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Steve comes out of bar. Stops. Al walks up to Steve.
Steve: Al Latta, you better be ready. It's packed there.
Al: Well forget about the front walk me around.
Cameras start rolling on a Monday night, his night off. At stage left, Nick, wearing a white golf cap, and his friend Dan, a heavyset guy in a plaid shirt, sit at a table cluttered with empty beer bottles. At stage right, Latta stands in his usual shimmering outfit. Deep wrinkles crease his face. His outsized shadow falls along the wall behind him.
This isn't his movie. For the past hour, an independent film crew has been shooting takes for a movie called Bust, a "raunchy sex comedy" about a woman whose dating life is impaired by her obsession with other women's big boobs.
The director, Kris Stankiewicz, is a short blonde in a slinky blue dress. While attending college in Los Angeles, she spent the early '90s working as an extra on Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210. She moved back to Johnson County after finishing graduation, and then to a downtown loft last April. That's when she discovered the Cigar Box.
"I live downtown, so I want to make a movie that feels like it revolves around downtown," she says.
She had originally planned to shoot at a standard dive like Kelly's, but she realized while celebrating her 34th birthday at the Cigar Box in December that the dynamic of the club had changed. "It was a very young crowd," she says. "It was almost getting trendy."
She decided that having an old-school lounge singer in a sex spoof could be the definition of hip. Ironically anachronistic.
Latta snaps his fingers, crooning as he saunters toward the table.
Someday, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you.
Nick takes a pull from a beer bottle. Dan looks down at his glass of soda. Reciting their lines, the two commiserate about how Dan's girlfriend has just left him. Stankiewicz stops the crew midscene, offering the actors more direction.
In the wings, two women in low-cut black dresses sit on a couch. Even though Stankiewicz has called cut and the camera has stopped, Latta approaches, microphone in hand. Bending over, he kisses one of them on the back of her hand. Then he finishes his song.
It's standing room only again. Color fliers advertising the Valentine's Day installment of "The Al Latta Show" have been placed beneath the glass at each place setting on each table: Limited seating. Make reservations now.
Clad in zebra-striped pants (switching blazers throughout the evening, as usual), Latta works the room. When a couple at the front bar offers him a shot, he takes it. When a guy in a Chiefs coat enters the bar and offers him a high-five, he nails it. After he changes into a white jacket, a waitress in go-go boots and a miniskirt spills a tray of drinks on him. He touches his chest and licks his fingers, smiling while improving the lyrics of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers":
I'm feeling all wet, and you wonder why,
I'm sitting here kinda cold from the drinks I've had spilled all night,
I keep singing through it all. No matter what, keep singing through it all,
I keep singing, and I'll be happy with life. If I did have my way, then I'd have my kid and my life,