A lovefest as Linda’s Tavern celebrates 20 cool years
Capitol Hill stalwart Linda’s Tavern celebrates 20 years with a very cool collection of guests.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Once the doorman confirmed that I had somehow landed on the coolest guest list since the Shatner roast, I walked into Linda’s Tavern to the head-bouncing beauty that is Nirvana’s “Love Buzz.”
Behind the turntables stood Bruce Pavitt, one of the founders of Sub Pop Records and the owner of one of the most enviable box of singles in the city.
“We only pressed 1,000 copies,” Pavitt said of the “Love Buzz” single, shouting over the joyful noise. “They’re worth thousands on eBay.”
I had to stand in line to congratulate Linda Derschang on 20 years of turning this Pine Street hole-in-the-wall into the heart of a certain time, a certain community in Seattle history.
“Friends and family,” Derschang said of the people who filled the Capitol Hill room, her smile wide and weary at the same time. “Ex-employees, current employees ...”
Garth Brandenburg has been at Linda’s from the start. He’s even got his own brass plaque on the bar. His name is worn off, but it doesn’t matter.
“This is my spot,” said Brandenburg, who plays in The Moonspinners with the incomparable Annabelle Kirby. “I’ve never shoved anyone out. I just like to come here and read. It has the best light.”
Danny Bland, author of last year’s “In Case We Die,” passed. Always a charmer, he stopped to kiss my hand and I introduced him to Brandenburg and his friend, Seattle Art Museum exhibition designer Chris Manojlovic.
“I saw you with the Nova Boys when you played The Ditto,” Brandenburg told Bland, who leaned back like he was dodging a swing.
“Oh, my God,” Bland said. “I heard I was in that band. I understand I had a good time.”
Bland retreated to the back patio, where he joined Pearl Jam publicist Nicole Vandenberg, good friend Damien Echols (one of the West Memphis Three) and Echols’ wife, Lorri Davis — in town for a screening of their 2012 film “West of Memphis” put on by Goddard College in Port Townsend.
Back inside, the laughs were getting louder.
Author and Seattle Times contributor Gillian Gaar sat at the bar in a black leather cap. Russell Scheidelman ambled in wearing his signature bowler and carrying a leather map bag full of books. He took a seat at the front booth with real-estate maven Marlow Harris and the Elvis to her Priscilla, Jo David.
“There are a lot of old grunge musicians here,” Harris said. “I don’t know what they look like anymore.”
At the center of the room, Tim Keck, founder of The Onion and The Stranger, and John Roderick of The Long Winters.
Roderick remembered when Linda’s opened amid what were mainly gay bars.
“I thought, ‘We can’t support another straight bar around here! There aren’t enough drunks!’ ”
He knew; he was one of them.
“Back them, I was a real loser,” he said. “Now I’m a curmudgeon.”
Roderick remembered going to Linda’s the night Kurt Cobain died. It was a wordless, soundless room. Even the jukebox was speechless.
“Everyone came and stood around and drank quietly,” Roderick said. “We didn’t know how to mourn.”
Of course, there were other, happier memories.
Eric Fredericksen, the city’s waterfront program art manager, offered me this:
“If you’re gonna quote me on anything ... I bought a falafel here before it was Linda’s.” Duly noted.
The place was called Ali Baba then. And after Linda’s took over, Sub Pop founder — and Linda’s investor — Jonathan Poneman bought the old sign and put it up in front of his house.
Fredericksen remembered dumping money in the jukebox, “But if the bartender didn’t like your song, they bumped it.”
Got it. And how to describe him?
“Dashing. Handsome. Take your pick.”
Betsey Brock, of On the Boards, used to live in an apartment building nearby.
“The Porter,” she said, as if it were Downton Abbey. “I would lock myself out and come here and hang out.”
Bartender Jes Blackwell, who works the Monday night shift, wanted to work the party, but it was already covered. So she sat in the front booth and drank a can of Hamm’s.
“You get some weirdos in here,” she said. “But really, Linda’s is the tightest, well-oiled machine and the easiest place to work.”
Someone came over and slid her a piece of the anniversary cake that had been made with a picture of the staff on top.
“I brought you your face!” she told Blackwell, who looked down, smiled and picked up her fork.
“I feel weird eating my own face,” she said.
“But it’s good.”
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold
On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve. 206-464-2334