Introduction

The Second Texas Coyote

Olive experiences the second coming; encounters models, bikers, Sky Rock, tequila, clubbing and being clubbed in Paris…

The Good: Coyote Reborn   
With success came even greater success…for awhile. I was doing quite well at Texas Coyote, well enough that when a three-floor, 6,000-square foot club space became available in the heart of Paris and only few blocks from the Louvre Museum, I decided it was time to expand my little empire. The second Texas Coyote would eventually include a restaurant, 3 bars, live bands, and for a brief period, pool tables. Our patrons would include a broad spectrum of people that included models from the Elite modeling agency, television and film stars, biker gangs, gypsies, rockers, kids from the suburbs, and a menagerie of other denizens of the night who somehow managed to get through their days in order to party in clubs all night. In Paris, it is possible to go out to clubs non-stop from Friday night until Tuesday morning, providing, of course, you don’t pass out first (actually, that’s not true. Like in the army, you don’t leave soldiers behind, even if they are passed out. You just take them with you and they’ll sleep in the car for the rest of the night and probably the next day).

The food and the décor were similar to the first Texas Coyote, basically what you might expect from a French dude just back from living in the United States, his head full of American Indians, Cadillacs, Elvis, hamburgers and turquoise jewelry. My fellow Parisians seemed to love the whole look and feel of the place, so different was it from anything else to be found in Paris in those days. By contrast, in Paris today there are American-style cocktail bars, barbecue restaurants, hamburger joints, and even American-style fast food restaurants. But before me and Texas Coyote, the only things truly American in Paris (Gene Kelly was retired) were McDonalds, some movies, and the U.S. Embassy.   

I opened in 1990, and as fate would have it, just when the Gulf War started and the United States began to be targeted by the Arab world. Of course, rather than downplaying the American connection as any sane, non-American person would do, I mounted a very large Stars & Stripes prominently in the front window and refused to take it down for love nor money (actually no one offered me either love or money, but if they had I’m sure I would have refused). During that time, we had one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks that France had had in years and we’ve had our share, believe me. As a result, there was police control everywhere, all armed with machine guns, and yet I never felt threatened owning an American restaurant in Paris, a fact that perhaps had more to do with my sanity (or lack thereof) and eternal optimism than the reality of the situation.

Despite there being a city-wide curfew during the early part of the year, as well as a slight drop in tourism in Paris during that time, we were an instant success, with people waiting for an hour or more to eat before they would head to the club downstairs at around 12:30 am. That’s when the bands would begin playing and would go on until 3 or 4 in the morning. After that we would close the place down and all of us, the whole late night crew, would go out to other clubs to party and check out the competition. As I said, you could party all weekend without stopping in Paris if you had the fortitude and enough money. If you came into Texas Coyote about 8:00 pm on any given night you would swear you had just entered a mortuary, but by 9-9:30 the place was packed. We could hold around 200-300 patrons at one time, depending I suppose on the average size of those people. For example, you could pack in a lot more models than bikers and it would be a lot better looking as a result. (What weighs more, a ton of super models or a ton of bikers?)

Americans loved coming to Texas Coyote too, of course, partly to feel more at home (even if they weren’t from Texas it was more like home than anything else in Paris) and partly because they loved the Margaritas and Tex-Mex foods like tostadas, giant platters of nachos, guacamole, and chips & salsa. We served all the Mexican beers and also a few American beers which further served to make our American patrons feel at home. Often there was a look of relief on the faces of American families as, after several days of museums and French bistro food, they tucked into their tacos and cold lager beer.  

We had live bands downstairs Wednesdays through Saturdays. The live bands were doing so well in fact, that I made the decision not to hire anymore dead bands. They would play cover songs from famous bands like Leonard Skynard, ZZ Top, the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Aerosmith and Bob Marley, and they would sing their lungs out with big French accents, something I didn’t notice until the English-speaking people would point it out to me with unmasked amusement (you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a band of Frenchmen singing, or should I say screaming “Sweet Home Alabama”). The bands loved playing at my club because if they were good they would get terrific exposure due to my association with Skyrock, the second national radio in France. I was a regular guest on the station and we even had a special high-speed phone line called a T1, so whenever I had a really hot band playing downstairs, or if I just wanted to be funny and stupid on live radio, I would call the station and in a few minutes they would put us on live for 5 to 7 minutes, long enough for one of the band’s numbers or for me to make a complete fool of myself. As a result, some of the best bands in Paris, and some of the best singers around today, were launched at Texas Coyote. It was great fun and as a benefit, everyone in Paris got to know me. Texas Coyote, to put it mildly, was hotter than a West Texas summer.

Just to give you a better idea of how well we doing, or at least how much we were selling, we had the number one sales in all of France of Cuervo Gold tequila, translating to about 400 bottles a month. Of course, at the time there were only three brands sold in France – Cuervo, Sauza and another private-label brand. We also went through 200-300 bottles of Absolut vodka each month (about five cases per week). It was no wonder because I had three floors, each with its own bar, and on weekends we were damn busy. I employed between two and three security guards every night, and they had some size to them. I’m sure you know the type. These were the kind of guys that have no necks, no separation at all between the head and shoulders, like giant thumbs with tiny slits for eyes. I always managed to get the best security because my business partner also owned the leading private security company in Paris at the time. In other words, I was almost untouchable, or at least to the point that nobody would fuck with me – that means gangs and unscrupulous competitors from other bars and clubs.

We also hosted theme nights. A friend of mine was a decorator for the TV and would come in during the day with set pieces and props, and by night the place would have been transformed into a night at the opera, the Moroccan Kasbah, an American jazz club, or Mardi Gras. Once we even had a special night for Bill Clinton’s election. For the opera nights we would invite students from the opera/music school. We would treat them to a free dinner and they would sing their hearts out all night. These theme nights attracted a lot of attention, especially since I had another friend who was head of the Elite modeling agency and he would routinely show up with several stunning beauties at his side; lovely gazelle-like creatures that would dance and mingle through the crowd like muses in miniskirts. Texas Coyote and yours truly were regularly featured in the hippest Parisian magazines, typically with me in the middle with a cowboy hat and my long hair streaming down on either side almost to my big, shiny Texas belt buckle (yes, I was a walking theme night).   

As I said, we were crushed, crazy busy. We were open from noon to 4 am in the heart of the city and eventually everyone knew about us, at least everyone that mattered. There just weren’t many places in Paris at the time that you could get a pitcher of margaritas and eat great Tex-Mex food while listening to really loud music. And you could dance, although preferably not while eating the nachos. We were doing very well, but unfortunately, our success did not go unnoticed.

The Bad: Racket Lessons
There is an old saying in the restaurant business that says a full restaurant will attract customers in a way that an empty one won’t. Unfortunately, this is also true of the hoods that invariably want to muscle in and offer you “protection.” They will follow the crowds and go where the money is. This goes on in any large city, of course, but in Paris it is just more obvious, and in many ways, more comical. First, you must understand that there exists a hierarchy within the “mafia” system; small fish, followed by the larger fish, and then even larger fish, and so on. The small fish and the larger fish don’t play well together so it is necessary to be able to recognize the big fish when you see them. In other words, if you pay the small fish, the bigger fish will be mad and want his share, which curiously turns out to be even more than you were paying the small fish. So if you are going to pay anyone, pay the biggest fish. There is no sense in wasting time or money.

We had only been open a few months when the first fish showed up. Of course, we didn’t want to give our money to the first fish coming in the door and just for fun we told them we wouldn’t pay them. We could tell they took it pretty bad but they didn’t do anything yet because the bar was still busy, but they promised they’d be back after we closed which was usually in the wee hours of the morning. We were a little scared but we knew our survival depended on our ability to prepare ourselves for their return. We knew that if we gave in now they’d own us forever and that it would cause even bigger problems with the bigger fish. We spent most of the evening running around the club gathering all the weapons we could find – kitchen knives, cast iron pans, and even a couple of baseball bats. We hid all our various weapons around the bar and out in the street in case we were dragged outside. There were weapons hidden underneath parked cars, inside garbage cans, alongside the curb, maybe 30 or 40 weapons stashed altogether. Yes, it was excessive, but come on reader, it was our first time and we were nervous. In the end, it was all for nothing because they never showed up. Perhaps they lost interest or perhaps they were scared off by bigger fish, but those fish at least didn’t come back. Later, we realized we had stashed so many weapons we couldn’t even find them all. If you happen to be walking in that part of Paris one day and see an iron skillet under a stairwell or an old rusty kitchen knife just inside the sewer drain, you’ll know why.
 
The Ugly: Trouble in Paradise
Having security in a club doesn’t mean you won’t encounter trouble. It just means you’ll likely have less trouble and if it comes, you can usually contain it quickly and move it outside before it gets too big. As a barkeeper in Paris, you will inevitably see trouble on the weekends, but it usually stops as quickly as it starts since, fortunately, most people are more interested in dancing, drinking and flirting than with fighting, but every once in a while you get big trouble, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see it coming.

One Saturday night (it’s always a Saturday night isn’t it) we had in the bar two rival biker clubs, a group of gypsies and another group of white boys from the suburbs, basically a recipe for disaster. One of the biker clubs was the famous Hell’s Angels and the other was a local Paris club, the name of which I don’t recall. Now as a rule we didn’t allow more than one biker club to be in the place at one time, because if you do, guess what? You guessed it, there would be fireworks. Also, biker clubs were not allowed to wear their “colors” inside the club for the same reason, colors being a slang term for the gang’s emblems that would be emblazoned on the back of their motorcycle jackets. There has always been slang in one form or another, but in Paris, especially since the war (World War II that is, some of you may have read about it), slang was a vital component in communications between gangsters. Using the secret language of slang they could talk freely on 2-way radios without fear of being understood by the police. In any case, for clubs to be admitted, they knew they had to leave their colors outside in their car (yes, some of them drove cars on the weekends and you’ll see why later in this chapter). Nevertheless, rival clubs would certainly recognize each other, with or without their colors. 

Somehow, on this particular night, the two clubs managed to both get inside before any of us could notice (it’s easier to keep them out than to get them out once they are inside). Everyone was drinking their new favorite beverages, tequila and mescal, when things began to heat up around 11:00. The two biker clubs were on the main floor and the gypsies and suburban boys were in the club downstairs. Voices began to get louder as the various groups began to, how should I say, interact or get to know one another. I could smell that the atmosphere in the club was beginning to change, going from sunny to cloudy, soon to be a major storm. I knew what was going to happen so I called for reinforcements. As it happened, my partner, the one who owns the security company, was working as dispatcher that night, but unfortunately, his closest patrol was at that moment racing to the Palace, a very big, very hot night club where he held a lucrative security contract. Apparently, the Palace was having difficulties with a bunch of troublesome little boys from the suburbs that were trying to be big boys with guns outside the club and trying to force their way into the club. Obviously, these kids didn’t have a clue about what or with whom they were dealing. Anyway, I was told it would be a good 45 minutes before they could get to my place so I knew that for now at least we would have to take care of things ourselves.

I don’t know if you have ever seen or been in a bar fight, but whether it’s big or small, it all happens very fast, typically 10 or 15 minutes from start to finish if you’re lucky. Bar fights are rarely planned; they just happen. First comes the grumbling, then the name calling, then the shoving, and then, unless it’s a bunch of posers, it erupts. Fists, bottles, chairs, other people, and anything else that isn’t nailed down are used as weapons. The noise is horrific and the action is never as neatly choreographed as it is in the movies. Even the best and most skilled fighters look ugly and desperate during a bar brawl. When it’s finally over – whether it’s because the police or someone else has broken it up or because everyone is too exhausted to continue or because all parties are dead – you stop and look around at the wreckage. That usually consists of overturned tables, broken windows, smashed glasses and bottles everywhere, and lest we forget, blood, lots of blood on the floor and on the chairs. Ah, good times, good times.

Napoleon said the enemy will only attack on one of two occasions – when you are ready and when you are not ready. Since a bar fight is rarely planned, you’re never really ready for it to happen, no matter how much you plan for it. Anyway, things were heating up quickly and fists and bottles were beginning to fly. I had two security guys on that night – one was downstairs in the club trying to stop the fight between the suburban boys and the gypsies, while the other was trying to contain the brawl between the bikers. I had already called the cops but knew that even if they did show up they were probably not going to be able to contain the fighting. They simply were not equipped to handle it, either tool-wise or size-wise. We were going to have to deal with it ourselves.

There was a central staircase that led from the club downstairs all the way up the first floor   (remember, in France, the first floor is what would be called the second floor in the States, or the first floor up from street level). The downstairs fight was beginning to move upward toward the main floor. Meanwhile, the bikers battling it out on the main floor were starting to move outside, leaving room for the amateur lightweights who were moving in. It was getting out of hand. I called my friend again to assess him of the situation and press upon him the urgency of sending help. I also called another friend, the patron of the gypsies in Paris, a self-imposed title, but like Napoleon who proclaimed himself emperor, it was justifiable. He was a regular patron of my place and always came in with 15 to 20 of the most important gypsies in France who were based in Paris. He had also become a good friend which I’ll explain later. He tells me he can’t believe that any gypsy would ever do anything wrong in my place without his knowledge because – at least in his mind – my place was his place and if they didn’t know it they soon would.

Because the fight had escalated so far, he said he couldn’t do anything about it now, but told me to collect “plates”, meaning license plates in the local parlance. I was way ahead of him. Any time I had big trouble in the place, I would always have one of my trusted staff or one of my loyal customers stay outside and discretely follow the attackers and get their license plate number. This did nothing to ease the situation, but it did allow us to pay them a visit later on their turf to bring flowers and other colorful tokens of our esteem. It’s called a courtesy visit and you never have to do it twice.

The situation was completely out of control. Some of the gypsy kids escaped and promised to come back with more guys. My security guys were feeling overwhelmed but stayed right in there. The police drove by slowly one time, then again, and then they drove away. Finally, the police van arrived with 6 officers, hardly enough at the time, and in fact, they seemed a little worried as they watched a group of 12 to 15 people smash their way through the front windows armed with baseball bats, chains and nun chucks, and stood frozen on the spot next to their bus like tourists in the red light district. Like any good French citizen, the guys bursting in through the window didn’t even care about the cops behind them and began making their way into the bar.

I had already at this point grabbed my shotgun that was always kept loaded with rubber bullets behind the bar. Armed and ready, I began to move toward the group, but before I had a chance to fire, help arrived in the form of a car from the security agency going the wrong way on our one-way street, a small car with a flashing blue light on top, something that is strictly forbidden if you are not from the police department. The cops, seeing the flashing light, got back in their truck and flew out of there just as the crowd of customers was spilling out onto the street because of all the action inside. The cops had no shame as they chose self-preservation over their duty as police officers. Our brave men in blue.

Three gorillas emerged from the car (how did they fit in there?) and in less than 5 minutes the bar had cleared and the poor assholes who had started everything went running down the street, many of them with serious wounds and most of their cars smashed. I knew my friend would take care of them as this kind of unauthorized insurrection would not go unpunished. The gypsies in France are very concerned about their reputation because most of them operate legitimate businesses and have strong affiliations with the police department, so this kind of shit is not tolerated. I stood out front looking at the wreckage that was once my bar and who should arrive but France’s finest, the police. They were back for reports now that all the action was over and they had the balls to say how sorry they were and that next time I should call them before things got out of hand. Yeah right, I thought, I’ll be sure and check my appointment book and see when the next riot is scheduled to begin. Thanks for nothing.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing happened a lot the first few months we were open but eventually the word got around that Texas Coyote was off limits for trouble makers or there would be serious repercussions. I had friends in the police force, the security agency, various gangs, and of course, the patron of the gypsies. It took some diligent PR to get the word out but soon enough things began to settle down. Curiously, the trouble never affected business. I guess people came to expect a certain amount of this kind of thing and took it for granted. You just had to know how to stay out of the way. Duck and cover.

Death of a Coyote
Our trouble with the fish never went away but we worked things out with the biggest fish and for the most part they left us alone. In fact, many of them enjoyed coming in to TC2 for the food, the drinks, and the fun. Crooked cops, on the other hand, were a different matter altogether. If you had trouble with cops you didn’t have anywhere to turn for help. Unless you could prove something, you couldn’t go to the police and complain that you were being shaken down by the police. They don’t like to hear that and they certainly don’t like to deal with it because it means accusing fellow cops with whom you have to work on a day-to-day basis. Since we didn’t have a Serpico on our side, we dealt with them as best we could. At some point, however, we had to decide that enough was enough.

On one of the last evenings in TC I was eating a dish of pasta (and it wasn’t Tex-Mex pasta either) at the end of the night and was getting ready to close. I would usually close a bit early during the early part of the week, say 1 or 2 am. I had had a couple of drinks so I was a little buzzed when who do I see coming through the door but la Mondaine, the vice brigade, night shift cops who controlled the night clubs and bars and were typically the most corrupt officers on the force. They came over to my table and handed me a piece of paper to sign. I looked at it and saw that it was a notice that basically said my music and night license had been revoked. In other words, for a club owner, it was a death sentence. I sat there looking at it for a few moments and became madder and madder until I was shaking. I jumped up and started spattering all kinds of invectives at the cops, while they in turn got up and began to back away (they may have been idiots but they weren’t stupid). Apparently they were surprised by my sudden change in mood, and when they saw I was about to hurl my dish of pasta at them they quickly moved away from the table, the whole time telling me to calm down. They finally got the message when I picked up my chair and threw it at them as they retreated out of the room and to the street. It didn’t matter though because they had done what they came to do.

After that, things began to go downhill, a great thing if you’re a bobsledder, but not so enviable if you are a businessman. Down was not the right direction for me just now. I called my father that night, after I had settled down to a mere seething, and told him that this time it was going to be a hard one. Don’t worry, he said, we’ll find a solution. We didn’t. A few weeks later I was in front of the tribunal de commerce de Paris, a fun bunch of fellows whose job it was to determine if I was going to go bankrupt or if my assets could be liquidated enough to cover some of my debts. In the end, I received an offer to buy the club that had cost me (and the bank) the equivalent of $1.5 million for the sweet sale price of $15,000. Quite the bargain, wouldn’t you agree? So I was forced to sell my place for an amount that wouldn’t even have covered the cost of the equipment in the kitchen, which alone had cost more than 150,000 grand (in the 1990s). Ever the optimist, I thought, maybe they left some change in the cash registers so I can buy a drink tonight.

La suite very soon.

Olivier's Story:

A Life with Recipes,
or A Parisian in America

By Olivier Said
Translated into English by James Mellgren

Chapters

The Limo Driver
Racket Lesson
Now I have stayed
Live and Drive
Les Anges
Leaving LA
Coyote Ugly
Drinking in English
Outline




Olivier Said

Now I have stayed

"Tact, is knowing how far you can go without going too far".

It Christmas soon with its usual natural blues or rather unnatural blues
I have stayed at my friends way too long. They just got married and its time to move out and on. I really don't get it, they just got married and they want to enjoy time alone, that is so bizarre.


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