There’s a couple of little slices of Fan District history now available at YouTube. The Texas-Wisconsin Border Café was a popular Fan District watering hole, a quirky saloon that served Tequila, Pabst Blue Ribbons, bratwursts and bowls of outrageously hot chili to the willing — white collars, blue collars and no collars, alike — for 17 […]
There’s a couple of little slices of Fan District history now available at YouTube.
The Texas-Wisconsin Border Café was a popular Fan District watering hole, a quirky saloon that served Tequila, Pabst Blue Ribbons, bratwursts and bowls of outrageously hot chili to the willing — white collars, blue collars and no collars, alike — for 17 years (1982-99). On Saturday afternoons live music was presented.
Jim Bradford seated in the “power corner.” (1997)
After The Border closed, I wrote a piece about the place for Richmond.com.
The Border was the last of a certain breed of long-gone Fan District saloons that occasionally featured live music as a part of their fare: The Back Door, J. W. Rayles, and The Jade Elephant among them. When one considers that none of the aforementioned establishments lasted even 10 years, The Border’s 17 years seems all the more praiseworthy.
It had been rumored that The Border was for sale for years, but what isn’t these days?
When Bradford, a painter and VCU professor, died in the summer of 1997, the future of the place became much more complicated. Of the three, Bradford was the one who probably spent the most time bellied up to the bar. Or, if you prefer, “overseeing operations.” I doubt anyone (owner, staff, or patron) enjoyed The Border’s ability to provide sanctuary from the sometimes daunting reality of the ’90s more than Bradford.
Click here to read the 1999 article.
As it closed, I shot some S-VHS video tape of the process, itself. This past week, I’ve edited the converted-to-digital video footage into a 15-minute documentary.
“Closing The Border: Part One” (seven minutes) shows the last night of The Border’s operation under its original ownership — Donna Van Winkle, Joe Seipel and Jim Bradford (who died two years before this occasion). A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” as he marched slowly out the front door, into the mists of forever.
“Closing The Border: Part Two” (eight minutes) shows The (Burnt) Taters performing and the auctioning off of The Border’s wild collection of art and artifacts from its walls. It was a scene like no other I’ve witnessed. Now you can see a little of what I mean.
Sorry most of the picture is dark, but it was all shot in available light — cinema vérité style — so as to not change what was happening by pointing bright lights at everyone’s face.
“Closing The Border: Part One” — click here.
“Closing The Border: Part Two” — click here.
At YouTube, notice the option to click on High Quality to play the video. It helps.
And, speaking of old Fan District bars closing, in 1983 a short-lived rock ‘n’ roll venue/restaurant called the 538 Club closed in an usual manner — with the help of some willing beer-loving patrons the club’s management totally wrecked the place.
The scenes in front of and inside the bar, which was on Harrison St., were shot the day the proprietors lost their beer license in the spring of 1983. They decided to just give away what beer was left, because they were out of business.
Once word got around the neighborhood, the free beer drew quite a crowd. Eventually that momentum led to a spontaneous, massive graffiti treatment to the outside of the building, then the total trashing of the interior of the club.
This three-minute film was assembled using old Super 8 footage that was transferred to video over 20 years ago, then recently converted to digital. The soundtrack is borrowed from R. Crumb’s Keep-on-Truckin’ Orchestra (1972); the tune is “Wisconsin Wiggles.”
Other footage was shot at High on the Hog parties on Libby Hill, between 1980 and 1983. Those viewers who were part of the local rock ‘n’ roll scene in those days will recognize lots of faces in this collection of moving snapshots.
Click here to hop aboard the YouTube time machine to see “Flashback: Don’t Walk.”
– Words, art and film by F.T. Rea