DOLORES — Like wildfire, the news whipped through Dolores and beyond. Cell phones rang and chattered to life in the early morning hours. Facebook was abuzz with the news. “The Hollywood Bar burned down!”
Crowds of people came and went snapping photos, sharing stories and shaking their heads as they watched firefighters work the gutted building that housed the Hollywood Bar and Fusion Studio.
“I don’t know what it will be like without the Hollywood,” Dolores native Kirk Swope said. “What a disappointment. It’s terrible. This is history being destroyed.”
Former Dolores mayor Ruby Gonzales, 80, couldn’t help but get emotional when looking at the smoldering ruins of the popular bar, which was built in 1900.
“I’m just devastated,” she said, her voice cracking. “The Hollywood is such a big part of Dolores. The Hollywood is Dolores.”
The nearby street was jammed with Dolores natives, swapping story after story of times spent in the Hollywood.
Charlene Sattley, 61, has plenty of memories of the Hollywood. Like everyone who lined the streets on Friday morning, those memories ran the gamut of the good, the bad and the ugly.
“Oh, I don’t want that in the paper,” Sattley said about one memory with a laugh.
“I remember my grandmother would beat Chester Johnson (her grandfather) out of that bar with her purse. She would beat him all the way home,” she said with another laugh.
Every five years, the all-school Dolores reunion would convene at the Hollywood.
“It would be so packed that you could barely move,” she said.
Her husband, Jim Sattley, said when he was just a pint-sized boy, his grandfather once put him on a horse and trotted him into the bar.
Over the years, the Hollywood had a reputation as a rough and tumble honky-tonk, pool hall, good place to grab lunch, to the best watering hole in the county.
It was a place to occupy a bar stool or play a game of pool but it was mainly the gathering place for Dolores. It was where people came to pass the time and have some fun.
Decades ago, cowboys rode their horses into the bar, the occasional biker did the same with an iron horse and there were even bullet holes in the ceiling from way back in the day.
Stories flowed like water through fire hoses on Friday.
There’s a man who survived having his throat slashed and tales of brutal barroom brawls were all part of the bar’s legend.
Joe Burns’ mom, Lynn Hilton, worked at the bar for 35 years. His phone rang as he was watching the firefighters work. It was his mom. He wasn’t ready to talk to her about the Hollywood Bar yet, so he didn’t answer.
Like most small-town bars, it was the go-to place for locals to grab a beer after work, cut loose on the weekend, enjoy music, play a game of 8-ball or just get the local scuttlebutt of what’s happening.
“If you wanted to know what was going on in Dolores, you’d go to the Hollywood,” Burns said.
Besides being that notorious drinking bar, the Hollywood was a successful business that anchored the small town as a sales tax contributor and the epicenter of the towns’ biggest festival of the year.
Back in March, the Hollywood Bar was named the Dolores Business of the Year.
In less than a week, thousands of people will pour into Dolores to enjoy Escalante Days.
“So many events take place outside the Hollywood,” Swope said.
Arm-wrestling, chainsaw cutting, watermelon eating, three-legged race, Swope clicked off the events that have always been held just a few feet from the Hollywood’s front door.
He shakes his head. “Escalante Days won’t be the same without the Hollywood.”
Obviously, he too has more memories than he can count. As a Dolores native, he spent countless hours throwing back cold ones as an adult and grabbing lunch recently.
“Here’s an interesting story,” he said.
It’s how many people who gathered Friday morning started a conversation.
His story is about a knife that didn’t involve bloodshed, and the historic wooden bar.
“My family is one of only three families that has the initials of three generations carved into the bar,” he said with a smile and a proud nod.
Now it appears that those initials and the wooden bar are gone.
Charlene Sattley’s words echo what the Hollywood meant to most.
“There were good memories and not-so-good memories that came out of there,” she said.
But lots of memories.
“Blue Robinson, now there was a character,” she said.
The old mainstay at the Hollywood earned his nickname because his nose was always blue, she explained.
A bar like the Hollywood doesn’t become a legendary watering hole without characters, and it had hundreds, if not thousands who shoved open its doors over the decades.
More recently, “Bell Bottom Bob” called the Hollywood his second home. A pretty fair pool player, Robert Antelli, came to Dolores about a dozen years ago.
“I found the Hollywood Bar and fell in love with the place,” he said.
The Navy veteran started wearing bell bottoms when he joined up and served in Korea. He’s never stopped wearing the iconic styled pants, and now has them tailor made.
“It’s like losing part of your home,” he said about the bar.
The man who bestowed the nickname “Bell Bottom Bob” to Antelli at the Hollywood was also in attendance Friday.
“I was heading out of town when I heard the Hollywood Bar burned down, so I had to come down and see for myself,” said Ken Jahnke, another Dolores native.
This isn’t the first fire that has ripped through businesses on the block.
Most can look at the vacant area next to the Hollywood and Fusion Studio and remember another fire.
Back in the 1980s, a blaze claimed the Taylor Hardware and Triple J Grocery stores. Now, fire has claimed the remaining two businesses on the block.
Norbert Bukowski, who owns a nearby building, plays bass for Wild Turkey, an Australian band that tours once a year in the U.S. Bukowski, who is the band’s U.S. bass player, said music groups from all over the country loved playing at the Hollywood Bar.
“It was a landmark. You couldn’t ask for a better honky-tonk to play in,” he said.
As the firefighters finished their work, rolled up their hoses and stowed their gear, the crowd slowly drifted away.
Burns turned to give the old Hollywood one more look.
“This is going to affect a lot of people,” he said. “For a lot of people, this was their second home.”
The Hollywood Bar was the hangout spot for many over the years.
For Antelli, 77, he said he will miss meeting up with all his friends at the bar.
“There was just a bunch of nice people, and I’m going to miss that,” he said.
Discussions of rebuilding the Hollywood ignited amongst some of the onlookers.
But for Swope, 51, and many of the residents who have those fond memories of the Hollywood Bar, there is no movie-like Hollywood ending to this story.
“You can rebuild it, but it will never be the same,” Swope said. firstname.lastname@example.org