On an ordinary weekday in 1987, a large man with a bullhorn and a thick Russian-Israeli accent blocked traffic at the corner of 15th and High Street, the busiest corner on the Ohio State University campus. He bellowed out to students and other passers-by, “All the way from England: Badfinger! Very good band! Tonight only at Stache and Little Brother’s, 2404 North High!”
He passed out fliers and harangued people for several hours, using his bullhorn at point-blank range. He then went mobile in a beat-up luxury sedan, continuing to promote Paul McCartney’s favorite band with his electronic megaphone up and down the High Street drag.
The man was Pete Herman, the owner of Stache’s for nearly two years, and a black cloud on the Columbus Music Scene.
During Pete’s tenure, Curt Schieber continued to promote shows at the club as “No Other Presents” while running Schoolkids Records. These shows included acts that came from England, France, Germany and all over the globe. Joey Molland, the principal remaining member of Badfinger, though from England, was living in Columbus at the time.
Curt, in fact, saved Stache’s with his shows while Pete constantly alienated customers with his bizarre behavior and desire to change the club.
Before buying Stache’s, Pete had worked in a topless joint where he became familiar with laws that forbade patrons from touching the dancers. The fact that this was specific to strip clubs was lost on him. Ray Fuller, a staple of the local blues scene, played the room regularly. When couples would get up to slow dance during one of his ballads, Pete, worried about losing his liquor license, would physically separate them, reprimanding them with a stern “NO TOUCHING!”
At closing time, he would parade around the room, armed with a golf club and his signature bullhorn, barking “By order of the police, you must leave the building!” He proudly boasted of once using that golf club on a woman who was sitting on a man’s lap and “playing with his schmekel.”
He refused to allow bands to play music over the PA between sets, insisting that people put money into the jukebox. And he would often berate them into playing Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley, music he “understood.”
He made sure that customers were clear that he didn’t understand much of the music Curt or other local promoters brought in. When customers called to find out who was playing, he would oddly proclaim, “Pretty Boy Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Pussy Galore and Booty Looty Mutha Fucker!” The last band, he claimed, was “Rock Hudson’s House Band” – his homophobic humor coming through. He would also often tell people “you want to know who’s playing? You come down and find out for yourself.” From time to time, booking agents our touring acts would call, interested in playing the club, and they would be received in the same warm manner as the customers.
My purchase of Stache’s began when I asked him at a sold out Marshall Crenshaw show to put a little gin in my gin and tonic. “Smile,” I said. “At least you’re making money tonight.”
He snapped back “You think I’m making money? You buy the goddamned place!”
I said “How much?”
He said “What you give me?”
I shot a number at him and he said “you give me $X as down payment and we will do it.”
I stepped outside to catch my breath, and saw the neon sign in the window of Dick’s Den across the street: “Why not?”
Just then, my friend Dave Dornbach walked by and I said, “hey Dave, didn’t you just buy a bar in Cleveland?”
He said yes.
“I think I just bought this one,” I told him.
It took another six months to get Pete to agree to my original figure on paper.
Months after I took over and Pete was gone, I got a signage fee bill from the City of Columbus, which claimed the new name of my bar was “Mississippi Lunch.”
It seems that Pete had, for one brief weekend, gotten tired of “punk rock barbarians” and tried to change Stache’s into a disco with go-go girls. The name of this establishment was to be “Mississippi Lounge,” but when he phoned in the name change, the person on the other end heard “lunch” instead of “lounge.”
It cost $40 more to change it back to Stache and Little Brother’s.
To his credit, he was a pretty easy act to follow.