|Hank, me, and Kajo|
Back in the mid-90s, I met Karen Kunawicz because I sent her a copy of my comic book. In return, she became our guide and gatepass into the wonderful world of Pinoy rock bands. She was our Alice and Mad Hatter rolled into one. She invited us to gigs at 70s Bistro, poetry readings at Club Dredd, more gigs at Clud Dredd, and raves conspired by Consortium. So, down the rabbit hole we went and met this other Mad Hatter (or is he the Cherish Cat mashed-up with the Caterpillar?). During one of those gigs, in one of the smoke-filled clubs, we met Hank Palenzuela.
Around that time, Hank was the bassist of Electrickool-aid, a band which Karen managed.
Sometime later (it was all a blur), Hank became the bartender of the Verve Room in Malate. We always got a free welcome drink from Hank. He never told us what was in that neon-orange concoction, but it always got us started on the right foot.
One of Hank’s classic story from the Verve Room was the night he got Bill Pullman drunk. Legend has it, Bill Pullman was here, filming Brokedown Palace. He arrived at the Verve dressed in a white polo and wearing a necktie. Hank started to serve him his special drinks and by the end of the night, Pullman had his polo ripped open and his necktie ended up around his forehead; and every time Pullman went to the bar, he’d yell, “Hank! You’re the best bartender in the world!” (Or so the story goes.)
So, when me and Kajo were putting together TRESE and we needed a bartender for The Diabolical, we thought it was only appropriate to call him Hank.
Black Pearl Philippines where he cosplays Cap’n Jack Sparrow.
At the Metro Comic Con, Hank told us how he usually has people come up to the bar (he’s been the bartender of BigSkyMind past couple of years) and they’d start off to say, “Hey! Aren’t you…” (And he’d half expect them to say, “Jack Sparrow”) But they end up saying, “Aren’t you that bartender from the Trese comic book?” (I guess Kajo drew “Hank d’ Bartender” too much like Hank.)
In every draft of Trese, Hank would usually have a line or two, or he’d do something to help solve the case; but when the time comes to edit the story down to 20 pages, Hank’s scenes would usually be the first to go. Which is one of the reasons why I started writing STORIES FROM THE DIABOLICAL, to give Hank d’ Bartender a chance to strut his stuff and serve his drinks.
At the Metro Comic Con, I asked Hank, if he could come up with a special drink list for The Diabolical. A smirk crawled on his face and he said, “Yeah! We could have a drink that uses the buntot ng butiki! Or how about a drink that uses the bulbol of a tikbalang! If getting a hair from the tikbalang’s mane lets you control it, can you imagine what you’ll get with a strand of its bulbol?!”
And we’ll just have to reserve that story for another day.
So, the next time you’re in The Diabolical, tell Hank that you know us and you can be sure he’ll serve you one of his special drinks. Just don’t ask what’s in it.