The big Spec’s liquor store on Bryant Irvin Road is like a booze hedge maze, with rows of liquors and various kinds of cocktail- and wine-related equipment.
In the middle of the maze on a recent Saturday, a line of about 60 or 70 people waited. White and Reymundo were scheduled to sign bottles of their tequila beginning at 2 p.m., but a few people had arrived as early as 10:30 a.m.
Knudson sat noodling on his guitar in front of the empty table where the two comics were to sit. White’s son Marshall took pictures. To make things more surreal, a person in a rabbit costume (the liquor store’s mascot) worked the crowd.
Bryan and Brigitte Eggers arrived at 10:30 a.m. They stood at the front of the line with several bottles for the comedians to sign.
“We’re giving these away as Christmas gifts,” said Brigitte. “We’re going to send them to friends with a note that says, ‘Don’t open until Christmas.’ ”
Just behind them stood Robert and Renee Lockhart, fans of White. Renee carried assorted books and memorabilia for White and Reymundo to sign. And of course, in this age of social media, she wanted a “selfie” with White to post on Facebook. She eventually got her wish.
For more than two hours, White and Reymundo pressed the flesh, posing for pictures, signing autographs, and selling 45 cases of tequila.
As a stand-up comic, the demands on White’s schedule were already grueling. Now, as president of Number Juan Tequila and “co-ambassador of fun,” as Reymundo titles him, he has to work harder than ever.
White attracts a lot of attention wherever he goes, but coming back to the Fort Worth area is like a homecoming, he said.
White was selling storm windows in Arlington when he decided to try his hand at comedy.
“A guy that I worked with went to the first open-mic night at the Funny Bone,” he said. “He came back to the office the next day and said, ‘Hey, you’re funnier than these guys. You should go do this.’
“And so, here we are, 27 years and 11,000 shows later,” he said.
He wasn’t always the polished quip machine audiences see today. White said the second time he ever performed — also at the Funny Bone — he bombed. To make matters worse, he “ate it with a shovel” in front of his family and friends.
“I was just frozen on stage, and I looked down at my [first] wife going ‘Huh? What?’ he recalled. “And my sister-in-law was there trying to be supportive. But when somebody is trying to laugh at something no one else is laughing at, it’s not really a laugh. It’s more like a buzzer going off.
“I’d rather hear silence,” he said.
White said he moved to the area out of necessity. He came from Abilene, where he owed money all over town.
“I got a job working for a company in Abilene, and that company wouldn’t pay me, because it turned out they didn’t have any money,” he said. “They ended up writing me a check, so I wrote everyone I owed a check. Then their check bounced, which means I bounced checks all over Abilene. We got in our powder-blue Mustang that my father-in-law was positive I married his daughter to get my hands on, and we took off to Amarillo to borrow money from my dad.
“We were literally turning off the engine when we were going down hills,” to save money on gas, he said. “So we borrowed money. We had enough money to pay everyone but the landlord. We had to move out in the middle of the night.
“We had a little bitty crummy apartment,” he said. “We had this old couch, and I knew it could fit through the door, because we got it in there in the first place. But it was 4 in the morning, and we needed to get out of there before people woke up. We couldn’t get this couch out of the apartment, so we left it hanging in the door.
“We drove to Arlington where [his wife’s] school friend lived,” he said. “She wasn’t home, so she told us to wait for her in the backyard. She had this big red Doberman, kind of a mean dog. We’d been up all night moving and just felt dirty and nasty. This dog just walks over to me and pisses on my leg, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s great. That’s quite a welcome to this town.’ ”
White’s onstage persona is linked with scotch. He’s famous for pouring himself a drink before he starts his set. But he said tequila was actually his first love.
“I got into tequila because I’m a Texan,” he said. “That’s what we start with. And it’s bad tequila too. Alex brought [Number Juan] back five years ago. I tasted it and said, ‘Yep, that is the best tequila I have ever tasted.’ That is just fantastic juice.”
On stage, he has permanently traded in his trademark glass of scotch for tequila.
“I don’t own a scotch company,” he said. “My bar is completely stocked with every scotch you can dream of, but at the end of the day I pour a glass of that extra añejo with a drop of water, go out on my porch with a good cigar. That’s what I drink.”
White said he is happy with the company’s slow but steady growth. He said he wants it to remain a small-batch company selling a rare tequila. And he’s content to continue to promote it one bar and liquor store at a time.
“Even though it’s as hard as I’ve physically worked in a long time, it’s been fun,” he said. “I love working shoulder to shoulder with my brother for the common good of the family.
“It’s amazing that we can get our tour bus to roll, there’s so much tequila on it,” he said.
The two comedians employ various cousins, nephews, and longtime friends in the family business.
“Ron’s the president, and I’m the CEO, and there’s no one else to talk to,” Reymundo said. “There’s not some corporate guy.”
One of Reymundo’s jokes that evening at Will Rogers might also work as a fitting slogan for his tequila business.
“You speak Spanish, don’t you?” he asked the audience. “If you don’t, it’s time to fucking learn –– this is America, after all.”