By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Maybe it was watching Tommy Lee get tutored by that hot blonde in Tommy Lee Goes to College that inspired us. Or maybe it was just cruising through Tempe the other day and noticing that all the fly Arizona State University chicks are back for fall. Or perhaps we were just lookin' for an excuse to get bent at one of the best Irish pubs in the Greater PHX. No matter how you cut it, Casey Moore's, Tempe's world-renowned neighborhood-college bar/restaurant at 850 South Ash Avenue, has been calling our names.
I call the vibe "neighborhood-college," 'cause not only do the matriculators head there, but so also locals, many of whom have long since graduated or dropped out like Kanye West. Restaurant industry types also congregate at Casey's, as well as tourists, profs, grad students and escapees from AA, who ride their bikes to and from the place to avoid getting sweated by Five-O. This last category includes several New Times staffers, who are oddly absent on this evening, instead of holding up the bar like they usually do.
I'm first to arrive, as my ever-irresponsible, ambisexual lieutenant is late, as usual. I swear that bizzatch won't be on time for her own burial. But that's okay, since I've just made the acquaintance of Gavin Rutledge, part-owner of the joint. Rutledge offers me a little tour of the two-story house, built in 1910 by Mary and William Moeur. It's a classy place, with an old-fashioned homey interior, and a huge, extended patio that wraps about most of the establishment. Rutledge says Casey's charm goes a long way in calming the sort of collegiate rowdiness you might usually expect from an ASU taproom.
"We always train the new crop of kids," Rutledge relates, as he walks me through the main floor toward the stairs in the back. "We weed out the jerks, and they're not allowed back. Also, our prices help some. Four bucks a pint is reasonable for premium beer, but there are cheaper places to drink. And the real scumbags end up going there, which is fine by us."
"What's this I hear about Casey's being haunted?" I ask, as I follow Rutledge up a narrow flight of stairs to a floor occupied by two small dining rooms.
"I gotta tell ya, there's probably more than one ghost in residence," Rutledge explains, turning on the lights, as these chambers are usually dark after the kitchen stops serving dinner. "The one I've experienced is the girl who was strangled by a jealous lover up here in the Blue Room, back in 1966. Classic ghost story: They never caught the guy, and it wasn't her time to go. She's been seen floating around ever since, and I've experienced spoons and forks flying off tables and into the wall. Of course, I appreciate that it's not been a knife instead."
Rutledge shows me the spot in the slanted upstairs roof where eating utensils have taken flight to, and we go into his office where he reveals a series of photos taken previously that display a variety of eerie, spectral lights. In the antique-looking room catty-cornered to the Blue Room, Rutledge points out an area where photographers always capture, for some reason, an eerie, squiggly emanation that you can't see with the naked eye. Sure enough, when I snap a pic with our digital camera, you can see the odd image right below Rutledge's hand. According to him, there have been sightings and strange happenings aplenty other than just those he's witnessed.
Not that I believe in this bunk, but I'm polite to Rutledge about it, and am afterward bending an elbow at the bar, enjoying a pint of Guinness, when I think I see a fearsome girl-ghoul out of the corner of one eye, and suddenly feel a sinister tap on my shoulder.
"Aaaaaaaagh! Help!" I yelp, like Shaggy in an old episode of Scooby-Doo, grabbing onto an imbiber next to me as a supernatural chill eases down my spine.
"What the eff!" cries the Jettster, the owner of the tapping finger. "Whatsamatta, Kreme, you been smokin' PCP again?"
"Uh, nothing," I shrug, with an enforced nonchalance, brushing off the fella beside me and mumbling apologies. "Must've been your new Pam Anderson-like makeup that scared the crapola out of me."
"You're not long for the bughouse, fat boy," swears the J-unit. "Order me a drink, and let's get to work before it's too crowded in Casey's to move."
Indeed, it's almost 11 on a Saturday night, so as soon as I'm over my scare, we get it poppin' like a tub o' Rice Krispies and make a survey of the patio outside. The most original-lookin' fella is wearin' an embroidered shirt and a red-white-and-blue John McEnroe sweatband like he just stepped out of that flick The Royal Tenenbaums. Homeboy's name is Ryan, and he tells us he's through with school, and is now a pilot.
"I'm an instructor," he shares while smokin' a butt and between tips from his pint o' lager. "I fly Cessnas mostly. Tin cans, we call 'em. But it's still a lot of fun, a blast."