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Why is a bar that has been around for almost 100 years now celebrating its 10th anniversary on Saturday? Because that's how long it has been since the current owners of Palmer's Bar took over the beloved/bedeviled West Bank watering hole. Considering the timing of their purchase -- just days after the 9/11 tragedies -- and the downward-spiraling economy since then, they certainly have reason to celebrate.
"We seriously wondered if people were still going to be going out for drinks after 9/11," said Lisa Hammer, co-owner with her husband, Keith Berg. It was Keith who rightly surmised that "people drink in bad times as much as good times," Lisa said. Which isn't to say they've been lacking for good times the past 10 years at the bar, which opened in 1906 at 504 Cedar Ave.
Hammer and Berg got a taste of the storied history there when they found a woman's ivory-adorned corset hidden in the walls during some renovations, which they believe was leftover from the '30s when a brothel operated upstairs. The Prohibition era also reportedly saw a secret tunnel dug between Palmer's and the 5 Corners Saloon (now the Nomad Pub).
For better or worse, Palmer's remains a bit of a relic. There's still no website to check who's performing there ("That's what keeps us a dive bar," jokes Berg). Things have changed quite dramatically around Palmer's, though, as the West Bank welcomed an influx of Somali and other African residents and businesses, while the Triple Rock and Nomad opened to bring back young rock fans. Hammer quipped, "We must be the only bar that shares a party wall with a mosque," referring to the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Civic Center. Those unlikely bedfellows had a recent run-in when one of the loudest bands in town, Chooglin', was performing at Palmer's the same night as the start of the holy month of Ramadan, unbeknownst to the bar's crew.
"I got a call about 11 at night saying, 'We can't pray! The music's too loud!' " recounted Hammer, who now coordinates schedules with Dar Al-Hijrah to avoid such future run-ins.
If you remember our profile of Jeremy Messersmith last year upon the release of his breakthrough album "The Reluctant Graveyard," you'll probably recall that it really was influenced by a graveyard -- Minneapolis' Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery, to be exact. The otherwise non-morbid singer/songwriter lives near the historic plot of plots on East Lake Street and would stroll through it for solace and inspiration while writing the record. One song, "Toussaint Grey, First in Life and Death," was even named for one of the graveyard's most notable residents, believed to be the first African American child born in Minneapolis.
Since the end results were good to Messersmith, it's probably only fitting for him to pay back his muse. He will do so Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. with what should be one of the most memorable concerts of the year, taking place right there in Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery and benefitting its preservation. Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles will also perform. Tickets ($12) go on sale today at the Electric Fetus, Treehouse Records and Hymie's Records and should be available online here soon. Kids 12 & under can get in free. Because what young kid doesn't love playing in cemeteries?
It's a little bit of Minnesota music lore: how a hastily gathered crowd of 200 Twin Cities extras -- plus a pre-"Friends" Courteney Cox -- helped Bruce Springsteen film a music video in St. Paul in 1984 just as "Born in the USA" was about to make him a superstar.
Now we can see why he did it, thanks to an early version of the video that was scrapped but subsequently resurfaced.
According to Billboard magazine, Springsteen "did not like [director] Jeff Stein's concept." No wonder -- it looks like Urkel meets "Flashdance," with Springsteen's clumsy moves and dorky outfit. Stein -- who in his defense made the great Who documentary "The Kids Are Alright" along with a lot of MTV hackwork -- takes an awfully literal approach to the song. (It's Bruce! Dancing!! In the dark!!!)
So: When Springsteen began his "Born in the USA" Tour at the old St. Paul Civic Center on June 29, 1984, he recruited Hollywood director Brian De Palma to fly out to the Twin Cities and film a new version. Patching in footage from the first of his three shows here, it was truer to the Boss' persona and onstage energy -- even if it kept the same dorky dance moves. And the rest is history ...
Many Minnesota museums will provide free admission this summer to active duty members of the U.S. military and their families. The Blue Star Museums program features 21 Minnesota organizations including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Art Center.
Some of the organizations, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, are free to everyone all the time anyway. The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, is on the list, but it's closed until October for renovation and expansion.
Started in 2010, the program is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and includes more than 1000 institutions throughout the country. Military personnel will have free access to participating Blue Star museums between Memorial Day (May 30, 2011) and Labor Day (Sept. 5, 2011).
The local mini-movie "Gangsterland" gets its red carpet debut this week. The 40-minute featurette details the history of Prohibition-era St. Paul, where crooks were protected by local police in exchange for a pledge to keep the peace inside the city limits. Minnesota News network morning anchor Bick Smith wrote the movie last year, then shot and directed it with local actors around Saint Paul, Hastings, Hampton and area suburbs. His wife, Cynthia Schreiner Smith, a gangster tour guide for St. Paul's Wabasha Street Caves, appears as Edna “The Kissing Bandit” Murray.
I won't lie to you, "Gangsterland" probably won't make as much money as "Thor." It's a made from scratch project, part amateur theatrics, part history lecture and a product of more heart than craftsmanship. The action doesn't flow particularly well; the costumes are anachronistic; you sense that certain lines have been included to ensure all the actors can make a contribution. The performers speak straight to camera, delivering info-nuggets about the character they represent. But if you're the sort of local history buff who enjoys gangster tours or historical reenactments at Fort Snelling, it might be your sort of thing.
There's a public screening at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Historic Mounds Theatre, 1029 Hudson Rd., St. Paul. Tickets are $8. Friday it's released on DVD (available online at gangsterlandmovie.com and at the Minnesota History Center and Grumpy and Steve's Coffee, 215 Wabasha St. S.in St. Paul, near the corner of Plato Blvd. and Wabasha Street).