Fly By Night Club; A palace of sin;
You won't come out; The way you went in."
Charlie was like Alaska's Donald Trump. Except
that while "The Donald" was building lavish ritzy
hotels and casinos on the East Coast, "The Charles"
was building fast food franchises, mini-storage complexes,
and singles bars in Spenard.
In 1979 Charlie owned the nightclub on the lake,
and everything he had ever touched had turned to gold until
now. There were two operations in the same building--The Flying
Machine Disco was going great guns, and The Red Baron Hamburger
Restaurant wasn't. The manager of The Red Baron had once managed
a Wendy's, and his idea of the greatest possible business
venture was to copy a Wendy's without paying for the franchise.
(That explains why he wound up living in Alaska.) He said
it couldn't lose. It was gone in a matter of weeks, and nothing
else had worked in that half of the building.
I, Mr. Whitekeys, had played music at the wedding
of Charlie and his wife. The marriage was still doing just
fine, so one day he said, "Kid, you want the keys to
a hopeless operation?" That was the birth of The Fly
By Night Club--formerly The Idle Hour, The Lakeshore Club,
VFW Post 1689, The Fancy Moose, The Red Baron, The Flying
Machine Mexican Restaurant, The Co-Pilot Club, and The Oar
House. Our motto was "Going out of business in the same
location for over 30 years." The Fly By Night Club opened
on July 31, 1980.
Mr. Whitekeys, had no bar business training, education or
experience, so it was the perfect Alaskan operation. It was
a sleazy bar in the sleaziest part of a sleazy town. We added
to the menu a couple of months after we opened. At the time,
we had a provisional health permit because the kitchen service
was very limited. When we added Spam®
to the menu, the Health Department required a full fee permit.
The inspector explained, "You have to pay more now that
you are serving a hazardous substance."
Everything soon fell into place--the house special
had to be Champagne and Spam®.
You get any Spam®
dish on the menu for half price with any bottle of fine champagne,
is FREE with Dom Perignon. There's even a "Frequent Spam®mer"
card--buy ten and you get one free. What else could you expect
from the home of "Spam®,
Booze, Rhythm and Blues?" You couldn't lose during The
Pipeline Days in Alaska. It was a legendary time. People were
rich and crazy, and they didn't have a clue that this wasn't
normal everywhere else in the world. Anchorage bars were full
of revelers seven nights a week until 5 o'clock in the morning,
and they were forced to close for three long dry hours until
8 a.m. The first $100 bottle of Dom Perignon we ever sold
was purchased by a Pipeline worker who grabbed it by the neck,
chugged half, and the passed the rest around the dance floor.
In 1984, the building on the lake was torn down
to make room for The Clarion Hotel which later became The
Regal Alaskan and The Millenium Hotels. We took EVERYTHING
from the soon-to-be-demolished building and moved it to our
current location at 3300 Spenard Road. We took the sinks,
the ice machines, the kitchen equipment, the doors, the toilet
stalls- everything was moved and re-installed in a Spenard
building that had once been Spenard Plumbing, Hank's Hardware,
The Kirby Vacuum Store, and The Hangar 18 Video Game Parlor.
From the beginning, the music was incredible. Jazz by Mose
Allison, Jay McShann, and Ben Sidran. Blues legend Memphis
Slim came from Paris to sing "If You See Kay." There
was zydeco with Queen Ida, bluegrass with The Red Clay Ramblers,
thoroughly insane cowboy yodelling with The Riders In The
There were legendary times in Spenard like Fisherman's
Night. You had to wear streamside apparel, and there was a
casting contest to see who could drop a fly into a Margarita
from 50 feet. There was Secretary's Night when throngs of
ladies brought office supplies and equipment to be crushed
under a 10 ton steam roller driven by Hank The Asphalt King.
An 8 X 10 glossy of Barry Manilow was run over with two bottles
of white-out and a loaf of Spam®.
It still adorns the club wall.
Everyday we go to work surrounded by three hundred
cases of beer, stacks of Spam®,
and piles of T-shirts that read, "Skinny Dick's Halfway
Inn." We play rock and roll and tell bathroom jokes we
remember from the sixth grade. That may not be the loftiest
goal in the world, but it's more productive than anything
the Alaska Legislature has done lately.