If the book of life is composed of memories, mine must have a burgeoning chapter on The Daily Planet. It was a central feature of what Keith McCullar and I would both consider our salad days, spent living in the Tower District from 1981 to 1989. Mind you, though we moved out of the neighborhood and then eventually away from Fresno, the memories remain vivid, and we’re both of us replete with stories. Just at the moment, every one of these comes flooding back, now we’ve heard the melancholy news of the death of the Planet’s owner, the redoubtable Hannah Benson.
I rarely use the term ‘hangout’ but have no other to describe how we felt about the Planet. For us, an evening out was not complete unless it involved a stop, either for a meal or, more likely, a smart drink or six. Campari and soda in the summer, manhattans the rest of the year- with a cherry and on the rocks (ugh!) for Keith, and classically straight up with a twist for me. A sidebar- you can see that the way we take our drinks is emblematic of our relationship, and it takes a page from Ginger and Fred’s book- I give Keith class, and he gives me sex, although, between ourselves, not as much as he used to.
The tone may be louche, but frankly, that was in no small part the appeal of the Planet, and in this, despite our occasional shall we say bad behavior, we were never, ever chided by Hannah, and not that she turned a blind eye. Once a number of years ago, we were dining with a gay, but very closeted friend of ours- someone, by the way, known to most of my gentle readers, but he’s dead now and decided to the very end to keep his gayness to himself and a very few others so I’ll not betray him. As it happened, we were the three of us planning a trip to London the next week, and, in a wave of horniness enhanced by alcohol, our good friend invited our comely and very, very gay waiter to come along as his guest. Although initially taken aback, our friend’s repeated blandishments turned the head of our young waiter sufficiently that he sought out Hannah and asked her advice. She told him, in our hearing, that he’d be a fool if he didn’t go with us.
The waiter didn’t take Hannah’s advice. Incidentally, it was a wonderful trip and on our return, we made haste to give Hannah an update. The waiter was no longer there, and we never saw him again, with Hannah reporting on the night, with the slightest bit of disdain, he’d found love and didn’t want to work nights.
But Hannah did want to work nights and was loyal to her customers- yes, the food was good and the drinks refreshing, but what Hannah’s hospitality always wrought was fun. We never, ever went to The Daily Planet when we didn’t have fun- and nothing for a guaranteed good time has since taken its place.
Now we’ve returned, when we can, Keith and I attend the Sunday afternoon Fresno Philharmonic concerts, but despite enjoying the performance leaving the concert venue always brings with it more than a bit of wistfulness. In years gone by, post concert almost invariably included a stop at The Daily Planet and our trek home up Van Ness Avenue is yet slightly bittersweet as we pass through the Tower District. Oh, well- blessed memories of Hannah and the Planet and Keith and I will always be thankful for them.