Longform

Churchill's Pub: An Oral History

Page 6 of 8

De Hellion: The guy ended up catering my wedding.

Rat Bastard: It turns out the guy is a supernice guy with three kids, but the music just made him nuts. He came in and apologized and bought me a beer. I was like, "Yeah, don't worry about it."

Toth: And then he was in Rat's band the next week.

Violence is often self-inflicted at Churchill's. One of the pub's most infamous moments is Chuck Loose's self-immolation stunt, which went very wrong — and it was all caught on VHS.

Loose: So yes, I was in this band called Chickenhead, and we were very, very self-destructive. One day, I made this really brilliant plan to light myself on fire during a show. I'd visited New York and seen this band called Fifth Column, a weird industrial group, and the singer burned his hair. So I was like, "That's such a great idea!" At the time, I was living in a house with a pool in the backyard. So I tried it out by dousing my shirt in lighter fluid, setting myself on fire, then jumping in the pool to put out the flames. After, I thought, "Well, OK. That wasn't so bad. I'll just jump off the Churchill's stage and roll around and it'll go out." Obviously, that was the hubris of youth... Basically, I went through the routine that I'd practiced, dousing myself in lighter fluid, lighting my T-shirt on fire, and letting it burn for a little bit. But at a certain point, I realized, "Oh, this isn't good." So I pulled my flaming shirt over my head, scorching off my eyebrows. I ended up with a few third-degree burns on my body too. So I had to go to the hospital, which was also awesome, because I had to explain why I was wearing makeup and all this silly punk-rock gear and how I managed to barbecue my chest and face. The nurse asked, "Where were you?" And I was like, "Churchill's." She just kinda looked at me and walked away. She already knew the place's reputation. But we're talking about Churchill's. And in context, lighting yourself on fire was no big deal.

Toth: I think Chuck got banned because of that, but obviously, he's played like 900 times since.

Loose: Well, when I lit myself on fire, the sound guy told me that I was banned for life. But he got fired like a week later. So my ban for life was dissolved. Then I rode a motorcycle on the stage. And this other sound guy told me that I was banned for life. But he got fired like a month later. So my ban for life was dissolved. Again.

Bowe: You have to do an awful lot at Churchill's to actually get banned for life.

Elena Davila, bar manager and former Jell-O wrestler: It's really more like a suspension. Nicky will tell them to come back in ten days.

Mr. C: We're old-school. We have a tussle with someone. We usually won't hold a grudge.

Rat Bastard: People have been banned for throwing bottles.

Davila: The most recent one was somebody that went to the bathroom and broke a pipe glass over somebody's head while they were pissing.

Bowe: The true banning for life is Dave caught somebody pouring their own beers one night. And that's a no-no at Churchill's. I think they got a quarter of a cup out of the tap, and they're banned for life. The whole time I've been here, that's the only time I've seen Dave drag someone out by the scruff of the neck.

Mr. C: And the truth is nobody wants to be banned. Because your mates are still gonna come here. There's no loyalties. Your friends will choose Churchill's before you.

The line "Only at Churchill's" is no bullshit. Or, well, maybe, it does involve actual poo.

Loose: One of my most vivid Churchill's memories is a turd, just rising on a wave, like it was coming after me, as the toilet overflowed.

Rimada: Has someone talked about the chicken in the trees? In the past, they only had all those chairs in the back. It was this dark place for people to do drugs and other illicit shit. You go back there and you'd see eggshells on the floor. It was just bizarre. You would look up through the moonlight and the weird streetlight yellow glow pouring through the trees, you'd see these chickens just chilling up there. Why the fuck was this chicken in the tree laying eggs? It was the kind of thing that could only happen at Churchill's.

De Hellion: They would go up in the tree, and you had to be careful when you'd sit out in the back patio, because they'd shit on you.

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Liz Tracy and S. Pajot