The year 2016 will go down as the 50th anniversary of the year I met Anita Madden. You do not have to be a nostalgia buff to remember Anita Madden, who was for many years a national legend because of her Derby party. If you are not a nostalgia buff, you may want to read something other than this trip down memory lane, as I fondly remember her and some more of Old Lexington.
Anita Madden recently asked a mutual friend of ours whether he thought I remembered her from the ’60s, as if she might worry that anybody who ever met her might forget her. In the good ’ole days, just before she became a legend, I was a humble pool-boy/bartender at the Polo Club, following in that job the humble Ray Larson, who went on to favor capital punishment for jaywalking as the stone-casting non-sinning commonwealth’s attorney for Fayette County.
During the day, Anita would come and shoot baskets and I would rebound for her and steal glances at her legendary physique. Anita was then, and now, unforgettable, and more loveable as time goes on, as was much of what I will call Old Lexington, which is Lexington as I came to know and love it when I first ventured forth from a tobacco patch into the genteel world of Fayette County.
I tended bar at Levas’ restaurant before I was old enough to drink and made friends with countless lawyers and judges by over-loosening them up at the end of their long hard day of suing people. The Levases were a class act, beginning with old man Mike, a Greek immigrant who made a fortune selling hot dogs on Vine Street, but who Donald Trump would not allow in the country if he were to come now with that olive skin and dark hair. Mike would sit around and wonder aloud about his sons, who in lieu of a hot dog stand, sold baklava and stroganoff in a luxury setting: “Desa boys, they wanna take a lotta money and maka leetle money. I taka leetle money and maka lotta money.”
John and Angel Levas took some of the rough edges off a farm boy and got him fat sneaking french fries and one sea scallop off each order. Some crudeness and rough edges remained with me, my readers will be surprised to know.
Then there was Crane’s Bar on Maxwell Street, which had world-class hamburgers and Pabst Blue Ribbon, preferably consumed late at night so you would not be able to wake up early enough to learn Western Civilization from Joe Benford in Old Morrison. Those of us who slept though classes a lot were fortunate to have last names which end in W.
On the other side of town was the favorite place to all of us. After we 17-year-olds learned how to drink beer at Speed’s Tavern on North Lime, we graduated to the Green Lantern on Seventh at Elm Tree Lane, where we learned advance racism in a neighborhood turning color, and where we learned beer cheese and the Righteous Brothers and how Virgil Haycraft kept his bookie joint trailer just across the county line in Jessamine County and took bets only from Fayette County, a brilliant exercise in avoiding jurisdiction. Later, when he found out I was going to be a lawyer, he would declare in that gruff, Adolph Rupp-like voice, “Hap, people don’t want a good lawyer, they want a good fixer.”
The Green Lantern got raided some, but only after appropriate warning by the police chief. I would write about Little Enis and the Table Toppers, though Ed McClanahan has pre-empted that field, but when thoughts of a certain blonde socialite and Playboy magazine did not make a young man horny enough, you could always watch the dancers there where Enis Toadvine held forth.
I could go on. Or I could tell you about my grandchildren.
Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at