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Spirit of Johnny Cash dwells in local dive bar

If you’ve been to Alex’s Bar in Long Beach, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Take Alex’s but on steroids, shrunk down and put into a rockabilly-punk blender and ? voila! ? you have Johnny’s Saloon.

Let’s put it like this: If you can find the hole-in-the-wall bar in the hole-in-the-wall strip mall located ironically next to a fight shop on 1742 S. Beach Blvd. in Huntington Beach, you deserve to be there.

But don’t think that Johnny’s is only more Alex’s per cubic inch. If Alex’s seems to be run by Mike Ness from Social Distortion, Johnny’s seems to be run by the spirit of the late Johnny Cash, hence the bar’s name.

This is evident by the first thing you see after showing your ID to the grungy looking doormen, which is the infamous photo of Cash giving the finger during his 1969 visit to San Quentin State Prison. After a quick left and right through the narrow hallway, you have finally reached the 100 by 60 square-foot, dimly lit space that is Johnny’s. It’s basically a cool dive bar that you are not ashamed to visit.

At Johnny’s, there are so many things in such a small space that it’s hard to know where to start. The bar is to your right where Jack-and-Cokes flow like wine. In fact, you can get a tall can of PBR plus one of the strongest Jack-and-Cokes on the planet for $10 – not a bad deal.

Now that you’ve got your drink, you can finally take in the atmosphere. There is a TV in each corner and one above the middle of the bar where the most random things will be shown. Will it be “Superbad?” “The Dukes of Hazard?” “The A-Team?” That movie with the midget from all those early James Bond films? You name it, they play it.

Above the capsule that is the bar are black-and-white posters of Rancid lead singer Tim Armstrong, Cash giving the finger again, the cover of The Clash’s classic album, “London Calling,” featuring bassist Paul Simonon smashing his bass, James Dean on his motorcycle, and the Rat Pack gang of the 1950s.

On the opposite side lies the memorial wall, which commemorates decorated legends such as Cash (who is also memorialized with a large handwritten tribute on a nearby wall, further convincing me that his spirit lies in the place), Johnny Ramone, Joe Strummer from The Clash, and Dean Martin. Above the memorial wall is a ledge where Jack Daniel’s bottles are lined up, not to mention a couple of skateboards that hang nearby.

Hanging below two of the TVs on the same side as the memorial wall are Oompa-Loompa dolls (yes, Oompa-Loompa dolls). The bathroom is on your left where country lyrics are written on the doors with a sign to the left reading, “Please do not throw cigarette butts in urinal. It makes them soggy and hard to light,” which characterizes the spirit of Johnny’s perfectly.

Johnny’s is that place to go to get blitzed out of your mind and really take in the most random things you have ever seen. Or you can have a mumbly conversation with a fellow cool-if-you-don’t-piss-them-off tattooed drunk at one of the tables or stools at the bar over the ear-splitting volume of good old country, punk songs of all sorts, and classic rock. And if you are in an antsy mood, you can play at one of the two pool tables provided. But fair warning: the guys look mean and the tables are always taken.

And it’s only fitting that on your departure located near the exit is an evil clown doll that moves from side to side.

So grab a Jack-and-Coke, drink it in large gulps (they’re $3 on Tuesdays) and take in the randomness that is Johnny’s. And don’t forget to get updated with current events at Johnny’s, such as Sinatra Sunday’s where Johnny’s turns into a swanky lounge, at MySpace.com/johnnyssaloon.

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