LAGUNA’S VETERAN BARTENDERS TAKE A BREAK FROM SHAKING AND STIRRING TO SHARE THEIR MOST MEMORABLE STORIES.
March 17, 2015 By Bria Balliet and Tessa Ghenender | Photos by Jody Tiongco | Illustrations by Shaylene Brooks
From the outside, Laguna Beach looks like a peaceful town with a laid-back vibe. That might be the case during the day, but once the sun sets over the calming sea, all bets are off. From recently graduated college students to parents, grandparents and tourists, almost everyone of age who has visited, lived or worked in Laguna seems to have a memorable experience involving one of the infamous local taverns. But the part of the story that’s rarely heard is the one from the other side of the bar. Here, a few of our favorite bartenders open up about their most bizarre and unforgettable encounters.
Erin Miyawaki, who was raised in Laguna, has been a bartender at The Saloon for more than 10 years. When asked to share some of her experiences behind the bar, she hesitated, explaining that there is an “unwritten rule of total confidentiality among bartenders.” One story that she was willing to tell—also her fondest memory of working at The Saloon—involves local celebrity Frank Interlandi.
Frank, a longtime Laguna resident, was an editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times from 1962 to 1981. He traveled around town with his twin brother, Phil, who was a cartoonist for Playboy magazine, along with a posse of artists, writers and local fans. Their last stop, regularly, was The Saloon. The bartender at the time, Popo, created a special drink with coffee and liquor to help keep Frank awake long enough to draw up his next batch of cartoons for the following day. This shot, formerly known as the “Popo,” is still served at The Saloon today.
Flash forward to the early 2000s, at the beginning of Erin’s bartending career. Frank, now in his 80s, was still a regular at The Saloon. Erin was interested in getting to know the locals, especially the frequent patrons, but Frank was known to be particular about who he socialized with. He’d come in, order a glass of wine, and sit at his designated table, resisting conversation with her. She was determined to win him over.
One day, Erin’s father informed her that Frank and her uncle were good friends from LA. When Frank made his next appearance at The Saloon, Erin made sure to send greetings from her uncle. For the first time in her experience, Frank walked right up to the bar and looked straight into her eyes—she could see him light up inside.
Not long after, Erin and Frank began playing a subtle game. When he came in and ordered a glass of wine, Erin would deliver it to him with a napkin that had one squiggle drawn on it. Frank would take out his pen and complete the doodle. Sadly, Frank died in 2010, but his portrait still hangs in The Saloon right above the table he always occupied.