There's a good reason Shady's is the chillest destination since the regal TT, where the J-unit and I last hung out about a year ago ("Roadhouse Rules," June 17, 2004): They boast the same papa bear, Brad Henrich, a tall, friendly cat whose rockabilly, London-punk-style TT is named for the deadly "Tourist Trophy" motorcycle race held each year on the Isle of Man, a self-governing island that sits in the Irish Sea between Ireland and England. Henrich bought and revamped Shady's as a unique sort of college fund for his newborn son. Outside, it looks like a little white house with green trim, its big sign featuring the well-known black-and-white logo from ska label Two-Tone Records.
Shady's insides are old-school cool, with dim lighting, a kelly-green-topped bar, wood paneling on the walls, a pool table you can rent for 50 cents a game, black-leather banquettes, deep sage chairs in front of a stone fireplace that Henrich has filled with lighted candles, and kitschy-swank knickknacks nailed here and there that Henrich's picked up at flea markets and such, giving the place a bachelor pad feel.
Everyone knows TT has one of the best jukeboxes in the Valley, and Shady's box is equally slammin'. Here Henrich, who carefully selects all the CDs his jukeboxes play, has opted for an eclectic mix that best reps that retro-lounge thing he's going for, everything from Dick Cheese, Johnny Cash, and Pizzicato Five to Wall of Voodoo, Bobby Darin, and Hot Chocolate. And on the TV? No sports, bro. Instead, it's Dean Martin in those old Matt Helm flicks, James Coburn in Our Man Flint, or Peter Sellers in any of the Pink Panther movies.
What about the name? Seems Henrich, who regularly travels to the Isle of Man for the road race and to visit pals, named it after one of his close friends from there, Ron "Uncle Shady" Speirs, a retired godfather of sorts for the English mob who shuffled off this mortal coil a couple of years ago. Near the back door hangs a photo of Uncle Shady with a dedication, and up on the bar is this huge English pound symbol paperweight that used to sit on Uncle Shady's desk.
"He was a bit like the character Brick Top in Snatch," explains Henrich. "He was like the guy who never did anything himself, but could get things done. The old guy whose word was law. See, the Isle of Man is its own country, like Australia or Canada. It's a tax haven and an offshore banking place. In the late '60s, Uncle Shady went to the Isle of Man to handle money laundering for the English mob. They're the ones who gave him the name Uncle Shady, and it stuck."
We thank Henrich for the history lesson and tour, and decide to order a drink. I snag a pint of my favorite brew, Stella Artois, which the place has on tap along with Newcastle, Guinness, and a few others. The J-girl cops a pint glass full of Bloody Mary. Shady's is fillin' up with hipsters and squalies on this Saturday night, and we're scopin' the crowd like Ted Bundy for victims.
"The bartender is cute," exclaims the Jettster, battin' her eyes at the poor bloke.
"Looks like Elvis Costello," I state.
"Never mind. We're here to chat up the crowd, dude, not the drink-slinger you wanna lay tonight."
"All right, Kreme," huffs my sidekick. "How 'bout that pair of girls over there? They're cute."
Indeed they are, so we hustle on over to where they're hangin'. One is a Fran Drescher look-alike named Danielle. Her bud Heather is a lass with straight, chestnut hair who's wearing a conversation-piece of a tee that reads "M Is for Milkshake."
"I'm feelin' that shirt," relates Jett, eyes glued to Heather's top. "Or, uh, I'd like to be feelin' it. So, what's your milkshake, girl?"
"That's my theme song," answers Heather.
"That theme song's a little musty," I comment. "Maybe you should change it up to something like 'Ain't No Hollaback Girl.'"