Over the years some of the portraits have been obscured or completely blocked out by the addition of the juke box, and a couple of the pews . I personally committed sacrilege by painting portraits of Ebert, Algren, Lenny Bruce, Eddy Balchowsky, Andy Shaw, and Royko (all of whom frequented the bar at one time or another) and placed them on the sacred wall and thereby partially obscuring some of the old timers. So I had become accustomed to these snide remarks from these quaint, antique, former patrons during their infrequent visits.
A little more history - the remarkably ugly woman that had just walked into the bar used to be married to a man who owned a collectible shop on Lincoln Ave.. The two of them would come into the old O'Rourke's like clock work every afternoon after they closed their shop. The husband was a large, bearded man, partial to leather cowboy hats. He was a legendary bore, and had a tremendous belly which he used as a weapon. If you were not careful he'd use the belly to herd you into a corner where he'd then , with his head tilted to the side say in a tone of voice which was supposed to convey confidentiality information that usually consisted of the personal life of some Cub, or what the latest Ernie Banks card sold for. He wore the fact that he was an ex-junkie like a badge of honor. He made it seem like he used to shoot smack with Lenny Bruce almost on a daily basis. The ugly wife usually sat passively sipping her scotch saying nothing.
After years of this routine Ebert finally said one memorable afternoon in O'Rourke's, "no." Every one turned in unison and stared at Roger. Roger had declined an offer of a drink from the bore. The bore demanded to know why? "Because ," Roger said forcefully, "because every time I buy you a drink , I have to buy both you and your wife a drink back. Over the years I've bought you hundreds of drinks more than you've bought me. " A murmur went through the hard core group of late afternoon drinkers assembled. Each person was instantly calculating how many drinks the bore was ahead of them with this two for one bait and switch racket. Things were never quite the same for the bore after that historic afternoon.
A few years later the bore had a massive heart attack and died. The ugly wife sold the shop and took off with her new boy friend for the South West. The new boy friend bore an uncanny resemblance to the bore. He was even taller, and his gut was every bit as big as the bore's. So when they walked into the bar and she asked the "wall question" I was ready. I answered as follows: "I have to admit that I got tired of looking at the burned out druggie faces of that collection of assholes, and so I decided to cover them up with my brilliant art work. I know a lot of people feel that I should keep the bar exactly the way it was thirty years ago just in case some old hag comes in every ten years, but I guess I'm just not that much into tradition."
It was true that the old hags were boycotting the bar. There were six or seven of them. These were the woman that frequented the bar back in the sixties. Even then none of them were great beauties, in fact only a couple of them were barely doable, and then you had to be really drunk. The years had been very unkind to these old hags and the older and more dried out they became, the more bitter and vicious they acted. The worst of them was Jacky McDermott. Ironically she had been clearly the best looking of the hags when she was younger, but she was a real crone by the time of her death last year. When she appeared it was as if the black plague had descended.
After I had given my little speech the woman's boyfriend tried to get a zinger in. Pointing at the political porn displayed above the bar, especially the naked Sara Palin, he said, "what's with all of the naked pictures, you not getting enough?"
"Well, Sky, you are probably right. If I had a killer hot old lady like you do I probably wouldn't have to paint these brilliant, highly acclaimed works of art. Of course I'm only two aware of the fact that history would never forgive me if I stopped painting."
The two old timers left before they finished their drinks.