Surviving The Serene Lounge

Posted: February 21, 2015 in Adventure, Fights

1aBack in the late 70’s I was living near the Ohio State campus when a pretty crazy thing happened. I remember the date exactly, because it was my birthday. December 3rd, 1977 . . .

Being my birthday and all, myself and bunch of friends were out celebrating at an establishment called The Serene Lounge, a misnamed bar if there ever was one, mainly because the place was neither serene nor a place to lounge. My only notable prior incident at The Serene Lounge was the night I threw a Hymie’s Double Sub with Extra Cheese at a guy who had the gall to start doing The Hustle on the dance floor. The dreaded disco disease was infecting all of America, but I was going to do my damndest to keep it out of our favorite High Street dive. Turns out I was fighting a losing battle, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Note: Eddie George’s Grill 27 is now located where The Serene Lounge once stood, and that makes me sad.

Anyway, on this night we were celebrating my birthday, and with that came some ironclad Ohio State rituals. One such ritual was that, if it was your birthday, everybody bought you a shot of their choice. I know, dumb. Not healthy. Don’t recommend it. I was young and stupid. Would it help if I pointed out that none of us were driving? No? OK.

So we’re well into the party and I was feeling pretty good. Good evidence of this fact is that I was looking for somebody to dance with, and I don’t dance. Ever. Well, maybe the occasional slow dance at a wedding or something, but other than that, never. I got up from our table of 20 or so people and made my way through the crowded bar to my target, a lovely young lady who’d caught my eye earlier in the evening. My goal was to ask her to dance of course, and maybe join me at our table. Hey, it was my birthday.

I must have been focused on her and only her, because in my captivated state I failed to notice she was with a rather large man. When I say large I mean LARGE, as in 6′-5″, 300 pounds large. He also happened to be an offensive tackle for The Ohio State Buckeyes who would later be drafted into the NFL. As I leaned over his shoulder to ask his date to dance he became j-u-s-t a tad agitated, and by agitated I mean enraged. By the way, I’d be happy to tell you privately what his name was, but he’s actually coaching college football now and I’d hate for him to Google his name and read this story. It might embarrass him. You’ll know why shortly.

Before I got “Hey babe, would you like to . . .” out of my mouth he rose up, turned around, and for a few seconds blocked out everything in front of me. Then he grabbed me by the collar and jerked me to within a few inches of his face. At this juncture I was 99% sure I was in for an ass-beating for the ages so I thought I’d at least go down gallantly. My plan was to reach back, swing as hard as I could, and pray somebody stepped in before he killed me.

Lucky for me, before I swung somebody did.

I didn’t know it but my friend Tom had driven up from Chillicothe to surprise me on my birthday. Tom was about 6′-3″, 240 at the time and was without question the toughest son-of-a-bitch I’d ever known. Still is, but although he’s mellowed a little now, back then everyone knew you didn’t want to make him angry. Well, I was a loyal, old friend of his, like brothers really, and when he saw me getting manhandled he became exactly that.

He was pissed.

I didn’t even know he’d entered the bar until he grabbed my fist from behind, the one that I’d cocked and was ready to fire. He swung me around and out of the way, stepped between me and the big OSU tackle, and grabbed him by the collar with both hands.

At this point it was like a movie scene. The DJ stopped playing music, everyone stopped dancing, people stared, and the bar became completely quiet.

Then Tom spoke:

“You touch him and I’ll kill you.”

And in that moment, not a single person in The Serene Lounge doubted him.

After what seemed like an eternity, the big man responded:

“W-e-e-l-l-l, I don’t want any trouble. Coach will be upset if there’s a problem.” 

Then he backed slowly away, turned and departed, lady friend at his side. In my memory she turned and gave me a wink and a “call me” sign as she left, but I’m 100% certain pretty sure that’s wishful thinking on my part.

After a few seconds of silence the place exploded in cheers. Apparently Mr. Offensive Tackle wasn’t very well-liked around campus and was a bit of a bully. On the other hand, Tom was a lot of a hero. Because of this he was sent free drinks the rest of the night, which seemed a bit unjust since it was my damn birthday.

To be fair, he more than likely saved my life or at the very least rescued me from a broken jaw and/or ruptured spleen, so there’s that.

So, were any lessons learned that night?


First off, always wait for her boyfriend to go to the bathroom before asking a pretty girl to dance, especially if he’s built like the Hoover Dam.

Secondly, always be sure and have a best friend around who is not quite as big as the Hoover Dam, but a helluva lot meaner.

PS: Those of you who know me well have probably heard this story about a hundred times, and those who know the Tom I’m talking about are not in the least bit surprised. This is not the only instance where he was there for me, and I hope I’ve been there for him a couple times as well. We have quite a few stories, this being one of the few I can retell on a public website. Love ya brother.

  1. Cindy Chalfant says:

    Sounds like the inspiration for “Bad, bad, Leroy Brown!

Gimme a holler.

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