At Jilly's, we discover the Thursday-night feel-good scene.
BY JEN CHEN
Is it possible that all the cool bars in town go by someone's first name? There's Harry's, Dave's, Davey's and Chez Charlie. Now we can add Jilly's. For months, we had been hearing that its Fat Sal Señor Oz Soundsystem (definitely not a one-name moniker), which goes from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Thursday nights, was a rockin' good time. Because we were looking for something different to fill our weeknights, we swung by the corner of 19th Street and Broadway.
For a Research Assistant, we recruited another non-one-namer, David Wayne -- who, because of his previous RA experience, wanted to go by his fake bar name of "Todd." We met Todd shortly after Señor Oz (McGuire) started spinning his collection of funk from around the world, which he described as "American house mixed with Latin music and other styles." (Sadly, Oz's cohort Fat Sal -- Pat Alexander -- was not present.)
First, though, drinks were in order. We asked about specialty drinks, and the bartender responded that, though Jilly's had no specialties, its specials that night were on Boulevard beer. "I can make anything you want, though," she added, so we opted for mixed drinks. Because the night was still young and the crowd still sparse, we relaxed in one of Jilly's great circular booths and talked while scoping out the place. It's a medium-size room with a loungey feel; its walls are mainly brick with the occasional red trim. White Christmas lights adorn the bathroom doors, which flank the raised platform that serves as a stage. As if to reinforce the lounge look, side-by-side posters of Frank Sinatra decorate one wall. Other thoughtful touches in the décor were candles on each table, white-tea-and-ginger moisturizing soap from Bath & Body Works in the women's bathroom, and fresh flowers in cylindrical glass vases. As the night wore on and more people arrived, the flowers ended up in people's hair. But it was the self-serve popcorn machine that caught our attention. We grabbed a basket and munched on its salty, garlicky goodness while we drank; it was as addictive as garlic-flavored crack ... or so we would speculate.
"I like Jilly's," Todd said as he took a swig of his Jack and Coke. "I used to come here when it was Pauly's and James Trotter was spinning. Back then, it was a bumpin-est sugar shack." He turned his attention to the revelers and offered an assessment. "It's a hip little crowd."
"It's definitely a city crowd -- downtown and midtown," Señor Oz said. "There are art people, restaurant people -- they want an alternative to Westport." There was also a tinge of glam, such as the two glamazons who teetered in on 4-inch fuck-me pumps, ankle tattoos blazing, short-strapped purses tucked securely under their arms. One was wearing a leather skirt, and the other had on tight, white, cropped pants. They were an awesome display lounging by the bar, then strolling out after a couple of drinks.
The crowd grew, and hugs abounded as people recognized one another. "It's almost like a Youth for Christ lock-in with drinks," Todd said of all the camaraderie. "It's a small world, it seems like," added Kat, one of the regulars, who knew the bartender and Señor Oz. "It's a nice meeting place on Thursdays."
After we had walked around and interviewed people, we came back to Todd, who had been mingling, drinking and dancing. "I'm having a good time!" he proclaimed. "It's gay-friendly, too. There's a table of fags over there. Yea!" As we were trying to head out (we kept getting stopped by various people on the way), in walked Ron Megee from Late Night Theater, who insisted that we all do a shot. He bought us elevator shots -- light beer mixed with pineapple juice, with a shot of amaretto dropped into it. We clinked and dropped, and the quasi-fizzy concoction tasted deliciously sweet. We were a little slow on the drinkage, though, which prompted Ron to roar, "Drink that shot, bitch!" He proceeded to randomly tweak nipples and slap asses, both male and female -- he was an equal-opportunity tweaker and slapper.
Our image of Jilly's as a bumpin-est sugar shack thus confirmed, we left, nipples still a-tingle and asses still stinging.
pitch.com | originally published: August 7, 2003