Monkey Inn night ~ Berkeley Early Sixties ~ where music and mayhem were born

monkey-inn-barOne of my fondest memories from my wacky sophomore year at Cal Berkeley in 1962-63 was chugging $1 a pitcher beer at the Monkey Inn on Thursday nights. Proof that it cost $1 a pitcher is right there on the wall behind the bar in this photo. 25 cents a mug and a guarantee of 5 mugs to a pitcher. Such a deal! My three roommates and I would hop into my 1959 Morris Minor and drive the mile or so from our off-campus digs in a Parker Street duplex just off Telegraph Avenue. This was the year before Sproul Hall and the Free Speech Movement, so frat parties, beer kegs, and panty raids were still in. And I had in hand. not a fake ID. but a real CA driver’s license saying I was 25 that I’d obtained by taking an actual driving test and dressing “older”. Later my mother, viewing a Berkeley police report when I went temporarily AWOL would see a reference to a certain Karen Veazie AKA Karen Scott Billings and would exclaim, “My daughter’s not a criminal!”

Today I decided to do an internet search and see if I could find any reference to the Monkey Inn in that day. And, boy, was I surprised!

bill-erickson-trioThursday night was indeed Monkey Inn night. The superb Bill Erickson jazz combo: Frank Goudie (clarinet), Jimmy Carter (drums), Bob Mielke (trombone) and Bill Erickson (piano) held sway Thursday nights at the Monkey from the late 50s up through 1962. Do I remember the music? No. I called my best friend, and she didn’t remember it either. Just the beer and the frat boys (mostly the bad boy Betas AKA Beta Theta Pi’s or the notorious Fijis AKA Phi Gamma Delta’s). Needless to say our little quartet from Parker Street did not represent the prim. round-collared, pearl-bedecked sorority girls of the day.

I found an account that said it was a beer and pizza joint near the Oakland border that was a rough UC Berkeley student hangout with sawdust on the floor and, “fraternity guys out on their first beer benders. It got pretty rowdy sometimes.”  I guess no one noticed that there were at least four “girls” out on their first benders as well. The account added that the musicians rarely sounded happier than when playing primarily for themselves, and only secondarily for a mostly indifferent college crowd. Must be why we don’t remember the music.

karen-and-mary-louBut when I read about what happened the next year, I was even more astounded. By 1964 my best friend and I (I’m the tall one!)had returned to La Jolla where we had grown up and found a minuscule apartment under the front stairway of a Spanish mansion across from the famed Wind ‘n’ Sea beach. I attended the 3rd and 4th of my undergraduate schools (yes, Berkeley was school number two after a freshman year at Stanford, but I finally went to grad school, got a Ph.D., and was a therapist for 40 years and still work in the mental health field at age 73–so there!). My best friend got a totally cool job at the new Saks Fifth Avenue store in La Jolla.

Meanwhile back in Berkeley, a new band, known as Blue Velvet, arrived at the Monkey Inn to perform in the Spring and Fall of 1964. Formed by John Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook at El Cerrito High School, Blue Velvet played instrumentals at the school dances, and later backed John’s older brother, Tom Fogerty. They also played at frat parties at Berkeley. I had no clue that we came that close to witnessing the beginnings of Creedence Clearwater Revival. One historian remembers listening to what was to become CCR at the Monkey Inn and having peanuts and beer for dinner.

There is even a mention of the Monkey Inn during the 1964 Sproul Hall events: It is difficult to reconstruct what happened next, for later campus reactions to the events left few people willing to talk about their roles in the affair. Dean Rice believes that three groups of male students converged just outside the Bancroft-Telegraph entrance to the campus. One group apparently came down from Channing Circle, another from Larry Blake’s, a popular fraternity drinking place, and a third from the Monkey Inn, another beer-drinking spot popular with fraternity members. (These are hearsay reports, rather than firmly documented descriptions.) An aside, Larry Blake’s was certainly our second most favorite venue for finding beer and boys.

In 1968, the Monkey Inn moved closer to campus, to the corner of University and Shattuck Avenues. The new club at 2119 University was called The New Monk. It had local rock bands headlining on weekends, but most of the time it was just a beer and pizza place for college students. In the middle of 1971, however, The New Monk started booking higher profile club bands. Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders played there on June 4 and 5, 1971, and then again on June 26 and June 27.

So here’s the end of the story. In 1992 I began work as a psychologist at a Bay Area Kaiser. During my first week of work, my boss, the Chief Psychiatrist, took me to a luncheon event. We got to talking and discovered that we were at Berkeley at the same time. Then he asked if I ever went to the Monkey Inn on Thursday nights! He told me he and his Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers never missed it. My life flashed before my eyes as I frantically searched my memory and hoped against hope that I hadn’t cozied up to him at the bar or even worse! I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw not a hint of recognition on his face.

After my internet search, the Monkey Inn has become even a better memory for me. It is now the home of La Peña Cultural Center promoting social justice, arts participation and intercultural understanding. We’ve all come a long way, baby!

Readers picked their poison and the winner is…

degrees kindle

DEGREES OF OBSESSION has it all—juicy romance and heart-pounding suspense. Best of all, it shines light on the fears, follies, and fantasies that drive the choices women make and on the love that redeems them.

DEGREES OF OBSESSION by Karen Stephen

A landslide victory ~ 452 copies (74%) downloaded

vs. 160 (26%) for MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

OBSSESSIVE LOVE vs. POLITICAL INTRIGUE 

The numbers don’t lie. Stalking trumps assassination, intrigue in Los Angeles and La Jolla wins over mystery in Corsica, a 50 year old psychologist pursuing her old college flame outflanks a 32 year old attorney using her mother’s native tongue to infiltrate a Corsican separatist group, and nostalgia run amok outshines a passion for justice.

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Hollywood memories

Gallery

This gallery contains 16 photos.

We made a brief stop on the way to Disneyland to show our friend from France Hollywood. It brought back memories of my own. How in the 3rd grade my mother moved us out to Beverly Hills, where we lived … Continue reading

Sam’s Anchor Cafe ~ Tiburon ~ 1963 and 51 years later

Sams 1963

Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon in 1963

2014-03-07 14.05.12A typical Sunday morning at Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon, CA in 1963 was marked by hard drinking by rowdy college and twenty-something crowd.

In 2014 on a Sunday, you find families filling the deck and enjoying the great view across San Francisco Bay to the City.

 

Mary Lou 1963

1963. My best friend from childhood. A flock of empty Ramos Fizz glasses (hey…don’t the raw eggs in them count as breakfast!)

Karen 1963

This photo was taken in La Jolla but that’s me in 1963.

We were best friends from the 4th grade on and in 1963 roommates in an off-campus apartment at UC Berkeley. Every Sunday morning we headed off to Sam’s with a couple of friends in the back seat of my Morris Minor and downed more Ramos fizzes than was prudent.

Amazing that we survived. Must have had more than one guardian angel looking over us. No one gave a thought to driving under the influence. Figured no harm could come our way if we were back on the road by one p.m. What can I say? We were both nineteen and stupid. All our friends drank with the help of the ubiquitous fake ID’s available on campus.

2014-03-07 14.04.23So here we are in March of 2014. Alive, well, and still best friends. I went on to a Ph.D., a 40-year career as a therapist, a union leader, the mother of two, grandmother of four, and, of course an author. My BBF went on to a fabulous career in catering, head of special events at the San Diego Convention center, a leadership position in the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), and also a mother of two and grandmother of two. We turned into church-going, upstanding members of the community. This is a reverse cautionary tale for mothers who are worried what their college-aged children are up to, that they’ll never amount to anything! Of course, we both came to terms later in life with the risks we took around alcohol and we both have experienced the devastating effects of addiction within our own families. So certainly nothing to be flip about! Thank God for the gift of recovery.

 

Places I’d love to be right now!

Wind n Sea

Wind ‘n’ Sea Beach watching the sunset. I grew up in La Jolla and as a junior in college lived in a tiny apartment directly across from this famous surfing beach.

DSC03000Sitting on the quay with these folks in the harbor at Bonifacio, Corsica, waiting for the fireworks show.

DSC_0031-1Looking out the window tonight and seeing the brilliance of the Tour Eiffel instead of the meager lights of suburbia.