Two friends were celebrating their birthdays on Saturday, and their combo party teamed up with another friend’s graduation celebration, the resulting booze chimera taking shape at the 50/50 Club on Jacksboro Highway.
Jacksboro’s reputation for rough bars and wild nights stretches back into history, and as far as I’m concerned, that rep is still accurate. A couple years ago, fellow nightlife researcher Eric Griffey and I had gone with a couple friends to a bar over there for last call, and I’m pretty sure we left right before a stabbing. I don’t recall the name of the bar, but someone in our group had to be a smart ass, and everyone else in the bar had to let us know we weren’t welcome, which is all a longwinded way of saying that drinking on Jacksboro always makes me a little nervous. Still, the triple-partiers were throwing down at the 50/50 on account of karaoke, so I figured there was nothing to worry about.
One thing I noticed about the 50/50 is that it’s situated near two no-tell motels. I had a vision of The Simpsons’ Mayor Quimby getting caught there with his, um, date. I also noticed what sounded like someone belting out a Journey song, spilling out the front door of the bar like some kind of off-key sonic fog.
A friend and I walked into the actual fog of cigarette smoke, and my friend later commented that bars like the 50/50 are what will keep a comprehensive smoking ban from ever taking root here.
I’m not saying there is some kind of carpet-bar conspiracy to keep clean air out of Fort Worth watering holes; I’m just saying these places are totally resistant to smoking bans, the way Stonehenge is resistant to time. Anyway, the 50/50 was 100-percent stuffed with people, pizza boxes, cookies, cake, and the face-rocking shamelessness of karaoke, the party’s psychic vibe reflecting off the wall-to-wall mirrors and into the black acoustic panels on the ceiling. I ordered a High Life and — still suffering from the results of some recent haggard nights — nursed it until it was warm.
My friend capped his 40th birthday by grabbing the mic and roaring Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” I tried to hit the bottom of a second High Life bottle, but it was almost like I’d suddenly lost the taste for beer. Then last call rolled around, and my friend and I hit the road.
Feeling better Monday night, I took my date back to the 50/50 after we’d gone to see The Avengers, our thirst for cocktails inspired in part by just having watched Iron Man pour himself a 3-foot whiskey.
“What goes on at the 50/50 tonight?” she asked.
“Probably nothing,” I said.
“Probably karaoke,” she replied. And she was right. At the 50/50, it’s sort of all karaoke, all the time. Or at least every night for four hours or so. In this case, about 15 regulars were scattered around the room, sipping beers underneath the strings of lights reflected in the mirrors.
The karaoke lady called out for a guy named Tino, and a short man in white cargo shorts stopped his darts game, grabbed a CD, and took the stage. I was immediately reminded of the King of the Hill episode when Hank’s neighbor Khan becomes a karaoke star to escape the contempt of his Laotian warlord father-in-law. I wondered if Tino was hiding out from some relative’s disdainful scowl.
More likely, he just liked to sing karaoke. Still clutching the mystery CD, Tino delivered a hammy, competent rendition of “At This Moment,” borne on a lot of falsetto and (probably) a ton of practice in the car. In other words, Tino’s was the kind of performance that makes karaoke a blast to watch. Had Tino picked that song because he really liked the original Billy Vera version, or had he only heard the version on Michael Bublé’s gazillion-selling Crazy Love and got hooked by Bublé’s sweet Canadian pipes? I kind of hoped it was the latter and ordered another beer. And then another after that. For some reason, beer had started tasting good again. –– Steve Steward
The 50/50 Club
5908 Jacksboro Hwy, FW. 817-624-0750.
Contact Last Call at firstname.lastname@example.org.