Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Pat Guarino

It was hard to tell which the Cat’s Meow was more: a swinger’s club or a dive bar.

It was one of those chicken or egg type questions. Or, as the proprietor liked to put it, 
“Silly questions people ask themselves when they should be screwin’ instead.”

The Cat’s Meow occupied a decent sized house, set back from the road a bit and remodeled into a restaurant. The parking lot was the paved over yard, and was mostly empty except on weekends.

Like any dive bar, there were regulars, and something of them could be pretty eccentric, even for a sex club. One of them had a fastidious cleaning fetish and go attack the bathrooms, which worked out well for everyone.

The only really odd regular was Bob. That’s what they called him at least, no one ever got his name. He’d show up a few times a week, order a pitcher of beer, and sit in the corner avoiding eye contact with everyone.

Some one once suggested that Bob might not’ve been entirely aware of the sort of place the Cat’s Meow was, and thought everyone else was off their rocker.

But that couldn’t possible have been true.


Memphis Note
The Cat’s Meow was one of those places that flew under the radar of everyone that wasn’t looking for a place like that. It was out of the way, quiet, and unassuming. Problem was, Memphis cops were stopping in to “keep an eye on the place” and the Commercial Appeal got wind of it. They ran an expose, the city and the department were embarrassed, and the owner of the property evicted the Cat’s Meow. The building is a rib shack now. Keep that in mind if you ever stop in to eat there.

Matt Farr

Tossing a pair of dead forties into the trash can, she does a visual sweep of the crowd, checking for anything or anyone that needs immediate attention.

She’s not looking for empty drinks – in her place, people can come up to the bar to get their own damn drinks – but rather, looking to see if anyone’s had a few too many.

Satisfied that she’s not about to have to break up a fist fight or mop puke off the dance floor, she heads into the back to check the night’s take so far.

And like most nights, it isn’t as good as it need to be.

She looks up at the certificate a local magazine had given Wild Bill’s for being a legendary institution of Memphis nightlife and sighs.

Being a local legend doesn’t pay your bills, doesn’t keep the lights on.

Hipster kids from Rhodes tossing out bad puns like “soulidified” that drink their weight in cheap beer keep the lights on.

Regulars that know there way around the place better than she does keep the lights on.

But with economy like it is, there are less and less of both.

At least the band plays no matter what.

Memphis Note
Wild Bill’s claims to be the last true juke joint in the Delta. I find it hard to argue with that assertion. Serving naught but 40s, wings and set-ups, and with the best house band in town, Bill’s is the sort of place you’d expect to find in a movie. But, like most hole-in the wall places, the margins are slim and any big disaster could push them over the edge. They nearly closed down a while back after a storm did some major damage to the bar. The doors are still open, though. And the band is still playing.

Zack Parks

The devil liked it at the P&H Cafe. It had just the right mix of desperation, desire and crushing defeat that made his job so much easier.

It didn’t hurt that the stuffed burgers were hedonistically sinful, either

He looked around the smokey room, running his tongue over his teeth. It was early yet, so the pickings were still rather slim.

A group of comics were off in a corner, bumming cigarettes from each other and arguing over who’s turn it was to refill the pitcher. Dangle fame in front of them, and they’d turn on each other in a second.

In the booth behind them, a young filmmaker poked a timidly at his laptop, trying to catch the same bolt of lightning that Craig Brewer bottled here. And for a price, the devil could give it to him.

As the night wore on, more would flow in. More souls with more temptations.

The Poor and the Hungry, indeed.

What an absolutely perfect name for these people and this place.

If the devil ever dared to imagine his version of heaven, it would probably be a lot like this.

He ordered one of those stuffed burgers and settled in.

Memphis Note
The P&H has been the womb of and dashing rocks for many great artistic dreams in Memphis. The cheap beer, greasy food, and morally lax atmosphere has drawn in local creatives for years, and shows no sign of ceasing.

Shawn Wolowicz

Eric was a dozen beers and a half pack of smokes into his “I got fired and dumped in the same week” bender when he spied the neon glow of the slot machines in the side room of the bar.

He got up from his stool, wobbling a bit at first, and made his way back to the machines. They were old, but not ancient, with gaudy tumblers covered in cherries, 7s, and dollar signs. To the side, the money slot glowed green, egging him on.

Why not. Not like his luck could get any worse.

He fed the machine a buck, and pulled the lever. There was a thunk and an acrid smell of wires melting as the tumblers began to spin.

The first 7 locked in, then the second, and then the final one. Bell and whistles erupted as he hit the jackpot.

“Hey! What are you doin’ back here!” Yelled the bartender from behind him.

“I won!” Eric said, pointing at the slot machine.

The bartender looked him over and snarled, “You a cop?”

Confused, Eric shook his head. “No, not a cop.”

The bartender snarled again, saying, “Machines are for novelty use only. Now get out.”

Memphis Note
If you ever see a slot machine in the back of a Memphis bar, stay away from it. It probably works, and will probably take your money, but there’s no way you’re going to be getting anything out of it. Several Memphis bars, including the Buccaneer, were shut down when the police discovered they had illegal slot machines in the back. They were operating them like a private back room poker game, only with slot machines instead of cards. Which seems a whole lot more boring to me.

Scott Brown

He scraped his fingernails across the flecking paint of the concrete walls, like they were a long lost lover’s back.

“You know, this place might be the most important, longest lived, absolute disaster in Memphis music history.” McGehee said aloud. The balding, impatient building manager was the only other person with him. Those words weren’t for him, though. They were McGehee’s eulogy for the dead and rotting Antenna Club.

“If you took a track from every band that every played that stage, you’d probably have the greatest mix tape in, well, ever.”

“I don’t know ‘bout all that.” Shrugged the building manager, unconvinced. “I’m more of a country guy. That punk stuff just sounds like noise to me.”

McGehee looked back at him with a devilish grin. “We had country. Rap, too. Anything that was worth a damn, we booked. For fifteen long, smokey, hungover, bloodshot years, the cultural heart of America beat in this room.”

“If this place is so important, why’re you shuttin’ it down?” There was a mocking tone in the man’s voice that was impossible to miss.

McGehee grabbed his black leather jacket from the back of a bar stool. “It just went sour, that’s all.”

Memphis Note
The Antenna Club opened in the early 80s as a venue to cater to the burgeoning punk scene. It became a regional fixture for touring acts in the years that following, blossoming into the sort of place where bands that are now legendary would cut their teeth. But, nothing lasts forever. When the crowds dwindled, the Antenna Club was forced to shut its doors in the mid-90s. It is fondly remembered with regular reunion shows at various local clubs, including one that occupies the same space the Antenna once did.