Churchill's Pub: An Oral History

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Daniels: I was tempted at times to say, "Rat, do you think we could bend this a little, do a little more of that and a little bit less of this?" But the way that Rat created this movement [laughs] ... I don't call it music. Maybe some form of entertainment.

Tent: It was definitely a magical time because we had a whole little scene going on. So many great bands like Prom Sluts, the Morbid Opera, and non-punk rock people like Leo Casino, a Liberty City band. There were a couple of exiled hippies in town, and they would do their thing and had a sort of anarchist political bent. It was really a case of anything goes.

Pickett: At Churchill's, it was never just punk. It was independent music, and not only rock. There was a whole influx of University of Miami jazz people, and they did a very avant-garde thing. That's why the place was so infectious. No band ever went into Churchill's thinking, "Oh man, I have to play this and nothing except this."

Rob Elba, member of the Holy Terrors and co-creator of Hearing Damage: The Rat Opera: There were other clubs that weren't like that, like Rose's or Stephen Talkhouse. Like with the Holy Terrors, both those places we only played once 'cause they said we were too loud. Churchill's was the only place where everyone could play.

Franklin: Everybody played at Churchill's, bands like I Don't Know, the Goods, Diane Ward, Matthew Sabatella.

Daniels: There was a sort of genre of music that developed here. Sometimes they would turn up if nothing was happening, and say, "Dave, we haven't got anywhere to rehearse. Can we rehearse out back?" And I would say, "Sure." They would buy a couple of beers. Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, Harry Pussy, Trash Monkeys, this sort of off-the-wall, extreme stuff that really no one wanted.

Loose: Every Thursday with Rat Bastard was a total boon for the punk rockers, because if you wanted to have a show at Churchill's, you could almost always do it on that night. He would let nearly anybody play before he did his own thing. That was your shot.

Franklin: I remember my first show. I was brought in by Rat, and he was like, "If you're going to play in Miami, you're going to play at Churchill's." I got up there and there were like two people in the audience. It was probably 1 a.m., and it felt incredibly unsafe.

Elba: The early '90s you literally felt like you were taking your life in your hands... When I hear people say it's in a bad neighborhood now, I'm like, "You don't even know what it was like back in the early '90s."

Loose: When I discovered the place, I was like, "Oh, OK. This is interesting." But I was never afraid. Of course, I was very young, so maybe I was just too naive.

Roger Rimada, former Monotract member: People think Churchill's looks like shit now, they should have seen it back then, in 1996. I was in there in the daytime to drop off a demo. It was 2 o'clock, and even in the daytime, it was a really intimidating place. It was a dark and dank place with three or four barflies just sitting there, and it smelled like Churchill's smells. Now it's like a nice Churchill's. Back then, it was a total fucking dump.

Toth: I would fall in love with the street people and kind of be mad at Dave for how he may have treated them. But I went home, and Dave had to live with these people every day. I was here once a month, and I'm glorifying Bob White. In the end, Dave has been very fair to those people too.

Elba: Bob White? He was a guy who was always there. Dave never really liked him because he'd bum off people to get a drink. But he was a really nice, sweet guy. The weirdest thing about Bob White is he has the most fucked-up handshake. I could never shake his hand. You never knew what to do.

Toth: Another [regular at the bar] is Joaquin, a Cuban refugee who for many years during the '90s and the early 2000s worked Churchill's parking lot as the official portrait-drawer. Everyone at one time just thought Joaquin drew the same person. And people would keep their Joaquin, but I had decided I'm gonna collect these and make sure there's something different, it's not the same chick with big tits or the same dude. And I've come to find out he was really drawing these people and at least putting in a little time... My joke is that Joaquin saved all his money from the 2 million portraits he drew and is now the new owner of Churchill's.

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Liz Tracy and S. Pajot