[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. La Belle was a nightclub operating at 1014 Tower Ave. in Superior until 2013. The Sultan of Sot documented his experience there in the July 26, 2000 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
After spending two hours drinking monkey wrenches while listening to Minneapolis band Puafua and watching cartoons, I got the urge to be in a cartoon. I got the urge to go to La Belle.
Located on the classiest stretch of Superior’s distinguished Tower Avenue, La Belle is a dive specializing in cheap drinks for undiscriminating tastes. Like anyone else whose clothing wasn’t purchased using Marlboro Miles, I had never been to La Belle. But it had to happen sooner or later.
Before I could even get myself a drink, I met the quintessential group of La Belle patrons. Three or four middleweights stood huddled around a SEGA Out Run video game, attempting to drive a video car around a video racetrack. After some extensive bragging, they decided the one with the highest score would drive home.
Taking the advice of a sign above the bar, I ordered a South Park Iced Tea for three bucks. It was all right for a piddling little rum drink named after a TV show about kids who swear, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. When I saw a skinny guy with a tattooed scalp put a fiver on the bar, order an Old Milwaukee and receive $4.50 in change, I knew what I’d be drinking for the rest of the night.
Signs all over the bar bragged about how cheap the drinks were. Bottles of Bud cost only a dollar. Pint cans of Pabst were $1.75. Busch on tap was fifty-five cents a glass or $3 a pitcher. Faced with these prices, I contemplated just moving into La Belle, surviving exclusively on Old Mil and pickled eggs, which were only three for a buck. But then I noticed another sign stating, “No pets at all — so don’t even ask.” I figured I’d better not press the matter.
In the back of the bar was an empty dance floor, where the walls were painted black and decorated with white dots of spray paint meant to simulate stars. A DJ played hard rock from the eighties. When “Dancing with Myself” by Billy Idol came on, a guy who looked like hockey player Brett Hull took the dance floor with a couple of full-figured ladies in Keds. A longhaired guy looked on, singing “Playing with myself, oh oh, playing with myself. If I had the chance, I’d pull down my pants and I’d be playing with myself.” The DJ followed it up with another Billy Idol song, “Flesh for Fantasy,” which prompted Brett Hull to sensuously zip his windbreaker up and down, giving the ladies brief peeks at his bare chest.
Every bar in town is loaded with Mike’s Hard Lemonade propaganda, but this place easily takes the championship. The thing is, Mike’s Hard Lemonade is one of those wine-cooler-type drinks made for sissies and young’ns who have yet to acquire a taste for beer. The thought of anyone at La Belle ordering such a stupid drink is ridiculous.
Returning to the bar for yet another Old Spill, I noticed a woman seated on a corner bar stool clenching her drink in her fist and yelling the same thing over and over to a guy in a “Show Me the Money” T-shirt. I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying, but I think it was “Rackin gragga pluck tong gragga prack.”
Everyone goes to Superior for one reason: to get finished. It doesn’t take long to get finished at La Belle. For once in my life, I actually left a bar before last call. I wasn’t very surprised to trip over a drunken man on the sidewalk just outside the door. The SEGA Out Run boys were there taunting him, paying a flower girl to give him roses while the drunk guy’s buddy attempted to salvage whatever dignity he could find. Faced with this pathetic scenario, I looked inside my heart and did what I thought was best. After taking the drunk guy’s picture, I stole their cab and headed home.
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