Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


Gorky's graveyard shift

LAist relies on your reader support.
Your tax-deductible gift today powers our reporters and keeps us independent. We rely on you, our reader, not paywalls to stay funded because we believe important news and information should be freely accessible to all.

By the time I got to Gorky's Russian Cafe, its communist-leaning founder had sold out to a south bay capitalist named Fred. He hired me as a server, promoted me to cashier, then made me manager -- of the 1am-9am shift. From 2-6, I was the only staffer there at the corner of 8th and San Julian downtown.

People would come in after Jac Zinder's dance club, or a show at LACE, arty people cooler and older than me. Sometimes they'd spot our well-stocked international beer cooler and beg me to sell them a bottle after 2am, and occasionally I would. But mostly I followed Fred's rules, which included charging cops half price. The neighborhood was pretty rough then -- a block down was serious crack corner, and Fred thought greasing the gullets of the LAPD would get him preferential treatment. One cop realized the deal and made me re-ring him up: giving cops a discount was illegal, he told me. I felt bad; the food at Gorky's wasn't all that cheap, and most of his buddies just went along with their discount.

I only had to call the cops once. I was restocking the beer cooler, around 3am, when something made me turn around. Behind me was our emergency exit, a glass door. On the other side of the door was a huge guy with his pants around his knees, jerking off as he watched me. I ducked away and grabbed the phone, trying to stand where he couldn't see me. I told the LAPD what was happening, and they said they'd have someone out in about 20 minutes. "Thanks anyway," I said. "I don't think he's going to take that long."