By Tony Fitzpatrick
It was one of those nights at Three Aces, and it was one of those conversations you can’t quite believe you lucked into: Anthony Potenzo was explaining his aversion to all things monkey to his partner Big Lyle Aker and me.
“I hung around wit’ Jonathan Cain’s little brother when I was seven and they had a pet squirrel monkey—a vicious little bastard who threw his shit everywhere and wouldn’t shut up.”
Anthony pauses long enough to let a couple of women pass by in the crowded bar, and take a swig off of his Pabst. He furtively looks around before continuing: “We fucked with this monkey constantly—tapped him with an eraser on the end of a pencil, and screeched back at the little bastard. He was a prick. We made faces at him and flipped him off. We tried to teach him to screech ‘fuck you,’ thinkin’ maybe the little mutant could talk and we could make a few bucks, y’know.” A couple more people pass by and Anthony smiles and nods and halts the story once again. After they pass he starts again.
“I gotta tell this quietly… So somehow, Cain’s little brother undoes the latch, before you can say boo, a little primate runs up my arm and attempts to fuck my ear. I shit thee not, the little rat-faced chooch attempted to perpetrate sexual congress with my ear. Can you imagine that? A small furry creature sticking its junk in your ear?
If not for Jonathan Cain I’d have had an earful of monkey tadpoles. Christ, that was close. I don’t know what I’d have done had he spooged in my ear. Jesus I might have had to cut the fucker off, like van Gogh.”
Anthony is as serious as a tumor: “Thank God Jonathan Cain grabbed the little bastard and slammed him back in his cage. He plays keyboards for Journey now.”
Anthony says this as if one thing has to do with the other. By this time, I’m on the verge of a cardiac with laughter because Anthony relates this trauma with the sound effects of the monkey screeches and gestures of air-fucking, monkey style, so viscerally. People are staring and laughing and one can tell this childhood episode still haunts him. One can also tell that he knows he’s on a roll, storytelling-wise, and like any good teller of tales, he keeps going.
“From then on, I have no truck with monkeys. I stay away from the evil bastards. I saw a segment on TV where a chimpanzee tore a guy’s arm off and beat the snot out of him with it, and another chimp ate the balls of some ja-drool who had his own personal zoo. Ate his balls—both of them—can you imagine? Wakin’ up and there’s Lancelot Link gobbling your cha-loots? Fuck me, I stay away from the filthy things.”
I am nearly dead from lack of oxygen from laughing so hard—my head is purple—and he continues: “Ton’, I don’t even go to da monkey house at the zoo, y’know? All they’re ever doing in there is jerking-off and flinging shit. I ask myself: Do I need this in my life? Flying monkey-shit? I think not my friend.
I schkeeeve the monkey, which means I find the ape abhorrent.”
I barely avoid keeling over. Anthony is on a four-star tear. Big Lyle is in tears. Will Flanagan swears he is going to wet himself if Anthony keeps talking. We all agree: he is trying to kill us.
He makes us promise not to tell anyone. Not a soul.
One of the best things about Three Aces on Taylor Street is the number of bike clubs that visit and coexist happily. It’s that kind of joint. It’s a bar where even people who can’t drink anymore can find a comfort level.
Half-Fast, the Boozefighters, the South Side clubs and many others stop in from time to time because it’s motorcycle-friendly. The truth is, it is everybody-friendly, unless you’re a chooch, unless you’re a mental midget who doesn’t act right.
I’m amazed at the variety of people Three Aces attracts, and I know why: Anthony Potenzo and Lyle Aker.
There are no better front-of-the-house guys anywhere. This place has always been what they wanted and they relish it. Lyle, slightly smaller than a two-story brick house, is very good at discouraging bad behavior—it only takes a look. I never met two guys more happy to go to work. They are the Toots Shor and Jack Dempsey of Taylor Street.
In the summer, the patio is wide open and it is a study in urban sociology—aldermen, models, bikers, actors, tattoo artists, tradesmen, gearheads, writers and people from the neighborhood mingle and laugh and drink.
And when Anthony is in an expansive frame of mind, he enthralls, entertains and regales us with stories—funny ones, sad ones, outrageous ones and heartfelt ones. Big Lyle has heard them over and over and he still smiles when Anthony segues into a tale: “One night a guy walks into Jilly’s…”
And for a time, squirrel monkeys, pain-in-the-ass Cubs fans and the rest of the whole hurting world is on the other side of the fence.