You know, my co-pilot Jett wasn't always the L-word Jessica Alba. Before she became the lipsticker queen of Phoenix nightlife, she was just another cute chick in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform hanging out at Scottsdale's Jamaican Blue Lounge, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
"Hey, Special K," the Jettster says to me, using one of her pet names for this Cap'n Crunch of corpulence. "Tonight, let's check out JBL. They just got a beer-and-wine license, and you'll get to see where I first made out with another girl."
Now that's a historic site, one that should have a bronze plaque attached to it, so how could I resist? Jamaican Blue Lounge is in a little strip mall it shares with a tattoo parlor and a Schlotzsky's Deli at Scottsdale Road, one block south of Indian School. FYI: "Jamaican Blue" might sound like a sticky-icky brand of good ganja, but actually it's a high-end coffee grown in the land of reggae and Rastas, one that JBL still serves.
See, JBL's in transition from funky-assed coffee house to the hippest nightspot in an un-hip area. I mean, they don't call it Old Town for nothin', yo. If you wanna peep the Depends set ambling about in their Bermuda shorts, looking for a deal on turquoise, that's the place to go. Jamaican Blue's always been an oasis of cool, but recently megacorp rode in lookin' to make JBL history.
"Two or three years ago, Starbucks opened up across the street, and it robbed a ton of the owner's business," explains Jimmy Lipovsky, 25, a playa with long brown hair who reminds me of Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame. "JBL's a landmark place, but they were ready to go under."
Enter Jimmy and pal Barry Solomon, 30, the bartenders/managers at the spot that used to be a little bit of Kingston. The owner gave them carte blanche to redo the place the way Xzibit and West Coast Customs do to the hoopties on MTV's Pimp My Ride. Where the interior was dark and bohemian before, now it's rocking baby-blue and white racing stripes, with blue lamps, a pool table, a digital jukebox, computer hookups and couch-laden grottos where you can kick it and drink one of the 30 beers they have by the bottle, a little Chablis, a house sangria, a sake-tini (a martini using sake instead of vodka), or a margarita made with a wine-based tequila. They still serve killer coffees, but now with a vibe more akin to the Emerald Lounge.
"It's a place where you can come and be yourself, as much as the shiny-shirt guy can at Sugar Daddy's," explains Lipovsky. "I'm just sick of that whole scene. I want this to be a hub, where people can come and listen to cool music, hear about cool shows and cool bands, with cheap pool and cheap beer."
Right in the door, Jett scores a Sauvignon Blanc and I a Red Stripe, which is only correct considering JBL's island moniker. But rather than waxing poetic about her first, furtive fem-bot lip lock, Jett's already scopin' shorties, which isn't tough considering there's a bounty of bootylicious babes all about.
The J-girl heads straight for a cluster of honeys, while I strike up a confab with Rob Bonilla, a tall guy with horn-rimmed glasses in a black-and-white trucker hat with the label "King" on it. He's hangin' at the bar with his homie Malachi, a thin dude with a shaven head who's on the extra-shy side. Bonilla tells me he's a graphic designer/publisher.
"Really, who for?"
"Erotica magazine in Phoenix," he says.
"You mean the adult freebie they give away at all the Castle Megastores? I always pick up that rag. I love the joke page," I tell him.
"Everyone loves the joke page," he agrees. "Our best advertising space should be next to that joke page. I'm the one who picks those out."
"It's even better than Hustler's joke page, but you don't have to pay for it. Where do you get all those?"
"You can get them from any public joke Web site. I really like the twisted ones, the ones that are so wrong. We come out every month, so there's a new one in the racks right now. We're in Washington state, too, and we have plans to expand to California."
Rob and I are discussing the finer points of adult publishing when Jett interrupts to introduce me to this tall blonde in a wife-beater. Her name's Vanessa Ernst, 24, and she's getting ready to move to NYC to attend Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology.
"I wanna do 'image consulting,'" she says. "You know, like a fashion stylist, a personal shopper, things like that."
"You'd probably do that for a Hollywood star or some really rich person, right?" I ask.
"That would be the pinnacle of success, I think," she explains. "New York's gonna offer a whole lot more opportunity than Arizona when it comes to this industry."
"Give me an example, consult me, fashion-wise," I challenge her.
"You're dressed nice, your clothes fit well, you got nice dress shoes on, so I think you're looking pretty pimp," she says, smiling. "And you've got a good personality, so you're all good."
I puff up, even more than usual. "Why, thank you very much."
"Yeah, he's the P Diddy of plump," cracks Jett, who then elbows me and says, "Get a load of this freak-a-leek staring at my tits."
Behind me is some guy who looks like Patrick Stewart's dad, dressed in black, drinking iced tea (the non-Long Island kind) and staring at Jett's cleavage like he's an old basset hound and it's the last rib eye on the planet. Says his name is J.R. His claim to fame is that he smoked a doobie with poet Allen Ginsberg back in the day.
"We smoked together when it was a felony in California, and when LSD was still legal. The early '60s. I lived on North Beach [in San Francisco], which was the culture hub of the Beat scene. I hung out in a coffee shop where he'd come to read poetry," J.R. recounts.
"Do you write or do music?" inquires Jett.
"I don't do anything artsy," explains J.R., who's an engineer by trade. "I just get loaded and make it with all the girls I can get."
"Uh, back to Ginsberg," I say.
"You have to understand, he wasn't anybody then," says J.R. "Nobody knew his goddamn name. We had hours and hours of conversation, and smoked dope. That was a big deal. Only about 10 percent of the people on the scene did that. Like I said, it was a felony. It was prison if you got caught."
We talk with J.R. for a while, but it becomes harder and harder to deflect his attention from Jett's headlights, so we ease over to the other side of the bar, where we run into this cat named Sam Eid. Eid's dressed in sunglasses by Gucci and a striped shirt by Valentino. A clean-shaven dude with short black hair, he's drinking an energy drink called Socko, the can for which oddly sports a design similar to his shirt.
"So why aren't you drinking alcohol?" I inquire. "Don't you drink?"
He smiles. "I drink, but it causes me to break out in handcuffs, if you get my drift. So I don't drink."
"Ah, you've learned from experience. So what do you do for a living?" I wonder.
"I help market Socko, actually. It's been out for two months now. It has twice the caffeine as Red Bull, taurine, ginseng, and a couple of aphrodisiacs like horny goat weed."
"I think that's what J.R.'s been smokin'," chimes Jett. "Kreme, get a load of the looker right next to us."
The vision of loveliness before us is Rachel Froyo, 19, an Italian dime-piece who looks like Jamie-Lynn DiScala from The Sopranos, but even more attractive.
"Are you single?" asks Jett.
"I'm single, but I'm not looking for anyone," she says, laughing. "I'm in school right now, studying to be a psychologist in community college, and I'll be transferring to ASU soon."
"A psychologist," says Jett. "You might have to treat the criminally insane?"
"Yeah," she says, her eyes widening with excitement. "Like Ted Bundy. He was really scary because he was so smart. The second scariest was John Wayne Gacy. He almost got my dad, actually. Gacy would put ads in the paper for young boys, then he'd kill 'em. My dad answered one of his ads, but then he was thinking, 'I don't know if I should do this.'"
"Wow!" exclaims Jett. "Does that mean your dad's from Chicago?"
"Right, because that's where Gacy was at. My family's from Chicago. We moved down here about nine years ago."
"How do you like it here vs. Chi-Town?" I inquire.
"I like it better here," says Rachel. "In Chicago, everyone's depressed because of the weather. People have more fun here. Like in this place. This is where the cool Scottsdale kids hang out."
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"So who gets hit on more, blondes or brunettes?" I query.
"Guys are scared of brunettes," says Rachel. "It's said that blondes are hot, you know. But brunettes are relationship girls. So guys can hold back on them for a while. Walk into anywhere, if you're a blonde, guys stare. If you're a brunette, they're like, whatever."
"That's discrimination!" I cry. "You should become a blonde for a week and write a paper on that. Call it Blonde Like Me."
"Yeah," smirks Jett. "Kreme's working on one just like it called Fat Like Me."