For as long as many can — or care to — remember, Bell Boulevard has been a hot spot for nightlife, drawing revelers from the boroughs and the suburbs to its numerous and famed bars, where they recall memories of good times and create new ones as well.
A group of Bayside bar regulars gathered at CJ Sullivan’s Saturday afternoon, planning to make the rounds of Bell Boulevard’s watering holes and reminisce with old friends from back in the day for a nightlife reunion.
“Everyone knew everybody,” said Mickey Prendergast, a former waitress and bartender at Donovan’s, on 41st Avenue, who organized the reunion.
The lifelong Flushing resident said Donovan’s did not accept reservations back in the 1970s and ’80s, so diners would sometimes have to wait up to two hours for a table yet still found ways to enjoy themselves while passing the time.
“They’d sit at the bar, and then they’d go to other places. They’d go from place to place to place in the neighborhood,” she said. “Some would meet their significant other, and then they’d move to Long Island or upstate or somewhere else.”
Prendergast said she started reaching out to old friends last year, with mixed responses.
“A lot just declined. They’d say, ‘I don’t want to relive those memories!’” she said.
Others agreed to come from their homes in Florida or Massachusetts. Sharkey, a popular Donovan’s bartender, was even expected to fly in from England.
The day kicked off around 3 p.m. with a small group of friends with drinks and photo albums in hand.
“What the hell was I wearing?” exclaimed Kathy Cote at the sight of herself in a herringbone pantsuit.
Gail Foster-Fallon moved to Massachusetts with her husband Michael in 1995 after working at Donovan’s for 16 years.
“This is fabulous. I could not wait to come,” she said.
Prendergast said the most notable thing that has changed since her time on the boulevard has been the technology.
“Everyone’s documenting things on cellphones now,” she said.
Bell Boulevard gained a reputation as a major bar scene in the city, but some of the revelry dissipated after 1992 when a bouncer shot and killed an off-duty city Housing Authority officer and another man. He wounded a third.
Since then the scene has calmed down and the strip still draws its fair share of singles looking for good times.
“Were there wild things going on back then? Yeah, but a lot of things like that come and go,” Prendergast said.
She likened the gathering to a high school reunion and even provided name tags for the attendees.
“You would remember what they drank,” she said, “but you don’t necessarily remember their names.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community News Group
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