Tom Arnold on the CC Club

"Even the times things went sideways were great times to me."
"Even the times things went sideways were great times to me."

Throughout the 1980s, when he was trying to break into comedy, actor Tom Arnold lived with other comedians in a house right across from the CC Club in Minneapolis. As Arnold describes in an interview for this week's cover story, he spent plenty of mornings, afternoons, and evenings at the CC during his days of youthful debauchery. His house frequently became the after party when the bar closed, at times just a temporary refuge until the place opened again at 8 a.m.

Here's more from our interview with Arnold:

SEE ALSO: Here comes a regular: An oral history of the CC Club Web Extra: An oral history of the CC Club jukebox Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson on the CC Club

Dressing Room: So you lived across from the CC?

Tom Arnold: I lived there with some other comics, and that made it pretty great, because I didn't have a driver's license, for obvious reasons, and I could just kind of stumble over there and back. You know, if I could make it across Lyndale, it was pretty safe. It's funny, because what I liked about the place -- they had 2-for-1 well drinks for happy hour, which was great and a good deal. But I also noticed what I felt was, the older alcoholics, or, you go to those places and you kind of get a certain amount of folks that are kind of there every day. Those older alcoholics. And when us younger alcoholics from my generation started showing up there, we were much louder, unfortunately for them. That was a problem for the management.

I was 86ed from there a couple times for periods of time. It was a nice, quiet, fun place, and then you get a bunch of loud assholes like me and the guys I knew in there, and they'll eventually throw you out. And that's what happened. It was extremely sad because I could see the place from my bedroom window, and I knew my friends were there and I wasn't allowed in. I'd try to manipulate any way I could to get back in. And eventually they would, if I would be quiet and no fighting. You know, no obvious drug use. They were against that. Once I got the rhythm of the place, after I'd been thrown out a couple times, it was a pretty wonderful spot and a great meeting place for people in my business or any business.

There was this Olympia Gym or something -- Mr. Olympia Gym, or just Olympia Gym. It was a couple doors down. This was where like Hulk Hogan and these guys used to workout. It was a couple doors down from the CC, and these guys eventually started to come in there, which is a real problem for people like me, because they're huge guys. They're muscle heads. And you can't help but give them shit. Then you're in serious trouble when you do that, because they're huge guys. The way I was back then, I just thought it was funny to make comments about these huge guys. And that became a problem for me because they didn't take kindly to that.

But it was such a mixture of local people, you know. I'd see people that came in every day during the day and kind of did their thing. They didn't tip, I noticed that. But they did their thing and they were pleasant. They didn't cause any trouble. They just sat there and had their drinks, and they drank the same drinks every day. You'd see those folks all around the Uptown area. I worked at William's Pub. The same guys, and they're good clients. The thing about the CC was, you know, it mixed it up with a lot of different people, especially as the day went on. There were many days where I was there went it opened, because of how I was living my life at the time.

The CC Club today.
The CC Club today.
Photo: Tony Nelson.

A few people have mentioned the idea of a day cap before bed.

Well, you go in there to regroup. In a perfect world you'd say, "Well, we're ending the evening here." But a lot of times you'd get a second wind in there, and you'd be off to the races.

It's a pretty mild-mannered place that, in the '80s, when I was there, it happened to have a wide variety of folks -- including hooligans -- in there, and I had many fun times. Even the times I was thrown out. Even the times things went sideways were great times to me. You saw a lot of interesting people there. You saw a lot of people from the music business. But also people in my business and people in your business. Just a place to hang out and meet up -- I met up there hundreds of times, I'm not even exaggerating -- and figure out what's happening. What's next. And, you know, hopefully make it back there for last call. It holds a special place in my heart because I did spend so much time there.

What were you doing at the time? Just trying to make it in the comedy business?

In 1983, I moved to Minneapolis to be a standup comedian. I had done a little bit at the University of Iowa, so I was a comic the whole time I lived there. Like I said, my first job was William's Pub where I was a bouncer and bar back. I'm still friends with the bartenders to this day. But as soon as I got in in the morning, they made me a Long Island Iced Tea just so I could make it. And eventually they opened up a night club, and I was a bouncer. Myself and a couple other bouncers were so drunk so often that we were the ones starting the trouble.

So it seems like the order of operations was CC, then across the street to your house, and then sometimes even coming back.

This is a typical thing: Sam Kinison came and did shows with us. So everybody ends up at 2 or 3 at my place. And it's crazy. And then you run out of beer or whatever at a certain point, and you're just counting the minutes till the CC opens, so you can at least go in there and fucking figure out what's going on, what the next move is, and get some alcohol going.

So that's what happened, because anytime comics came to town they ended up at our place. And that was just so easy. You know, it's so much better than going to a liquor store. You go in there and order four drinks at once, which is what I always did. They eventually wouldn't allow that to happen. But at first they thought, "Oh, he's going to be fine." I wasn't fine. But it was just a great location. And like I say, it was stumbling distance from my house. It was pretty special.

And the bathroom kind of had its own drug scene going on?

That was one place you could get drug dealers to actually come. They felt kind of safe to come there. If you're in there and you've been up a day or two, you'd watch to see who's going to the bathroom so you can go in there and hone in on him. Because we really had no money. Any money we had we spent partying.

I had like six managers at the time. I called them my managers, but they were actually drug dealers. I told them they were my managers. So you'd wait for one of those dudes to show up. The management, once they figured out what you were doing, it wasn't like they turned a blind eye to it. They became frustrated. And not so much in the drug use, but with what happened after that, because it got loud. And you know, you shouldn't have fighting at the CC Club, but there was fighting. And just a lot of obnoxious behavior. So, you'd get 86ed, and they'd say, "That's it. We know who you are. We know where you live. You're not coming in."

There's nothing sadder than looking out your bedroom window and knowing that everybody you know and like and has drugs is in the CC Club right now, and you cant go in there -- no matter how many disguises you put on.

But it worked very well. I'm a big fan of music, and to see these guys in there kind of doing the same thing that we were doing. And, you know, it had a good jukebox, as I remember. Occasionally you could go in there as a human being with a date and sit there and have a couple drinks like a normal human would. And you say to yourself, "Yeah, I'll do this from now on." But by the weekend it always became something else.

Anything else come to mind?

Again, when it's fucking 20 below and you gotta get a drink. It was a magical place because you literally wouldn't even have to put on gloves to get over there, or a hat. You just put on your stinking sports coat from the night before and stumble in and you could survive, because anywhere else you have to get in a car and risk other peoples lives. It was a lifesaver, that place.

It was a lot of fun, and that's what I'll always remember about it.

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