"When Joe D'Andrea owned Beneby's, he always said it would make a great gay bar. He was right," she assesses.
Karen says that except for the raid, which many in the gay community decried as politically motivated and transparently discriminatory, Uncle Charlie's dozen years in business have been remarkable for their relative quiet. "About the only thing that ever happens is that the tire store across the street is famous for sending customers they don't like over here to have a drink while they wait for their car. Of course they don't tell them it's a gay bar. But after twelve years, I can usually tell if someone walks in here and doesn't realize. I tell them, 'Before I serve you a drink, you know this is a gay bar, don't you?' and it avoids a lot of problems. Sometimes they'll stay and finish the drink anyway."
2721 Bird Avenue
There's only one drinking establishment east of U.S. 1 (where Bird Road becomes Bird Avenue) that bears mention, but it is perhaps the ultimate Bird Road bar. That would be Flanigan's Loggerhead, formerly the Trysting Place and before that the legendary flashpoint of Miami's burgeoning alternative rock music scene, 27 Birds.
"27 Birds; what a place," writes Jeffrey Lemlich in his book Savage Lost, which traces the colorful history of South Florida garage bands. "One night it's the Front and the X-Conz. The next night it's the U.S. Furys (with Isaac from the Reactions)...or maybe the Throbs...or maybe even Einstein's Riceboys (from Milwaukee), immersing the audience with 'Milk of Amnesia.'"
Bluesman Fleet Starbuck was one of the first to bring live music to 27 Birds. A few other blues bands performed, but the club hit its high-water mark in 1982, when local punk promoter/performer Richard Shelter began booking original alternative acts. Charlie Pickett and the Eggs, Cats on Holiday, Screamin' Sneakers, the Eat, the Essentials -- 27 Birds quickly became the focal point for the new wave/alternative scene. Recalls photographer Jill Kahn, "I started going there a lot in '82. I remember seeing Charlie [Pickett] and the Spinouts there. Isaac from the U.S. Furys used to expose himself all the time."
Adds a former 27 Birds bartender currently pouring drinks at the Taurus in the Grove, "Guns, punk rockers, rowdy UM frat boys dropping their shorts, a guy who slashed tires in the parking lot and later got thrown off the roof of a building -- yeah, it was pretty wild."
Bird Road denizen Jim Fox was in the bar when an irate patron stomped out and proceeded to wreak havoc with a strange deadly weapon. "I was shooting pool with this guy -- he was a tree climber," Fox remembers. "He went over to the bar and started bothering a young lady. I believe her exact words were, 'I wouldn't go home with you if you were the last man on Earth,' which everybody in the bar overheard. So he storms out, saying something to himself like, 'I'll fix her.' The next thing you know, he's got this chainsaw from out of his truck, and he's cutting down trees and power poles."
It isn't terribly surprising that when the Flanigan brothers, Jim and Mike, took over in 1985, they did a complete housecleaning, right down to the regulars. "The clientele was flushed," explains Michael Flanigan. "I permanently barred about 200 customers the first week. With the exception of the happy-hour crowd, we rebuilt from scratch."
Of course, there's still the flamboyant Michael Flanigan himself, well-remembered for his self-described "wild man days," whether behind the wheel of a bright green 1970 Cadillac convertible with steer horns mounted on the hood or making the rounds of competitors, bribing bartenders ten dollars to announce last call early and tell everybody to meet for a nightcap at the Loggerhead.
Ironically, the wild man hasn't taken a drink in three years. Nowadays he spends more time fishing at Walker's Cay in the Bahamas than he does taking care of business at the Loggerhead. Just one more sign, as if any were needed, that an era has ended on Bird Road.
"If you were a band member and you couldn't get laid there, you couldn't get laid, period. Cost me my first marriage."