Hollywood Alley: An Oral History of "Arizona's Only Ultra-Chic Pissant Hip Dive Bar"
Rock 'n' roll, to paraphrase punk icon Poison Ivy, is for misfits. A refuge for outsiders, oddballs, or anyone else even a little bit strange. The description is apt for the recently closed Hollywood Alley and much of its patronage. Over its 25-year lifespan, the Mesa rock joint and restaurant, which closed August 2, offered shelter to a colorful and fiercely devoted tribe of regulars, neighborhood folk, and musicians who came to drink and dine. And they did so in a darkly lit milieu that was a mix of show-club swank and rock-club verve, with offbeat characters to spare.
Laden with a low-brow aura and thrift-store décor (old LPs, secondhand furnishings, scores of vinyl band stickers, and countless kitschy movie posters), its name and slogan -- "Arizona's only ultra-chic pissant hip dive bar" -- were fitting.
Hollywood Alley co-owners "Grandma" Rachel Hrutkay and Ross Wincek.
But its overwhelming claim to fame was as a legendary Arizona music venue -- based on its longevity and the sheer number of bands and performers who slouched in its signature high-backed black leather banquettes, bent elbows at the bar, or hit the stage after the establishment first opened in 1988.
The musical repast of what was the Valley's longest-running rock bar was diverse (ranging from blues and funk to indie and Americana), and its history includes visits and gigs by some of the biggest names in Arizona music. Gin Blossoms and other famous Tempe jangle-poppers performed and partied there, as did Meat Puppets, Jimmy Eat World, and JFA. And punk rock royalty passed through, such as Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Greg Sage, and Jeff Dahl. Hell, even Chuck D. and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy spent a night.
In an ironic juxtaposition to Hollywood Alley's notorious status is the amiable Wincek family, who owned it and welcomed everyone into their place and into their extended family. Headed by the late Lucy and Roger Wincek, the extensive clan (which includes son Ross and "Grandma" Rachel Hrutkay) took a tacky old Italian restaurant and transformed it into a local music-scene landmark.
Many regulars spun yarns of the Winceks' famously homemade food, friendly attitudes, and generosity for an oral history compiled in honor of this weekend's three-day Tribute to Hollywood Alley at Scottsdale's Chop and Wok, which will star many of the bands who called it home for decades.
[Some interviews have been condensed and edited.]
Ross Wincek, co-owner: My brother John came up with the name, and it was me and my mom's idea. Because it was gonna have a back-alley look and layout and design. And then my brother said, "Let's give it some character from Hollywood." So we combined the two.
Hrutkay with her late daughter Lucy Wincek and son-in-law Roger Wincek.
courtesy of Ross Wincek
"Grandma" Rachel Hrutkay, co-owner and longtime cook: It's always been a family operation. My grandchildren built everything, and we all worked there. John did the murals. And Aaron, the youngest, helped with construction. His sister, Mickey, tended bar, and his younger sister, Sara, worked with me and Lucy in the kitchen. I cooked from day one. Just recipes I'd find and add my own touches. The pizzas were Ross' idea.
Wincek: I'd been working at pizza joints, so we had those right away. And Grandma always had her notorious lunch specials.
Robert "Fun Bobby" Birmingham, longtime bartender/booker: I was attempting the poor ASU student thing when I got clued in to Hollywood Alley and these super-inexpensive lunch specials. Grandma created all this fantastic food from scratch. Her pot roast and Swedish meatballs were to die for. That cheeseburger soup was decadent.
Paul "PC" Cardone, bassist and longtime patron: The place popped up, and I lived almost across the street for the first 15 years. I'd be over there, day or night, for a big-ass meal for cheap and then later to drink. It was my closest bar and an up-and-coming live bar, a dream scenario for any musician. They'd always have movies playing, and there was always some member of the family working, like Roger fixing up stuff or putting up crazy art or old records everywhere. It was just like some rock 'n' roll Amish family. Loved it. Even if it were only a restaurant and never had music, I would've steered people there.
Wincek: It was a bar and restaurant first. The music started a couple of months into it. We had cover bands, but it wasn't really bringing in anything, so we started booking live, original music with Mary McCann helping out.
Mary McCann, former KZON/KUKQ DJ: Joe Myers was doing open mics there, which was one of the first things at the club. He pulled me aside and said, "Can you do anything for these people? They really want music but don't know what they're doing." They had this corner triangle stage and didn't know much about the scene.
Wincek: It was this small stage built at an angle for an acoustic player. McCann: We wound up doing the usual suspects like Joe Myers and Hans Olson there first. [The owners] wanted bands but had no idea what it cost. Laura Liewen, who bartended at Long Wong's, and I started with some low-dose things. They were completely unfamiliar with booking. So it was a massive public education project.
Wincek: Mary booked us for maybe 12 to 14 months and was really helpful. She booked Lime Green, Stevie J., and Major Lingo.
McCann: I think Stevie J. [Steve Larson] was in Lime Green, who may have been the first band.
In 1989, Tempe icons Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop began performing the first of many gigs at Hollywood Alley.
G. Brian Scott, bassist, Dead Hot Workshop: We first played a Friday there for about two hours. Ross was a really cool, humble dude. He always gave us cases of beer afterward and paid us.
The Gin Blossoms
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McCann: The Blossoms came in after [the family was] able to get over their sticker shock, what things cost. Nobody wanted to work for Grandma's cooking anymore [laughs]. People eventually started getting to know Ross and the family.
Wincek: Those occasional shows by Gin Blossoms would really pack the place. That was when it was one room with the bar in the center.
Robin Wilson, vocalist, Gin Blossoms: We were certainly fixtures there in '89, no doubt. I remember glimpses of looking out at the crowd, the lights blaring in my face, the filthy carpeting, and this really cute waitress I had a crush on. I [got] into trouble one night because I was flirting with her from the stage, because somebody had said she'd broken up with her boyfriend. But I guess her ex was in the building, and he was really pissed off.
Curtis Grippe, drummer, Dead Hot Workshop: When Gin Blossoms first started playing there, I remember [late guitarist] Doug Hopkins saying he couldn't believe he was playing a gig in Mesa. We tried telling him it was on Tempe's border, but he was like, "Nope, it's Mesa."
Cardone: Everybody feared Mesa. The cops were scarier. It wasn't very fun. It was Mormon, whatever. In the first 10 years, I drug a lot of people kicking and screaming to the Alley. But word got out and people started coming in.
"Fun Bobby" Birmingham: That joke -- What do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Homeless -- was very much the case at the Alley in those days. All these great local musicians who didn't have day jobs would be there constantly.
Jim Monarch, vocalist, The Voice: [We] lived down the street and started hanging out for beers after practice. Everyone came by Hollywood Alley eventually. I first met Keith Jackson there after he moved from Detroit and joined The Voice. He came in with his wife, and they were both draped in leather.
Keith Jackson, guitarist, The Voice/Beat Angels/Glass Heroes: Yeah, I thought I was real tough then. I was looking for punks in town, and Jim Griffith from The Voice turned me on to it. My first time, I thought, "This place is all right." Good club. Great family. At that time, Wong's, 6 East, Silver Dollar, Sun Club, and Hollywood Alley were places where everyone hung out. It was home base for many people. Monarch became a bartender.
A vintage flyer for a New Year's Eve show with The Voice and Beats the Hell Outta Me.
Courtesy Jim Monarch
Monarch: Mickey asked if I wanted to work there because they needed someone they trusted. They adopted people and got employees from all the regulars. I'd bartend the day and wound up watching the bands all night. I spent so much time there that I [eventually] listed the address on my driver's license. It practically was my home.
"Grandma" Hrutkay: We've always tried making people feel welcome and like one of our family. That was a big part. You treated people how you want to be treated. Ross bonded with most of the customers and bands, took care of them, and they respected him for it. And came back.
Scott: I used to work at Tower Records and was unloading a truck when I fell out and cracked my elbow and broke my collarbone. Had to play that night at Hollywood Alley and through Ross buying me tequila shots I made it through.
Wincek: I just did whatever felt right. If somebody needed help, I'd help out wherever I could. Buying people drinks or food. I'd let people crash in a booth, though only a select few.
Monarch: He's always been this personable, generous guy. Ross never came across as macho. He's quiet, so people got these weird ideas, like he was gay or goth, because he has long kinky hair like Marc Bolan and wore black shirts with the neck cut out.
Cardone: People said Ross was goth because he was pale and never saw much sun, like a vampire or something. That was the nature of his job. Lucy ran days, and Ross ran the Alley after dark. He'd come in at eight and get outta there by morning.
Monarch: Ross was there every night. After closing, we'd hang out with some regulars until the sun came up. Just drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, playing music, and throwing darts. We'd go get breakfast and do it again the next night.
Birmingham: There's a beauty of getting up after the burning sun is down. Ross would stroll in about the time bands started. Like I say, "The boss is never late. He shows up whenever he fucking wants." He'd come in with his bag with his booking calendar.
Monarch: Musicians learned to come in after 8 to book shows, since Ross handled it. You'd go in, he'd pull out that calendar, and you'd be bullshitting for hours. There weren't many touring bands coming through those days; the Alley wasn't on their radar. It was mostly like us, Zig Zag Black, Dashboard Mary, and Beats the Hell Outta Me.
Michael Pistrui, vocalist, Beats the Hell Out of Me: We played a Monday open mic and must've impressed Ross, since we got asked afterward to play a weekend. He'd give any kind of band a shot. And [the club's] eclectic nature was its biggest strength. You never knew what you'd see each night on that tiny stage.
Jamie Monistat VII of Blanche Davidian
Jamie Monistat VII, vocalist, Potato/Blanche Davidian: They crammed bands into that corner when it was one room. And it was just loud . . . as. . . hell! My first band, Dry Dive, was too loud for Wong's but fit in at the Alley. The Sun City Girls and Meat Puppets would come by and were really loud, too.
Cris Kirkwood, bassist, Meat Puppets: Those were neat times, and Ross allowed those fucking good times to go down. I look at it this way: People get off on what they get off on, and my fucking reality always has been about getting off on playing loud noise with my brother, and anyone that allows me to come into their place to do that is the builder of my church.
Pistrui: Anytime Meat Puppets were at Hollywood Alley, it was standing-room-only.
The original Meat Puppets lineup back in the day.
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Kirkwood: Our band was in such a cool state then. We were kinda grownups yet still youthful. I could throw down like a motherfucker at that age to get to the places I was trying to get to and have the kinda fun I was trying to have. And Hollywood Alley was one of the vessels for that. Lots of pals were always there.
The men's room wall adorned with band stickers.
Monarch: When we started playing there in '90 or '91, the stickers just started slowly popping up. And even back then, everyone had stickers. And no one [took] any down.
Bobby Lerma, drummer, The Voice/Father Figures: When it got packed, you got creative for good views. People stood on booths and barstools or sat on shoulders. And it always got rowdier and more "anything goes." We had alcohol fights with the audience. The audience chucked full beers at us, and we chucked beers back at them. The bar loved it because they sold so much alcohol.
In 1991, the Alley moved the bar and built a new stage for more room. By then, bands in Tempe's high-profile jangle-pop scene already had become regulars.
Lawrence Zubia, guitarist, The Pistoleros/Los Guys: Ross had pro sound, pro lights, and a great stage. You weren't humping your own PA like at Wong's. We made it part of our normal routine to play there every month or two. It always felt like an out-of-town gig because they booked different sorts of bands than where we were used to playing in Tempe.
Sara Cina, former manager, Long Wong's: We went there all the time. It definitely was a huge part of our young lives; it just happened to be farther out there, in Mesa.
Zubia: They always were super-generous with alcohol -- always important to any young musician -- and it had the vibe of a [show club]. You'd get in your banquette, relax, and hang. Those booths were so tall, I remember loving the ability to watch bands in an anonymous sorta way.
Cina: I was managing Dead Hot at the time, and [the] Alley was on regular rotation. I still know the phone number by heart.
Scott: The gigs Dead Hot played there were raucous sets. At the end of the night we were completely worn out. And we usually wound up going to a party afterwards at this ramshackle place called the Green House.
Pistrui: It was this huge old house where Ross lived. After the Alley would close, everybody would all go over there. It was always like 200 or 300 people and some live bands.
Scott: Ross would always show up around three o'clock and bring more beer. It would make the whole night, from seven o'clock to four or five in the morning, great. You'd always remember a Hollywood Alley gig. It was always rife with the possibility of a good time.
Cina: Dr. Feelgood would go in Hollywood Alley. He was the dealer made famous in that Blossoms song "Hold Me Down." We called him Dr. Feelgood because he had anything you needed.
Paul "PC" Cardone
Cardone: There always was a mix of the Mill crowd there. Shit, there was a mix of just about everybody, even Mason Jar people. It was a melting pot for local music. Nobody felt out of place like metal bands [would] at Long Wong's or some poppy band at The Jar.
Zubia: He'd let bands play that were experimental and eclectic and that's what was cool about the club. It wasn't catering to a scene in any way, shape, or form. I was always like, "Where does he find these people?"
Patrick Sedillo, Guitarist for The Piersons: When we formed the band in 1991, nobody would book us. Not even on Mill. So we threw a backyard party where 150-200 people attended and Ross was one of them. He offered us a chance. Not every band is gonna be great, but he was really generous with the praise and it made us feel legitimate.
Kimber Lanning, owner, Stinkweeds: My band, Half-String, was playing what's now considered shoegaze, but at that time, it wasn't exactly a hotbed. [Ross] would be willing to give us a Friday and Saturday even if we drew 50 people. And we did Beautiful Noise Festival there a couple times.
Will Anderson, former promoter: There's was a big punk and emo period there in the '90s. I [attended] all-ages shows, like Propagandhi's first Arizona show.
Brian Talenti, vocalist, 100 Iced Animals/Haggis: It's where you went to catch up-and-coming bands before their major label record would hit or small bands trying things out. And it wasn't like if you had a bad night, they wouldn't book you again.
Pistrui: Every year, the Tower Records Christmas party was at the Alley. So you'd have all the local musicians who worked at different stores congregating, and there was always a jam at some point. I remember singing "My Sharona" with Doug Hopkins on guitar and [Haggis'] Brian Talenti on bass. Those were good parties.
Talenti: One year, I think we maxed out the bar tab, which is no shock, and Mike Pistrui, who worked at the same Tower, and I were willing to slap our paychecks on the bar to keep it going. Somehow, everyone kept drinking. Both of our paychecks wouldn't have kept it going for long, but I think Ross saw desperation in our eyes.
In 1992, Gin Blossoms parted with longtime songwriter/guitarist Hopkins over his substance abuse while recording their breakthrough album, New Miserable Experience. (He later committed suicide.) Scott Johnson, his replacement, made his debut at the Alley.
Scott Johnson, guitarist, Gin Blossoms: When I joined, they said, "Look, if Doug sobers up, you're out." That was the contingency. Everybody hoped that Doug would get better. Obviously, that didn't happen. But I recall being nervous my first night. I'd joined up in April '92, and we'd rehearsed for a month. The fans hadn't seen them in so long. It was thrilling being with a band that people really liked. And this was before there were any hits.
Scott, Dead Hot bassist: We were at Hollywood Alley the night when Gin Blossoms were on Letterman the first time. And Robin Wilson had on a Dead Hot shirt. It was a Friday, it was packed, and we were onstage at the time. And when they came on the big screen, we stopped and everybody watched. It was this strange, surreal moment.
Keith Jackson of Glass Heroes and The Beat Angels
Roger Clyne, vocalist/guitarist, Refreshments/The Peacemakers: [The Refreshments] got a break opening for Dead Hot Workshop at Hollywood Alley. And I remember it was the first time we played our would-be hit "Banditos." I'd gotten into a bike accident and had 17 stitches, because . . . well, I fucked up on a mountain bike on the day of the gig. I was in the emergency room and Brian [Blush], our guitarist, said, "Bro, we'll cancel." And I was like, "Hell no, we're opening for Dead Hot at Hollywood Alley. We'll make it." We were damn well not gonna cancel that gig. Hollywood Alley plus Dead Hot, that was real cred.
Jackson: All these local bands were getting big, and everyone thought Phoenix was going to break through the crust around then with the jingle-jangle. And the Alley was one of the big places at that time. But, eventually, that whole crowd started moving on. People and their bands still came to perform, like when I played with Beat Angels, but they weren't hanging out as much.
Cina: I think once the DUI laws got stricter, driving to the Alley was a bigger risk because it was way off the beaten path, so people started going less.
Monarch: Many in that first wave of regulars were getting married, having kids, and taking on real jobs. Just growing up and growing apart from the bar.
As the '90s rolled on, changes were afoot at Hollywood Alley: a new game room, harder and more indie sounds, bigger bands, and new crowds, including a pair of punk legends.
Jeff Dahl, guitarist: I'd moved to Phoenix in the '90s and Jim Griffith told me about [Hollywood Alley].
Lerma: Jim Griffith had gotten in contact with Jeff, who wanted to get a band together after he moved here. And the Alley was where we hooked up with Jeff and started playing together. That was a lot of fun.
Dahl: I've toured all over, mostly in Europe and Japan, but Hollywood Alley was one of my favorite places. One thing that was gratifying was the sound was always excellent.
Jackson: And the sound was great because of sound man Steve McDonald, who was there forever. He could be temperamental but knew his shit.
Jim Adkins, vocalist/guitarist, Jimmy Eat World: Hollywood Alley was one of the first spots I saw shows as an impressionable youth. Rocket from the Crypt was a great one. Before they were onstage, the set-change music was James Brown's Funky People, and the band got into the audience and started a huge dance party.
Will Tynor, bartender/manager: Steve Naughton of Medical [Presents] started booking lot of concerts there in that era.
Steve Naughton, former local promoter: I had gone to this St. Valentine's Day Massacre Show years before with Horace Pinker and instantly wanted to do shows there, just 'cause it was so intimate. We'd always put certain types of shows that fit the room and its capacity. It made sense for Combustible Edison because [the club] had that lounge feel no one else did, and [the band] had that lounge vibe. Cibo Matto were a small band that worked in a more intimate room like that.
Tom Reardon, bassist, Hillbilly Devilspeak/Pinky Tuscadero's WKAF/Father Figures: Steve did tons of shows there. He was well connected with a lot of indie and noise rock. All the Tempe jangle stuff was the opposite direction of what I was listening to. But when the noisier, rougher-around-the-edges bands were being booked, my interest was piqued. After going, I had more of an urge to get a band going. People came to the Alley as fans and returned as performers.
Cardone: The Tempe bands weren't working there as much. So they turned to friends in bands like Fred Green to fill the void. Those guys worked there, they played there, and did really well there.
Donny Johnson, general manager, Lucky Man Concerts: Whenever Fred Green was there . . . they'd draw 300 to 400 people. You'd just sweat and drink a beer and have a good time. And Fun Bobby Birmingham really started blowing things out with his booking.
Birmingham: We used to get 30 packages a week from bands, like these giant promo packs with cassettes. The mailman hated us. I started asking Ross if I could go through some and what was involved in [booking] at the bar. And after observing other promoters, like Steve Naughton, I thought, "I can fucking do this."
Robert "Fun Bobby" Birmingham
Jackson: Fun Bobby was around all the time [bartending] and was booking a lot of great bands there starting in the mid-'90s. He helped get that place on the radar.
Birmingham: My heart at the time [for touring shows] was for bands on Amphetamine Reptile Records and Alternative Tentacles Records. And the first show I ever brought in was a band called Lollipop, [which was] everything I loved about [Amphetamine Reptile bands]: noise, chaos, and whatnot. And then two amazing bands off Triple X, e.coli and Spongehead. I spent money, only 20 to 50 people loved it, but I didn't care. To start out, you gotta eat it a bit.
Tynor: Fun Bobby had this L.A. connection nobody else had. He always booked NoMeansNo, Fear, and all those Melt-Banana gigs. It's almost like he'd find a band that no one else was getting, and he treated them like royalty.
Birmingham: Jimmy Eat World was there a bunch. I remember calling a very young Jim Adkins in 1996 when we had some short-notice, same-day cancellation. On the phone, he was really nice. He said he'd make some calls and would see if they were all in.
Jimmy Eat World
Adkins: Yeah, back then we would take any gig [when] someone said, "Hey, wanna play?" Yes, of course we do. Hollywood Alley was one of the rare bars [Jimmy Eat World] would get gigs at, believe it or not. But [the Alley], for some reason, would always offer shows for us. And I loved the pizza. That was my jam.
Greg Sage, guitarist/vocalist, Wipers: It was low-key compared to some other places. We don't like to play shows where we live; it keeps us out of the hometown politics. It was always fun to play there. Mostly our friends would show up, so we had a good time. The owners were cool, plus they had a good pinball machine in the back room.
Dahl: I always liked that they treated not just patrons but bands really well. Especially touring bands. Ross always fed them, gave them beers, and paid them. That sorta thing was rare.
Tynor: There wasn't ever a time when Hollywood Alley just did one thing or one specific genre. It's always had a variety.
Wilson: Gas Giants, my other band, made our debut at the Alley. After like a year in the studio, we'd never performed and we finally just said, "Let's go down to Hollywood Alley tonight and do a show unannounced." Fortunately, we knew the people there.
Trunk Federation performs at Hollywood Alley.
Courtesy of Jason Sanford
Reardon: Ross was so open-minded. You'd have indie stuff or glammy stuff, like Trunk Federation. They were one of the best bands to come out of this town.
Jason Sanford, guitarist, Trunk Federation: A couple big things happened there. We opened for Archers of Loaf, and someone there asked us for a tape or recording to give to Alias Records. Didn't think much of it at the time, but it resulted in us getting to the label. Then the big release party for our first CD on Alias was at the Alley. Ross put on a big spread and made these sugar cookies with our logo on the icing.
Bob Hoag, drummer, Pollen/The Go Reflex: There were a few years when The Lemmings and all these power-pop bands, like Haggis and Autumn Teen Sound, were in the scene -- probably like '97 to '99 -- and I feel like I went to Hollywood Alley to see those kinds of bands even when Pollen wasn't performing. And I went to a ton of Les Payne shows there.
Adrian Evans, vocalist, Autumn Teen Sound/Sugar High: It's hard to put into words, but [Hollywood Alley] was kind of like a church. I'm not religious, but it feels as close to holy as any place I can think of. It's kinda hard to feel a sense of community in Phoenix because it's so spread out, but there was something about it that functioned as a hub. And you could count on seeing a certain group of bands that felt like it constituted a community of some kind.
Jackson: The greatest thing about Hollywood Alley was not only the people who ran it, but [that] the shows were intimate, like seeing a band in your living room. Like watching the guys from Sweet playing "Ballroom Blitz" or [MC5's] Wayne Kramer on the fucking stage 10 feet away from you.
Birmingham: Streetwalkin' Cheetahs did such a wild and amazing set. Frank Meyer jumped on a table with a guitar [and] poured a bowl of Grandma's ranch dressing on his head. That's rock 'n' roll. Then, all cleaned up, he and his band backed "Brother" Wayne Kramer for a helluva set.
The early Aughts were an era of even heavier sound at the Alley, as it featured a grippe of stoner rock and the resurgence of punk.
Blanche Davidian performs at Hollywood Alley during the Ross Rocks Benefit in 2012.
Monistat VII: In the early 2000s, there was a big punk resurgence locally with AZPunk and others. And they did a lot of shows at the Alley. A lot of those bands didn't even think about going there, they were at Jugheads or Emerald Lounge.
Micah Elliott, co-founder, AZPunk: A couple of the more memorable shows I've been to at the Hollywood Alley were the AZPunk Thrash of the Titans shows. It was such a cool idea...no one had ever tried an experimental band competition of [that] type before. Ross and the guys were so cool and open for any and all ideas we had.
Mike Skullbuster, guitarist, Smoky Mountain Skullbusters: You could go to the Alley any weekend, you've got Kevin Daly, Keith Jackson, and all these studs of rock onstage. And we were checking them out and getting inspired to do their own thing.
Monistat VII: I'd been trying to get [guitarist] Mike Hawk to start a band, but he was cold to the idea. One night, we were out with Ozzy Osmond and another friend when we caught Sonny Vincent at Hollywood Alley. And during the show we all looked at each other and decided, "All right, we're forming a band." That was the catalyst for Blanche Davidian.
Page the Village Idiot, guitarist: I remember seeing Gogol Bordello play there and ripping up the place, literally, and having to pay for every microphone in the building.
Tynor: We hosted the Stoner Hands of Doom Festival for a few years. Seeing Major Lingo with Tim Alexander from Primus on drums was pretty huge to see. He also pulled sets with Fred Green.
Anderson, promoter: I did a lot of stoner rock shows there like Alabama Thunderpussy and Orange Goblin in 2005, because that's where all those people liked to hang out. It was dark, gloomy, it had video games for people who were stoned out of their minds. And good food for . . . you know.
Monistat VII: Jeff Dahl always put on really amazing concerts at the Alley. His Desert Trash Blasts were always big, like when The BellRays headlined [in 2002]. Imagine Tina Turner fronting MC5.
Dahl: I think we did four [Trash Blasts] at Hollywood Alley. We'd get a weekend and have bands from Japan and Argentina and New York, all sorts of weird places. They all thought that it was just a great American rock 'n' roll bar. We brought out Texas Terri to headline one of the nights. That was over-the-top crazy.
Reardon: The last couple times JFA played there, it was a ridiculously good crowd at each show. They did the 25th-anniversary reunion show in 2006 and then their 30th-anniversary five years later. It was a "who's who" of old-school Phoenix punk.
Ryan Rousseau, guitarist, Destruction Unit: The very first Jay Reatard show in Phoenix was there. I booked it. Yeah, it was fucking wild. He was going ape-shit onstage. My friends were up front moshing, breaking bottles, and having a good time. Ross had a big old grin.
From 2005-2008, the Alley featured renowned hip-hop night Blunt Club, which sparked one of the venue's epic evenings.
Pickster One, Blunt Club DJ: [Public Enemy's 2006] concert at the Marquee was canceled, and they had a signing on the west side and Doug [Quick], Dumper, and me went by to check it out. Doug was like, "Hey, we've got a night we've been doing for years. Would you want to come down?"
Adam Dumper, Blunt Club promoter: We didn't know if [Public Enemy] were going to show up; it was all on Chuck D.'s word and we were a little worried. We sent out text messages and put it out on MySpace, and by the time we got from Atomic Comics over to Hollywood Alley, the club was completely sold out, and there was like 200 people lined up outside. Sure enough, around midnight, there was this bang on the back door, it swung open and Public Enemy's security came in with flashlights. And Chuck D. came with 'em.
Todd Minnix, guitarist/vocalist, Fred Green: There was a line all the way across the freeway to get in.
Public Enemy's Flavor Flav performs at the Alley in 2006.
Dumper: It was like people literally were standing on the tables at Hollywood Alley. They played for like an hour and a half. Flavor Flav did like a 10-minute drum solo. And they played "By the Time I Get to Arizona," which they hadn't done since a U2 concert back in the day. I saw a girl in the front faint, like Beatles-style.
Hollywood Alley suffered losses around then: First, Fun Bobby Birmingham left his booking/bartending position and moved to Washington. Will Tynor took over some of his duties. In December, Ross' mother, Lucy Wincek, died after a lengthy illness. (In 2012, Roger also passed.)
Birmingham: My wife at the time and I wanted a change of scenery and a better environment in a more rural area to raise our son.
Cardone: Lucy definitely was the brains of the whole thing. Ross knew the bands and was really sweet, but Lucy kept the roof up and the power on. She was the mom. And we were all sad when Roger passed.
Minnix: It was really somber. It took a while for things to become remotely normal.
Tynor: All Lucy had to do was give you this smile when you walked in. It made you feel right at home.
Reardon: After Lucy died, there was a lot more for Ross to do. He took on more of the business side of running things and had more people step in to help.
Wincek: I would say she played a very important part. It's hard to put into words. I think everybody loses some part of themselves when somebody goes like that. But hopefully she's still around somewhere.
In April 2012, Ross Wincek suffered a stroke, from which he's still recovering. For the first time in 24 years, he wasn't at his usual position behind the bar every day.
Tynor: That was probably the toughest thing because he wasn't here. And without Ross, you kinda lost the vibe behind the bar. All the jokes and fun.
Donny Johnson: When you are in the live-music business, you're a slave to local talent that's out there, and when Fun Bobby left, and [Ross] had to take over full time, he was doing a terrific job. But then this tragedy happened.
Reardon: Once Lucy and Roger died, and after Ross' stroke, there really wasn't anyone to step up. It wasn't for lack of effort. Will Tynor and others were helping out, booking shows, working overtime, and trying to keep things afloat.
On July 18, Wincek and Hrutkay announced they would close the club for financial reasons.
Birmingham: My friend [Lisa Allen] called me to see if I heard the news and wanted to tell me personally. We talked for a while as I was trying to hold back the waterworks. Then, she said something so genuine: "Hollywood Alley gave a lot of people great memories and experiences."
Wincek: It was always close to closing. We weren't a rich family. So every day, we were burning some money, doing the welcoming thing because we thought everything could've gone away tomorrow. Whenever we got into trouble, we'd always find some money.
Hrutkay: It came to the point where business was so slow that we weren't able to meet our obligations. Instead of running into debt more, we just decided to call it a day. [It's] bittersweet, I guess you'd say. I hate to see it close, but on the other hand, I'm 96 years old, so I needed to put a stop to it eventually.
Wincek: We could see everything breaking down, and we couldn't afford to repair anything as time went on. It just got overwhelming.
Pistrui: I'm happy for Ross in that he won't have that struggle anymore. But in the same sense, I'm sad because Hollywood Alley was a lot of who he was. He grew up there.
Evans: I never thought Hollywood Alley would go anywhere. Never. I was so shocked. I came up from Tucson just to see it one last time. When Long Wong's closed, I didn't feel close enough to it to make a pilgrimage. Or when we lived in town, it wasn't a big a deal as losing this place is. I feel like this is a huge loss for whatever soul of Phoenix still exists.
Adkins: It always filled this niche that's important. It's just the way of things, and all, but it's a bummer that there can't be any new memories made there.
Birmingham: I talked to Ross. He was a super-positive, bright ray of light about the closure not being the end of anything. That [we] will always have good times in new places.
The Tribute to Hollywood Alley Concert will take place from Friday, August 30, to Sunday, September 1, at Chop and Wok in Scottsdale.
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