Coyote, Ugly

The waitress in Coyote Ugly in San Diego is pretty, and she’s got a lot of moves, one of those women who just knows how to arrange her hands and her feet to get your attention, like she might have been a gymnast or a dancer. Maybe she was a singer, too, because her voice has a little R&B sassiness to it when she sings along with the jukebox. Her belly is soft, in a nice way, and her top is short and strapless, and she clearly thinks she has to keep hiking it up with us as witnesses.

Our friend Tom wanted a dive bar, so. Here we are, in a too-big bar too early and too empty. The ceiling is too high and the lights hit you in the wrong place and you can see way, way too much of what’s been happening on the floor. The bar in Coyote Ugly is about two and a half feet wide, inspired by the original Ugly in New York, where, the legend goes, Lil, schooled by nuns and with a talent for making money, put liquor and women together in a new way that included pyromania, cowboy boots and dancing on bars – and wound up being a major motion picture. 

But it’s not easy to take that spunk and scale it up to a nationwide chain: you get the feeling that you’re seeing a little number from a well-thumbed playbook when a colleague of our lovely strapless bartender makes the jukebox go quiet – very spooky in an almost-empty place – then leaps onto the bar, dramatically squeezes a tin cup high between her thighs and barks that if we don’t pony up, there’ll be no music. This feels like blackmail so early in the night, and the doorman says something about her tin vagina and she says something about a tin vagina with cash. But you need a crush of awestruck boys in their 20s to make this work, not a few older appalled grownups who nonetheless find five dollars to add to the tin vagina, because what if the music didnt come back and we still had half a beer to drink? Thankfully, the jukebox blasts back to life and we steal away under the cover of the noise to a place where everyone’s tops stay on of their own volition, and the bartender doesn’t look at us twice. 

story © Dianna Carr         image © Francis Tremblay