Still, I never saw him sip another drink while behind the bar. Small, but carries a big stick. I think he was volunteering behind the bar but the rules still apply.
All in all, a fun night, with good music and an orderly yet animated crowd.
I have a new way of looking at that ramshackle bar now.