Barfly - King Eddy Saloon
There's a pretty universal list of places in which you wouldn't want to find yourself after a four-day-long, Thanksgiving-weekend bender. While there is an unspoken understanding that these places are not inherently bad locations in and of themselves, there's a very reasonable logic behind making every attempt to avoid waking up in these places – especially if you spent the previous night (or nights, sure) deliberately drinking yourself into a coma. In no particular order: You never want to come to in a bathtub full of ice in Tijuana; you never want to wake up in the arms of your ex in their bed; and you never ever want to regain consciousness in Skid Row. It's not that Skid Row's multitudes of homeless people are frightening, but the area's cesspool of shady characters that gather on Skid Row will make your primal fight or flight instincts lock on to "flight" quicker than you can say buzzkill. Plus Skid Row is cold, has limited resources, and really, no matter where you're from, you're always unnervingly aware that everyone else can tell you're lost. If you do find yourself somewhere between 3rd and 7th, your head will probably be full of throbbing and your pockets will be empty – at best. At worst, you'll be riddled with track marks, STD's and stab wounds. The exception to this rule is if your drunk self had the foresight to guide you to the asshole of L.A. so that your hung-over self could be healed with some microwaveable breakfast foods and some hair-of-the-dog beers that will only cost as much as the change you can dig out of your pockets. In that case, Skid Row is right where you want to be at around 6 a.m. so you can join the rest of L.A.'s bottom rung when the doors open at King Eddy Saloon.
"Six in the morning is our busiest time!" exclaimed bartender Leo LaMadrid. "We are jam-packed. A lot of people just come for breakfast, but you got your alcoholics that need that first drink, and those people that were out partying all night that just wanna keep going. But yeah, we usually have a line outside in the morning."
Dubious locale aside, the bar colloquially referred to as King Eddy's presents something of a conundrum for those of us who have a hard time balancing the collective value of a dive bar with friendly service, interesting people, breakfast and dirt cheap beers against the collective value of trivial things like…survival. This epitome of "dive bar" dive has been located in the corner of the once-luxurious King Edward Hotel since the structure was erected in 1905, and while the building once hosted the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, it now serves as a refuge for the opposite end of the success spectrum. In fact, you're more than welcome to saddle up next to some forgotten playwright or failed actress as they cultivate cirrhosis and stare out the windows as the LAPD officers usher countless tent cities off the sidewalks.
At King Eddy's "no one gives a shit about your name," so feel free to sit in silence while you sip your $2.50 breakfast beer under small screen televisions, bobble-head dolls, and a collection of neon beer signs that probably accounts for more than half of the entire block's electric power usage as recently-evicted "campers" stroll in for something strong ("That's how you know it's cold outside: people start asking for 151," said LaMadrid).
But King Eddy's has more to offer than flea market décor, microwaveable breakfast, and cheap beer with a view. It has pride. Not self-righteousness, but utter shamelessness. King Eddy's is what bars would be like if prohibition never happened, drinking never became cool, and Old West saloons stayed the exact same. It's a place for those who are hard on their luck, who are down and out, who are hopeless, or criminals, or running from their past – and it is completely unapologetic about its role as a refuge for the underprivileged. But it's not depressing; it isn't sad. You never feel sorry for the bar or its patrons. You feel like everything might just work out in the end, and if everything hasn't worked out, it's not the end.
Located in the worst part of L.A. with quite possibly the most pitiable clientele, it still gets just as rambunctious as it did over 100 years ago when Stevie Nicks comes on the jukebox. If anything, King Eddy's will teach you this: When life hands you lemons, get hammered.