Monday, June 12, 2006

Death Calls for Piggy

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch the final bell has sounded for Carl W. “Piggy” Hutchins. A professional boxer in his youth, a “contender,” Hutchins was known to three generations of Richmonders of a certain stride, who ate, drank and shared their lives in his various restaurants. Excepting feuds, over the decades, Piggy’s cadre of loyal customers tended to use his eateries as a headquarters/clubhouse.

A corner restaurant called “Piggy’s,” where the Cary St. Cafe is now at Mulberry and Cary, began the series of pubs he would own. The Attaché, at 5816 W. Braod St. was the last. It closed in 2002; Hutchins was 81.

Eleven years ago I worked at the Attaché (although for some reason the owner was calling it William Henry’s that year) briefly. A money crisis propelled me across the Henrico County line, to the Attaché, inquiring after a bartender position listed in the want ads. It turned out there was no job, well, not exactly. But that afternoon I met the legendary Piggy Hutchins.

During a tour of the suburban split-level facility -- the restaurant itself, the after-hours club on the upper story and the basement tavern -- conducted by Piggy’s older brother, Pete, and Bill, a nephew, an idea came to me.

Then we all sat at the main table to cut a deal over draft beer and coffee. Piggy liked it that I volunteered to take on the promotional costs and booking duties, that I wanted only a cut of the bar receipts -- no guarantees. Plus, I got tips as the bartender. And, too, he liked telling his war stories for a writer. As it happened, this scribbler left the place that day nurturing an absurd concept that became the Underdog Room. For three nights a week, I presented standup comics and live music in Piggy’s basement; it lasted about three months in 1995.

A highlight of that stint was the night the Vibraturks -- usually known as the Bopcats -- packed the place in spite of their temporary name-change. Later, a local performance-art/rock act, called the Scariens, stretched the culture clash aspect of the shaky gig to pieces. Piggy and his crowd of regulars were utterly baffled by the Scariens, who probably baffled themselves, too.

After three months I came to my senses and limped back to the Fan District. It was fun and I left on good terms ... accordingly, I’ll be hoisting one at happy hour today for Piggy. No doubt, many others will be doing the same in dives all over town.
Handbill by F.T. Rea

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