The Waipuna Lounge:
by Connie Weichert
Friday Nights at the Fights
First published Spring 2004 issue of the Aquarius.
The Waipuna Lounge at Here, California, was not exactly designed. Like Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin, it just grew.
At first there was just a dark little bar on the hillside above the tennis courts. It was run by J'Nae Witherspoon, a pretty, young, vivacious woman who was good at making a party out of everyday life.
Later, as we created a band, we needed a larger room for entertainment and dancing and the clubhouse was added. While we were a university, it also served as our Student Union.
Then one tennis court became two and a big deck was added to the clubhouse so that we could watch the players below. A big pool and a boxing ring completed the picture and the Monarch Athletic Club was born.
Like lots of other people, I ran the club for a while, along with an old marine who lived with us at the time. We enjoyed music by Willie and the Random Band, sometimes imported other musicians to play jazz and even chamber music, and hosted poker nights with Ricci officiating and Vic and Cindy and others playing.
Leroy Evans was an old boxer of considerable renown - he'd fought Joe Louis. At around three hundred pounds he was still a spectacular sight and the prettiest old man we'd ever seen. Now Leroy was a party all by himself. He would show up at eight carrying a fifth of gin. By ten, his poker buddies knew that as the gin in the bottle descended, the action in the Waipuna would pick up. Leroy would suddenly discover what terrible liars and cheater some of his friends were, and rising to his full 6'6", would roar and flap until he'd chased a couple of them out of the room.
We'd pet and soothe him until he'd let the miserable miscreants return, and the game would resume with some mumbling and huffing from Leroy.
One night there was an actual scuffle between the old marine and another fellow. They seemed to be pretty well matched so I didn't worry until Leroy came in to break it up bearing a shotgun!
This was going too far for me. With what dignity I could muster, I shouted, "Dammit, soldier, I outrank you! Now give me the goddamn gun!"
Amazingly, he handed it over. I scooted out the door and ran to hide it before he changed his mind. When I returned the band was laughing and Vic had arrived to settle the dispute.
Vic, Leroy and Ricci are all gone now, but their spirits linger on and the Waipuna Lounge remains the best nightclub in town.