2005 Innocent Bystander

The Delmar Restaurant and Lounge, 6235 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-6565

Tonight we are not having dinner or drinks with Alice Cooper. We did not have dinner or drinks with Alice Cooper last night, and the chances of having dinner or drinks with Alice Cooper tomorrow are also less than promising. This has nothing to do with the fact that, these days, his preferred poison is Diet Coke. It doesn't matter because Alice Cooper is not here.

Earlier today our Significant Other called. He works at one of St. Louis' nicer golf courses. "You'll never guess who I just talked to on the phone. Who have you always wanted to have dinner or drinks with?" Us: "Oh. My. God. Alice Cooper!" Alice Cooper asked to play golf at Significant Other's course. Significant Other had to inform Mr. Cooper that a private group had rented the club out. Significant Other had to turn Alice down. Drink of the Week is damn near in hysterics.

We aren't sure where this fascination with Alice Cooper came from, but it is intense. (Wayne's World, maybe?) We don't own any of his albums, nor do we intend to ever download a note of his music. But it's the makeup, the rock history, the honorary degrees, the persona, the "Chicken Incident," the widely acknowledged overall niceness of the guy. It's Alice Cooper. The guy who, after giving up drinking, became addicted to golf of all things. Today's the one time our lives could have intersected with his, and now it's gone.

So now we're here, at the Delmar Restaurant and Lounge, alone. It's where we would have taken Alice Cooper if we could have. It's a low-lit place, and business is slow at 5 p.m. In fact, we're the only one in here, which is sort of the point. We sit on a shiny, red vinyl seat at the bar and order a glass of wine, a pinot noir called Innocent Bystander. It's Australian, and its taste sits way back on our tongue, a delightful mix of cherries and rose petals. It lingers — like Dan Swinford, the Delmar's general manager who's behind the bar — but not for too long. "No, I don't think I'd bug Alice Cooper," he says after we ask if it'd be a big deal if we showed up with the rock star. We knew it.

Sure, if Alice came here, someone might send him a soda, and we'd whisper to him that it's not because he's famous: The last time we were here, someone bought the whole bar a round. It's just that kind of place. We'd talk about regular-folks things, like traveling and family. "You look like a Vincent Furnier," we'd say of his given name. And we'd marvel how "Alice," the character, is nothing like the agreeable golf monster sitting here.

Yeah, he'd enjoy this place: like him, it's dark, but not too dark. Accommodating, even. Pleasant. If he were here, he'd stick around long enough to order another diet soda, and eventually use the bathroom. When he's away, we'd quote Wayne's World: "Does this guy know how to party or what?" Sure, we'd feel immature about it, but we'd laugh. And if anyone else were around to hear it, they'd laugh, too, we think. But for now, it's just us, alone and humming a few bars of "You and Me" to no one at all.

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