Danny Ricard, longtime bartender of the now-closed LGBT bar Venture Inn, died July 4 due to complications of throat cancer.
Ricard worked at Venture Inn for 43 years as a dishwasher, host and bartender. Henry Brinton and Tommy Martinez worked with Ricard during portions of his career there. Neither of the former bartenders knew Ricard’s age at the time of his death but believed he was in his late 60s. Brinton said Ricard “didn’t really like his birthday.”
“If you wished him a happy birthday, you got scolded,” Martinez added with a laugh.
“Danny used to celebrate everybody else’s birthday,” Brinton said. “He would remember everyone’s birthday but he didn’t celebrate his.”
The two recalled Ricard making what they called a delicious orange vanilla almond cake with powdered sugar on top for customers when he knew they were coming in for their birthdays.
This friendly attitude is among the reasons Ricard was a “mainstay” of the Gayborhood, they said.
“When he passed away, I got phone calls from people in California, Florida, all over the United States,” Brinton said. “They would make it a point to see Danny whenever they were in town.”
In addition to customers, Ricard also had respect for his fellow employees. Brinton said when he first started working at Venture Inn, Ricard told all of the regulars to treat him well.
“He made my transition nice and smooth,” Brinton said. “He took good care of me when I started working there.”
Martinez said he hung out at Venture Inn for a year largely because of Ricard’s personality, and then he started working as a bartender. He said his first shift was Super Bowl Sunday and the bar was standing-room-only.
“I walked behind that bar and I’m like, ‘Oh shit. What do I do now?’ And [Ricard] said, ‘Girl, you get back there. You’re going to be fine. I got you. I’m going to stand by you all night,’” Martinez said while mimicking the sound of Ricard’s voice.
Both Martinez and Brinton recalled funny memories of Ricard’s gravelly voice.
“He would stand there at the bar and go, ‘Girl, this is my favorite song. Ready, I’m going to sing,’” Brinton said before making a guttural sound with his throat. “I would wet my pants every time he did it.”
“He was so much fun,” Martinez added.
Martinez noted some of Ricard’s trademark catchphrases.
“People would come to him and he’d just say, ‘I’m not an actress. I’m a movie star.’ It was just his thing.”
“Danny was the type of bartender that would put on a show for you,” Brinton said. “He was an old-school bartender that could read exactly what you needed when you walked through the door.”
Brinton said Ricard’s sense of humor even continued in his last days.
“I’d call him on the phone and he would say, ‘Hey girl, hey. What gossip you got for me? Who’s sleeping with who?’ Even though you could tell he was getting really tired, he would stay on the phone as long as I wanted to with him.”
Brinton said Ricard represented an ideal that has been fading from Gayborhood nightlife.
“When Danny passed away, he took a lot of the history of the neighborhood and the way the gay bars used to be, when everyone would welcome each other and protected each other — which you don’t really get anymore,” Brinton said. “He was a great man.”