Belltown Messenger - Documenting Belltown Since 2003
Messenger Archives - April 2005
BELLTOWN'S GLORY DAYS PART II: THE DODI INTERVIEW
The Queen Bee of the Rendezvous During the Wayne Schwartzkopf Era Tells All
by Rex Lameray
Many Belltown residents came to know Dodi as a legendary fixture behind the bar of the Rendezvous. She served some of the strongest drinks in town from 1988 until the bar changed ownership in 2001. During Dodi's era, the Rendezvous was a union bar (Teamsters Local 8), and soon Dodi will get a healthy union pension, thanks to the owner, Wayne Schwartzkopf. Wayne died in November 2003, but to his former employees, "Wayne treated us great-it was like a family there." Wayne's business partner, Karen Richeson, now works at Kelly's, which may be Belltown's last surviving dive bar. After leaving the Rendezvous, Dodi stayed in the neighborhood. I ran in to Dodi at Sound Mail Services, owned by Al Croft, and located next to the Rendezvous on Second Avenue. She replaced Marge Bates, who worked for the company from1965 until her recent retirement. (I'd like to give a shout out to her-and an apology for neglecting to mention her in our interview with Al Croft [Belltown's Glory Days Part I] in January. Cheers Marge!)
Dodi says she's happy that her new gig is a relatively smoke-free environment, although it may be the last PO Box service on the West Coast to have ashtrays available. I can just imagine someone lighting up in there at the wrong moment and then receiving Dodi's icy stare-that look alone kept the Rendezvous relatively incident- free during her tenure, which is remarkable given the rowdy nature of the establishment. To fear Dodi is to respect her.
"A few people who I barred from the Rendezvous in the past have boxes here, and when they first saw me working behind the counter I think they were worried if I'd let them in here," she told me.
For those unfamiliar with the Rendezvous' colorful past, it was a dive. A real dive; not like the old Frontier Room, which only attracted hip kids on weekends looking to feel edgy after leaving their high tech jobs. The Rendezvous' back bar area was dark and cozy, and usually filled with all ages and races of boozers, druggies, hipsters and fisherman from 6 a.m. until closing, seven days a week. Dodi worked weeknights, usually all alone, but nobody messed with her more than once.
"One time a guy came in there with a machete, a homeless guy wearing a long black coat like cowboys wear. I didn't see the machete under his coat and before I could stop him he whipped it out, a rusty old thing, and slapped it on the bar so hard that it fell apart. He was bounced," Dodi recalls. According to Dodi, it was hard to keep the drug dealers out of there sometimes, "especially when the druggies really moved into Belltown, around 1994."
"I came out of the ladies room and I thought I saw a drug deal going on in the men's room, but it turns out this guy Carlos, who I had already banned for life, was about to shoot someone. He turned around and stuck the gun in my chest, but when he looked in my eyes and saw it was me, he immediately lowered the gun. I would have overlooked it, but someone saw and called the police, and they made me drive around Belltown in a squad car looking for him. He was over at Kelly's on fourth," she said with a hearty laugh.
Dodi recalled another incident when "two Russian guys came in from a ship that's at the grain terminal down there, sitting at a table near the bar, and they drop a gun on the floor. I walked over and stepped on the gun. They didn't speak a word of English, and the only Russian I know is 'nyet' or 'vodka' but they were nice and apologetic as I put the gun behind the bar. They must have been loaded, because soon after they dropped another gun on the floor. I confiscated, and again they were very polite, not hostile. I called the police and told them the situation, that two Russian nationals had some guns. The 911 operator was alarmed, thinking an international diplomatic crisis was about to erupt, but I told her they were friendly sorts and that I had secured their weapons. The cops came and took them away, but a cop came back a few weeks later and said they had let them go back to Vladivostok."
There were a lot of fights and stabbings at the Rendezvous in the old days. "Most of them happened on weekend nights, when I wasn't working," she said. Dodi told me about one legendary incident in which a guy at the bar got his throat cut with a razor-sharp buck knife from ear to ear. "As he was waiting for the paramedics he grabbed his throat with his left hand and held it together so he could finish his beer with his right hand," she told me with a look of disdain. "And meanwhile everyone around him is trying to wipe up the blood."
The Rendezvous was not all violence and gore. Dodi spent a great deal of time dragging troublemakers out of the restrooms or shooing them away from the entrance so they wouldn't frighten the customers, but she was also a pivotal figure in the cultural history of Belltown, including Seattle's early "grunge" music scene. Dodi even has a band named after her. "Dodi" was conceived by Archie O' Connor, "a caustic hybrid of David Bowie and Jello Biafra" and a longtime Seattle music guru. They have played all over the country and have several CDs. Dodi attends all of their local shows.
"Mudhoney shot a video here (Generation Spokesmodel, 1995) and my job was to get a bunch of old people. Well, we had an open bar and the place was packed for the 1 p.m. shoot. They didn't start filming until 7 that night, and we were all pretty goddamn drunk by then. We were sitting in the front row, and the producers wanted us all to boo at the band, but we were so trashed that we just cheered. They liked it, and left it in."
The Rendezvous (and its famed Jewel Box Theatre) was a springboard for new bands. Wayne would rent to any band with $75, a great opportunity for unknown groups who otherwise would have trouble playing out in a fiercely competitive and increasingly big-money Seattle music scene. "Pearl Jam had a space in the basement, and the Retros, they're still down there. Kenny G. played in the theatre early on. Bottle of Smoke and Dusty 45s played there a lot also." A lot of the bands were horrible, of course. "We had this goth band playing one night, and a girl comes up to me and says, you better get in the theatre. So I go back there. The band is three girls and a guy. Two girls on guitar, buck naked. Another girl singing, stark ass nude. And then a skinny dude with long hair in a Mohawk, playing drums with his tallywacker flopping up and down. People sitting in the audience didn't have clothes on either."
The mornings were always interesting at the Rendezvous, too. There were weekly A.A. and N.A. meetings in the Jewel Box. Meanwhile, Chris, the union chef, made great breakfast fare. "Corned beef hash and eggs and the whole deal." Other Union bars from the old days include Lower Queen Anne's Mecca and also Sorry Charlie's, now the Mirabeau Room. "The Space Needle and most downtown hotels are also still with local 8," Dodi boasts.
Wayne was known as a good boss. "He would take us all out to dinner; he would also do anything for you, anything. He was very generous," according to Dodi. He also liked to travel; apparently first class, all the way, all over the world. That low key guy you would often see sitting at the bar was also a millionaire.
"He looked very unassuming, unless you noticed the Italian eelskin shoes, or his watch. He made a fortune buying stock in the film industry," Dodi said. Dodi is glad to be at her new gig at Sound Mail Services. She likes "seeing all my friends down here," and when she pops in next door to the Rendezvous, the new owners treat her like royalty.