Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jim Fucci

Jim Fucci of The Other Place (aka the Penny Bar if you’re cool) served Moses his first drink. Okay, fine—maybe not, but he has been bartending 50+ years, so chances are he did serve your mom her first drink (Ha! A “your mom” joke! Oh, clever.). Meadville bartending icon Fucci spills on Sagan, pennies, cement mixers, and the word you just. don't. say.

1) How did you get your start in bartending?
That was fifty years ago. I don’t remember. I just needed an extra job and I just started bartending. And I ended up right here.

2) So you’ve been bartending from this same spot?
No, I bartended at the Hourglass (which became Sanadlini’s, which then became Chovy’s). That was about 1961 or 62…somewhere in there. And then I was tending bar at the ICC. And then I moved into this place (212 W Steers St) 37 years ago.

3) You’ve got a really impressive penny collection (FPIM NOTE: Seriously. He has the New York subway map, a clock, the Lincoln Memorial, and other neato creations decorating the place. ALL MADE WITH PENNIES.) Could you tell us how you came up with those?
Well…the astronomer Carl Sagan, from Cornell University was doing “The Cosmos” in the sixties. I watched that TV series and he talked about billions in numbers. And I got very smart watching him. I knew what those big numbers were, but other people didn’t. So I thought, “I’m gonna show other people a million of something. What can I save to show them? Pennies!”

Well, after trying to save a million pennies, I found out that I didn’t even know what a million looked like. But as I gained more and more pennies, I wondered what I could do with all these pennies. So I looked out across the bar and at the tables and thought, “Maybe I could put them on top of those.” I took a table home, fixed it, and like a snowball rolling down a hill, you see the results.

4) That’s very impressive. It took you at least a couple of years to get all these pennies, didn’t it?
Yes, it did. It took me longer than more than a couple of years. And then I had to have some help from my patrons by charging them 15 pennies for a draft beer back in the seventies.

Yeah, I remember my mom had told me about that.
(shrugs and smiles)

5) (Points at the many pictures of Allegheny students, most of them are from sororities and fraternities) You’re really popular with Allegheny and Edinboro students.
(chuckle) They like to bring in their pictures to stick on the wall. So I do it for them.

So, what do you think makes this place and you so popular with them?
Good question. I can’t answer that. Maybe it’s just that my prices are a little bit lower; I don’t know if that’s it or not. You’d have to ask the Allegheny students that one. Not me!

6) What’s the silliest drink order you can think of that anyone’s ordered in here?
The cement mixer!

7) Okay, what exactly would be in a cement mixer?
Bailey’s and sour mix, I believe. I won’t serve it. Because what happens is when you drink it, it curls up in your mouth like…uh…(makes a “bitter beer face”) … (A customer suggests, “Cottage cheese!”) Yeah, cottage cheese (laughs)! And to me, it was just a waste of money. I won’t serve them.

8) What would you like first-time visitors to the Other Place to know about in order to have a good time here?
That they have to abide by the rules if they’re gonna be here for long.

9) Obviously, the “f-bomb” rule is a big one…
That is my ultimate rule. If you use that word, I’m gonna come down on you. There are so many other nouns, verbs, and adjectives you can use instead. Or adverbs. You don’t need to use that word. Just come in here, show respect to women—and everybody—and have a good time. That’s all.

The Other Place/Penny Bar is open to those 21+ Monday-Saturday from 4pm-2am. Spend your pennies and other currencies there on drinks, $.75 pool, pickled eggs, and t-shirts. And tip your bartender, kplzthx.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Scott Emerson

Scott Emerson willingly spent a whole year with the undead. Somehow he managed to make it out alive and with brains intact. Here he reflects upon his time with the cinematic living impaired.

1) What do you do that people know you for in Meadville? Currently I work as a projectionist at The Movies @ Meadville, sacrificing my weekends and holidays so people can see BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA. I also write scary stuff.

2) What inspired you to watch a zombie movie a day for a year? I was looking to gain a readership and was having difficulty breaking in through the traditional publishing venues. Author Brian Keene (who knows a thing or two about the dead, having written the excellent zombie novel THE RISING) suggested I start a blog as a way to get people's attention. Trouble is, my life pretty much revolves around work or watching movies, so I didn't have anything interesting to write about. I thought a blog where I watched and reviewed a movie a day would be just gimmicky enough to work, but I needed a hook to give it its own identity. I figured zombies were the way to go--they've always been a favorite of mine, they're immensely popular, and there were plenty of movies to last a year. Then it went and took on a life of its own.

3) Were there days you skipped your daily movie? In the course of a year real life will always find a way to intervene, so there were times when I was forced to skip a day. Which meant I had to watch 2 the next day.

4) What impact did your project have on your life? It dominated my creative life for pretty much the entire year, leaving me without the time (or the will, sometimes) to write anything else. It also meant that I couldn't even watch a toothpaste commercial without critiquing it.

5) What was your favorite movie of the experiment?
Barring the obvious classics, I'd say Grace Lee's AMERICAN ZOMBIE. It's a really well-made film. I could also mention Scott Phillips' THE STINK OF FLESH and Naoyuki Tomomatsu's STACY, two very inventive and unique films I probably would've overlooked had I not done the project.

6) Are you going to do anything further with "365 Days of the Dead"? Well, I'd love to do a book version, but for now I'm currently doing a "365 Days of the Dead Revisited" on my website, where I collect some of my favorite reviews, as well as including some films I missed the first time around.

7) Do you get a lot of zombie themed gifts for holidays? Not really, though if anyone wants to send me some I'd be glad to accept!

8) Do you think there is a lesson or moral we could pick up from zombie movies? What should we learn from the undead?
From a creative standpoint I learned that unless you're using the dead as a metaphor the zombie subgenre can be very, very limiting (there's only so many ways you can do "people trapped in a house," y'know?). But when done well, zombies can--almost paradoxically, it seems--say an awful lot about the human condition. I'm not really one for finding morals in fiction, but zombies often represent our fear of humanity--usually the "Other," who looks just like us but is in fact different. Maybe if we didn't try to define, or judge, people by the god they worship, or where they come from, or who they take to bed zombies wouldn't be quite so scary.

9) What are your current or future projects?
I'm sure there's a zombie novel of my own stewing in my brain-pan. I did recently write a screenplay for a zombie-comedy that's currently being looked at. Otherwise, I just follow the muse and write whatever comes along. Fans of flash fiction and haiku can follow me on Twitter , where I regularly post absurdities. You can also find reviews and essays (on writing, on movies, on other people's books) on my website.

Scott lives in Meadville with his hot wife Kathleen. He also occasionally performs in local theatre.