“Teenage Mutant Vaginal Infection” and the “Butt Fuck” are a few of lewdly titled cocktails on the drink menu at the Meet Rack.
Upon ordering the “cum stain,” a milk based beverage with brandy inside of a pitcher, and coconut frosting on the outside, designed to look just like what the name suggests, I was approached by a woman who asked, “Can I lick your cum stain?” She promptly stuck her tongue out and ran it the length of the pitcher from bottom to top, then thanked me and walked away.
“We let things happen here,” said bartender K.K. Day.
The face of the Meet Rack is Jim Anderson, a character as unique as the bar and its patrons. Though he says he’s never introduced himself to anyone as anything other than Jim, he has a few nicknames, the most prominent of which is “God.”
“My mother used to say ‘God dammit, you and shit head come here.’ My brother was ‘Shit Head,’ I was ‘God Dammit,’ so I just shortened it to ‘God,’” Anderson said.
Anderson, who has owned six different bars over the past 40 years, from Tucson, to Syracuse, N.Y., and Las Vegas to Mazatlán, Mexico is officially a “consultant” at this bar. The Meet Rack has existed in its current incarnation at 210 W. Drachman St. since 1997. The bar and liquor license are in Anderson’s daughter’s name due to a decades old political grudge prohibiting Anderson from owning the venue himself, according to Day.
The bar’s main is dimly lit but homey. Christmas tree lights hang year round from a beam on the ceiling, helping to illuminate a wooden bar with an enclosed rectangular perimeter in the center of the floor. The base of the bar is covered with signatures and messages, presumably from past customers. A lone video poker machine, leftover from the dawn of virtual gaming, sits on one of the long sides of the rectangle. Towards the back of the room is a single pool table.
Memorabilia, trinkets, posters, signs and thousands of photographs cover every square inch of the walls inside. A lioness pelt with head attached, allegedly once warn by George Foreman in the ring before a fight, is proudly displayed on an awning. On the wall below the awning are 15-20 photos of customers performing suspensions outside on the patio, hanging from cords attached to their bodies with hooks through piercings.
Day lists the human suspensions as some of the most memorable events that she’s seen at bar known to attract out-of-the-ordinary behavior. “The suspension hangings are crazy to see,” she said. They do it right outside and those hooks going into people is a trip.”
Outside the western wall of the bar is a small patio with picnic tables and a plane but tall, concrete throne for anyone feeling regal enough to sit upon it.
Back inside, next to the door to the patio, is a wooden plaque bearing Anderson’s likeness, decorated with sobriety coins that have been traded in at the bar by no-longer-recovering alcoholics. The coins displayed range from six months to 26 years sober.
“They don’t call us the ‘13th step’ for nothin’,” said David Burleigh, who has been tending bar at the Meet Rack for four years.
Anderson is particularly fond of a nametag attached to the plaque that belonged to a student for whom the Meet Rack was his first stop, immediately after being discharged from an $80,000 rehab program his parents had forced upon him.
“We got him drunk, we got him laid, and we got him a t-shirt,” Anderson said triumphantly.
Further along the wall is the decoration Anderson is most proud of: a framed 1974 letter from the superintendent of the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control, informing Anderson that he will no longer be permitted to walk around his bar, or any other, in the nude.
The restrooms are at the rear of the bar. The women’s room has a condom dispenser that does not actually produce contraceptives when the knob is turned, but does set off an alarm that is inaudible within the restroom and loud and clear in the bar room. The tradition is for customers to berate the unfortunate female with shouts of “slut” and “whore” when she emerges.
“There’s something to offend everyone here,” Anderson said.
Along the back wall are hundreds more pictures, many of which feature Anderson with friends and or partially nude women. One section is devoted to celebrities Anderson has met at his bars over the: Jackie Chan, Joe Theismann, Sammy Davis Jr., Rush Limbaugh and others. Next to the celebrities is a photo of a dog mounting a pig.
From the ceiling hang clothes lines filled with hundreds of bras and panties, left behind by customers; their contribution to the decor.
The eastern wall of the bar has several hundred more photos: Anderson with scantily clad women, Anderson after completing a triathlon, current and past bartenders in costumes, Anderson with Gerald Ford.
“Everything on the walls I’ve been privy to over the years,” Anderson said. He continued, “It’s my customers, my employees and everything else that I like. If I didn’t like something on the wall I’d just take it off.”
“The bar is a museum. It chronicles everything that Jim did,” Day added.
The kitchen is on the eastside as well, which serves up burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches deep into the night. Then there is Anderson’s bedroom next to it. He doubles as the nighttime security.
The room to the right of the entry way is probably what the bar is most famous for. Urban legend may call the room a sex dungeon or bondage chamber, but its official title is the “duty hut.” It’s a small room with the windows barred on the inside that contains an assortment of sex toys and machines. A modified gynecologist’s table, which seems to have more restrictive straps and harnesses than needed, sits in the center of the room. In a corner against the ceiling is a human sized cage. Mounted on one wall is some type of rotating dildo machine next to a spinning wheel designed to carry a human so that he or she may be turned upside down or to any angle.
“Never kiss a woman above the waist… unless she’s standing on her head,” is one the essential rules of the duty hut, says Anderson.
The tour of the bar that Anderson gives to customers includes brief anecdotes about recent escapades in the duty hut. It is not clear which stories are authentic and which are for dramatic effect. Nothing seems out of the realm of possibility at the Meet Rack.
Anderson is quite literally the face of the Meet Rack. To date, 2,527 people have been branded with Anderson’s face on their body.
“We used to brand hamburgers. My cousin came in the bar one day and said, ‘Jim, you need one of those on you.’ He heated it up and he branded me,” Anderson said. “I came out and I said, ‘Look what I got! Buck branded me!’ And they said, ‘We want one!’ So five people got one right then, and that’s how it started.”
With the brand comes a lifetime discount on drinks, food, and t-shirts.
It would be easy to write off the Meet Rack as dive bar with a perverted gimmick, but it’s much more. Past the dirty drink menu, past the rotating dildos, beyond the intentionally enigmatic apish crudeness, the Meet Rack is a safe haven. It is a retreat for people who may not float in the mainstream.
Anderson rejects the idea that the bar is sex themed. “[There is] no theme,” he said, “This bar is a personality bar; it’s nothing but that.”
“People come in here and we don’t just give them a drink and walk away,” Day said. “It’s like Cheers. We know every person’s name who comes into this bar. We take the time to talk to people and it’s not like that everywhere.”
Her claim is evidenced even in the spelling of the bar’s name.
Anderson echoed Day’s sentiment, “It’s the reason I own one bar and not 10, ‘cause I can’t spread myself thin like that. That’s the difference; there’s somebody here who cares. “If somebody wants a Coca-Cola, if somebody wants a draft beer, if somebody wants a glass of water, it’s all $2. That’s what we sell right there,” he pointed, “A seat.”
A bearded regular who went only by the name “2” played chess at the bar against himself one Monday night. “It’s like a walled fortress of nonsense and truth,” he said. 2 is just one of the characters in the Meet Rack’s winding screenplay. The stereotype of a seedy regular at a rough dive is a role too clichéd for the Meet Rack.
“This is a bar is a congomulation [sic] of people; it’s a very eclectic crowd,” Anderson said.
“We have such a diverse group of people coming in here. You see everything from a stumble bum on the corner to the sorority girls. Everyone feels OK here,” Day said.
Music from a jukebox wafts over the bar and scores the scene. The names of the artists and tracks have been removed from the music player because Anderson says he was tired of hearing the same song. During slow times Burleigh will strike up a tune on his ukulele from behind the bar.
“You get the ‘weirdos,’ as some people would say: fetish people, the suspension-hanging people,” Day continued. “They know that they can come in here and they know that no one is going to put them down.” Day went on to emphasize that people who may be considered strange to the outside world were anything but, in the judgment free zone that is the Meet Rack.
“If you’ve ever found yourself in the ghetto of Tucson,” 2 said, referring to the area around the Meet Rack, “And you’re looking for answers, you’re in the wrong fucking place. However, when you’re not looking for answers, you fucking find ‘em.” 2’s message, though cryptic, is telling.
Although Anderson says that there’s something in his bar to offend everyone, it may be just the opposite. Whether it’s a sorority girl looking to let loose after midterms, a regular in his or her natural element, or a visitor who has come just to witness the spectacle of all that is taboo, the Meet Rack might just have something to be appreciated by everyone.