On a wintry afternoon David Hadley was cleaning out his desk.
“Do you realize how much crap you accumulate in 25 years?” Hadley said. “It’s taken me several days to go through this desk and I’ve still got stuff underneath it.”
Hadley sat in the dark upstairs office of Boardner’s, the Hollywood bar he’s owned since 1980, when he and a partner bought the place on Cherokee Avenue from Steve Boardner.
“I took it over to make it the West Coast headquarters of the porn business,” recalled Hadley, who in time became sole owner. “Everyone used to meet here.”
“Russ Meyer,” noted Brad McAllen, the bar’s manager. “Holmes came in here. Samantha Fox, Annette Haven. Marilyn Chambers.”
But in porn, as in all businesses, timing is everything, and Hadley suffered the epic misfortune of buying Boardner’s just before TVX, the sex-video distribution company he worked for across the street, was shut down in a 1980 nationwide Valentine’s Day sweep organized by the Justice Department.
Long before porn powerhouses like VCA and Vivid Entertainment came along, TVX was, for one brief, shining Camelot moment in hardcore, one of the country’s biggest sex-video distributors — a partner had a ready-built distribution network through his business selling 8mm fuck loops, giving TVX good position when the first home videocassette machines came out in the seventies.
After the FBI Valentine’s Day massacre, Hadley was forced to become a bar owner in earnest, although for years the place remained a booze backwater in a Hollywood that was drowning in a swamp of crack, gangs and prostitution. Then, in 1988, a group of young men with long hair began hanging out in the bar that had once been a haunt of Phil Harris and Mickey Cohen. When they weren’t drinking, these kids played in one of the hundred Hollywood bands that featured angry guys dressed in denim and leather. Their band was called Guns N’ Roses.
“All of the sudden it became a hip place to go for all the young people. We started having lines around the street,” Hadley marveled. “Then I had to get serious about the business because at that point it became my livelihood.”
Today Hadley, 65, would like to take over a small, quiet bar away from Hollywood. Both he and McAllen find themselves leaving the neighborhood during an era of big investment.
“Fifteen new clubs have opened in Hollywood in the last two years,” Hadley said. “And there are 30 more in the pipeline. At night these kids are buying premium booze — $10 for a goddamn Patrón.”
“It doesn’t matter,” McAllen interrupted. “They’ll throw their credit card down and ring up $200. I don’t know where they get their money.”
To strangers, McAllen, a Vietnam War Marine, comes off as gruff taskmaster in a Ward Bond sort of way. Everyone has a Brad story. Once, I complained to a bartender that the VO on the rocks he’d poured me tasted like peppermint schnapps. A look of alarm spread across the man’s face and he referred the matter to McAllen, who came over and took a swig.
“That’s VO,” he pronounced, then handed me the glass back so I could finish it.
“Braddy’s daddy — he’s Santa Claus every Christmas,” longtime bartender Kelly McCann recently told me. “Brad was Boardner’s — he’d give gifts to children who had nothing.”
Hadley also inspired stories, even though he was only occasionally glimpsed by customers when, each night at 8 p.m., he’d wander downstairs, Tom Collins in hand, to make sure the place was still there.
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“He said I had a great rack and asked when could I start,” said McCann, recalling the day she got her job. “It was the strangest interview I had in my life.”
Boardner’s will now become the sole responsibility of Tricia La Belle, who, first as a talent booker and later as co-owner, has transformed it into a destination spot for young nightclubbers. An end-of-an-era sadness nevertheless crept into the conversations of staff and daytime patrons during those final days when Hadley cleaned out his desk and McAllen packed up his Santa Claus hat.
“I have a five-minute cry every day,” McCann said. “It was magical working for them. They honor the old ways and taught me ?a lot.”
The day I spoke to Hadley and McAllen, the former TVX building across the street was being scraped, sandblasted and painted for another renovation in the new, face-lifted Hollywood of velvet ropes and $10 tequila shots. The departure date for both men was then somewhat cloudy. At first it was supposed to be New Year’s, then mid-January, then it stretched out later still. As it turned out, they wouldn’t be gone until Valentine’s Day.