Phyllis Smith was a good barkeeper and a good crony – Chicago Sun

“How’s a family?”

Phyllis always asked. About Edie. About a boys. Any since not? She had met them all. My relatives too. She’d been to a house.

Still, she astounded me by seeking now; it was we who called, spurred by bad news.

I gave a brief refurbish afterwards cut to a chase.

But you, Phyllis, how are you?

“Ehh,” she said. “I’ve had improved days.”

Yes, she had.

Phyllis Smith was a bartender, for some-more than 20 years during a Billy Goat Tavern and afterwards during Harry Caray’s in Lombard. She was “a tough lady,” in a difference of Goat owners Sam Sianis, with a blunt demeanour and a big, braying giggle she unleashed often.

“A Chicago character: a genuine old-school bartender,” pronounced Grant DePorter, owners of Harry Caray’s. “That would be her.”

And if that’s all Phyllis was, we wouldn’t be essay about her now. There was a excellent Chicago journalistic tradition of chronicling bars and their denizens, what they contend and did, as if it mattered, from Mr. Dooley to Mike Royko. But that tradition, like newspapering itself, has left into high decline.

Nor is splash so desirable a topic. As a recuperating alcoholic, there is something ill about rhapsodizing your bartender, even one as good during commanding off a splash or listening to a anguish as Phyllis.

Were Phyllis simply a bartender, we wouldn’t bother.

But she was also my friend. We kept adult for a dozen years after she served me my final drink. Nor was it only me.

“She took good honour in her work and in her business and their lives,” pronounced her daughter, Laurie Manzardo.

“She cared about a guests,” pronounced DePorter. “It was genuine.”

Neil Steinberg and Phyllis Smith during a book signing during Petterino’s in 2012. | Provided

She seemed genuine to me. Phyllis excelled during something many destroy at: she stayed in touch. She called. We’d have lunch. I’d stop by a Goat for a crater of coffee and she would explain her knowledge on a theme of alcoholism.

“Does it ever go away?” we once asked, early on, when we was still anticipating a distress competence only vanish.

“It doesn’t get better,” she said, jolt her head. It gets worse.”

Phyllis knew. She had been examination drunks all her life. She told me of a co-worker for whom it got so bad, she would flow a packed shot and slip it over, where he would gaunt down to trail it up. His hands shook too most to lift that initial splash of a day. The arrange of fact helps keep a associate on a true path.

When we went to revisit her in December, we couldn’t move myself to ask about dying. “What is this routine like?” was how we awkwardly phrased it.

“It sucks,” she replied. “It positively sucks. Keep yourself healthy.”

When we attempted to contend goodbye, she would have nothing of it.

“You’ll come behind again?” she said, and we betrothed that we would, and meant to, though didn’t.

I trust Phyllis forgave me. She was good that way, in many ways. At a Goat, she ran their successful Taste of Chicago operation.

“She was always there, each year, handling a tent, gripping order,” pronounced Bill Sianis. “Through a years, she was always really helpful.”

She had a tough upbringing on a South Side. Her mother, confined with cancer given Phyllis was 10, died when she was 18. By then, she had a child, out-of-wedlock and been slashed with a razor by other girls in an alley conflict that roughly left her dead.

Despite, or maybe since of, hardships, Phyllis embraced life. She was unapproachable to winter in Naples, Florida. Her residence in Orland Park was vast and immaculate, with an award-winning garden.

When in 2006, she won third place in Orland Park’s “Most Beautiful Garden” Contest, we asked her about a tie between bartending and gardening. She guffawed and replied, “I H2O a flowers in a morning and H2O a drunks during night.”

Phyllis Margaret Smith died on Dec. 21 during age 70 from lung cancer. In further to Manzardo, survivors embody her father Mike, another daughter, Terry Neily, son Brian Lezak, and 9 grandchildren.

“Sometimes things like this happen,” she pronounced final October. “You can’t have everything.”

Oh that’s terrible, we said.

“You win some,” Phyllis said. “You remove some.”

Phyllis won during life. She was dealt a bad hand, though savvy play can better tough luck. we felt respected to know her.

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