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Louisiana pub honors John Lennon daily
by Jude Southerland Kessler
Enoch "Doyle" and Yvette Jeter believe that the success of their Monroe, Louisiana Irish pub comes from two sources: hard work and John Lennon.
"Yes," Doyle says with a wistful look, "we opened the pub just a few weeks before John's passing in 1980. And although we were doing 'okay' with our new location in Monroe, things weren't as successful as we'd hoped. When John passed, a large group of us gathered and compiled what little money we had for a tribute to John in the local newspaper. Then we hand-lettered a banner outside Enoch's reading, "In LOVING MEMORY, John Lennon - 1940-1980."
"Something (ahem!) caused the Monroe News Leader to come over and photograph that banner and to put it on the front page of the paper, and ever since that moment, we've had all the business we need. It's truly as if John is looking out for us and taking care of us. The worldwide tribute to John, just a few days after his death, was truly amazing. Even in little Monroe, Louisiana, there were thousands of people in the city park for a tribute that my friend, Gene Verspoor, and I set up. John was indeed with us that day."
When you walk into Enoch's, it's immediately apparent that John Lennon is the pub's "patron saint." A huge, framed picture of the Irish musician hangs to the right of the door, accompanied by the proof page of that newspaper tribute that Doyle and Yvette's friends penned 32 years ago.
"But honoring John isn't a thing of the past," Jeter went on to say to me when I visited the pub last Friday night. "It's something we do on a regular basis...not as a creepy, stalker kind of thing, but as a group of friends, remembering another dear friend." Indeed, Enoch's Pub is the only Irish pub in America to host a birthday party for John for the last consecutive 32 years. This year, 2012, will be the 33rd annual party, as Enoch's started this tradition on 9 October 1980, just two short months before John's untimely passing. "We've been told that there's only one other place on earth that has celebrated John's birthday this long, and that's in Osaka, Japan."
"Over the years," Jeter went on, "we've noticed that many places recalled John's life on the day that he was killed. We want to remember the day he was born instead...the day that gave us his presence, wit, and genius."
And remember Lennon they do! Each year on 9 October, the pub "pulls out all the stops" to honor John Lennon with song, birthday cake, cheers, and well wishes. "It isn't," Jeter explained, "a 'maudlin moment' but a time of celebration for the life John lived among us."
So it isn't surprising that Yoko Ono has recognized Enoch's Pub twice in the last 32 years with notes of appreciation. When Yvette and Doyle visited New York several years ago, they dropped off a video for Yoko of some of the celebrations that they had hosted for John. "We rang before our trip and let the 'powers that be' know we wanted to give Yoko that video. Someone came to meet us outside the Dakota and accepted the video. They were very gracious. And then a few months later, we received a hand-written note from Yoko...a white card with a blue square in the middle. When we opened it up, she had written, 'We will meet someday in the sky.' We treasure that."
For those who know Lennon well, his spirit is all over the pub. Like Liverpool, which is over 80 per cent Irish, the place resounds with choruses of "Black Velvet Band" and "No Nay Never" (the real, Irish version). Performing live this past Friday night was Davy Arwine from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Davy's banjo (so reminiscent of Julia Lennon), his rendition of "Nowhere Man," and his traditional mandolin songs sent me straight back to raucous, late nights in Flanagan's Apple, Liverpool. Suddenly, it was Mathew Street all over again. I was home.
Davey Arwine, Jude Kessler, Doyle and Tom McCandlish
Enoch's could easily be The Grapes or The White Star: the same corkscrew tables, dark interior, beer mats, and all-pervading smell of Guinness. The pub fare (Extremely delicious! Try the "Full Cooked Irish Breakfast Burger") and the free-flowing Harp, Smithwicks, and Jameson's Irish Whiskey is the same. So I wasn't surprised to encounter several visitors from Liverpool (wearing John Lennon shirts!) that night and to be treated to the bodhran work of Tom McCandlish and the sweet sound of Liverpudlian singer, Andrew Nicolson.
But Enoch's isn't just about Irish music. They offer blues, rock'n'roll, and pop, as well. However, whatever the live musical fare of the evening (check their online calendar at http://www.enochspub.com), the feeling is still one hundred per cent Liverpudlian! From the moment that you enter the door, you are magically transported Merseyside for the evening.
This week, lovely, brunette Yvette and her Irish husband, Doyle, are en route to Ireland for a well-deserved vacation. Their son, John (yes, you know how he got his name) and their beautiful daughter, Molly, will remain behind to keep things at the pub running smoothly. "We go to Ireland to refocus and recharge," Yvette said. And I was quite honored that they are taking along a copy of Shoulda Been There to read "while the rain serenades us and the terrain delights us." Even on holiday, John will be with them.
Make plans now to be in Enoch's for John's 72nd Birthday Party this October. I know that I'll be there. Wouldn't miss it "fer a big clock!" as they say in Liddy.
Published May 21, 2012
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