On a Friday night, we were hanging out with Research Assistants Laura, David, Cece and John when Jimmy, the bar's owner, spotted our notebook and came over to introduce himself. Clad in a red fleece jacket emblazoned with longhorn-head skulls, he was outgoing and had a manic, boisterous way of speaking.
"You're here too early," he exclaimed. "I've been open four weeks and have had three grand openings!" Crappy weather delayed the opening ceremonies, he said. It also prompted him to tell us about his fascination with Gary.
Granted, his obsession isn't of the "I've got a storm front in my pants" stripe. It's mainly because Jimmy is Lezak's not-so-evil doppelgänger. We saw the resemblance once he pulled his mop of curly brown hair back and pushed his ears forward a bit. He told us that, right after he bought the Lava Room in 1999 from former Kay Barnes lackey Joe Serviss, Jimmy went up to Skies for a celebratory drink. Also at the hotel was a weather convention; that's when he was first told that he looks like Lezak. He loves dogs, too. "They're not named after the weather," he added with mock disdain. "They're not Stormy, Windy, Blowy or Tornadic."
Jimmy then went back to bouncing around the bar, and we secured a high-top table by the front windows, which offered a lovely view of the Walgreens on 39th Street. A couple of research assistants were a bit skeptical about the new place, which seemed to be going for the Blonde sector of humanity and was the antithesis of the laid-back Lava Room. The room was spacious and sparse, and a black light made the sheer white curtains glow while causing jeans to appear acid-washed. A small, square bar in the middle of the room glowed dimly under the red, Saturn-shaped lights hung above its countertop. Under the glass top of the bar was a cool broken-glass display illuminated by red Christmas lights. In one corner, a semisecluded alcove featured plush seating, perfect for making out.
The liquor selection upstairs was small, and there was no beer on tap, so we ordered the lamest, girliest drink ever: pineapple juice and Malibu rum. The floor had just been painted, too, and we nearly walked out of our shoes a couple of times. "We're calling it Glue tonight," Jimmy quipped.
Naturally, with a name like Glow, the bar plans to book a host of DJs and will have deep house on the weekends as well as funk and retro on Thursdays. On the night of our visit, DJ Roland spun a variety of stuff Depeche Mode's "World in My Eyes" bled into Madonna's "Music." A woman with capri leggings and a cast on one shin danced next to a guy in '80s-inspired garb: blazer, sunglasses and skinny jeans that showed some ankle. We had to meet him, so after he sat down, we went over and introduced ourselves to Gunter. We admired 24-year-old Gunter's black-velvet blazer. On the back was a strip of hot-pink rickrack and his name spelled out in big, kelly-green letters. He sat next to 21-year-old Mel, whose shirt proclaimed, "I get mine on campus." Gunter explained his just-legal tablemate: "She's so fresh-meat, it's not even funny."
Gunter and Mel live in Lawrence and work together at a production company. They occasionally venture to KC to go out, but until tonight, they'd been dissatisfied with some of the bars they'd hit. "This town is sort of fabulous, but it needs color," Gunter said. "We need a place where you can wear a mascot suit or a 17th-century Dracula costume." We've been dying to break out our Sluggerrrette costume for years.
Just then, a gaggle of chicks in black tube tops and jeans made their grand entrance. "It's the attack of the 5-foot-5 blondes!" cried RA Cece. They were spurred to dance by Kelis' "I'm Bossy" and sexobeats from Justin Timberlake. One of the women, a blonde who pinned her bangs back to form a serious ledge, started doing this funky move that involved making her knees move inward and outward really fast.
We went over to chat them up but had to wait while two of the women groped the boob of a third as they posed for a picture. They all work together at a gym in Columbia. Liz, a 38-year-old from KC, played tour guide. We asked if Liz had any good KC bar stories. "I'm getting more attention than I ever expected at the age of 38," she said. "From 35, it's gone uphill. It's kind of great."
The bar started filling up with an assortment of interesting people, many of whom were Lava Room regulars. We chatted up 42-year-old Tony, who not only met his girlfriend downstairs but also told us about being part of the Boyz, a mixed-gender group of regulars who bonded through the Lava Room. We also met Ted McKnight, a Chiefs running back from 1977 to '83. He knows Jimmy through friends. He couldn't say which coach he liked the best. "I've played for John Madden, Marv Levy and Chuck Knox. How am I supposed to choose from three Hall of Fame coaches?"
At least there's only one Gary Lezak. And if we were Gary, we'd predict a slow warming trend for Glow as long as the Blonde front holds off.