REVERE, Mass. The Bronze Banana has been a fixture in this gritty town north of Boston for a long time, as college boys, bachelor parties and aficionados of female flesh have for nearly two decades frequented its velour-flocked rooms for titillation and, in special “VIP suites,” sometimes more. “We cater to the man with discriminating tastes,” says Arnold “Mickey” Scandore as he makes a desultory pass at wiping down the bar. “They come in here ’cause they aren’t satisfied.” And why, he is asked, aren’t they satisfied. “Cuz they can’t get nothin’ at home,” Scandore says as he dries a glass with a commercial dish towel that has seen better days.
But along with a rather motley crew of aging lechers and young horn dogs there is one man who seems out of place; Tom Spreknecht, a well-dressed man in his sixties who looks like he stepped out of brochure for an upscale retirement community or even a Brooks Brothers catalog, with his preppy checked shirt, shawl collared-sweater, oyster-grey chinos and boat shoes. “I’m celebrating,” Spreknecht says when this reporter asks him what a nice guy like him is doing in a place like this, and indeed the former executive of a glue-gun company has already purchased a round of drinks and is liberally inserting dollar bills into the thong straps of the exotic dancers who are the bar’s main attractions.
Spreknecht is an example of a senior citizen embarking on a second career once his Social Security checks begin to arrive in the mail and the income thrown off by his retirement savings allow him to quit his well-paying job and pursue a career he abandoned in his mid-twenties. “I always wanted to be a writer,” he says, “but I sat down after college, my pencils lined up by my pad–and nothing came.”
So the sandy-haired former curling champion settled down to a long career in business, from which he only recently retired after he applied for, and won, a $2,000 grant from the Second Chance Foundation, which funds the long-abandoned dreams of senior citizens, to pick up where he left off with youthful writer’s block.
“I think it’s important that people not treat themselves as piggy banks, saving up for a day they may never see,” he says as a young woman known only as “Brandi” runs her finger around his clear plastic hearing aid. “If I’d waited until I was 80 but died when I was 75, I think it would have been too late.”
Other regulars, made more convivial by the free flow of draft beer, seem to agree. “No way should you not try to fulfill your personality,” says Rocco Gianotti, the self-proclaimed “Mayor” of the Bronze Banana on the strength of his long-time patronage of the place, whose only food offerings are microwave-heated “submarine” sandwiches and chips from a vending machine. “If he hadn’t gotten that grant, I wouldn’t be drinking my fifth Bud Light here tonight.”
Curious as to the link between his decision to dedicate himself to the writer’s craft and the seedy bar where he has chosen to hold his festivities, I ask whether Spreknecht is planning on writing a cops ‘n robbers novel in the style of George V. Higgins, or perhaps a private eye tale along the lines of Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser for Hire” series, both examples of noir fiction set in Boston. “Actually no,” he says with a self-effacing look on his face. “I was thinking of a historical novel set in the Age of Chivalry.”
Then why, Gianotti asks, did he choose The Bronze Banana, instead of a more refined bar in Cambridge, where the faux-medieval buildings of Harvard University predominate.
“You can’t get a lap dance in Cambridge,” Spreknecht says as he walks off with Brandi to a private room, “and the $5 pitchers of beer here are a bargain.”