Sure there are plenty of good reasons for a tobacco ban – long-term health benefits, sheltering your good bar clothes from stray burning ash. But without tobacco, we wouldn’t be as nearly attractive to artists such as Billy Bob Thornton. With the right word of mouth, maybe Kansas City could become a celebrity getaway like Aspen, only with more carcinoma.
We got our opportunity last Friday when the Sling Blade star stopped into Gilhouly’s on West 39th Street to find a place to smoke and have a beer.
That night’s bartender, 29-year-old Lisa Beach, said she didn’t recognize the crusty older guy in the gang of seven before he came up to the bar. “He said, ‘I’m Billy. Nice to meet you,’” Beach said. “I don’t think anyone really noticed, and I didn’t want to let anyone know so they wouldn’t swarm him.”
She’s clearly a great bartender for keeping it low key, but she's a questionable Kansas Citian for missing out on a chance to push Boulevard beer. Beach says Billy Bob stuck to bottled Bud Light before the crew headed downtown to get dinner.
From what Beach heard, the group of friends following Thornton was his band, the aptly named Billy Bob Thornton Band. Apparently they were on their way to a gig in Colorado and stopped overnight in Kansas City.
“They were looking for a place they could smoke and have a drink, and that was about it,” Beach said. “He didn’t actually say too much or push anything. One of the ladies he was with came up and gave me a couple of band pins. He did say it had been a long time since he’d seen a cigarette machine in a bar.”
Judging by the lyric quotes on Thornton’s music Web site, he’s got a thing for smokes. Try this one from the classic song "Dark and Mad": This cigarette burns like the pain in my soul/When the fire gets too hot, the ash turns to coal/The smoke tells a story that's sad, but it's true/It turns into a ghost that looks just like you.
Nic Bock, who was sitting at a booth across the way, says he would’ve approached Thornton if he'd known the actor was there. The 29-year-old Bock got a good look at the band, though. “They looked like the kind of people that would be in a band with Billy Bob Thornton,” he said. “Kind of older and Steve Vai-ish.”
When asked what he would’ve said if he had gone up to Thornton, Bock told the Pitch via e-mail: “Maybe you can share a little bit about Angelina, and I’ll share a little bit about TIFF packages gone wild. What do you say?”
Like any good rambling band of rockers, they left not long after they got there, though Thornton stopped for some photos with some lucky ladies on the way out.
So what was Bad Santa like in person?
“When I looked in his eyes, he had a very warming, welcoming presence,” Beach said. “And he was small. He was a very small guy.” -- Peter Rugg