I Remember Bruno: Tales Of A Pre-Fame Bruce Willis Bartending ’80s NYC

I’ll start with the bare fact: I’ve never shaken hands with Bruce Willis, whose forced retirement was sadly announced this week. In fact, given my profession, there’s not much chance that he’d want to shake my hand. At the height of his fame and beyond, Willis’ disdain for journalists was as legendary as his arduous on-screen presence. He didn’t seem to like it the first show, the magazine I worked for from 1996 to 2007, not because of something the magazine wrote about, but because of the profile of his wife Demi Moore at the time. That is why we were denied coverage of many of the projects in which he participated.

How can I say “I remember Bruno” (Bruno was of course the alter ego he introduced in his 1987 film Bruno’s returnThe decisive blow that contributed absolutely to Willis’ hatred of journalists)? Because I was so close to his presence and his magic before and during a big break time.

Perhaps instead of “his”, I should say “big break”. Because in 1985 Willis was already two men. An aspiring actor looking for a job. Not just any work, but work that will catch his attention. That was Bruce. The other was Bruno, the bartender who’s been hopping around Manhattan mixing drinks and collecting tips…and at after-hours parties with other artists struggling, blowing the middle ukulele, and composing an impressive repertoire of R&B tunes.

The joint where I got to know Bruno was a pub and grill called Robert, on Tenth Avenue and 50th Street in Manhattan. If you live in an urban area, you know restaurants have a staff full of aspiring actors, singers, dancers, playwrights, and what have you. There is a particularly bad joke in the 2011 Garry Marshall photo New Year’s Eve Where does Penny Marshall play? itself, drunk mocking a woman holding a tray, “You’re not an actress, you’re a waitress!” before you demand else He drinks. So it is very common.

So what made Robert a special place? It was not only about the staff of the theater, but also because it mainly served theatrical staff. Being only 8 blocks from the center of Off Broadway (which included not only small theaters but booking agencies and acting schools; there were television studios further west) made it a wonderfully convenient location. You can finish the afternoon shift, and if you’re working on a play, just walk backstage most of the time. Robert was also the center of the news, and what we now call the networking center. The charismatic Bruno was one of the most beloved bartenders around. Not to mention rooting everyone’s interest, as he was clearly at the top of talent.

I stopped at the joint because my college friend, Joe Mulligan, also worked at the bar there, along with Bruno. He himself was not a little talented – at the time he was doing stand-up comedy, playing guitar and singing in a kind of comedy troupe, and acting in off-Broadway and off-Broadway things. (I remember him in a small production by Israel Horowitz The Indian wants the BronxRite of the 80s Actor’s Rite of Passage – It was one of the plays that caught Al Pacino’s attention in the mid-1960s. it was good!! As good as Pacino? I can’t tell.) Bruno was a good friend of Joe within Robert’s circle – they met at the bar when he was called BJ, all the way back in the early ’80s. He was known for his energy, sense of humor, and anti-environmental political views. Yes, Willis was a Republican even as a young man. “Do you want to keep the money you earn?” my friend asked. Then he answered himself: “Vote for the Republican.”

Bruce Willis was a Republican even as a young man. “Do you want to keep the money you earn?” my friend asked. Then he answered himself: “Vote for the Republican.”

Here’s another thing about Robert: he was actually of you could go to the. Broadway, Times Square, and areas west there were more jarring than they are today. This was before Giuliani, before the Disneyvision of 42nd Street. Before Tenth Avenue became a hot strip of restaurants (a trend that Robert might have given an experimental light – their kitchen served up a very tasty flavour.) This was when Worldwide Plaza was in the planning stage, and when Walkers lined the streets on 8th Street heading north to salute the weary travelers out of the Port Authority. So you had a lot of pimp bars, a good number of tow bars, etc. Not to say that such places were not acceptable or even attractive places for entertainment and social engagement. They were somewhat… esoteric in their call. (And it is no coincidence that literally all of these joints are locked at night the king lion It opened on Broadway in 1997.)

Robert was a little Bohemia in the midst of this urban chaos. When it was taken over by Robert Lucik, it was still called BJ’s, and before that it was called Sunbrite Bar, a hangout for the notorious Irish-American crime gang called The Westies. (One of Losick’s innovations was live jazz in the joint or on the stereo; it tended to deter a wayward Westie who might wander.) For an aspiring theater audience, it was a safe place (in the parlance of our day).

And for my friend Joe, more lucrative space after Willis got his first two big stints. He was selected to have a lead role in an off-Broadway production of Sam Shepherd’s very hot “Fool For Love” at the Douglas Fairbanks Theater on the 42nd and the Tenth. Joe inherited Bruce/Bruno’s spells while acting. And after the show, Bruno and his guitar will appear, perhaps in Robert, perhaps in the village.

During this tour of the show, creator and TV producer Glenn Gordon Caron saw Willis and took advantage of him for the role of David Addison in what became the hit series. moon light. What was probably Lillis’ shock was a similar shock to Robert’s comrades, as he was suddenly gone. Likes who – which.

When I remembered that album Bruno’s return Recorded in 1986 and released in January of 1987, I almost got flogged. Fame/wealth – referred to by William James and many after him (don’t blame me) as the “bitch goddess” – quickly bit Bruno in the ass. Twitter didn’t even exist at the time, but I can imagine the mess there was…

Even then, though, the album came to much criticism of “How Dare That White Boy Sing The Blues”. It didn’t help that her first song was a cover of a true African American anthem, “Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers.

What was Willis thinking? I don’t think there was actual arrogance at work here. I think he got into a bubble pretty quickly and didn’t think about the essential thing: that what works at a raucous after-hours party with your good friends doesn’t necessarily make a professional grade. The inverted text in an early shot of Willis posted on social media recently by director, author and critic Isaac Butler has a line saying Willis is “witty” at the harmonica. This is not inaccurate. (“Bruno could play the ukulele. He really could play,” Joe recalls when I spoke to him last night.)

I imagine Willis wanted to get away, have a little fun, work in a real, cool recording studio, etc. Motown Records itself would have given him the chance. Eddie Murphy couldn’t resist a similar temptation, even as his own album proved that a supernatural imitation isn’t necessarily a born singer.

No doubt the bad press was the source of his hatred for me. (Had I met him already in Robert’s days, when I was just a rock critic, and I was very young at the time, things might have been different. Or maybe I was just kidding myself.) We all know what he did a year after Bruno’s record was released: die hard. And that’s one of the reasons we don’t talk about history much anymore. (And that’s not to say he’s completely retired Bruno: “I last saw him in 2009, at the German Brothers 40th Anniversary Show, where they brought him to play the ukulele at One Way Out,” Joe told me. “And he tore it up.” Needless to say, I cheer Joe puts his own memories on paper.)

Anyway, over the ensuing years, in addition to giving us great performances in an astonishingly varied filmography (remember his last great performance was in Motherless Brooklyn(released only three years ago) has built a proven track record of consistently dealing with his co-actors with generosity and consideration. This includes the old gang of Robert. When he became famous for buying the town of Hailey, Idaho in the early ’90s, my friend Joe booked a long set of dates at the Comedyburg Club.

Veteran critic Glenn Kenny reviews new issues in, The New York Times, and AARP Magazine, as befits a person of his advanced age. He blogs, often, on Some Came Running and tweets, mostly in jest, at Tweet embed. He is the author of the famous 2020 book The Making of Men: The Story of Good Comradespublished by Hanover Square Press.

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