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Pink Panther Closes in Style With Theme-Night Hoopla

For the last four years, the Pink Panther has been the hangout for hip local rock ‘n’ roll types, but management will be shutting it down for good at the end of this month because of dwindling attendance and problems with the lease.

Since 1986, the seedy little bar on Morena Boulevard in Bay Park has been a direct link to the oh-so-trendy post-punk underground. The informal dress code called for lots of black and lots of leather. Jukebox fare ranged from the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag to Patsy Cline and Dean Martin.

And, on any given night, there was no telling who you might run into.

“A lot of alternative bands who were on tour would come in,” Pink Panther co-owner Tim Mays said. “The guys in Social Distortion, the Circle Jerks, and the U.K. Subs came in every time they were in town. (Ex-Dead Kennedys lead singer) Jello Biafra was in a couple of weeks ago, and so was Johnny Lydon (formerly with seminal British punk band the Sex Pistols). He hung out for half an hour, playing pool and drinking beer.”

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Another recent guest at the Pink Panther, Mays added, was West Texas honky-tonk hero--and onetime Clash protege--Joe Ely.

“He got stranded there one night when his guitar player lost the keys to his rental car,” Mays said. “He called a cab, and, when the cab driver came in, after 2 a.m., to pick him up, he challenged him to a game of pool for the cab fare.

“So they played a game, and Joe beat the hell out of him and won a free cab ride to his hotel.”

The Pink Panther, in short, was something of a scene.

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“At the time we opened, there was no place anybody could go to on a regular basis and listen to cool music, hang out with friends and wear their leather jackets,” Mays said. “I think we filled a need, and a lot of fun was had there.”

Come Dec. 29, it will all be over.

“Over the last four years, a lot of alternative things have developed that San Diegans can do, which have contributed to our declining uniqueness,” Mays said. “And, faced with the prospects of a short-term lease, which doesn’t really allow us to devote any money toward making improvements or adjustments, we decided to pull out and devote our energies to our other place.”

This “other place” is the Casbah in Middletown, which Mays and his two partners, Bob Bennett and Peter Verbrugge, opened in the spring of 1989 as a showcase for an eclectic mix of decidedly non-Top 40 pop acts.

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Recent bookings have included El Vez, a Mexican Elvis Presley impersonator; singer-songwriter Jack Tempchin, a North County resident who penned two of the Eagles’ biggest hits, “Already Gone” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”; and any number of hard-core punk, roots rock, and industrial bands from all over the country.

“We plan on cutting down live music from six nights a week to three, so that we can concentrate on booking only the best bands,” Mays said. “We’re going to try to make it (the Casbah) more of a hangout, with no cover charge Sundays through Thursdays, a new pool table in back, and an expanded happy hour thing.

“We’re hoping to give people a place to go that’s as congenial, as fun, as the Pink Panther was.”

As one might expect, the Pink Panther is going out in style, with what’s called “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The countdown began last night, with deejays Sean and Jamie spinning longtime doorman-bartender-gofer Louie Procaccino’s favorite tunes.

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It continues with tonight’s “Bikers Rule Xmas Party,” featuring video screenings of the Isle of Man TT Race and the Sturgis 1990, followed by Thursday night’s pajama party--beer specials for those wearing P.J.s--and Friday night’s “Punk Rock Xmas Party,” with tunes and videos by such early punkers as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Dead Kennedys.

Also on tap: “It’s a Disco Xmas,” Saturday night; “How the Gris Stole Xmas,” with early San Diego punk-rock booster Tom Griswald playing deejay, Monday night; “The Wizard of Oz Party,” Tuesday night; and five more similarly way-out and wacky theme nights.

On closing night, Dec. 29, the local rockabilly band the Hooligans will perform--and the Panther’s three owners will man the bar.

Flamenco guitarists Wolfgang (Lobo) Fink and Yuris Zeltins and singer Charo Monge-Romero will perform at Friday night’s “Noche de Flamenco” at the Kingston Hotel’s rooftop nightclub downtown.

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Fink mastered the flamenco guitar while living and studying with the Gypsies of Spain and southern Europe. Monge-Romero, too, started singing flamenco as a child, growing up in Spain. She recently sang and danced in “Rosa Montoya Bailes Flamencos” at the Spreckels Theatre.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door. The Kingston Hotel is located at 1055 1st Avenue.

LINER NOTES: Local public radio station KPBS-FM (89.5) will broadcast the Grateful Dead’s New Year’s Eve concert live from the Oakland Coliseum. The broadcast starts Dec. 31 at 7 p.m., but the Dead won’t go on until around 9:30 p.m., after opening performances by Branford Marsalis and the Rebirth Brass Band. . . .

Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, a mail-order minister with the Universal Life Church, flew to Tucson, Ariz., last Saturday night to unite yet another couple in holy matrimony. This time, it was a pair of longtime Beat Farmers fans who paid the good reverend’s air fare and even put him up for the night. The Beat Farmers, incidentally, just got back from a nearly five-month tour of the United States and Canada. Peter Buck of R.E.M. caught their show in Athens, Georgia, then invited them back to his home for an all-night party. . . .

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Tickets go on sale Friday at 3 p.m. for Slayer’s Jan. 14 concert at Golden Hall downtown. Testament will open. . . .

Best concert bets for the coming week: After 7, Thursday at Symphony Hall downtown; King Cotton with the Gangbusters, Thursday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach; Jack Mack and the Heart Attack with Jerry McCann and the Band of Giants, Friday at the Belly Up Tavern.


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