Not So Ugly Joe

If there’s one rule of bar-hopping that we should have learned by now, it’s that you never wear flip-flops to a drinking establishment. You just never know what might splatter or step on your foot.

In our case, it was a wastoidal brunette shod in wedge heels. There’s drunk, and then there’s sloppy drunk, and she was way beyond the second category. When we spotted her wobbling around Ugly Joe’s, the new bar at 103rd Street and State Line Road, our Drama Alert Meter instantly started blaring.

We ended up at Ugly Joe’s on a recent Friday night as part of a scouting mission of south KC bars. Because the Night Ranger spent her formative years in that part of town, she wanted to see what drinking options were around now that she’s of age. Ugly Joe’s, which replaced longtime drinkstablishment Fuzzy’s South, seemed like a good prospect, despite the fact that its name triggered memories of Ugly Kid Joe’s lame “I hate everything about you” song.

We walked in and ordered Bud Light bottles at the big, P-shaped bar and concluded quickly that Ugly Joe’s was pretty cool. We pegged it as a future game-watching spot, with nine flat-screen TVs above the bar and six big screens embedded in the walls. Plus, the new owners, who grew up nearby, eradicated the dankness that pervaded Fuzzy’s South. Which brings to mind the Simpsons episode in which Moe considered cleaning up his bar: “But the dank, Moe! The dank!”

Oddly, the jukebox played R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and Coldplay. It just didn’t seem like the right sports-bar accompaniment. The music improved throughout the night, and we figured that the wuss rock was just some drinker’s bad choice. Perhaps it was a deliberate leave-behind on the part of a departing customer, kind of like when someone farts while exiting an elevator. We can relate (uh, not to the elevator farting) — once, in a drunken state, we punched in Hanson’s “MmmBop” on the jukebox at Dave’s Stagecoach for the late-night scenester crowd, then cackled maniacally as we fled.

There weren’t any games on the night we visited; the real sport was people watching, in the form of five women sitting in a row across the bar from us. They were all neatly dressed, rocking the jeans-and-cute-top-with-tiny-blazer look. In the middle was a woman who kind of resembled Jennifer Coolidge, in that she, too, had lush lips and long hair. She sipped a blue drink, then moved on to a red concoction with a splash of pineapple. A bubbly blonde flitted about. Another member of the troupe, clad in a tank top, was partly hidden by the beer taps. A woman with long, glossy dark-brown hair sat at the end, talking intimately with a hair-deprived guy. The bubbly blonde interrupted them. “I like bald men,” she declared, running her hand over the guy’s pate. At the other end, the foot clomper lurched around drunkenly.

Two guys stood on our side of the bar, good-naturedly checking people out. Soon, the bubbly blonde made eye contact with them and called them over. General flirtation ensued, and we overheard a couple of the women exclaim to one guy, “You can’t be 33! You’re, like, 12!”

Then the foot clomper — an attractive woman with light-brown hair, wearing a cool silver necklace with thin, hammered links — started getting handsy with one of the guys, a tall man in a bright-green T-shirt. At one point, the petite clomper stood with her back against the guy’s front, practically grinding her ass against his naughty parts. After the lap dance, Clomper slumped onto a bar stool and looked like she was going to pass out. She perked up, called the bubbly blonde over for a Serious Discussion, then seemed to nearly pass out again. Ah, the overly dramatic drunk-girl discussion —always so productive and just as embarrassing as the inebriated “where is this going?” relationship talk. Not that we’d know anything about that.

We interrupted the dramafest, and that’s when the Night Ranger’s foot got nailed. “Nuh-uh, you’re not putting this in the newspaper,” Clomper slurred. Then she tried to take our notebook. Given her weakened condition, all we had to do was angle away from her about 3 degrees, which was enough to deter her censorship attempts and cause her to lose interest. In the meantime, Bubbly Blonde fled. So did Jennifer Coolidge, who made one request before she left.

“Please be kind. We don’t know her,” she said of Clomper.

You don’t?

“She started hanging on us. I just met her tonight.” How random! How glomtastic!

We ended up talking to the remaining members of that party, who were not only nice but also the most sober people in the room: 36-year-old Crystal, the glossy brunette, and her husband, 50-year-old John. She told us that Joe, her best friend while growing up in Leawood, bought the bar and that she won a $5 gift certificate for naming the place. She went to school at Purdue University, where there’s a bar with the motto “Go ugly early.” From that, Ugly Joe’s was born. We totally think its T-shirt motto should be “Ugly Joe’s: Where no one is ugly after eight beers.”

That’s the sort of night that 28-year-old Jason and his buddy Derek were having. They’re the two friendly guys who were summoned across the bar by the drunk women. They had been hanging out at the Applebee’s across the street earlier in the night — they’re friends with the bartender. After Jason expounded on that, Derek interrupted his friend: “You’re talking like you’re sober. Stop.”

Talk about drinking good in the neighborhood. Now that’s the kind of leave-behind we’re talking about — the liquid state, not the gaseous one.

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