Lemmons Oral History - The Lost Interviews
In this week's music feature, we talk about Lemmons, the beloved south-city spot for punk rock and pizza. The dive bar closed recently to the surprise, and dismay, of many. We were unable to fit all the interviews of people's favorite memories from the bar's twelve-year existence into the print edition, so we've included some outtakes here. Read on for more stories from Lemmons' staff, patrons and more.
Photos by Mabel Suen Skarekrau Radio at Lemmons, circa 2010.
Todd Rodenberg Dorsey (former Lemmons employee): I worked at Lemmons for twelve years, starting as the sound guy and ended up working every position at the place. Lemmons has been my life for years. I worked there through all the eras - a sports bar turned rock bar; Mother, Jugs & Speed; Ma and Pa; and punk scene. The Wednesday/Thursday trivia has been a great part of Lemmons. Jamie started trivia with Sandy, and his death in the bar affected all of us deeply. When Kevin took over trivia, he continued a long-standing tradition and introduced us to new friends. By the way, I had a system for numbering the tables during trivia. And I met my wife at table #55.
Michael Gross (former Lemmons owner): I did have one show that I opted out of. It was a Valentine's Day show. This was probably five or six years ago, and I don't know any of the groups or anything. They wanted to put up a blow-up pool of fake blood made of syrup. It was a goth band and they wanted to do a whole mud-wrestling thing, but the question arose: Who would clean the bar up? I always look back at that one as sort of a missed opportunity.
Ellen Cook (Ellen the Felon): I've played so many shows and done so many shots there. I've always heard stories about human shuffleboard in this giant beer container on wheels upstairs. They also used to have this shot dice game that was amazing. I don't really remember too much about how that went.
Joshewa Boyer (former Lemmons bartender and manager): As for favorite stories, there are a few, but my favorite was during my wedding reception. I took it as a celebration, so I did what I think most would do in that situation: I got drunk. I mean, really really drunk. After several shots and quite a few beers, I got extremely sick in the bathroom.
After several minutes of that, I realized how desperately I needed to go home. I left the bathroom and then noticed that it was only 9:30, and the party was going strong. I pretty much had to say fuck it and grab another beer. I think that's what Lemmons kind of was. It was basically a place that played fast and loose with the rules - and that's one of the things about that place that I think people will miss.
Brian Fleschute (Pat Sajak Assassins, former Lemmons concert booker): I played there a couple times before working there, and Todd Dorsey asked me if I could do sound at the time coming out of the second Creepy Crawl. I was helping Jamie out while he had health issues and took over when he passed. When I was booking, I would just basically book it around the touring bands, who liked Lemmons more than local bands did. Free pizza and gas money is always good when you're on tour. We became a 3 a.m. bar after the smoking ban, and lost business around that time. That combined with the fact that more and more venues continually popped in town over the years hurt a little bit.
Racheal Kitchen (former Lemmons employee): Lemmons to me is a place I made a lot of good friends and memories. I feel like I was lucky enough to work at Lemmons when it was at its peak. We had so many good times and a lot of crazy, late nights. I was once egged outside of Lemmons by a couple of young teenage boys driving down Gravois. I'll miss Shaun Morrissey randomly falling asleep everywhere at Lemmons, the countless number of benefits thrown there and, of course, all the loyal patrons.
Denny Dyer (Black For a Second, Winchester, former Lemmons cook): I was about nineteen when I first stepped foot in Lemmons. A handful of my friends had turned 21 by then and had been going there regularly on Monday nights for free pizza and shitty b-movies. At the time, I was playing in a band called A Little Noise. The singer worked at Whole Foods and rented the place out for a work party. That was the first time I played a show on that stage. After I moved to south city a few years later, the place became my regular hang out after work. Eventually I needed a job, and it just so happened that around the same time, Lemmons needed a cook.... Ever since then I went back and forth between the kitchen and the bar and just kind of generally made sure the place opened and closed every day.
Before Jamie died, his health had been fading and he had moved in to the office upstairs at Lemmons. This was around the time he stepped down from booking after having done it for years. He couldn't devote the time or energy needed anymore. Todd took over for awhile, and after him, Brian did booking for quite some time. After that Brian, John and Daren were in charge of booking for a brief period of time. Make no mistake, booking is a frustrating job, especially when you're trying to book twelve bands a week. I saw a lot of successful shows there and a lot of shows where less than fifteen people would show up.
Towards the end it was particularly frustrating. Customers were complaining about drink prices. Random foot traffic would be deterred by cover charges. We would be nprepared for more successful shows and service would suffer. More and more bands and venues were emerging competition for any Friday or Saturday night. At some point, a lot of local bands just didn't even want to play shows there. At any rate, like I said, booking is a difficult, and often times an unrewarding job. I was asked to do it several times and I always declined. The guys that filled that role did their best and i guarantee they did a better job at it than I ever could have.
Continued on the next page.