Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Dark Side of the Moon

RIP Victor Latham  (1973) 
Victor Latham died on Easter Sunday. I remember Victor well, and we have been Facebook friends for a long time. My ex-husband and Vic played a lot of racketball over at the Key West High School courts back in the day. I wrote this column about the Full Moon Saloon in the Miami Herald in 1993. My husband Michael suggested that we re-print it today. So here it is:

The Dark Side of The Moon

    When I read in the paper that the Full Moon Saloon was closing its doors for good, I felt as if I were reading the obituary of an old friend, an old friend with whom I'd gotten into lots of trouble. True, I hadn't been in the place for years. Nonetheless, I'm sure I'd fulfilled my quota of lost weekends there and certainly qualified as a bonafide "Full Moonie."
Full Moon Saloon T-shirt

    I quit the place because I quit drinking 8 years ago,  and though it was always a fun place to eat a fish sandwich or make a midnight rendezvous, none of that felt the same as it once had without a couple of the house's overly generous cocktails to guide you 'round the dark side of the Moon.
    But sobriety isn't the only thing that has kept me away from the Moon. Some of the darkest moments of my life happened there. 

    My first marriage ended at the Full Moon eleven years ago. The comedy team of Mack and Jamie was performing that night, and my husband and I had gone there to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. I wanted to see the show, but the waitress told us it was sold out.
    "Sorry, honey," my husband said, as if he meant it.
    Victor Latham, one of the owners of the place heard that we, two of the Moon's most dedicated patrons, wanted tickets to the show. He came to our table and offered us tickets as an anniversary gift.
    "No thanks," my husband said. "See, I'm expecting a phone call. We gotta get home."
    It was a lie. There was no important phone call expected; I was sure of it. Anger sizzled through me like an electric shock.
    "That's it," I said, not quite believing the words suddenly flowing from my mouth.
    "I want a divorce. "
    "Don't say it if you don't mean it," he said evenly.
    I meant it. Two weeks later I moved out of his house.
The Full Moon Saloon fish sandwich. Perfection!!

    A year later I had a new lover. He managed a theater and told me how much he despised working with the actors there, whom he bitterly described as childish, demanding and self-centered.
    One night he phoned me to break a date we'd made earlier that day. He said he had to work. My roommate and I walked over to the Full Moon for a late supper. And there, holding the hands across the table and gazing deeply into the eyes of one of those childish self-centered actresses about whom he'd complained so bitterly, sat my overworked lover.
    He never saw me standing there. He never saw me crying into my Caesar salad. In fact, he never saw me again.
    I was thinking about those sad moments last night, when my husband Michael, his buddy Chuck Krumel and I drove past the darkened Full Moon Saloon. We'd just had a great dinner at El Siboney, and were full of good cheer.
    "Boy oh boy, I raised a lot of hell in that place," I said. "And now it's closed."
    "They had to close," Chuck said. "All of their customers are either in jail or in recovery!"
     "Maybe AA could move into the building," I said. And we laughed.

The songwriting team of Chuck Krumel and Michael Keith

     I told them about the night I decided to divorce my first husband. The memory just didn't seem very sad anymore. It just seemed awfully long ago.
    "He wouldn't even see Mack and Jamie with me!" I said. "He wouldn't even let me laugh."
         Around the time I first met Michael, Mack and Jamie were at the Pier House. I asked him if we could go and see the show. He said “Sure. Let's have some laughs." It was the right answer. So, I married him.
    I was in the back seat, and I couldn't see Michael's face, but I knew he was smiling as he drove our car down Simonton Street and I watched the Full Moon disappear into the darkness. 

Update, April, 2013: My-ex husband and I remain great friends. My cheating lover married that actress. They are divorced now, too. Chuck Krumel, who was larger than life, died of lung cancer in 2009, a heart-breaking loss to many. Michael and I are still laughing, and still married. And Vic Latham has gone to the moon.