Ripped at Le Grand Supper Club in 2001

[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. Twenty years ago he took a ride to Grand Lake Township for a night of imbibing at La Grand Supper Club. The establishment closed in 2010 and was replaced in 2016 by the Cast Iron Bar and Grill. Goodbuzz documented his experience for the March 21, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]

So, Sean the locksmith shows up at my door and tells me that he’s “in the mood to drive.” How fortunate: I’m in the mood to drink. I suggest we head up the Old Miller Trunk Highway to Le Grand Supper Club and see what kind of mischief we can find.

Le Grand is a nice, big place, and tonight it’s all but empty except for a group of disgruntled pool players and about six or seven inebriated regulars at the bar. If I did my drinking on the weekends like any normal person, I might be able to see this place packed as a cover band such as Sh-boom attempts to rock the house. But weekends are made for pleasure drinking; I’m here for business drinking.

As soon as we sit down, I realize that we chose the best spot in the bar — right next to this highly intoxicated woman with big hair who claims she is the “Karaoke Queen.” The Queen is slurring some anecdote to her lady friends about going to a “lingerie show” while being pregnant. I have to admit that my memory gets a little foggy here, and I’m not sure whether the woman was in the lingerie show, or was merely attending. I do know that she took great pains to hide the fact from her husband, and that her husband somehow found out, and that the situation was “not pretty.”

But this interesting conversation among the Karaoke Queens (or the “KQs,” as I will affectionately call them) is soon drowned out by a much louder conversation heating up across the bar. Three men are arguing and agreeing at the same time about the subject of school violence. “There’s so much violence in the schools nowadays!” a white-haired guy screams; he’s getting quite emotional and sounds like he might start crying. “Kids are bringing guns and knives to school. You hear a lot of talk about ‘zero tolerance.’ That’s what I believe in, zero tolerance.”

The guy to his left is all for zero tolerance, too, but of a different sort. “My dad told me — I was in eighth grade! — he told me: Somebody fucks with you in school, you don’t tolerate it. You punch ’em the fuck out. Eighth grade!”

“But I’m worried,” the white-haired guy says. “I’m worried about Mike. I just don’t like seeing somebody mess with Mike. I got zero tolerance for that.”

“You tell Mike: Punch ’em the fuck out. Don’t tolerate that.”

This topic goes around and around like this for, well, all of the Late Night with Conan O’Brien monologue at least. Tiring of the zero tolerance dudes (or the “ZTs” as they will obviously be dubbed) I head to the can and meet a guy named Bruce. Now, let me explain something. I go in to the men’s room and Bruce is already there and already urinating. I don’t know how long he was there before I came in, but he’s definitely in a settled position when I walk through the door. I step up next to Bruce, do my thing and have a little conversation with him, which generally consists of him trying to explain to me the concept of “pissing your cock,” which I never quite understand. Then, I leave, and he’s still urinating. This man has, like, a five-minute bladder at least. I just have to say that it makes a fellow like me feel good to know that I may be the commander-in-chief of the Twin Ports booze scene, but even I can improve my skills.

But as it turns out, when it comes to endurance, Bruce has nothing on the ZTs. They’re still going strong when I return, though praise be, they’ve quieted down enough for me to eavesdrop on the KQs once again. As far as variety goes, the KQs have the ZTs beat hands-down.

“Were you here that night when all those dogs got in?” one of the KQs asks. “I don’t know whose dogs they were, or what they wanted. Somebody opened the door to go out and all of a sudden there were all these dogs in the bar.”

It’s getting late, but the bartender hasn’t announced a “last call” yet. Still, Sean the locksmith is getting on my case to leave. But the show is just getting good! Some of the KQs are now behind the bar, concocting some kind of drink with Frangelico (pronounced “French alcohol”) in it. I start cheering them on, encouraging them to add a little Bailey’s. They think it’s a pretty good idea, and reportedly the drink turns out “yummy.”

But these antics are cut short when the bar abruptly closes and I find myself out in Sean the locksmith’s cold van, barreling down the Old Miller Trunk Highway. Suddenly Sean the locksmith takes a weird right and informs me that he’s taking a shortcut. I ask him the all-important question: “Are there any burritos down this road?”

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