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I've worked for him at the Jar on and off. He often hired musicians who were broke. I did almost everything. I manned the door, watched the parking lot and neighboring streets, took touring bands their dinner, did production, all that. And it was misery. Bar work in general is misery. Long, stupid hours, low wages, etc.
I have seen road managers from touring bands come after Franco with baseball bats. I've seen others walk away with handfuls of cash and facefuls of smiles. I have seen Franco go home with some of the best-looking women in Phoenix.
I've been involved in massive brawls in the club's parking lot. Once, during a brief stint working there in the late '80s, I had booked Timothy Leary for a spoken-word performance.
Forgetting that I was supposed to pick him up from Sky Harbor and deliver him to his hotel, I left Leary waiting around at the airport for a few unhappy hours. He arrived at the club later via cab. And he was no gentle ex-hippie, either.
I booked Guns n' Roses just after their debut album started to swell on the charts. The band, of course, didn't show up. I had to tell hundreds of drunken, ready-to-fight hard-rock kids that their fave new metal heroes were a no-show. Many of the pissed-off kids took it out on the club. Some smashed doors, others pissed on sides of the building, many smashed bottles in the parking lot.
Inside the Jar, I've seen coke, guns, drunks, knives, junkies, strippers, whores, crack, morons, death-metal and desperation. I have also seen guts, occasional glory and some of the greatest rock 'n' roll imaginable. And a dire show of fading metal heroes at the bottom of a downside can be 10 times more entertaining than some sprightly radio-friendly hacks.
Franco has learned how to survive against tremendous odds. He's first-generation from Sicily, so his English still is unwieldy. Yet he managed to keep open what history has taught us won't stay open for long: a heady rock 'n' roll bar in the conservative climate of Phoenix. His conservative work ethic has yielded him a piece of the American dream. Perhaps now he's retiring.
Franco wouldn't talk to me for this column. He said that every time he reads about himself in New Times, he's back on the therapist couch. The new owners didn't call back, either. All I wanted to know was what is going to happen to the Jar. At this point, it still seems possible that Franco may have a hand in its operations as a consultant.
I dunno, who can imagine a Mason Jar without Franco? A Franco without the Mason Jar? Perhaps it is time to kiss the last rocker goodbye. Seventy-five-cent kamikazes, indeed.
Contact Brian Smith at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org