off the wall… where do I begin?
The concept was a simple one. The brothers Spinella, Mike and Mark, wanted a place to go out that played good music. The problem was that “good” music wasn’t in vogue in the sleepy Idaho mill town where they were living.
Shortly after this idea sprung to mind, a fortuitous moment arrived. It seems a small tavern on the North Side of town, one that had 6 owners in the previous 3 years, was once again for sale. The brothers, along with a couple of close friends, dropped in one night to check the place out. They were greeted by fluorescent lights and six old drunks nursing beers at the bar. The place was dirty, the place was boring, the place was a dump.
Three days later they owned it!
On a Thursday evening in the summer of 1984 the brothers marched into the old “Lucky Inn” and proceeded to put the juke box on a hand truck and wheel it out the front door. The bemused alcoholics leaning on the bar watched silently. After removing the source of their musical displeasure, the boys and their friends proceeded to wheel 5000 watts of high end audio equipment inside. After a few minutes, the system went live to ACDC at 110dB. The desired effect was achieved – all six old drunks got up and walked out. This was at 7:00pm.
The next step was a few well placed phone calls to friends and a guy at the local FM station and presto – 30 minutes later the door opened and the people flooded in. It was never empty again.
Off The Wall was more than just a club, the place was pure madness. It seems the Spinella’s would try anything. They used a Thompson Vocal Eliminator (an early precursor to karaoke) to remove the vocals from song so they could sing along. Mike soon became famous for his version of the Tubes “White Punks On Dope” and a spot-on impression of Billy Idol. Crowds came from miles around to see the performances.
But they didn’t stop there. One night they sold beer for a nickel and the resultant crowd shut down a major highway to the city’s major employer. They put a heavy metal band and 180 people into a place with only 42 chairs. They sold out of tickets to watch a man get his haircut. They gave away hundreds of custom embroidered tuxedos and became famous as the guys who could get anyone who came in the bar to put on a pair of women’s stretch pants (logoed of course). And you were guaranteed there was always great music when you came in.
The success of Off The Wall soon morphed into a 500 seat nightclub and a new name, “Spinella’s Off The Wall.” There the madness continued. They invented a concept called “Real Lips” where they put people on stage with a live band. They held classic car shows and staged plays on the largest stage in town. They let bartenders sing and even dressed their 6’6” friend in a dress and let him wait tables. They were also known for dressing up in wild costumes after particularly great weekends and making the bank deposit by dragging a burlap bag with thousands of dollars in it through the bank on a piece of chain.
The legend of Spinella’s Off The Wall has lived on these many years, with semi-frequent revivals for special events, parties, and performances. Mark has moved on in the business world, but Mike, the real performer of the pair, has kept his hand in entertainment. The spirit of those original days still shines through every time you see Spinella’s Off The Wall’s latest incarnation.