Tuesday, July 8, 2008


            I've written about the Poop Deck in Hermosa Beach before. 

     Pigeons live in the pool table. Not near it; in it.

     2 of 'em.

     The birds use the hole where the balls roll out as a front door. 

     The Poop Deck is a local legend, and strolling in there on a beautiful day is almost as beautiful as the day itself.

     If you believe that a place can feel like a friend--as I do--then you must've spent some time at the Poop Deck. 

     A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a long-time Poop Deck bartender who passed away. His name was Mark, and he was a quintessentially cranky old salt who met you with a glare, but whose heart you could somehow feel beating.

     Just now, I went on the South Bay local paper's website. This is what I read in the Daily Breeze:       

     The longtime owner of the Poop Deck bar on The Strand in Hermosa Beach, known for his love of sun, sand and fine cigars, has died.

     William "Bill" Vacek, 77, was diagnosed with severe liver cancer six days before he died Saturday at his sister's home in Omaha, Neb.

     His death came the morning after family members celebrated the Fourth of July with food, darts and horseshoe throwing - a gathering Vacek didn't want them to skip, even though he was bed-ridden, said his brother-in-law Ray "RZ" Zigozda.

     The lifelong bachelor, who made a daily ritual of smoking cigars on the deck of his home on The Strand and attending to his beachfront bar, told his family he had a good life.

     "He said, `I was alone but I was never lonely,"' said his sister, Dorothy Zigozda. "He was good to everybody, all the nieces and nephews. We would invade (his home) for the summer and he always made everybody feel welcome."

     I saw Bill every day as I walked The Strand in Hermosa Beach. Just as the article says, he'd be sitting on his deck, nursing a cigar, wryly smiling at the sun and sea. We didn't know each other really; we just knew each other's faces, and we'd nod, our South Bay blue-sky days colliding.

     Nobody ever spoke ill of Bill, a man who never saw the need to turn the Poop Deck into anything other than what it's always been: a funky, old beach bar in a town that has been doing it's level best to turn everything it was into everything it never should become. 

     Thanks, Bill. Next time I'm out on the Poop Deck patio, I'll tip the first one to you.




Anonymous said...

Looks like the Poop Deck is a pretty resilient place. I notice the owner (yes?) is standing on top of some sand bags and that there is some debris at the bottom of the wall. Just wondering if the photo was taken in the aftermath of storm\ flooding event?


JohnnyRussia said...

Oh, I'm sure that was the case. Judging by Uncle Bill's age in that pic, it was probably 25-30 years ago.

Check out the piece from the Easy Reader: