We met Research Assistants Tracey and Laura for some cheap happy-hour beers ($1.50 domestic bottles on Wednesdays). Located in the old Fenton's building, across from the Gap in Town Center Plaza on 119th Street, the bar is a sleek paean to the sports-immersion experience, with its plethora of TVs (including small screens with Internet access at each table), memorabilia-slathered walls, and a broadcast booth for the WHB 810 crew. The majority of the crowd on a recent Wednesday night was pretty much what we expected for Leawood: families, frat-looking duders, sorostitutes. A trio of JoCo matrons with identically cropped ash-blond hair threw back Cosmopolitans while their male counterparts jovially and loudly talked about business. We edged away from that group and went in search of people who looked cool.
We soon found 'em; Dustin, 23, and Eddie, 25, were sitting off at a side table. It turned out that they worked at 810, Dustin as a server and Eddie as a bartender -- they told us that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the hot nights there (on Tuesdays, martinis and wine are half-price). We asked these two veterans of the bar industry about the most random thing they've seen while on the job.
"Well, at Waldo Bar and Grill, a couple was getting drunk. Then the guy was dry-fingering the girl," Eddie said. We gave him a blank look while trying to figure out the logistics of that particular move.
"Over her jeans," he explained. Oh, that! "I looked over. It was, like, is this really happening?"
We asked if the woman seemed to be enjoying the act, and Eddie assured us that she was. He impersonated the chick making the O-face and panting. (All we could say to that was: eewww.)
We then changed the subject and asked Eddie if he got a lot of play, being a bartender and all.
"I get hit on, but nothing really comes of it. That's a big myth," he said.
Dustin mentioned that he's also a musician (he's the lead singer in a band), so we asked whether it was easier to pick up as a musician or a server.
"Musician, definitely," he said. Well, we're glad to hear that particular myth still holds up. Illusions still intact, we moved on to the next table, where Brian, 22, and Brady, 22, sat. These two good-lookin' guys met through their fraternity (Phi Delta Theta) at the University of Kansas. Brian just finished his last week in summer school (major: psychology) and is about to go to grad school at Washburn for criminal justice, and Brady is studying history (focusing on U.S. history). We asked how the dating scene was at KU.
"There is a dating scene?" Brady asked.
"It's called the bar pickup scene," Brian said sardonically.
Because Brian has a girlfriend -- and because we were at a sports bar -- we directed our next question to Brady. "So," we asked, "in the past week, what's the furthest base you've gotten to?"
"In the past week? Nothing," he said. "I haven't gotten to warm up. I haven't even been on the on-deck circle," he said and laughed. "The week's not over yet, though." That's the attitude, slugger. You can be our ball boy anytime.
Next up: Lenny, 29, and Nick, 22. We were walking away from Brian and Brady's table when Lenny smiled and said hi. They were curious about the note-taking, so we explained what we were doing. After we chit-chatted about the Chiefs, we got on the topic of hookups -- particularly the hazards of the office romance.
Nick admitted having had such a fling last year. When we pressed for details, all he said was, "It was awkward. It was just one of those things that happened. I saw her at work the next day, and it's like, 'Hey, how you doin'? How 'bout them Chiefs?'"
"Was alcohol involved?" we asked, kinda sorta knowing the answer anyway.
"For restaurant people, when is alcohol not involved?" Nick replied. (Both guys work at Chili's.) You could say the same for journalists, too.
We then asked both guys about their slugging percentage for the past week. Both said they'd barely made first base.
"I'm a good Catholic boy," Nick explained. Oh, we know about those Catholic boys, all right, but we left it at that and moved on.
We'd been pretty guy-centric in our interviews, so we chatted with Emily, 23, and Ingrid, 25. These two sorority sisters (Delta Gamma, Washburn) were waiting to pay their bill; they usually meet for dinner and drinks every few weeks to catch up and "gossip a little bit," Emily said.
Then, trouble came in the form of a manager in a bright-green shirt.
"I need to talk to you," he said, putting a hand on the Night Ranger's back.
"OK!" the NR chirped, and turned back to continue the interview. Green Shirt came back a second time and put his hand on her back again. "I need to talk to you -- now."
Penalties on Green Shirt: Encroachment, illegal use of the hands. First off, the Night Ranger really doesn't like it when strangers touch her. This came off as patronizing to her; if she were a male reporter, would he have touched her? We think not.
Steve, the manager in the bright-green shirt, drew the NR off to the front foyer and explained that he knew that she was with the Pitch (we hadn't told him that) and that she couldn't talk to patrons without clearing it with corporate.
Corporate? We thought 810 was locally owned. He explained that KC Hopps was 810's overlord. And, no, we couldn't interview Steve, either, without corporate consent. Which begs the question: What good is being locally owned if you still have to clear things with the boss down the street? We felt like the Judith Miller of KC. (OK, not really -- we understand that restaurants do have the right to ask people to leave, but we've never had a problem with that in the two-plus years we've been writing this column.)
Penalties on 810: Unsportsmanlike conduct, offensive interference. Oh, well. All we hope now is that the Chiefs won't disappoint us, either.