Back in 1982 we owned a bar in the East End of Glasgow.
It was the kind of place that Hollywood directors would later spend millions of pounds recreating when they made films about the birth of New York.
It was a back street hellhole; the customers wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Tarantino film which had featured vampires, dead people and heroin users.
The carpets stuck to your feet with years of urine and indecipherable waste that may have dated back to Victorian times.
The walls were a result of umpteen fires; it had loads of smoke damage and sported that aged, crackled paint which is now fashionable with gays in urban lofts.
The artwork consisted of the kind that showed dogs and cats dressed in cheap suits playing poker pasted on a tacky mirror. The customers looked like the badly dressed animals in the picture.
I fitted in: that was the scary part.
I was only 21 years old.
We had a pool table. Occasionally, if a fight broke out, the pool balls and cues were used as weapons and stabbing implements. How lazy were our thugs? They didn’t even bother to carry their own artillery.
We had to buy new pool balls and cues every three months due to the damage they received. New eyes and foreheads weren’t our responsibility.
One hot summer day, I got very bored.
It’s not a good sign if you get bored in a place where there might be a police raid every half hour.
That would be fair excitement to any other soul in a city, but not in Glasgow.
It merely broke up the monotony of dull drugged men, Duran Duran on the jukebox and a vicious pit bull terrier called Nancy that occasionally came bursting in and bit people at random. We never knew who the evil white snub-nosed dog belonged to, but we all carried a scar.
It would butt the door open with its hard head, a scream would go up – “Nancy!” – and people who knew the war cry would leap onto tall stools, the bar or the pool table till Nancy got her fill of anyone who didn’t know the Nancy code.
Some foolish man would assume that this feared ‘Nancy’ was some disgruntled wife coming in for her useless husband and stayed in his place, supping his beer.
Her jerking evil square-looking head, pink nose and foaming mouth made good use of her twenty second raid.
Then the poor unaware soul that never jumped to safety got bitten.
Nancy would run back out of the other door that could be pushed from the inside and off she would go to the next pub on her rounds of biting people, till she got bored as well I suppose.
So the day I got bored I decided to freak out the young guys who had just dropped acid. Acid was popular back then.
I knew this was a potent form of LSD as there had been talk of it knocking people mental.
My plan was this: I would get a local notorious bank robber called Billy who was a customer of mine to fake a robbery in the pub to really freak the boys.
It would be funny I said, as we plotted the scene.
There were three young guys at that pool table. ‘One-Ear’ – a ginger haired spotty man with one ear. ‘Bob the Cat’- a diehard punk who wore chains on his neck. And ‘Dodo’- an eighteen year old skinny heroin user who sang Gene Pitney songs with his eyes shut.
I gave Billy a hand gun that fired blanks. I say this like everyone had a fake gun lying beside the hand wash sink, but this was the East End of Glasgow and that was as normal as having dogs and cats play poker on your walls.
Then I had to recruit the other ‘actors’. One guy called Ike was, in fact, a real actor and was in the film ‘Gregory’s Girl’.
I directed the show.
Ike would be shot and fall to the floor, I would hand over a bag of cash and the gun would then be fired at me and I would die. We spoke in hushed tones till we got the scene right in our heads.
Billy walked outside and pulled over his face the brown nylon tights I gave him as a mask. I watched through the glass panel on the door.
He dramatically held the handgun aloft and prepared to run into the bar to play out the scene. At that moment two policemen, who were in a passing car, stopped their vehicle and leapt from it, jumped on him and held him on the pavement.
“It’s a fucking joke.” he hissed as the coppers tried to cuff him. “We are going to freak the customers out. Go ask Janey.” I am sure they had heard every story and excuse going in the East End. Amateur dramatics were not going to stand up in court they must have reckoned.
I was wondering what the fuck was keeping Billy. I mean, he didn’t have to get into character – he was a real robber!
Then I saw through the small door window the policeman started to drag him into a police car and I dashed to the door, opened it and pulled Billy free and shouted at the policemen:
“What the fuck are you doing? We are playing at me being robbed! Do you know how bored I get in there?” I pointed at the pub. “He is not going to rob me. He is pretending to rob me to scare those three fuckwits who are full of acid. It will be fun!”
The policemen looked at each other, shrugged and then let Billy free.
“Come and watch through the other door and see it, if you don’t believe me,” I hissed.
The policemen must have been as bored as me because they agreed and Billy once more pulled the tights over his face, watched as the two policemen ran to the other door on the other side of the building.
They opened the door quietly and peeped through, unnoticed by the three acid heads who still hadn’t hit one ball and were stoned out of their skulls.
Billy kicked the door in and screamed: “Everyone on the fucking floor!”
The three guys didn’t even move, they all stood stock still and stared at the ceiling.
I stifled a giggle and then Billy ran at Ike. He fired the gun at his head. A huge bang went off and Ike dropped to the floor in his best acting skills.
I screamed for effect.
Then Billy demanded that I hand over the money. I had a big bag prepared and held it over and Billy then shot me. The gun noise failed this time and Billy actually shouted “Bang” to make up for the lack of noise!
I fell behind the bar and lay there like dead.
I managed to fall in a position on the floor where I could still see the three pool-playing acid heads.
They hadn’t even moved! They were all staring at the fucking ceiling.
Billy held the gun over towards the three guys and shouted: “You saw fuck all or you die!”
None of them spoke. They all stood stiffly and stared upwards, not moving, not breathing, not looking anywhere but the same spot on the ceiling that they had been visually fixated with since the robbery began.
Billy ran out. At that moment Nancy the biting dog ran in, she took one look at the bodies on the floor, the men staring at the ceiling, she was totally confused and headed straight for the other door for a quick exit.
I had never seen that dog looked so scared in my life!
At the other door she saw the two policemen on their knees peeping through the door. She finally got her victims, leapt and bit one viciously on the head and made off into the street. Barking as she went.
The policeman screamed, fell into the pub which by now resembled an elaborate game of statues and the three acid trippers dropped to the floor when they saw the policeman in uniform.
They huddled together under the pool table and clung to each other like doomed men on the Titanic.
I leapt to my feet and clapped my hands, laughing loudly. The three men under the pool table screamed like girls.
Ike got up and hugged me and we both took a bow. The three men screamed again. This time one fainted and the other two screamed more.
The policeman ran around looking for the dog and demanded the first aid box.
Billy came running in carrying the money bag and laughed at the policeman with the bleeding head and watched the remaining two acid boys scream and scream over and over again. The noise was deafening. Ike and I were laughing our heads off and commenting on each others fantastic ‘death’ positions.
At that point, my father-in-law came into the pub and tried to make sense of the chaos.
“What the fuck is going on?” he shouted over the noise.
“George, it looks bad but here’s what happened. Billy, Ike and I decided to pretend to be robbed to freak out the junkies, the police watched on for a laugh, but one of them got attacked by Nancy the biter and Ike and I pretended to be dead, then Billy ran back in and the guys under the pool table are really scared…funny eh?”
“Why?” he merely asked, his arms outstretched.
I looked around at the frenzied scene and said quietly: “I was bored”.
The three acid trippers lay under that pool table for nearly an hour and could not be coaxed out till the drug finally left their system. The policemen drove off to the local emergency hospital to get a tetanus jag for the injured cop and Ike, Billy and I decided that acting was a great job and one day I should write a play about the pub.
“Maybe when I get bored enough” I smiled.
And one day I did!_