“My Ukelele Case” – Straight Outta Speak Easy

Published September 3, 2010 by Larry Fisher

Hideous people need to go to bars too…

That goes without saying when you think about it. I met lots of hideous, horrific, and horrendous people in bars.

Sometimes, I didn’t need a drink till I got to the bar and met the hideous, horrific and horrendous. I’d have a drink or two and then those hideous, horrific and horrendous either mellowed out, or I got used to them, till I started calling them “Good people.”

I didn’t mind spending money in a bodega for a beer or buy a bottle of  liquor from a Liquor store but I have always been one cheap mother fucker and so instead of giving up drinking in a bar, I always tried to sneak in my own liquor into a bar.

That was pretty hideous of me I know.

How to sneak in booze into a bar? Sure, there was the flask, but that wasn’t big enough for me. And then the “Ukelele case” came into my possession.


It was the early eighties and I went on a  great clean out job adventure with my mentor Manny. It was an old candy store that was a front for a speak easy.

It was the real deal. This was where people went to buy drinks after alcohol became outlawed in the twenties? There was actually a secret wall that you had to slide to get to the bar.

I got a lot of great old bar  stuff out of that place, but it is all gone except for a portable bar suitcase that is shaped like a musical equipment box that I called “My Ukelele Case.”

This box has saved me thousands of dollars of bar tabs over the years. I’d walk in to bars with my little “ukelele” and play a tune with my friends by fixing them up a shot of tequila, whiskey, or whatever I bought in the liquor store and now smuggled into the bar. I think a lot of bartenders and bar owners knew what I was doing but looked the other way, because I also had magic tricks, games, and was generally an entertaining fellow.

I might have been cheap but I wasn’t hideous, horrific, or horrendous. I mostly didn’t get drunk either. I’d have a couple of shots out of my magic box and then put my “instrument” away.


The great story about the speak easy clean out was that next to the register, there was a hole. Nobody knew what that hole was for.

Manny said to a couple of workers to go to the basement and see where that hole went. Johnny and Chucky went down to the basement and found that there was tubing from that hole that went to a barrel …

And what was in that barrel?.. Coin! Old coins that for whatever reason excess coins were sent down the tubing to the basement from the cashier.

Johnny and Chucky filled their pockets with so much coins, that they could barely walk They were bumping into each other and falling down. The barrel was so heavy, Manny had to get ten smaller containers to empty that barrel. It probably would have been twenty, except that Johnny and Chucky were stealing from him and hobbling away as quick as their double weight would allow them.

Manny did not care. He turned to me and said,”Whatever you want from this place you can just have.”

“Really?!”

“I’m just gonna take the coins.”

I have regrets about that place, At the time, I was just getting into the business and I didn’t have the connections for selling the entire wood bar itself. I got great old bottles and glasses and signs out of that bar that day, but the only thing that stayed with me is “My Ukelele Case.”

By the mid eighties, I stopped bringing out “My Ukelele Case,” except on rare occassions, and that was to show people how cool it was.

How much is it worth?

Saved me thousands of dollars in bar tabs and even made hideous, horrendous, and horrific laugh and seem cool… Or maybe it was just the drinks from “my ukelele case” that made them seem cool



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